• Faith,  Family

    It’s okay to not be okay

    On Friday my country, New Zealand, was irrevocably changed.

    To live in New Zealand is to live in freedom, peace and comfort (compared to many other countries around the world). We are proud of the breathtaking scenery here, and of our friendly, easy-going people.

    But our peace was shattered by a gunman with a sick agenda, who shot and killed 50 people and injured another 29 while they were praying at two mosques in Christchurch.

    The impact of this event will be felt for a long time to come; so great is the shock and grief and anger that such a thing could happen here.

    Along with mourning for the people who were killed or injured, and their families, I feel for the poor citizens of Christchurch – people who have been through so much trauma in recent years due to the earthquakes.

    I can say that this event touched me deeply.

    While I wasn’t in the immediate vicinity, I just happened to be in Christchurch that day. Here is my story.

    My husband accepted an invitation to a good friend’s wedding in Sydney. We could’t afford for us all to go after our recent trip to Australia, but I encouraged Mr G to go, and to take a few days off to have a bit of a holiday.

    I’m used to him going away for several days at a time. It’s usually fine, although weekends are tiring, as there’s no school or kindy to give me a break.

    I decided to take the children to Christchurch for the a night or two at the weekend. I hadn’t spent much time there in years (the longest stretch was between the two earthquakes). Because of all the fun things to do in Christchurch, I was looking forward to having a great adventure with the kids.

    I originally planned to arrive in Christchurch on the Friday night. But on the Wednesday, E was very tired (she’s 6). I changed my plans. She needed a day off school to recharge her batteries, plus D was recovering from a cold.

    I’ll give them the day off, so we can sleep in and then head for Christchurch on Friday morning, I thought.

    Which we did.

    The weather was iffy, and I couldn’t decide whether to take them on the Gondola or to the Toy Collector, a toy museum in the cbd. The drizzle and cloud meant we wouldn’t get to see the spectacular views of Christchurch, but after arguing with myself about which option was best, I decided to go with the gondola. I would later thank God for this decision.

    On the gondola

    We had a great time, despite being able to see absolutely nothing at the top because the cloud cover was so thick.

    We were done around 1:30pm, so I drove us to our AirBnb accommodation as it had an early check-in time. I drove via Linwood Avenue, missing the shootings there by mere minutes.

    We dumped our things, and set off for K Mart as I had a few things to get, plus I needed to buy dinner for the children (I had AIP food with me). When you don’t live anywhere near a K Mart, you make the most of any opportunity to go there!

    My kids are currently obsessed with this George Ezra ‘Shotgun’ spoof, and were singing ‘K Maaart…’ at the top of their lungs. It is now 2pm.

    We arrive at the Palms mall in Shirley, and I stop to let the kids play at a little indoor playground there. I chat to a young Maori couple, when a lady comes up to us and says quietly, so as not to alert the children:

    “They’re evacuating the mall. A guy’s shot some people in the CBD and they don’t know where he is”.

    We look at her in disbelief. The young Maori lady jokes, “Well, he hasn’t met me! He’d betta watch out,” and we laugh.

    A security guard comes around the corner and tells us we need to leave immediately as they are locking down the mall. He tells us the CBD is in lockdown.

    We walk out of the mall to see an armed policeman who tells us to get in our cars and go home and stay home. Police cars are screaming along the main road by the mall.

    “Why do we have to go home?’ asks E.

    “There’s danger,” I say. “A man with a gun has hurt some people.”

    “Why?”

    “I don’t know,” I say, but I think it’s probably some guy who started to take pot shots at police after they’ve responded to a domestic. That’s usually the way of it.

    In a frightened voice, D who is 4 years old, asks me if he’s going to get shot in the back.

    “No darling, ” I say, but I scan the car park to make sure there’s isn’t a gun-wielding madman there, just in case.

    I have no idea where the shooting took place. All I know is we are near the CBD, and if the cops are locking this place down, the police musn’t know where this man is.

    We are a short drive from our accommodation, and once inside I lock the door and shut the curtains.

    I look at my phone and see I have missed a call from my Dad. I call him back.

    “Did you hear what’s happening down in Christchurch?” he says, even though he is calling me about something unrelated.

    “Dad, I’m in Christchurch,” I say. “What’s going on?”

    “Oh no! Some guy’s gone and shot people at a mosque, and they’ve just said on the news there’s been shootings at another mosque. They think it’s a coordinated attack, and they’ve found bombs,” replies Dad.

    Bombs?

    I wonder how far away we are from these mosques, and if there’s any others near by. I feel sick, and scared for the safety of my kids.

    After I’ve finished talking to Dad I try to get the TV at our accommodation to work. It won’t, and I spend several frustrating minutes trying to get it work, while my kids are in raptures over the toys in the house.

    I message our AirBnb host to ask if there’s some special way to work the TV, and add that I’m anxious to get news of what’s happening in the CBD. I remember to enquire after her welfare, in case she’s caught up in it.

    “I’m in lockdown,” she replies. “They’ve just arrested someone outside my work. My kids are in lockdown at school.”

    She sends me photos taken from her work, which show armed police everywhere.

    I feel stupid for even bothering her and tell her to stay safe, and that I hope she gets home to her kids soon. I feel grateful that my kids are with me, and can imagine how frantic I’d be to get to them if this had happened in my sleepy little town. I think about all the kids in lockdown at school, and how frightened they must be.

    I manage to get TV streaming to work on my phone. The news is horrific.

    When awful events happen, experts say we should shut off the TV or radio so as not to alarm our children. I do none of this, although my kids are playing in another room, oblivious. I sit glued to the screen in horror.

    Have they got everyone? Are we safe? I wonder.

    The news has no information about where the cordons are, or if there are any more attacks going on around the city.

    “Have you managed to get the TV working?” messages my host.

    I say no, and tell her not to worry as I’m using my phone.

    Finally, word comes that some people have been arrested. The cordon is lifted.

    I look online to see if the Palms is reopening – only because I have no dinner for the children. They don’t. I look up food delivery in the area because I don’t want to go out if I can help it. Everywhere is shut for the night. I don’t blame them.

    The children eat toast for dinner without complaint.

    At 6:30pm my host shows up at the door to fix the TV. I tell her not to worry about it and to go home, but she insists she’s okay and comes in. She tells me her kids are okay and have been picked up by her ex-partner. She asks if we are okay.

    As my children play loudly around us she tells me:

    “They found a bomb in my car.”

    I look at her in utter shock.

    She explains that she works near the Deans Ave mosque and parks her car nearby.

    After making sure the bomb posed no threat, the Police have taken her car to forensics. Goodness knows when she’ll get it back.

    The nice men on the building site next door gave her one of their work utes to borrow for the weekend. The kindness and trust of strangers.

    I can see she is in shock despite her insistence that’s she’s okay. It will hit you later, I think.

    She triumphantly manages to wrangle the TV into submission. I tell her to go straight home and have a stiff drink. I really hope she did.

    I look at the time – bedtime for my kids. I go into the room where my son will be sleeping. He’s got a few toys out, but it looks different.

    “What happened in here?” I ask.

    Miss E looks down and says, “Do you mean the stickers?”

    I realise that’s what is different. She found a sheet of stickers and put them all over the bed and drawers!

    It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I’m pretty sure you could have heard me yelling all over Shirley.

    Fortunately the stickers peeled off just fine, and E went to bed in disgrace.

    I watched the unfolding horror on TV until late. The news says that children are included in the dead. I cannot imagine the pain their parents must feel.

    The next day I decided to head for home. All the things I had planned were in the CBD, and I didn’t want the kids to see armed police anywhere and make them anxious. Plus, it felt very wrong to go sightseeing at such a time.

    Later that night I noticed how frazzled and fragile I felt. Exhausted, I fell into bed, only to be bothered by intrusive thoughts about someone breaking in to attack us.

    At midnight, D came in crying. He’d had a nightmare a man was attacking him. We cuddle together and fall asleep.

    On Sunday I am so tired, but I have to, need to go to church. We have a special service to mourn for those who lost their lives, and to process what has happened. It is a very moving service, and I almost cry.

    We light candles, and pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters who lost a loved one, and whom are no doubt feeling scared and angry. My daughter flits around each person, handing out love hearts that the children are making behind us. The old ladies smile. One says, “I needed that.”

    At the end we stand in a circle, hold hands, and sing the national anthem. It has never been a more fitting song. Here’s verse two:

    Men of every creed and race,
    Gather here before Thy face,
    Asking Thee to bless this place,
    God defend our free land.
    From dissension, envy, hate,
    And corruption guard our state,
    Make our country good and great,
    God defend New Zealand.

    My faith is a huge comfort to me. I hate it when people say ‘thoughts and prayers are not enough’. I know if you don’t have a faith, it may seem trite to say “I’m praying for you“. But believe me, it’s not trite. Like most people with faith, I believe that prayer works. Prayer can help. Prayer can create miracles. Prayer is sometimes the only thing I can do, but I believe my prayers are heard and answered, even if it’s not in the way I want.

    After church, a friend offers to take my kids for a play date with hers, and I jump at the chance.

    I have unpacking to do, the never-ending jobs around the house to do. But I know I am not okay.

    I take a nap instead. I eat some comfort food. I watch several episodes of Queer Eye because my God, the Fab Five lift my spirits.

    On Monday, I’m still feeling a bit fragile and I start berating myself for feeling that way. After all, I wasn’t in danger at any time. I had no right to feel the way I did.

    My inner voice is a total bitch.

    I tell that bitch even though I was never in any danger, I didn’t know that at the time. And I had my kids with me. My protectiveness was in over drive.

    Instead of continuing to beat myself up, I let myself feel all the feelings. I smile at what a number it’s done on my brain. I drop things. I fumble things. I break things. I keep saying the wrong word, which my kids think is hilarious.

    Mr G comes home, after what feels like an eternity. His holiday was a very damp squib as he just wanted to be home with us, but he is grateful that it ended with a joyous event – his friend’s wedding.

    I am deeply saddened by story after story coming out from Kiwi Muslims, who all say they were expecting this one day, given the level of racism they experience here on a daily basis. Stories of being told they are dirty, or smell, or to ‘go home’, or of swastikas being painted on their mosque. Despite all the wonderful ways our people have rallied together to help after the shootings, this too, is New Zealand. We need to own that, and we need to change.

    I think about things I can do to extend the hand of friendship to others in my neck of the woods. I know what it is like to be an immigrant, an outsider, to be different. I will be thinking about how I can best respond.

    If you have been affected by Friday’s events, it’s okay to not be okay.

    Even if you live nowhere near Christchurch, you are still entitled to feel shocked and grief. What happened was appalling.

    Talk to someone about your feelings. Journal it, if it helps. Take naps. Do the things that bring you comfort. Turn those feelings into something constructive. There are many ways to respond, many ways to help, many ways to bring about a more inclusive and safer New Zealand.

    You can call or text 1737 to talk with trained counsellors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Take care of yourself. And love your neighbour, always.

  • Autoimmune Protocol Diet,  Family

    Sabotage

    I have been trucking along with AIP for seven weeks now, and this week has been the hardest by far.

    I have been sabotaged in my efforts by well-meaning people who have no idea of the trouble they’ve caused. And bless them, why the heck would they? Had you ever heard of AIP before?

    Last Friday I was out and about sightseeing in Ashburton. I’d been in a rush to get out the door so I hadn’t packed lunch for myself. I thought I’d check out a few cafes to see if they had anything AIP friendly, figuring I could always go to a supermarket if there wasn’t.

    I found a chicken salad on the menu of one establishment, and asked if it was gluten free. Nothing at this particular cafe was labelled GF, DF etc. “Yes, I think so”, said the server.

    Pro tip folks – it wasn’t.

    Sure enough, my usual ‘I’ve-been-glutened’ symptoms appeared the next day: fatigue and a slight rash on my face. (Honestly, why does it have to be the face? Why not my elbow? Or left earlobe?) The joints in my hands hurt so badly I had to take painkillers just to get some sleep that night.

    It took me two days to recover.

    Then Mr G and I went out the other night as we’ve been doing the Alpha Marriage Course at a local church (it’s awesome by the way, I highly recommend it for any couple who’ve been together for a while – even good marriages need a tune-up, and not-so-good ones can be transformed).

    The course coordinator had got in touch with us to find out if we had any dietary requirements, as they serve dessert each night (the course is like going on a fancy date).

    At first I told the coordinator not to bother with feeding me as my requirements are just too tricky, but we both agreed that fruit would be fine.

    And it has been.

    However, the other night they proudly produced a gluten-and-dairy-free muffin, made with almond flour.

    I didn’t have the heart to say ‘I’m so sorry, I can’t have nuts right now on my diet’.

    As I grabbed my fork, I said to Mr G with a grin, ‘Oh well, this is the chance to see what almonds do to me!’

    You know what’s coming next.

    Whilst I am incredibly lucky not to have had a violent reaction, that muffin laid me up in bed for two days.

    The worst bit is because it wasn’t a careful reintroduction following the protocol, I don’t actually know if it was the almonds that my body rejected. It could have been a different ingredient in the muffin. It’s just conjecture.

    I’d hoped to start reintroductions this weekend, but I still don’t feel 100%, so I have to put it off by another week, just to be on the safe side.

    So, what have I learned, gentle reader?

    • Get your server to double-check with the chef about whether a meal is gluten-free or not
    • Don’t be so damn nice. Yes, I might have hurt someone’s feelings by refusing that muffin, but I’d rather that than be bedridden again.
    • My body sure does hate a lot of things! I’m glad I’m able to follow a proper protocol to find out exactly what it doesn’t like, rather than guessing.
    • Even if you don’t think you are allergic or intolerant to something while you are on AIP, take it seriously, and act as if you are. Do reintroductions the right way.

  • Family,  Parenting

    Holiday

    Although it seems like it was an age ago already – instead of two weeks – we welcomed 2019 in with a wonderful holiday to Australia.

    Burleigh Heads Beach, QLD

    When you have small children, holidays aren’t really holidays. They’re just a change of scenery, as the hard work of caring for young ones still has to continue. (Unless you’re smart and booked yourselves in at Club Med where you get nannies.)

    Mr G and I reckon our trip to Australia was the first one that felt like a proper holiday since having kids. Our two kids no longer have to be watched like hawks, plus they’re good travellers who take it all in their stride. There’s no nappies to change, naps to fret over, or prams to lug around. Most importantly – they know how to operate Netflix so Mr G and I can sleep in.

    The flight from Christchurch is a mere 3 1/2 hours. Mr G rigged up our portable DVD player with a double headset, so the kids were entertained nicely for most the flight. We were even complimented on how well behaved they were on the plane! So, thanks Mr G.

    The purpose of the trip was to attend my BFF’s wedding in NSW. I was her bridesmaid and E was her flower girl. We tacked several days on either side of the wedding, with no real plans other than to lie on a beach somewhere in the Gold Coast, and see the Aussie animals up close. But like, from behind the safety of glass at a zoo.

    Ready to go to Auntie’s house!

    We spent a couple of nights at Ballina, which FYI is pronounced ‘Bal-in-uh’, not ‘Ba-lee-na’, as Mr G and I discovered and were mocked mercilessly for. It’s a lovely spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the GC, with plenty to do.

    While there, we swam at Lake Ainsworth (over the road from Lennox Head beach). It is a fresh water lake, surrounded by tea trees which infuse their goodness into the water. The water is much darker as a result, but makes for a rejuvenating swim, and has even been known to help people with their skin conditions. My own skin felt fantastic after a dip there!

    Then it was on to Armidale for the wedding.

    I don’t have a photo of the bride for privacy, but she looked like a screen siren from the 30’s – just gorgeous. It was a privilege to see her marry her lovely fella ( I *may* have shed tears at the ceremony, and *possibly* sobbed buckets as they danced to Etta James’ “At Last”).

    After the wedding we headed back to the Gold Coast, stopping at Dorrigo National Rainforest and Woolgoolga Beach along the way.

    We spent the rest of time staying at Southport on the Gold Coast. The GC wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. I expected to hate it, as it has a rather brash and tacky image over here in New Zealand. To my surprise, I found it rather beautiful.

    We kept costs down by shunning most tourist attractions. Our kids are quite content happy with going to the beach or a playground, so we’ll save the theme parks for when they’re older.

    We were only a few minutes from The Rockpools and Broadwater Beach. The Rockpools is a great splash pad area for younger children and toddlers to cool off; complete with squirting octopuses, crabs and even a waterfall. A minute’s walk from The Rockpools is the beach and a really cool playground. We had a marvellous time and it’s all free.

    My beautiful friend D, who lives in Adelaide, came over especially to see us. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me! I met D in London, and she and I and our friends had many, many adventures together. D brought her adorable baby with her, which is no mean feat. Travellers with babies, I salute you! It did my soul good to hang out with them both for a couple of days.

    We all went to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which I was dying to visit. Wow, what an incredible place! My kids are animal mad, and thanks to a great kids tv show called The Wild Kratts, they have become quite knowledgeable about all sorts of animals – especially Aussie animals. Seeing their faces as they looked (and even held!) at crocodiles, snakes, Tasmanian devils, koalas, and kangaroos in real life was something I won’t forget. My children are STILL talking about it, weeks later.

    It was definitely a highlight for me, and I’d recommend the sanctuary to anyone visiting the area. I learnt a lot about the care and conservation of the animals, and the animals certainly looked well cared for, in good facilities.

    We had a great day chilling out at Burleigh Heads beach, and enjoyed a good meal out at the local RSL club – a very Aussie experience.

    We enjoyed the wonderful beaches and warm weather so much that we are already plotting to return. I can finally understand the pull of the GC for many kiwis. There’s plenty to do, the beaches are gorgeous, and the water isn’t freezing like it is back home!

    Thanks GC, hope to be back soon.

  • Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    A Simple Advent

    Long-time readers of mine will know that I love, love, love Christmas.  While I’m not quite Buddy from ‘Elf’, I I enjoy Christmas as much as my children do, only I’m not motivated by presents.  It’s not just the day itself, but all the little things spread throughout December that add to my sense of anticipation and joy.

    Things like decorating the tree, prepping the advent calendar for my kids, singing Christmas carols, making gifts – and my all-time favourite, looking at the Christmas lights.  

    I also enjoy revisiting the story of Jesus’ birth.  The weird, fantastical, miraculous birth that changed everything.

    As evident in the shops where the nativity is all but swept away in a tsunami of Santas, reindeer, and elves, it can be difficult for Christians to find time for quiet contemplation in a culture that tells us to shop ’til we drop; and that we absolutely MUST end the year with some sort of Christmas party if you are a part of any sort of group at all. 

    Terrible things will happen if we don’t have a Christmas work do!  The world will cease to exist if Little Johnny doesn’t get to sit on Santa’s knee at his third Crimbo party of the season!  Have you even lived if you haven’t handmade your own ugly Christmas sweater?  

    I go on about this every year.  I’m essentially Gollum at Christmas time:  I loves it, and I hates it.  It is a deeply meaningful religious celebration for me, and I hate what it has become in my culture.

    This year I have gone into Advent even more mindfully than before.

    This is our first Christmas as a ministry family.

    While you and your kin are enjoying a leisurely day, my husband will be conducting two services on Christmas Day, and is expected to put in an appearance at a combined church Christmas Eve service.  We’re also supporting friends who are hosting a community lunch for locals here in Point.  We will have family staying with us.  Christmas Day will be anything but quiet.

    Knowing this, I am more careful than usual with what I say YES to.  Mr G was away at his studies when we put up the tree and danced like lunatics to carols (The upbeat ones, obviously.  One cannot boogie to Silent Night).

    He missed out on the excitement on our children’s faces as they came down to breakfast and saw our Advent Calendar was up and ready.

    Actually, our kids are lucky – they get two advent calendars this year.  The one above was made by me a few years back.  The children get a chocolate and a piece of paper with something they will do that day – which is always stuff we would do anyway: like choosing things to donate, making a gift for their teacher etc.

    Normally we wold keep things simple with one calendar, but then we found this beauty put out by @home&church.org.nz this year.  We gave one to all our Sunday school families, and I hope they are enjoying it as much as we are.

    The Advent Tree by @home&church.org.nz

    The detail is incredible, the characters friendly-looking, and it includes simple devotions the whole family can do together.  What could be more simple for harried parents?  Made from thick cardboard, this will be a family taonga for many years to come.  You can buy them at The Warehouse, but the trees are all sold out on the @home&church.org website.

    I myself, start off the day with a short devotional, snatching a few minutes of quiet time to think and pray.

    Prior to Advent my kids (and Sunday school) made these simple Advent Candle wreaths I found on Pinterest.  Even a group of older boys took time and care making theirs.  Each Sunday in Advent they flip a flame up to light the candle of peace etc.  You can find them here.

    We’ve been to see The Grinch at the movies, and believe it or not, a real family highlight has been the four of us watching the Christmas season of Nailed It on Netflix!  

    Still to come is going to see a pantomime, and driving around to see the lights.

    As the ‘Minister’s Wife’ I have repeatedly had several church people come up to me and say ‘we should do x event for Christmas’ and try and leave it with me!  Nuh-uh.  I’m always happy to support events, but if people really want to do something, they need to make it happen, not me.

    Simple Advent.  Say yes to the things that bring you joy, and biff all the rest.

    Wishing you a very merry – and hopefully peaceful – Christmas.

  • Family

    Recovery

    I’ve been silent on here for a while, at first because I was busy with E’s school production, and then with a holiday to see our friends and family in Whanganui.

    Our holiday took a nasty turn when the kids and I all came down with a horrible bug that seems to have affected half of Whanganui.  I was down for the count for five days with a fever, and was too ill to travel back on the day we were supposed to leave.  Fortunately we were able to extend our stay, but as the bug was bacterial and highly contagious, I stayed away from others so as not to pass it on.  I was quite upset not to be able to see many of my friends and family – which was the purpose of our getaway – but no way was I going to risk giving it to anyone else.

    Mr G managed to avoid the bug entirely, praise God!  D was okay, but E’s bug developed into pneumonia.  Antibiotics sorted her out and she’s almost back to normal now.  Me, I was left wiped out, but otherwise seemed to be on the mend.  Until we got home to Pleasant Point.  The first day back was fine, but the next day I woke up feeling terrible and couldn’t get out of bed for several days.  I still didn’t think it was pneumonia as I had no cough, but eventually I was well enough to shuffle off to the medical centre where pneumonia was confirmed.  One course of antibiotics did nothing, so I’m on a different sort, and crossing my fingers that they work.  If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos; and one of the really crappy things about having an AI disease is that illnesses hit you harder and take you longer to recover from than folks with robust immune systems.  So I’ll be out of action for a while yet.

    My MiL dropped everything to fly down to help with the kids, as pretty much all you can do with pneumonia is rest.  And rest some more.  I’ve watched a LOT of Netflix and have run out of books to read.  If you’re one of my friends, do drop me a line to help alleviate the boredom.  🙂

    It’s not all doom and gloom.  I managed to make it out out the house to attend Pets Day at school, which was epic, and I did get to catch up several of my favourite people while I was on holiday.  I’ve read some good books, and holy moly – go watch Bodyguard on Netflix.  What a twisty-turny show!  We’ve had a cold snap here, so I have been ramping up the hygge, with copious cups of tea, warm scarves, and snuggling under our we-could-definitely-use-this-in-Antarctica-duvet.

    Pet Day, best day ever!

    Gratuitous child shot as I just think D looks super cute in the photo

  • Faith,  Family

    Life lately (in pictures)

    It’s been a whirlwind of activity here in the Pleasant Point Manse: birthdays, visitors, fashion parades and more.

    First it was my birthday, which I celebrated a little early by having three nights away at Lake Hawea, BY MYSELF.  It was a very restorative break, both in terms of getting rest and in doing things-that-make-Angela-happy.  “Oh, there’s a museum!’  ‘Oh, there’s some historic buildings!’  ‘Oh, there’s a Mexican restaurant!’  ‘Oh, there’s some gobsmackingly beautiful scenery!’.

    Lake Hawea

    I read two books, pottered around Wanaka, and explored Cromwell.

    I almost cried when I came home to this lovely gift that friends had made for our house/my birthday…

     

    Before I could blink it was my beautiful boy’s fourth birthday!  He had a simple, frugal, and fun Star Wars party.  We borrowed my brother’s precious Star Wars figures to use as cake toppers, and had an obstacle course and a pinata.

    D is 4!

    For the first time in my life I am a bit lost as to what to do with myself for work in the distant future, and exploring options is taking a lot of time and headspace.  But I find myself regularly loving on the children at our church.  It’s not hard, as they are a nice bunch of kids, and I genuinely enjoy their friendship and look forward to catching up with them each week.  The beauty of living somewhere small like Pleasant Point is that everywhere is walkable.  We find our house overrun with children most Sundays after church as our kids and the church kids continue their play.  I have quite a ministry in providing copious amounts of baking to the hungry hoards, and judging various magic tricks and fashion parades that unfold.  I grew up doing the same stuff, so I love, love, love seeing the kids playing like this.

     

    Life is not all sunshine and roses (and lakes).  Mr G is really feeling the pressure of his internship now.  Balancing study with the demands of the parish is stressful and the study often takes a back seat, only to loom large when assignments are due.  All four of us have been sick a lot with little bugs that don’t last long but are annoying to deal with all the same.  I’ve been missing my friends, family and ‘life’ we had in Whanganui.  I’m not usually a person who looks back, but this move has been difficult to process – I suspect simply because it was not my own choice to come here.  It’s not that I don’t like it here!  I do, and I am grateful for the friendships I’ve made here; I think it’s more that I feel at a bit of a loose end here as this move was for Mr G to learn the ropes of ministry which has meant putting my own plans on the back burner.  My aunt passed away, which has naturally been extremely hard for my cousins, and the only silver lining in that dark cloud is that while I am here in Pleasant Point, I am only an hour away from them and therefore am close enough to provide support.

     

  • Family,  Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet: When it pays NOT to be frugal

    There are many reasons to embrace a frugal lifestyle: necessity, to get out of debt and build savings, to be a better steward of your resources, to minimise your impact on the environment, to reduce the stress that living outside your means can bring, or because you love the challenge of finding ways to live well on less.

    All of these reasons and more led me to start my Dollar Diet back in 2015.  Apart from the odd times where life got crazy and some frugal habits were temporarily ditched, frugality is a way of life for our family.

    The biggest factor in why I choose to live frugally is so that I have the money to spend on the things that are important to me.

    For me it’s travel and experiences.  I would rather see a Broadway-type show than buy a latte every day.  I’d rather explore a new place than have a designer wardrobe, and I’d rather introduce my children to different cultures than give them an expensive device.

    Frugal living allows my family to have some money in the bank for fun stuff.  It gives me peace to know that money is there when we need it, even if that need is just to save my sanity.

    Mr G went away for a week recently, as part of his learning-to-be-a-minister requirements, leaving me home alone for seven days with my 3 year-old and 5 year-old.  Apart from one day where I’m pretty sure I tore out a clump of hair, the kids were fine and things went smoothly.  What was hard for me is that I sleep very, very, very badly when Mr G isn’t around.  It’s ridiculous because rationally I know the kids and I are perfectly safe, but the reptilian part of my brain goes on high alert when he’s away because now I’m the one who is responsible for the safety of my kids if an intruder breaks in.  Again, this is totally silly because anyone who knows Mr G and I, knows that I’m the one who’d be up for a fight, whereas Mr G would probably offer to make them a nice cup of tea and talk to them about making better life choices.

    In short, I was extremely tired by the time Mr G got back home.

    When Mr G goes away I run the house with military-like precision.  But I made sure I went into self-care mode too and made myself sit down and relax as soon as all the jobs were done.  I watched something mindless on Netflix most nights (House Doctor, love it), and took every opportunity to rest.  I sat in a cafe a couple of times, people-watching and enjoying food I didn’t have to cook, plus I took the kids out for dinner one night.  There was definitely nothing frugal about the week.

    Mr G was also exhausted by the time he got home from all that learning and socialising.  While the kids were in kindy and school, we shot off to Tekapo and soaked for hours in the Tekapo Springs hot pools.  It was AMAZING.  We both found the hot pools worked wonders – so much so that we are already plotting our return.

    I undoubtedly would have survived without all of those little extras that week, but oh my word, they helped.  I was grateful that our past frugality meant we had the money to splurge a little.

    I know for many people there is zero room in their budget for the tiniest of splurges.  If you know someone in this situation and are able – give them a treat.  It helps so much mentally.  If there is wiggle room in your budget, set a little aside for the times when you need to indulge in some self-care.  You may not have a million bucks, but a wee sprinkle of indulgence can certainly make you feel like a million bucks.

  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living,  Parenting

    Dollar Diet: A frugal date

     

    Mr G and I often take it turns to plan a weekly date night.  Occasionally we’ve had times where it falls by the wayside for a period, sometimes due to life just getting a bit busy, or when we were in a baby-induced fog.

    We’ve always managed to get back on track as we take date night seriously.  Even if what we do for date night isn’t the slightest bit serious!  Marriages fail all the time, and we see date nights as an investment in our relationship, and as an important tool to help keep us connected.

    When we lived in Whanganui, Mr G’s mum was always volunteering to babysit so we could go out on a date – I think because her marriage to Mr G’s dad didn’t make it – and we found it hard to get her to understand that we didn’t always need to go out and spend money to have a great date.  We’ve had loads of great dates that didn’t require us to spend a cent, or even leave the house.  You can read about some of our ideas here.

    When you take turns to plan dates, something rather magical happens.  Especially if you’re trying to save money, or it’s just difficult for you to get a babysitter, you are forced to be creative.  My husband has gone to extraordinary lengths to wow me or put a smile on my face.  We’ve stargazed, he’s made up songs for me, found a hard-to-get movie I’d really wanted to watch, reminisced with me over our wedding photos and we’ve sung karaoke for hours.  I’ve made him his favourite treats, filmed him telling his life history, and we’ve danced the night away in the lounge.  We’ve made cakes together for our children’s birthdays as a date night activity.  It’s more fun than it sounds, I swear.

    My husband would absolutely not describe himself as romantic or even overly creative, but he often surprises me with the thought and care and love that’s he put into our evening together.

    Don’t get me wrong, many times our date nights involve watching Netflix because we’re so darned tired after a busy week!  (We totally recommend Fallet, it’s hilarious.)

    My point is, you don’t have to spend megabucks to have a meaningful date – our date this week (below) was no exception.  A few minutes time spent on google looking for ideas is time well spent.

    On to this week’s frugal happenings:

    • We sold our bike trailer.  I had big plans for this bike trailer, but thanks to a back injury a few months after we bought it, the trailer ended up seldom being used, and gathering dust in the garage.  Our children can ride their own bikes now, so we have zero need for it.  We sold it to a someone who doesn’t drive, who is stoked to be able to transport their kiddos around.  We wasted money on the darn thing, but we weren’t to know it at the time we purchased it, and at least we were able to sell it for a fair price.

     

    • The kids had friends over again, so free fun!

     

    • I had a very frugal outing with D, where we took a packed lunch with us while we played in the great outdoors, and I spent .20c on a toy from an op-shop.  Contrast this with the mummy-daughter date I took E on.  She had a definite idea of what she wanted to do, which involved going to a cafe, and then a (free) playground.  I spent $25 on lunch for the two of us at the cafe, but it was a planned expense.  E doesn’t get treats like that too often, and it was good for this mama’s soul to spend one-on-one time with her.  Now she’s at school, I have to be very intentional about this.  Still, not all our mummy-daughter dates will require any money changing hands, but that’s a post for another time.

     

    • It was my turn to organise date night, so I made a quick dinner for the kids, sent the kids off with Mr G for their bath and bedtime routine, while I made a special dinner for Mr G and I.  On the menu was chicken tikka masala, rice, naan, and veggies, with flutes of champagne.  The dinner cost maybe $10 to make, and the champagne was a gift from a friend.  I lit candles, put on some music, and laid out a fancy dinner setting.  And by fancy, I mean our totally mismatched set of crockery.  We had a lovely night – it was just as good as a swanky restaurant, and we solved the problems of the world as we ate our dinner in peace.  For parents, you can reclaim the bliss of a peaceful dinner!

    • I made another batch of bean and cheese burritos.  Inspired by this post, I’ve tweaked the recipe to my liking, and can make these burritos for about .75c each.  They freeze beautifully, and make for a quick and easy lunch.
  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living,  Parenting

    Dream Small

     

    It was both a quiet and momentous week.

    D was sick, whiny and rather belligerent due to a cold.  E was run down and in need of a day off school to recharge her five-year old batteries.  D had woken up with a coughing fit in the wee hours of the morning.  He was wiiiiiiide awake, so I dragged my bleary-eyed carcass out of bed to look after him.  The three of us had a duvet day and watched lots of TV – I now know the entire backstory to Transformers: Robots in Disguise, so if you lie awake at night wondering what the heck happened to Russell’s mum* and why he never seems to go to school, just ask me.

    D had gotten over the worst of his cold the next day, which happened to be a warm and sunshiny day, so I took him to play at the nearby Temuka Domain.  I pushed him on a swing for 30 minutes while he kept up a monologue of how aliens were trying to take over the earth and get into our brains, but fortunately he, D, had special weapons and was big and strong and would defeat the aliens single-handedly.  We had a ferocious debate over whether aliens have birthdays (answer: yes, but they don’t play games like ours), and then looked for Decepticons (bad Transformers) in the native forest at the domain.  I basked in the sun, and chuckled at D’s marvellous imagination.

    The Decepticons are here somewhere…

    There’s a fabulous op-shop in Temuka called Paws and Claws (all proceeds go to the SPCA).  It’s a treasure trove, and my kids love visiting the shop because the lovely manager always gives them a wee lolly.  If you are in the area, do pay them a visit – it’s especially well stocked with secondhand clothes, books and household goods.  D wanted to visit the shop, and was so filled with extroverted joy he announced it to the nice old lady passing by, “We’re going to Paws and Claws!  Mummy might let me get a toy!”.  I did, for the princely sum of 20c.

    Little things.  Snuggling on the couch with my children, warm sun, the joy of a secondhand toy.  

    Like many stay-at-home parents, this time of having under little ones has been an opportunity for me to take stock and decide what’s next for my career.  In a little over a year, both my kids will be at school and the world is my oyster.

    Yet, as I get older I am increasingly called to live small.

    Since moving to Pleasant Point I’ve kept an eye on the part-time jobs on offer in the area.  Each time I mentioned them to D he wisely said “But what about the school holidays?  What about when I’m away?”  He has a demanding job that encompasses our entire family, in a way that most jobs don’t.  I’ve also been toying with the idea of going back to further study to upskill, but have felt daunted by the stress it would put upon me, along with the need to find someone who doesn’t mind doing rather bitsy childcare.  Most caregivers want regular gigs, and I can’t say I blame them!  I got very frustrated, and felt like I’d never be able to work without putting our children in after school care and holiday programmes (for my overseas readers, NZ schools have around 12 weeks break spread throughout the year).  

    I don’t want that for my kids.  I’m not judging working parents.  Honestly, I’m not.  If my children had different personalities, I’d definitely be considering full time work.  But I have two very sensitive souls, and I know that they would not thrive in a schedule that full-time work would have them locked into.  Especially D.  For all his bravado and confidence, he finds change hard and often needs handling with kid gloves.

    And so it wasn’t because of a lightening-bolt moment of clarity, but a gentle conversation with Mr G (plus lots of prayer) that helped me to decide to continue as a stay at home mum, so I can be present for the kids.  I also feel called to be present for church, and certainly once both kids are in school I’ll be available to lend more of a hand with the various things churches run.  I’m also quite fortunate that most of the things I have a passion for doing in the church are quite often things that you get paid for.  I love preaching, and running workshops and retreats, and there’s definitely some scope to learn a little income doing these.  So stay tuned folks.  I’m not ruling out further study or full time work in the future, but for the next few years at any rate, I’ll be living the quiet(er) life.

    This decision requires some sacrifice, certainly in terms of income, and it limits my bigger dreams – which mostly involve my favourite thing ever, travel.  I’d be lying if I said that didn’t matter to me.  It does, and I’m sure in times to come I’ll find myself wishing I was at Abu Simbel or St Petersburg or even Bonnie Doon.

    image credit

    The song ‘Dream Small’, by Josh Wilson is one that I play on repeat, because it is just so apt for where I’m at.  I’ve dreamed big dreams and even achieved many of those goals, and had a lot of fun and learning in the process.  In the song, Josh talks about little moments changing the world; being used by God just as and where you are.  More and more I am more content with these little moments shaping my life.  I notice them, am thankful for them, and they give me direction and purpose in the same way my big dreams once did.

     

    Dream Small – Josh Wilson

    It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
    It’s a daddy spending family time
    That the world said he cannot afford
    These simple moments change the world
    It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
    Forty years of loving on the broken and the hurt
    These simple moments change the world
    Dream small
    Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
    Just let Jesus use you where you are
    One day at a time
    Live well
    Loving God and others as yourself
    Find little ways where only you can help
    With His great love
    A tiny rock can make a giant fall
    Dream small
    It’s visiting the widow down the street
    Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
    These simple moments change the world
    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
    Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things, no
    ‘Cause these simple moments change the world
    So dream small
    Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
    Just let Jesus use you where you are
    One day at a time
    Live well
    Loving God and others as yourself
    Find little ways where only you can help
    With His great love
    A tiny rock can make a giant fall
    So dream small
    Keep loving, keep serving
    Keep listening, keep learning
    Keep praying, keep hoping
    Keep seeking, keep searching
    Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
    The God who does all things makes oceans from river
    So dream small
    Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
    Just let Jesus use you where you are
    One day at a time
    Live well
    Loving God and others as yourself
    Find little ways where only you can help
    With His great love
    A tiny rock can make a giant fall
    Yeah, five loaves and two fishes could feed them all
    So dream small
    Dream small

     

    * She’s working in Copenhagen.  Now you can get some sleep.
  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet: Use it up

    This week’s frugal results of the Dollar Diet. 

    This week we chugged on pretty nicely with our frugal fortnightly meal plan – although we had two takeaways, which is unusual for us on our Dollar Diet.

    The first takeaway was due to our Wednesday night church home group deciding to include a meal as part of the evening’s activities.  I pushed for this as 1) I think something magical happens when people share a meal together, and 2) one of our group has a long commute and often turns up without having eaten dinner – now that’s faithfulness!  I figured we could make Wednesday night easier for her by providing dinner.  We kicked off with Fish and Chips, but we’ll definitely have some home cooked fare in there too in the future.

    The second meal was due to having a bad day, as I referenced in my previous post Parenting with Hashimoto’s.  For some reason my Hashimoto’s is bad at the moment, and I’m having a LOT of bad days.  I got to early afternoon and was all-in.  Mr G was knackered too.  Our cupboards and freezer were bare thanks to last week’s pantry audit.  It was annoying, yet funny.  I’m gratified to know I had done a great job at using up all our food!

    Anyway, I aim to restock our freezer this week with delectable leftovers to avoid takeaway temptation.

    This week’s frugal doings:

    • I made vegan muffins using last week’s applesauce.  Applesauce makes beautifully moist muffins.  They didn’t last long!  We still have lots of applesauce left which will go in more baking or as a breakfast topping.

      image credit and recipe here

     

    • I hung out our washing on the line as the weather permitted.

     

    • I baked, and baked and baked some more.  Biscuits, scones, those muffins.  It all makes filling lunchboxes, filling tummies, and hosting guests that much easier.  And you can make much healthier alternatives to store-bought baking.

     

    • The kids had play dates with friends at the weekend – free entertainment.  The mother of my son’s friend stayed to chat and she brought brownie.  She’s a keeper…

     

    • A friend of mine came over with a DVD and wine.  She’s most definitely a keeper!

     

    • We scored a secondhand Pippins uniform for E.  She adores Pippins (which is baby Girl Guides/Girl Scouts if you don’t know what it is) and asks nearly every day if it’s a Pippins day.  Getting the uniform cheaply is a big help as their activity fee is high.  I’ll elaborate more on why we chose Pippins as an extracurricular activity at a later date.

      What Pippins Do
      image via Girl Guides NZ

     

    • I decluttered the kid’s clothes, toys and books for approximately the 1,237th time.  Seriously.  I seem to be constantly biffing out things the kids have outgrown or broken or had no idea they owned in the first place.  Decluttering gives many people a headache, I know, but I LOVE it.  I give away what I can to friends, and donate to op-shops; only relegating broken stuff or things that I wouldn’t wear or use myself to recycling.  Why is it a frugal thing to do?  1) You can sell your unwanted goods for profit.  2) The less stuff you (or your kids) own, the less time and money you have to spend cleaning it, caring for it,  storing it and stressing about it.  Your time, energy and money are better spent elsewhere.  3) It’s freeing to get rid of things that are otherwise collecting dust, plus I love giving back to the frugal chain of charity shops, where I get most of our clothing and household goods from.  My trash is someone else’s treasure. Donating your goods to charity shops helps them stay open and usually funds all manner of good works.

     

    • Our church has a budget for children’s ministry, but I like to save them a buck or two whenever possible.  On Sunday the church kids entered an art competition, and used paint, brushes and palettes I had leftover from a rock painting event I ran; and they used some high quality paper we’d had lying around for ages after it was gifted to us by a neighbour.  We even used Mr G’s old t-shirts as painting aprons. $0 expenditure for the kid’s ministry this week!

      God’s wonderful creation by Z, age 7

       

     

    What frugal things did you get up to this week?