• Family

    Are you prepared for the worst? A kid-friendly survival guide

    Natural disasters and catastrophes aren’t something I go around thinking about a lot.  Truly.  But having been the health and safety person for several voluntary organisations, I’ve come into contact with folks that do it for a living.

    Damaged Building Interior

    Here in New Zealand we have Civil Defence, who are the wonderful people that spring into action when disaster strikes.  Spending time with Civil Defence made me realise how complacent and naive I was about the likelihood of being in a large-scale emergency situation.  Which is stupid as I live in New Zealand.  One of NZ’s nicknames is the ‘shaky isles’ due to the large number of earthquakes we have!  Earthquakes are the biggest threat to us here, so this post is earthquake-preparation heavy, but many of these tips can be adapted for your particular situation in the world.

    One member of Civil Defence (who was just like Mad-Eye Moody, for Potter fans.  Constant vigilance!) told me about the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 where he was based at the time it struck.  The earthquake was terrible, leaving many dead and injured, and even now, years later, some people are still waiting to get their damaged homes sorted.  He told me many things that Civil Defence learned in the aftermath of the quake, and shared with me the story of how it affected his workmate.  His colleague was a single dad, who, upon rushing to the day care where his child was, arrived to find it empty.  It took him three days to be reunited with his child, during which he was unable to do his job as he was too distraught.

    broken, clouds, glass

    Here are some tips to help you get through an emergency.

    Lesson One: Know where your child’s daycare or school will evacuate to in an emergency.  Now, any daycare or school has to adhere to the strictest building regulations, and will most likely be safe in a large earthquake.  Schools are often used as emergency shelters for just this reason.  But it is impossible to predict how things like liquefaction or downed power lines etc may affect your child’s daycare or school, which in turn may necessitate an evacuation.  So ask your child’s teacher.  If they don’t know, ask the manager or principal to find out.

    Lesson Two: Have a family emergency plan.  Talk about what you will do in the event of a disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami.  Who will find the kids?  How and where will you meet up?  What will you do if it’s not actually safe to meet there?  Loads of parents in the Christchurch earthquake spent hours trying to get to their kids, only to find the other parent had got to them first.  Go through the plan with your kids.  Many times.

    Remember: it is unlikely you will be able to use your cellphone in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster.  For one thing, the phone lines get slammed by worried friends and relatives, and can it take hours or even days to get through, depending on the damage.  During the Christchurch earthquake a major phone provider actually shut down their network to give text messages the change to get through.  Texting is the best way to communicate, don’t call.

    Lesson Three: Designate a family member or friend who lives in another part of the country as an emergency phone contact.  What they discovered after Christchurch was that while it was impossible to make contact locally, sometimes it was possible to make calls out of Christchurch to other parts of NZ.  In the event of a large-scale disaster, your family could all agree (at least the adults, anyway) to call Aunt Enid in Auckland to let her know you’re safe.  Then Aunt Enid can tell anyone else who checks in.  Sort of like a lower-tech ‘Safe’ tag on Facebook.  Aunt Enid can also call your family in other parts of the country to let them know you’re okay.

    Lesson Four: Educate yourself about the likelihood of you getting home/to your kids in an emergency.  It was quite eye-opening when I talked with Civil Defence for my daughter’s kindy in Whanganui.  The kindy was in a very safe spot, even for an earthquake, but the Civil Defence worker pointed out that in a major earthquake, most of the CBD (located near the Whanganui river/awa) would be knee-deep in liquefaction.  The bridges connecting the city from east to west would likely be destroyed or unpassable.  What this meant for the kindy was that MANY PARENTS WOULD BE UNABLE TO REACH THE KINDY if they lived or worked in the CBD or Whanganui East, as they were on the other side of town.

    Free stock photo of city, cars, road, vehicles
    Could you walk home in an emergency?

    So again, you need a plan.  Most emergency response teams in your area will happily share this sort of information with you.  If you work, keep a ‘grab and go’ kit there.  Many folks in Christchurch say they wish they’d kept a pair of sneakers at the office after they had to walk hours and hours to get home.  If you’re someone who has a long commute, would you be able to walk the distance home?  Where might you stay if you couldn’t, or if your usual route was unpassable?

    You can find ideas for what else to include in a ‘grab and go kit’ here.

    Lesson Five: It’s recommended that you have at least three days worth of food and water, in the event of a disaster.  For my family I have two bags of canned goods, cereal, long-life milk and milk powder, a tin opener, and water stashed away in a garden shed.  One lesson learned in Christchurch was the need to have emergency supplies stored somewhere away from the house, as many homes were not safe to enter.  It’s also recommended you have a wee stash of medication, a torch/flashlight, a first aid kit, some cash (there’s often no electricity for ages, therefore no cash machines or banks in working order…), nappies and formula, and pet food.  I’d also add some lollies (candy for my overseas readers) and chocolate.  If there’s ever a time it’s okay to give your kids some comfort food, it’s then!

    I’m a super-organised person by nature, and here’s my tip.  Don’t have anything in your emergency supplies that you don’t like eating.  If you hate baked beans, they will be cold comfort if the worst happens.  Every six months I simply swap out the emergency stash for new supplies, and we consume the old stash.  As it is filled with things we like to eat, it’s no problem.  You can find a comprehensive list of emergency items here.

    Lesson Six: Quake-proof your home.  Don’t store heavy objects up high on a shelf.  Fix your bookcases to the wall, secure TV’s and other appliances.

    chairs, furniture, home
    See that big pot plant?  Don’t stick it up high where it could kill you…

    Lesson Seven: Unless you can smell a leak, do NOT turn off the gas, unless instructed to do so by the authorities.  Gas can only be turned back on by a professional, and many Christchurch homes waited weeks and weeks and weeks to get gas back.

    Lesson Eight: Know your neighbours.  You don’t have to be best friends, but simply knowing that old Mr Allen down the road at number 10 would need checking on, or that Trev at number 13 has a massive gas barbeque, could be the difference in bouncing back quickly after a natural disaster like an earthquake.  Connected communities are resilient communities.

    Lesson Nine: Keep half a tank of petrol in your car in case you ever need to evacuate, and know how to open your automatic garage door if the power goes out.

    Lesson Ten: The 2011 Christchurch earthquake happened during school hours.  What they discovered was the difference between children who were very traumatised and those who were okay (at least initially), was often down to the reaction of their teacher.  I haven’t been in a major disaster myself, but if I ever am I hope I remember this.  My reaction, trying to stay calm (at least on the inside) will help my children.  Keep things as normal as possible.  Keep them away from social media and the news.  Share only what is strictly necessary for them to know.  Try to keep discussing your worries for after they are in bed.

    Cute Family Picture

     

    What tips would you add?

     

    *Please use your common sense and look up the disaster recovery advice in your own area.*  
  • Family,  Uncategorized

    Movie review: Peter Rabbit (2018)

    Peter Rabbit [DVD]
    image credit
    Apparently two big-shot reviewers here in New Zealand hated the recent release of Peter Rabbit (now in cinemas).  I haven’t read these reviews, but I strongly suspect these reviewers are a) old men; b) white and c) are very similar to Mr McGregor, the curmudgeonly, rabbit-killing fiend of the book and movie.

    Peter Rabbit rocks!

    I loved it just as much as my children, and was snorting into my popcorn from start to finish.  My 3-year old who is always on the move only got antsy with 10 minutes to go, which earned him a lifetime achievement award.  My 5-year old is still going on about the movie, three weeks later.

    This incarnation of the much-loved tale of Peter Rabbit takes it fully into the 21st Century.  If you’re a die-hard fan of Beatrix Potter, you might want to give the movie a miss; kind of like if you prefer real Winne-the-Pooh over Disney Pooh.  In no way does this version of Peter – or any of the other characters – resemble the original.  If you’re not a purist, then simply enjoy the ride.

    Peter (voiced by James Corden, who I’m ashamed to say I didn’t recognise, have turned in my movie buff card), his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, along with cousin Benjamin spend their days trying to nick vegetables out of Mr McGregor’s incredible, immaculate garden.  NZ’s own Sam Neil is almost unrecognisable as the grizzled, apoplectic gardener who wages war on the rabbits.  His artist neighbour, Bea (played by Aussie Rose Byrne) has looked after the rabbits since they were orphaned at the hands of McGregor, and gives them free range of her impossibly quaint cottage.  Where she manages to live quite well despite creating truly terrible art and not seeming to have any other form of income…I digress.

    (SPOILER) Mr McGregor suffers a fatal heart-attack during a daring raid by Peter.  Peter and his animal mates move into to McGregor’s house and stuff their faces with all that delicious veg.  Cue party time!

    McGregor’s uptight nephew Thomas, played by Domhnall Gleeson (you may remember him from Harry Potter), inherits his uncle’s property.  Thomas works at Harrods, making sure that everything is perfect with a capital P.  Upon learning that his uncle’s house might be worth a bit of coin, he decides to go and see it, with the view of selling it.  Thomas finds the house overrun with animals, and Peter finds him a challenging adversary.  The two go head-to-head to get rid of each other, something made a little more complicated by Thomas falling for the lovely Bea.

    There’s loads of slapstick comedy – especially by Domhnall Gleeson – and the humour is pitched both at kids and adults.  It’s a little bit cheeky in places (it is rated PG), but nothing outright rude.  There are explosions, and yes, people trying to kill the cute bunnies, but my two highly sensitive kids, saw it for what it was – a funny plot device.  They weren’t scared one jot.

    Peter Rabbit is a great family film, two thumbs up.

  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living,  Parenting

    Woah, we’re halfway there!

    My favourite tree in Point (Is that even a thing, to have favourite trees?)

     

    Hey world, I’m back!  Since my tots are no longer in Tawhero, I decided to wipe the slate clean and start a new site charting life in our new town of Pleasant Point.  If you’ve been a Tots in Tawhero reader, I’d love you to stick with me over here.  You can do so by liking Living on a Prayer on Facebook, or subscribing below.

     

    Why Living on a Prayer? 

    Let me publicly confess that YES, I am a Bon Jovi fan, and I have nailed that song many, many times during karaoke sessions.  And by nailed it, I mean I sounded like a dying cat.   Sorry, Jon.

    But lest you think I shall be blogging about how totally awesome mullets and acid-washed jeans were,  the name actually refers to the new situation my family and I are inknee deep in church ministry.  My husband, who will now henceforth be called ‘Mr G’, decided way back in 2011, that he felt called to become a minister for the Presbyterian church.  After much blood, sweat and tears, two kids, more tears, lots of sweat and maybe a little blood, he added a qualification in ‘knowing lots of stuff about Jesus’ to his long list of qualifications.  Mr G is sole-charge of a sweet little congregation here in Pleasant Point, as he completes a two-year process as an ministry intern.  You can call him a not-quite-Rev, but I prefer ’embryo parson’ (shout out to all my Cold Comfort Farm fellow fans).

    I am the ‘not-quite-Minister’s wife’.  My kids are the ‘not-quite-Minister’s kids’.  Gulp!

    Living on a Prayer also refers to the fact that Mr G has taken a huge pay cut to become a minister, and he’s the sole breadwinner for now.  My long-time followers will know that I enjoy living a frugal lifestyle, and am looking forward to the challenges that our new life will bring.  Relying on God to provide – really, truly relying on God – isn’t something this pair of middle-class, educated folk have been used to, and it’s been a humbling realisation for Mr G and I.  So you can expect me to continue sharing my frugal doings – and I hope also sharing stories of God’s provision for our family.

    So how’s it all going?

    After the.most.hideously.stressful.move.ever, thanks to our terrible moving company, I arrived in Pleasant Point ahead of Mr G and the kids, with broken belongings and high blood pressure.  I was scooped up into the arms of the lovely church ladies who sheltered me for a night, helped me unpack, fed me, and generally soothed my blood pressure back to normal.  One lady had even made my kids presents as her way of welcoming them!  Folks, THIS is what church is all about.  THIS is what they do well here.

    We’ve settled in.  The people are nice – I already have friends!  It’s a pretty spot, surrounded by more pretty spots, which neighbour upon some of the most gob-smacking scenery on the planet.  Needless to say, I’m enjoying life here immensely.

    Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

    Here are some observations I’ve made:

    • If you call this place Pleasant Point, you are immediately flagging yourself as an outsider.  Pointsiders (I just made that up, umm, Pointers?  Pointizens?) simply call it ‘Point’, as in “Yeah, my kid goes to Point Primary, ” or  “I grew up in Point.”  Timaru (the nearest big town) is called ‘Town’.

     

    • No, they don’t roll their ‘r’s here.  I’ve checked.  But the local cafe does make a mean cheese roll.

     

    • I suck at predicting the weather here.  I have no idea what it’s doing.  But, I don’t feel bad, because clearly neither does the weather.  In one week it was so hot I considered taking up residence in our fridge/freezer, immediately followed by needing to dig out my winter coat and wondering where I put the matches to light the fire.  In ONE week!

     

    • The people here are mostly hard-working, practical farming folk.  See that lady in her 60’s walking her dogs?  Boom!  She’s actually 93.  That middle-aged man lifting bales of hay?  Boom!  He’s 86.  True story bro.  They don’t want to talk about your feelings or your latest hippie venture – it’s not that they don’t care, but there’s work to be done.

     

    • I am not merely an older mum here, I am frigging geriatric!  Most mums here are blond, pony tail sporting glamazons who were clearly child brides, because I’m pretty sure they’re all 23.  Either that, or I seriously need to get the number of their botox provider.

     

    • It’s like everyone remembers New Zealand being in ‘the good old days’.  I’ve been here two months and know loads of people.  People know their neighbours.  There’s little crime.  No graffiti.  No hoodie-clad teenagers misspending their youth.  You can leave your bike outside a shop without fear of someone nicking it.  It’s safe enough to ride a bike here.  CHILDREN PLAY OUTSIDE AND RIDE BIKES WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION.  Because it’s safe.

     

    • Point has all I need.  Point may only be home to about 1,300 people but it has two schools, a health centre, a bike park, a hairdresser, public swimming pools, a supermarket, a pub, a dress shop, a cafe,  a taxidermist’s, a railway museum, several playgrounds, scenic trails and more.  And I can WALK to it all.

     

    So walk with me as we navigate our new life in Point.  At the moment Mr G and I feel like kids dressed up in suits and ties – our new roles don’t quite fit right, but we hope by the end of the two years, they will.