The journey

I was recently struck by a personal memory my Minister shared.  She reminisced about family holidays which involved a long car ride to their destination.  ‘For my parents, it was all about the destination, not the journey’, she said.  They only ever stopped to go to the loo, and occasionally for an ice cream.  Her parents’ focus was the end result – reaching their holiday spot.

This focus on the destination is how I tend to live my life.  I am not a live-in-the-moment person by nature.  I tend to live in the future, my mental to-do list is never far away and I often find myself playing half-heartedly with my tots while part of my brain is thinking ‘I must get on with the washing’.  I have a rich inner life, which easily escapes the everyday.  Even before kids, I knew this ‘future-thinking’ was a trait of mine, and I confess to bouts of trying mindfulness and mediation which never last long.

My children are the greatest teachers that I’ve ever had.  Since their arrival my patience muscle is flexed on a daily basis – sometimes it is greatly strained – and I, like them, have taken wobbly baby steps towards learning to live in the present.  For toddlers, life is all about the journey.

My son Chip keeps a running commentary of all the trucks, tractors and other assorted machinery he sees when we’re out and about.  My daughter Sausage flits from flower to flower like a over-sized, curly haired hummingbird, and can often be seen gasping in delight over bits of rubbish, spiders, and odd-shaped rocks that she spies on walks.  Sausage especially is not a child who can be hurried.  She has a random, buoyant nature, and being told to hurry along only makes her dig her heels in (I cannot imagine where she gets this from…).

I used to be a super-organised person with an unbearable feeling around being late.  But no more.  Besides work and the odd appointment, there is rarely anywhere that I HAVE to be.  Now when we are running late, more often that not I say ‘so friggin’ what?  Relax Angela, relax.’  Because it almost never matters if we are late.  When you have kids, people understand that getting them out the door on time is akin to a military operation rivalling D-Day.  They understand that just as you turned the key in the door, one of your kids decided it was time for poomageddon or to be struck down by a vomiting bug.  The ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ now take up less space in my head.  And I realise that they are almost always self-imposed weapons of flagellation which can quite frankly, go and get stuffed.

Today I only had vague ideas about what to do with Chip.  We dropped his sister off at her beloved kindy.  ‘Go to lake?’ asked Chip.  ‘Sure buddy’, I replied, feeling magnanimous.  D and I had recently taken our tots for a walk/ride around Virginia Lake, which had been an exercise in frustration as we practically had to drag them around, and D and I spent more time carrying their bikes than they spent on them.  This was fresh in my mind.

Today I’m going to focus on the journey, I thought.  It’s not about walking around the lake.  If we don’t get all the way, it doesn’t matter one iota.  (Also, hands up if you love the word iota?  I need to use it more.)

Because there was nowhere we needed to be, Chip and I ending up spending four hours at the lake.


Virginia Lake

We went to the lake playground.  We went to the bird aviary and said hello to the cockatoos.  We went to the cafe.  Chip played hard at the cafe playground.

After a pit stop at the Winter Gardens, we slowly, slowly, slowly went around the lake, saying hi to the ducks and geese.

I chatted with the man cutting grass on the bank, while Chip looked enviously at his cool leaf-blower.  We examined flowers and trees.

We sat on the little pier, and Chip fed me grapes.


I like toddler life.


How I save money on children’s clothing

Keeping children clothed when they insist on growing every few months can be an expensive exercise, but it doesn’t have to be.  Although I confess to going a teensy bit mad buying adorable duffel coats and bear-shaped booties while pregnant with my first child, these days I don’t spend much money clothing my tots at all.

Here’s how I keep our clothing costs to a minimum:

  • I don’t expect my tots to have a vast wardrobe.  Last time I checked, my children aren’t North West, Harper Beckham or Suri Cruise, so they don’t require 150 outfits to see them through Paris Fashion Week or the Cannes Festival.  Children who grew up during the Great Depression counted themselves lucky to have two changes of clothing, and some of those were probably fashioned from flour sacks.  I love clothes, but I don’t think my children need several pairs of skinny jeans or party clothes for every day of the week.  A few outfits that are comfortable and weather-appropriate – plus one ‘good’ outfit – are all kids really need.
  • I gratefully accept hand-me-downs.  I chuckled as I wrote that last bullet point because although that is my personal belief, my children do currently have more than they need!  We are often given clothing from friends with bigger children, and the clothes rage from mint to I’ve-played-the-heck-in-this condition.  I appreciate all hand-me-downs as they are brilliant for my tots to wear to kindy and to get mucky in.  I don’t sweat it if they get covered in mud and finger-paint, like I would if it was something I’d paid good money for.  I opt for second-hand clothing myself whenever possible and hope that my children grow up appreciating second-hand clothing just as much as new.
  • I let it be known that I am on the lookout for hand-me-downs.  After we moved cities we didn’t get any hand-me-downs for a while, but as I made friends I let them know I was happy to receive them.  Friends can often assume that you are getting things from someone else, but if you’re not, let them know.  I always ensure I share the love by passing on my children’s clothes to others.  I get a real buzz from seeing a friend’s child in something one of my tots wore.
  • I go to clothing swaps.  Clothing swaps are so much fun.  There’s usually nibbles, wine, good friends and several tonnes of clothing involved.  I have never, ever come away empty-handed.  One swap netted me enough clothing for Chip which lasted him a year.  Here’s a picture of the last swap I went to – bear in mind that this was just the children’s section! clothes swap totsintawhero
  • I buy second-hand.  I baulk at paying $40 for something my child is going to wear for six months.  When I need something for myself, I always look in second-hand stores first, and I do the same with my children.  I’ve paid peanuts for really, really beautiful clothing.  I often find expensive labels like Oshkosh, Gap, Pumpkin Patch, and the like, for a fraction of what they normally retail for.
  • I ask for clothing as presents.  When grandparents and friends ask what to get my children for their birthdays or Christmas, I often suggest clothing.  Today’s children are overloaded with toys, and I struggle to stem the tide of toys that come into our house from well-meaning friends and family.  Clothing is a great – and useful – alternative.
  • I buy ahead.  If I am at an op-shop and spy something really cool or useful (like waterproof overalls, bathrobes etc) but it’s a size or two bigger, I buy it.  We have plenty of storage, and I’ve saved so much money this way.  My daughter attends a forest pre-school which necessitates waterproof clothing over winter, plus I like for us to get about in all sorts of weather.  A pair of waterproof overalls retail for $40-$60 here.  I found a pair for my daughter for $3 and a pair for my son for $1.99.
  • I buy on sale.  A major chain-store in my city has a half-price clothing sale in the middle of winter.  They sell awesome merino singlets and other thermal gear, so I stock up for the next year if we haven’t already inherited some from other children.  I’m also not totally opposed to buying new clothing.  If we were on the bare bones of our arse, I would expect my children to wear what they were given and be grateful.  But we’re not.  So when my daughter went into a fit of rapture when she saw this dress – and I saw it was heavily reduced – I said sure.  She’s all about dresses, and tulle and sparkles and butterflies right now, so she just loves, loves, loves this dress. Dress tots in tawhero
  • I buy clothes for my daughter that can be passed down to my son.  When possible I do try to get items for Sausage that are plain and serviceable for her brother too.  Chip wears loads of his sister’s cast-offs and no one would ever know.  Or care.
  • I don’t pass things on too quickly.  My son is very slim so he gets away with wearing smaller-sized trousers for a few months before beginning to resemble Steve Urkel.
    steve urkel

    Remember this guy?

    My daughter has several dresses from when she was a baby that we use as tops.  They look terrific as breezy summer tops.  So don’t be too hasty to get rid of things.  Children slim down a LOT once they start walking, and trousers that once need to fit around bulky nappies will often still fit the child when they are older and toilet-trained.

  • I deliberately befriend people with children slightly older than my own.  Just joking.


How do you save money on children’s clothes?


When to abandon the Dollar Diet

I have just emerged from a week-from-hell.  I was a bit blind-sided by it, particularly because I survived having a reflux baby (mostly) intact.  You’d figure I could deal with a bit of screaming, right?

Both my tots came down with a bug.  Sausage was coughing so badly I thought she was going to hack up a lung and she needed antibiotics.  Chip came down with what I think was a different bug (joy) and was snotty, running a temperature etc.

That wasn’t the worst of it.  There were tears, shouting, screaming, pleading and whining – and that was just from ME.

Both my tots were so out of sorts that I spent most of last week being whined, screamed or tantrumed at.  Sausage wailed over the smallest request, while Chip threw some epic tantrums that lasted well over 40 minutes.  It was exhausting.  Oddly enough, it’s really hard to be a great parent when you are worn out and worn down, and I admit to completely loosing my cool on more than one occasion.

Sausage seemed much better by Friday, so I took her to a nature playgroup that we attend.  BIG MISTAKE.  The group walked down quite a steep hill.  Sausage was okay, but slow and not really enjoying it.  She completely lost the plot when she realised we’d have to walk UP the hill, and it took me more than 20 minutes to cajole my hysterical toddler to walk up the hill because Mummy could not carry her all the way.

Chip has been waking multiple times in the night, so D and I found ourselves running on empty yet again.

At times like these, the only way through is kindness.  To ourselves, and to each other.

As someone who has had severe burnout I simply must take care of myself, lest my body decide to revert back to its stressed-out state.  Most burn-out survivors never fully recover, and our bodies love to overreact to any sort of stress.  Kindness to oneself is the best way to prevent a relapse.

We were supposed to join in our local Christmas parade, but it was a very wintry day.  I reminded myself that even though Sausage seemed better, given her hysterics the day before she most definitely wasn’t, so we’d have to give the parade a miss.  She was disappointed not to go, and I was inspired to do something kind – we put up our Christmas tree.  I have never put the tree up quite so early, but it made her extremely happy.  So happy, she likes to hide behind the tree and pretend it’s a talking tree.

D and I were kind to ourselves and abandoned the Dollar Diet for the weekend.  We got lunch from a sandwich bar one day.  The next day, D was in a particularly bad mood so I suggested we go for a walk around Virginia Lake.  It was just the thing to perk him up, and he treated everyone to afternoon tea at the lake cafe.

D is so kind to me that he is giving me a weekend all to myself, even though he is very tired himself.  We have friends with a holiday home near the beach, so I will be retreating there to rest in the peace and quiet.

We tried to get to bed early, and just got on with the absolute basics of life.  Cleaning, cooking and caring for our children.

I’m happy to report my tots are on the mend, and we had a calm and peaceful day yesterday.



Sick toddler? Five TV shows that won’t make YOU scream

I’ve been thinking I should erect a sign outside our house in Tawhero saying: WARNING!  PLAGUE HOUSE!  ENTER AT OWN RISK.

Enter at your own risk (image credit)

Enter at your own risk
(image credit)

I thought I’d caught my virus from Sausage as she was a bit off colour after we came back from Wellington.  It turns out deciding not to become a virologist as a kid was a great idea because I’d have sucked at it.  Chip caught my virus and spent last week feeling rather miserable, but I was thrown for a loop when Sausage came down with the virus at the weekend.  To round it all off, D came down with laryngitis.

So yeah, you might not want to visit us anytime soon.

D spent pretty much all weekend getting his geek on at GovHack 2015, where he and others came up with an app using government-provided data.  (You can see the fruit of their labours here.)  Unfortunately it meant leaving a still-recovering-me with a sick toddler and a baby who just wanted to play.

We survived (just), partly in thanks to TV for Sausage.  She had no energy for anything else.  She didn’t even want to read her beloved books.

I normally limit Sausage’s TV viewing, but when you have a sick kid, I think it’s fine to let them zone out in front of the TV if it keeps them happy and rested.  Normally Sausage doesn’t watch TV every day, and never watches anything that is not Mum-approved, because there are so many rubbishy, violent and just plain weird shows out there aimed at kids.  And then there are the shows that are preachy, and so gosh-darned-saccharin that they are a visual version of nails raked down a chalkboard (The Care Bears, I’m looking at you.  Actually I’m not, as your show makes me want to vomit…)  I try to watch TV with Sausage whenever possible, as I can sportscast what’s happening; so I can say that the shows below should pass the ‘scream’ test – especially if you watch several episodes in a row.

Peppa Pig

I have to start off with the obvious.  Peppa is Sausage’s favourite show.  She talks about Peppa and her friends all the time.  ‘Dr Brown Bear is sick Mummy!  I must look after him.  I will go get a plaster,’ and other such gems randomly pepper her conversation (pun intended), and Sausage certainly appears to have a soft spot for Peppa’s inept pal, Pedro Pony.

I like Peppa Pig.  I think it’s a great show and here’s why: Although some episodes are a rather far-fetched, many episodes centre around normal, everyday toddler stuff, like going to play group, going to the library or the museum, going on holiday, having fun jumping in muddy puddles or accidentally turning Daddy’s white shirt pink in the wash.  The show is British, and without meaning to offend any other nation, I don’t think anyone does TV better than the British. There are a wide range of accents on the show, including Welsh and Mancunian, which adds to its appeal.

Peppa and her little brother George are surrounded by loving and enthusiastic adults, who often defy stereotypes.  Daddy Pig is a hands-on, modern father, and Mummy Pig is a sassy, smart, working-from-home Mama.  Peppa lives in a fairly typical English house (if everyone living on top of a hill is typical) and shares a room with her brother.  The many grandparents in the show are often very involved in their grandchildren’s lives and do cool stuff like sail boats, own garages, and run dinosaur theme parks.  Peppa’s elderly play group teacher, Madame Gazelle used to be in a rock band.  Peppa has a wide group of friends, who – talking animals aside – are wonderfully devoid of super powers, princesses, sporting prowess, heartwarming-pluck or any other special talent that many children’s tv shows and books like to advocate.  These, err…kids… are normal.  They squabble, fight and make up, have best friends, boss each other around, burst into tears, have secrets, and mess up like your tots and mine do.

Adults can enjoy Peppa too.  The running gag of Miss Rabbit working absolutely everywhere in Peppa’s town is funny, and there are often moral lessons aimed at us, not the kids.  One of my favourite episodes involves Peppa and her friends dressing up as different countries for the day.  Squabbling over which countries can use the sandpit ensues, and Madame Gazelle admonishes the children with ‘Is this how you think the leaders of the world behave?’  Touche Madame Gazelle, touche.

Lily’s Driftwood Bay

I found this wee gem of a show simply because I loved its description of a girl who finds treasure in what other people cast away.  And it comes from Northern Ireland, so there are more delicious accents for your tots to get exposed to.  Lily lives with her Dad in a bijou hut on the beach.  Each episode centres around Lily finding a piece of ‘sea treasure’ (i.e. junk that people have thrown away).  As she ponders on what the treasure is, she and her friend Gull are taken to ‘Driftwood Bay’ which exists only in Lily’s imagination.  Driftwood Bay is inhabited by a lovely group of friends, like Salty, a Scottish dog who takes Lily to Driftwood Bay in his boat; Nonna, who owns the Cockle Cafe, and Lord Stag (voiced by the wonderful Stephen Fry) who lives in Stag Castle.  It is a bit same-samey at times, so you might not want to watch too many back-to-back episodes. There is some good stuff in this show – the episode that deals with the death of a character is a sensitive portrayal of loss and grief, and alludes to Lily’s own mother having died.

Topsy and Tim

From the home of the BBC (you can find it on CBeebies), comes the live-action show Topsy and Tim.  Based on the books by Jean and Gareth Adamson, the show follows twins Topsy and Tim navigating life.  It’s a little bit like Seinfeld – if you were to ask me what happens in Topsy and Tim, I would say ‘nothing’.  But this show is lovely, and I don’t know who likes it more – D or Sausage.

The twins live in a house which I swear must be a real house, given the level of detail like slightly battered furniture and touches of grime.  It’s brilliant.  The twins are perfectly ordinary, and live with Mum and Dad in a semi-detached house in an unspecified English village.  They grapple with problems no bigger than first-day-of-school-nerves, or the fact that they have to sleep in the lounge because their bedroom has been painted.  The show did court controversy with ‘thousands of parents labelling it sexist’ according to the Daily Mail (not exactly a reliable source of information).  I think these complaints centre around one particular episode – which I have not seen, and certainly the episodes that I have seen are not sexist at all.  I say give it a whirl.  It’s a fun, gentle show that should keep your toddler occupied for ten minutes.  It is extremely wholesome, and quite frankly, that is exactly what I want for my toddler.

Grandpa in My Pocket

BAFTA nominated Grandpa in My Pocket, is another great show courtesy of CBeebies.  Jason lives with his Dad, Grandpa, and eccentric Great Aunt Loretta who dresses in Doc Martin boots and what looks like my family’s brown-and-orange couch from the 70s.  In subsequent series we meet Jason’s cousins, Josh and Elsie, who live with Jason’s family in a windmill which the family run as a hotel.  The kids know Grandpa’s crazy secret: when he puts his cap on, he shrinks until he is only a few inches tall, whereupon he can do magic and bring objects to life.

Narrated either by Jason or his cousins, general mayhem ensues once Grandpa puts on his ‘shrinking cap’, and the children and Grandpa must work together to get themselves out of various silly predicaments.  There’s usually a song and dance or two, a few wacky characters (not including Great Aunt Loretta), and a good time is had by all.

Again what I love about this show is the defiance of stereotypes.  On the surface, Grandpa (played by the wonderful actor, James Bolam) seems like your average Grandpa – getting a bit old and doddery.  But he’s really a cheeky daredevil, who when shrunk, flies planes, climbs up trees, and challenges the children to ‘catch me if you can!’  Great Aunt Loretta (played by James Bolam’s wife, Susan Jameson) is wonderfully mad-cap, and makes ‘treats’ like sardine and strawberry tarts.  No crocheting knee rugs for this old lady!

It’s also a lovely show about the important part that grandparents can play in children’s lives.  Grandparents don’t have the same responsibility as parents, and can therefore be more indulgent, light-hearted, and cherished confederates in play.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom

I know quite a few parents who just don’t ‘get’ Ben and Holly.  But as I watch it with Sausage, I know and love this show well.  Made by the same people who do Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly is a delightfully subversive show with plenty of humour for adults and children.

Ben and Holly are best friends.  Ben is an elf and Holly is a fairy princess.  The Little Kingdom is presided over by Holly’s parents, King and Queen Thistle. King Thistle is hilariously slow-witted and rather inept.  Holly and her sisters – the demonic Poppy and Daisy – are looked after the extremely silly Nanny Plum, who has a knack for getting herself (and everyone nearby) into trouble.  The elves do all the work in the kingdom, and LOVE it.  The elves are presided over by The Wise Old Elf who generally has to fix whatever mess the other characters have gotten themselves into.

Reusing several actors from Peppa, it is the supporting characters that will entertain the adults.  Ben and Holly is full of running gags, deadpan humour, liberal use of Loren ipsum, and jelly floods.  Stereotypes are once again turned on their heads.  Kings and Queens are no match for elf-smarts; princesses mess up and turn their best friends into frogs by accident and when angry; smelly, warty old witches end up being rather nice; grandparents are mischevious and naughty; and children are often the ones who point out to the adults where they’ve gone wrong.

I dare anyone not to find the episodes ‘Big Bad Barry’ or ‘The Royal Golf Course’ (where you find out what gnomes are really like) funny.  Go on, I double dare you.

Sausage of course, does not get the humour.  She thinks fairies are great, fairy princesses even better, and turning people into frogs is the best.  But I hope one day I can sit her down as a jaded teenager and give her a new appreciation for this childhood show.

So if you find yourself stuck to a sick toddler who only wants Mummy or Daddy cuddles, may this list get you through it.

What shows do you enjoy watching with your kids?  Also, why are there so many TV shows and books where Mum or Dad is dead?  What’s up with that?


How to Explain Death to a Two-Year Old

My hope is this post helps another parent or caregiver out there one day.

A few years back my brother met and married a wonderful, sassy, intelligent, Jesus-loving woman blessed with more gumption than most of us possess.  She also happened to have multiple disabilities, and had battled and defeated a life-threatening condition.  She bet the odds and lived life with gusto.

To her deep sorrow, she was unable to have children and so she poured her love into the children around her.  She worked with children, and was very popular with them.  Knowing she could not have children of her own, my husband and I never hesitated to ask her to be godmother to our children.  We knew that she would not only love them, but she would pray for them and help them in their own walk with God.  She cried when she received a ‘Godmother’s day’ present on Mother’s Day.  Holding a special role in our children’s life meant a great deal to her.  And my goodness, how she loved our children.  Their welfare was always at the forefront of her mind, they were often at the top of her prayer list, and a visit with them made her day.  She and my brother once took Sausage to a park and when they returned I was unsure who had enjoyed the outing more, so wide were all the smiles.

But her time ran out.  She developed liver cancer and after a courageous battle, she passed away.

Chip was only a few weeks old at the time, and Sausage was not quite two.  Along with my own heavy heart, I felt sad for my children, particularly Sausage.  

Her inability to really understand what was going on meant she could not grieve for her Auntie, whom she loved very much.

This compounded my own sorrow.  Sausage was so special to her Auntie at one point during her illness when she had been unresponsive for hours, it was Sausage who elicited a ‘hello beautiful’ and a smile from her.  I’m sad that Sausage will not remember her Auntie, nor will she be able to truly appreciate just how much her Auntie loved her.  For Sausage and Chip, she will be someone in a photograph, someone talked about at family gatherings, someone visited at the cemetery.

I have a few degrees under my belt – and studied human development in depth – so I was aware of what Sausage would and would not be able to comprehend.  Two-year olds have limited concepts of time and permanency so it is important to try and explain death in terms that they can understand.

Here are some tips to help your two-year old deal with death:

  • Realise that they will be a little familiar with death already.  The average two-year old will have seen dead bugs or other animals, had fairy stories read to them where someone dies, or have seen it on TV or in a movie (let’s face, pretty much every Disney movie has a death in it…).  My point is, they won’t have a blank slate when it comes to death.  But, as children are great observers and poor interpreters, they may have wrong ideas about what death actually means.  Which is why it is important to…
  • Explain what happened to their loved one in very simple terms.  I explained that Auntie had died because she was very sick, which meant that her body didn’t work anymore, and that we wouldn’t see Auntie again.  I also explained that everyone was very sad because Auntie had died.  Two-year olds will be happy with the bare minimum of information – they don’t need to know that ‘Cousin Bob fought bravely’ or that ‘Uncle Joe had leukemia’.
  • Don’t expect them to ‘get’ it.  Even after you’ve explained that a loved one has died, and what death means, they probably won’t get that death is a permanent thing.  Permanency is a pretty big concept to get their little heads around.  Be prepared for them to ask after your loved one for weeks and months after the death.
  • Expect to go over what death means many times as they grow up.  Never stop explaining what it means until you are sure your child fully understands.  Somewhat bizarrely, children can often feel responsible for someone’s death, so it is vital they know it was not their fault.  Likewise they need to know that they/you/whomever are not going to die anytime soon.  And – particularly if they know someone died of an illness – that they will not ‘catch’ it.
  • Avoid euphemisims.  Telling a two-year old that someone has ‘gone to sleep’ or has ‘passed away’ is only going to confuse your tot.  Please, just say ‘Grandma died’.
  • Leave religion out of it.  Even though I am a Christian and believe that I will see my sister-in-law again one day, I did not say that her Auntie was ‘in heaven’ or ‘with Jesus’ or anything like that.  Even if you believe in an afterlife, your tot won’t understand what that means for years to come, so save it for when they are older.  Telling a child that ‘God has taken Grandad up to heaven’ may confuse or even scare a child.
  • Talk about your own feelings.  It can be very frightening for children to see a caregiver cry.  Let them know why you are upset or crying.  I told Sausage that I was ‘crying because I was sad that Auntie had died, and I wouldn’t be able to see her anymore’.
  • Be prepared for a number of different reactions.  Some children may get upset or cry, while others may carry on as normal.  Sausage was her usual self throughout the aftermath of her Aunt’s death.  Some toddlers may get clingy and whiny because YOU are upset.  Or because (depending on who died) their daily routine has been put out of whack.
  • If you are taking them to the funeral, prepare them for what will happen.  Whether you take your two-year old to a funeral or not is a personal decision.  Some people don’t because they need that time to grieve and say goodbye without having half their brain attuned to their wriggly toddler.  Other people take their kids as they think it will give them closure (I’m not going to lie, at this age it won’t), or in the knowledge that their child’s presence will be a light in the midst of darkness.  I know that I find the presence of young life comforting when I attend funerals.  If you take them, explain to them beforehand in as simple terms as possible, what will happen, who will be there, and what a coffin is (or whatever funeral/burial ritual your loved one has).  While it is worth explaining to them that lots of people will be upset, and maybe crying, don’t expect it to affect them.  It may or it may not.  At her Auntie’s funeral Sausage was most taken with the church organ (and still occasionally mentions it) and wasn’t at all perturbed by crying people.
  • If you can arrange it, have a babysitter come and take them away afterwards.  Interments, wakes etc are long and boring for toddlers.  Seeing a coffin descend into the ground and covered with dirt won’t give your two-year old any greater sense of closure.  Let them go home to play while you catch up with friends and family.
  • Make a point of telling stories of your loved one as your child grows up.  Even if they can’t remember the person, knowing about their wider family helps children feel connected.  My children will grow up with stories of their Auntie, who loved them ferociously.   Who loved their Uncle.  Who was an inspiration to many people.  I’d like to think that maybe, when they hear these stories, my kids will feel even just a fraction of the love their Auntie gave them, and be blessed by it.

Two Year Old Milestones…that you won’t find in parenting manuals

My two year old, Sausage, is in a constant state of flux.  I love seeing her grow and develop, and enjoy her cheeky personality coming out more and more.

Is she on target for meeting her milestones listed in the parenting manuals?  Who the hell cares.  I have long ceased to have any concerns about how my kids are ‘measuring up’ and resolved to try and just enjoy them being exactly where they are at.

Observing without measuring is fascinating.  You start to register a whole bunch of stuff that’s not in any ‘how-to-raise-a-perfect-kid-and-be-a-super-parent’ guide.  Here are three of my observations of what Sausage been up to lately.  While Sausage is of course, special and unique to me, I’m sure many parents will see their own child in these descriptions.

  • Klepto-Girl strikes again!  Around two, your child will develop a strange fascination for putting objects into bags/boxes/any container they can lay their mucky fingers on.  The objects that absolutely.must.be.put.into.a.bag. will probably be stuff that you really, really need right this second, like your keys, wallet, cellphone, passport, bottle of vanilla essence, potato peeler…
  • The world is soooo scary! Your heretofore fearless toddler will develop phobias about random things, and usually express this fear in thrilled ecstasy.  At the moment Sausage loves to be scared of giants, ants, and GLOOM.  Yup.  Gloom.  “It’s gloomy Mummy.  I’m a bit scared. Giggle, giggle”.
  • Life becomes one long episode of ‘Glee’.  Once your kid can string a few words together, the making up of songs about whatever they are doing begins.  The ‘I am eating my yoghurt, yoghurt, yogey, yogey, yoghurt’ song.  The ‘I am building a tower, no wait – a bridge!’ song.  The ‘I’m dancing, I’m dancing, oopsey-daisey, I fell over’ song.  It’s actually very cute and kind of a shame we no longer express our most mundane tasks in song as adults.  “Oh, I’m doing my taaaaaax retuuuuurnnnn!”

What does (or did) your two year old do?


Whanganui Playground Review: Virginia Lake

This is part of a series where I review local playgrounds in and around Whanganui.  Non-locals will want to skip this!

Virginia Lake is the crowning jewel in Whanganui’s tiara.  It is my  favourite place to go in Whanganui and probably our best-loved tourist destination.  I will do a review on the lake itself at a later date, but for now I’m focusing on the cool playground at the Lake.


In my opinion, Virginia Lake playground is the best playground for toddlers in Whanganui.  Tucked away behind the bird aviary and free barbeque to the left of the main car park, the playground can also be accessed from the Babbage Place entrance and car park (lots of people don’t know this car park exists, keep going a bit further along the road past the main car park). 

Look!  Shade and benches

Look! Shade and benches

If like many parents, you have a baby as well as a toddler – this is the playground for you.  The playground is fully fenced so there’s no chance of your tot doing a runner to terrorize the ducks.  There are two picnic tables, conveniently located in the shade where you can plonk yourself and your baby if need be.  There are rubbish bins just outside the play area.

There is a standard climbing frame with slide that is exciting enough for most toddlers, and I think it’s the best climbing frame I’ve come across in a Whanganui Playground for tots who are crawling/furniture-surfing/climbing/just learning to walk.  When we first came to Whanganui, Sausage was 10 months old and was only crawling, but she loved this climbing frame and was able to haul herself onto it with only a tiny bit of help from me.



There are two sets of swings – one with two bucket swings, and one with a bucket and a regular swing, although the day we visited the regular swing was out of action (aside from this, everything else was in good nick).

E at the lake

There are three different types of see-saw which is a bit over-kill, but two of them will appeal to slightly older children.

See-saw 1

See-Saw 1

See-Saw 2

See-Saw 2

See-Saw 3

See-Saw 3

There’s not heaps of play equipment, and definitely nothing to grab the attention of older kids, but it doesn’t have to because there’s the lake, ducks, the bird aviary, a fountain, some Winter Gardens, a Cafe , a grassy dell with stage, a band rotunda, several different paths to take around the lake…I could go on.


  • Fully fenced
  • Shade, picnic tables and rubbish bins
  • Toddler-friendly play equipment
  • Close to the lake, aviary and cafe
  • Generally plenty of parking


  • Not very exciting for school-aged kids

Tots in Tawhero rating: 7/10