What a year so far! Bushfires in Australia. Iran facing off against the US. A global pandemic. Giant Murder Hornets. Anti-racism protests (which I fully support). Donald Trump being…well, Donald Trump.
Like you, I have been reeling from this year’s events and 2020’s only half over. Having just come out of Lockdown, I then found myself uncomfortably confronted by the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Like most people, I would have never, ever called myself a racist. I’m one of the good guys, right? I too, have had to face my own prejudices and biases and gain a greater awareness of the systemic inequality towards BIPOC, here in New Zealand and overseas. My education on this topic is far from over.
So far I feel like 2020 is taking us on a funfair ride through the House of Horrors. The world is heavy. Our hearts are heavy – if they haven’t already broken, that is.
Where is God in all this mess? How could God allow this happen?
Such a good question.
Personally, I don’t think God is the source of all this mess. I’m pretty sure God’s heart is breaking over all the deaths, sickness, disruption and civil unrest. The problem is us. People. What we do to each other and to the planet.
Yet we can also be the solution.
I see God at work in all those who are responding to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, in the generosity and creativity seen over lockdown, the people willing to admit to their privilege and to learn from BIPOC.
This quote from Anne Frank, whose writing I first encountered as a young teenager, has stuck with me all my life, because I believe it too:
I do believe that people really are good at heart. I don’t know anyone, Christian or not, who doesn’t have the sense that the world is not as it should be. That we humans, are meant to be so much more.
My faith gives me the blueprint for how this world was designed to be, and gives me comfort when it feels like the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Here are some faith things that have helped me during this roller-coaster year:
Upped my prayer life. I don’t normally follow the news at all, trusting that important information gets to me, but when New Zealand moved into Level Two back in March, I started to read and watch the news again to ensure I had the latest, correct information. And the news has been an unrelenting stream of badness. Most of the time the only thing I can do is pray for that situation or person. I often stop to pray when I hear awful news, and I have been grateful for my morning online prayer group where we our able to give our prayers and worries up to God.
Listened to Christian media. I usually have Rhema radio station on while I’m at home. While secular media was wall-to-wall doom and gloom, Rhema was an oasis of calm, measured reporting; with practical interviews on coping with lockdown, and they recently discussed the Black Lives Matters movement with wisdom, compassion, and a real desire for dialogue. God’s reassuring promises are played over and over through the great music they play and also through the wise teaching on their shows.
Studied scripture more. Over lockdown, God led me to several scriptures that stood out to me like never before, most of which were about trusting God’s promises.
Got out intoNature. I sense God’s presence the most when I am out in His creation. Over lockdown, I wanted to be anywhere other than my house – a forest, a beach, or a lake. Somewhere peaceful and quiet. I can’t always get that, but time in nature restores me like nothing else can.
The weather is bleak and miserable today, and my mood seems to match it. I make it to my prayer meeting, and I am grateful for this encouraging group of strangers-who-are-feeling-like-friends-now.
Rev G is ‘on’ the kids today, although it is clear that his mind is on his work, and not them. Not for the first time, I feel resentful of how the church seems to be getting the best of him during this time, and not us. I am sure I am not the only spouse feeling this way. Right now is one of the busiest times of the year for the church – Easter is not the time to put in the bare minimum of energy if you are a minister.
I’m really tired today, and it takes me ages to summon the energy to have a shower and get dressed. But today is ‘Formal Friday’, so I throw on my best dress, and have fun doing my hair and makeup.
My son walks in from a walk with his father and sister. “Mum, you look really nice,” he says, I think for the first time ever.
The rest of my family dress up for our daily Zoom catchup, and I have a giggle sharing ridiculous Snapchats with my cousin, J. I am so grateful for technology today.
My parents, MiL and brother are suitably dressed for our catchup. We share some laughs. Next week’s challenge is making up a crazy hat. My recycling bin was made for a time such as this! Still, everyone is a bit down today, and we are running out of things to say to each other. I resolve to share some jokes or poems etc the next time we meet.
After the call, we catch up with friends from down south, and film a video segment for our church’s Palm Sunday service. I wrote a rather silly, short children’s play for Palm Sunday two years ago, which we’ve decided to recycle. Recording segments and putting the video has provided some fun and something to do for several people in our church, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like.
At home we are all a little snippy and shouty with each other. The children don’t eat their dinner, so they are put to bed early. Rev G and I enjoy the quiet and watch more of “The Man in the High Castle”.
I sleep badly again, falling asleep way after midnight.
I do, however, manage to get up for home group prayers. It’s lovely. There are several children clad in PJ’s, and they bring light to my day. It feels good to gather with other believers. Some of them are essential workers, some are married to essential workers. Some are juggling working from home with kids.
I feel better when someone says they aren’t sleeping either. Another reminder that I am not alone in this.
I spend more time in prayer, listening to Pray as You Go while exercising outside. I listen to Christian radio station, Rhema daily anyway, but find it even more comforting in these times. Unlike other stations with wall-to-wall doom and gloom, Rhema are talking about COVID-19 but not revelling in the drama of it. Instead they are repeatedly reminding their listeners of God’s promises.
They play Lauren Daigle’s song ‘Look Up Child”, and it has new meaning today:
Where are You now When darkness seems to win Where are You now When the world is crumbling
Oh, I, I I hear You say I hear You say
Look up child Look up child
Where are You now (Where are You?) When all I feel is doubt Where are You now When I can’t figure it out
Oh, I, I I hear You say I hear You say
Look up child Look up child Look up child Look up child Look up…
You’re not threatened by the war You’re not shaken by the storm I know You’re in control Even in our suffering Even when it can’t be seen I know You’re in control
Oh, I, I I hear You say I hear You say
Look up child Look up child Look up child I hear You say, You say, You say Look up child I hear You say, You say, You say (Look up, look up, look up, look up) Look up child I hear You say, You say, You say Look up child I hear You say, You say, You say (Look up, look up, look up, look up) Look up child I hear You say, You say, You say I hear You, I hear You calling my name, oh Look up child I hear You say, You say, You say (Look up, look up) Look up child Look up child Look up
I spend more time going to the Lord in prayer.
I usually have lunch with Joyce Meyer (via her radio show), and a line from her stands out, “Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t do”.
The children and I have fun making obstacle courses for the local children going out on bear hunts. We see several neighbours. We chat briefly at a distance (across the street) from each other. We are all eager for a smile and a wave.
In the afternoon I am tired and let the kids watch too much TV, although Master D does spend a lot of it doing puzzles.
We have to venture out in the car – Rev G and I have flu jabs that were scheduled before the lockdown. The appointments were made together. We have to all go, we can’t leave the children at home! We get stares from people on the street who are walking or going to the supermarket. I’d like a sign that says “We are following orders, honestly!”
It was nice to get outside, even if just for a few minutes at the medical centre. There are lot of people out – all of whom are following physical distance orders. Oh the internet, there’s outrage at people flauting the rules. Obviously I haven’t been everywhere, but I suspect it’s like the panic-buying reporting. If you see story after story, then it must be everywhere, right? Don’t believe it folks.
I miss my home group prayers again, due to poor sleep. But it’s a beautiful day outside again, a blessing. For the first time in several days, I feel peaceful. Knowing the panic-buying is calming down has calmed me down. We have everything we need to get through.
I listen to my favourite Christian meditation app, Pray As You Go, while I do Tai Chi in the garden. Feeling the sun on my skin, I wonder why I haven’t done this before, but being outside has never felt so precious. I pray.
I make the most of being in the garden, and we spend quite a bit of the morning outside. Rev G is pounced upon when he emerges for a break – a Daddy’s work is never done.
Master D decides to make cards for his buddies in Pleasant Point, which unleashes a creative frenzy in both children.
I hit upon a fun idea to give the children something to look forward to and to help them focus on others: kindness mail. We have this garish, musical mailbox.
It is the sort of toy I despise, so mine didn’t have this as toddlers. But we have several babies and toddlers in our social circle in Wellington – which we didn’t have in Pleasant Point. I decided to get a few toddler-friendly toys to stash away from young visitors, as my children will suddenly find that the toy someone else is clutching is their ‘favourite’. Toys they don’t own are the answer! (Yes, I let them play with it.)
Anyway, each morning my children will get kindness mail, with a new mission of doing something kind. I slip the first note inside, and they are very excited by the idea when they find it.
After lunch I text my MiL about how well the children are playing together.
Famous last words.
Master D has several meltdowns. To make matters worse, his sister gets something cool in the mail, and he doesn’t. It is all too much, and all the feelings come out.
Like many children, when my son is stressed, his fuse becomes shorter than usual, and it comes out in all manner of bad behaviour – mostly tantrums. I give him lots of cuddles. I throw out screen-free plans and let the children blob in front of the telly, until Rev G finishes work and can take them out for a walk.
We let them talk about how they are feeling, over dinner. Miss E breaks my heart. “It’s terrifying, I’m so scared”.
I imagine how scared and bewildered I would have been if this had happened to me when I was seven. I too, would have been terrified that my parents and grandparents might die.
We put on a silly kid’s movie, eat chips and snuggle on the couch. The movie is hilarious and is just what I needed.
I have visions of burglars coming to steal our supplies. I have watched far too many apocalyptic movies…
The strange noises I hear turn out to be a rainstorm lashing the house.
How very apt, I think. Even the weather is in sympathy with the mood of our nation.
I lie awake trying not to think about how long it will take before people stop buying up like madmen. What if I can’t feed my babies? I tell myself off for being so ridiculous, but cannot shake the feeling of panic. Again, why do I love dystopian fiction so much? Why am I cursed with a vivid imagination?
At 5am I wake my slumbering husband and demand his reassuring cuddles before I eventually drift off to sleep.
I sleep in so long I miss an online prayer meeting with my home group and an online trivia game with a friend.
The storm has passed, it is a beautiful, sunny autumnal day.
My children are super excited for ‘home school’, and I have an outline for the day. I think I will stick to it because my children like routine. By routine, I mean we will do P.E. first, then read, then go for a walk etc, not a 9:00-9:10 am: Multiplication and fractions sort of schedule.
I plan to do nothing more than read with the kids, and have them write cards to their friends and relatives. We will make crafts, movies, bake etc. We will garden, and dance to Koo Koo Kangaroo. Simple stuff. I really couldn’t give a toss about actual schoolwork. My children are small and schoolwork is not important right now. I am gratified to hear some of my favourite NZ psych/parenting gurus say the same. Focus on being calm, focus on making them feel safe, focus on doing things together. Be patient as they process their emotions in this scary time.
On cue, my son has a huge meltdown after breakfast. I’m expecting lots of this behaviour. But actually, he ends up being fine for the rest of the day. Doing P.E. is a highlight for him.
We spend most of the morning outside. I can’t garden right now except for the odd bit of pruning, so I hobble through the garden, noticing all the flowers that are blooming. I am grateful that a previous owner of our house loved flowers so much.
The kids make ‘training’ videos, obviously inspired by Joe Wicks, although I suspect Joe doesn’t do ‘the butt dance’ in his videos.
Miss E is especially kind and helpful today. She helps me hang out the washing, and tidies up a mess left by her brother after he did an impromptu craft.
Rev G goes into church to get all the things he will need to put online services together. I’m resentful that his mind is mostly on work, and not on his family and make him watch a great clip on Seven Sharp where a psychologist talks about the importance of parents sharing the mental load. I feel like I am the only parent who cares about how our kids are coping with the most stressful event of their short lives.
But Rev G has been madly running around getting things we need before the lockdown too. He does care. He goes past a supermarket and finds it not busy. He calls me to say it is ‘almost normal’, so he is able to get our usual groceries after all. The huge weight in my chest lifts. My primal brain relaxes again – my babies will not starve (not that they were ever in any danger of that!).
Master D amazes me by writing himself a ‘worksheet’. They don’t do those at his Montessori school, so I’ve no idea where he came up with that, but I notice his writing has come on so much. I also notice him colouring quietly when he’s not doing stuff with me or his sister. Master D of a year ago was incapable of doing anything quietly for more than a few minutes. Incredible the difference a year makes.
I notice that I am noticing things more – if that makes sense! I am grateful for so many things: the sun in my face, the Scholastic books that arrived on the last day of school, Zoom catch-ups with friends. I almost never watch terrestrial TV anymore, but I watch the news again, and keep on watching. Jeremy Wells is hysterically funny on Seven Sharp, and then cute puppies being trained as rescue/police/guide dogs etc comes on. I am grateful for the laughs and distraction.
I started blogging years ago mostly as a way of keeping in touch with my friends and family who – thanks to my somewhat nomadic life – are scattered all over the globe.
I suck at keeping in touch with people. I’m not great at email, I despise talking on the telephone, and I have a select group of people that I do video calls with. And I’m an extrovert!
For the next few weeks, this will be a ‘lock down diary’ – so feel free to ignore my posts until normal transmission resumes some day in the future – after all, most of you will be living your own lock down lives too.
I want to record this event for myself, and particularly for my children. My son is only 5.5 years, and I doubt he will remember any of it when he grows up. What is happening around the world, and to us in New Zealand is of a magnitude I’ve never experience in my life time – and I pray I never do again.
On Friday I hugged my cousin S and my friend J, as they left our wee dinner party, for we didn’t know when we might see each other again. It was a surreal moment.
After a moving church service on Sunday, attended by 13 of us, the consensus was that we would continue to meet until directed otherwise by the government or the church. I was quite surprised by this choice, but every single person there was frazzled. Our brains were overloaded with all things COVID-19, and the situation that was unfolding daily. Many of the people at my church work for the government, several of them heavily involved in the crisis response. One person’s job was to run the numbers on the amount of deaths in her field. Can you imagine?
Monday morning is my usual grocery-shop day. Only I am on week two of mandatory rest to help heal damaged tendons in my knee, so I can’t go. Rev G decides he’ll do the shopping on Tuesday. I think this is fine, because I don’t think we’ll go into Level 3 in New Zealand until later in the week.
We manage to get a phone consult for Miss E with a doctor, as Miss E still has a cough which has gone on for over seven days. We are sure it isn’t the ‘rona, but are concerned she may need medicine to shift the cough. She’s already had a week off school. I’d like to send her if I could, as she is totally fine except for the odd bit of coughing. She’s been totally fine for about five days at this point. The only reason I want to send her is because she is new at the school, and just starting to settle and make friends.
The doctor diagnoses a virus – that is not COVID-19 – and says, “Normally I’d tell you to send her to school, but there’s other people’s anxiety to consider at the moment.”
The Doctor is of course, totally correct. Miss E stays home.
As Miss E is quite perky, I sit her down and tell her I don’t think she’ll be able to return to school before lock down begins. She flips through our craft books and marks which crafts she wants to do.
Deciding to save Rev G yet another trip out, I order over the internet the craft supplies we need, plus some Easter Eggs, that we can stash away. I am predicting a sombre Easter.
I go online to check what fresh horrors await me today, to discover I have just caught the tail end of the government deciding to move us from Level Two to Three, and then Level Four at 11:59 on Wednesday.
I immediately call Rev G because I know he won’t have heard the news, and tell him to quickly check how crazy the supermarket is. We have plenty of emergency food, but not a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables since today was our normal stock-up day. I’m concerned it may take days for panic-buying to calm down, and curse my knee.
The shopocalypse is taking place as he drives by, and we decide we can wait!
I thank God for what we do have.
I talk to my children about what’s happening. Miss E (7) watched the news with me on Saturday, so she understands that Level Four means no school. In the last few days I have needed to watch the news, something I have rarely done for over a decade; it’s always far too depressing.
I think I have explained the ‘stay at home’ situation to them. Five minutes later my son asks Rev G to buy him something from the shops. Yeah, he doesn’t get it.
We watch the news together as a family for the first time ever; I’m hoping that it will help the children understand what it all means. That we can’t pop to the shops. We can’t go to the playground. We can’t see their friends. A snippet on the panic buying helps my son to understand why we don’t want to go to the supermarket right now. Even though they have iceblocks.
I immediately start conserving food despite the fact that I know the supermarkets will be open throughout. Our portions are slightly smaller, and we explain to the children that waste just won’t be tolerated. They take it pretty well, and eat dinner with little complaint for a change. My husband and I think COVID-19 may be a game changer for their picky palettes.
Even though we are normally pretty good at using up our food, I suddenly notice outrageous waste. I quickly throw the dregs of a 2-day old cooked chicken and some starting-to-get-manky veg into a pot to make soup. If getting veggies in the shopocalypse turns out to be difficult, this will provide good nutrients. This is my way of panicking.
I have invited my parents and my brother to a Zoom meeting, although we use most of the time getting it set up properly for my mother. I thank God I have a tech-savvy husband who can do that. We have a lot of fun singing songs and generally being silly, and end with a prayer.
Rev G had the hymn Jerusalem stuck in his head as he prepared his sermon. The line, “I shall not cease from mental fight” stands out to me.
I haven’t yet met anyone who is blase about having to stay put for a month. It’s a huge ask to give up our normal lives, but it is absolutely the right decisions. I tell my kids that they are lifesavers.
I am mostly worried about the mental side of being cooped up this long. I am a sensation-seeking extrovert – a person who loves new, novel things. Where ever I live, I can tell you all the things to do in my area, because you can bet I’ve done most of them. Even though I’m a stay-at-home parent, I’m rarely home for a couple of days at a time, unless I’m unwell. I’m not wired that way.
My children are not wired that way either. My son is like me – he needs to get out. He is very, very social, and quickly gets irritated and naughty towards his sister if cooped up with just her for company. Rev G and I have just come off the back of having the kids for over seven weeks when we were between homes, and it was exhausting. We had friends and places to go then too!
I’m chomping at the bit to go for a walk, to exercise, like all the experts are cautioning us to do. Only I can’t right now because of my injury. Hopefully my knee will continue to improve so I can at least get out into the walking track near my house.
Posting my usual updates on how the Dollar Diet is going just doesn’t feel right to me at the moment. COVID-19 is dominating the news, our shopping habits and our thoughts. Many of my friends around the globe are in self-isolation already, and I believe it will only be a matter of time before New Zealand takes that step as well.
I was musing on the enormous privilege that I have as I watched a batch of my made-from-scratch pasta sauce thicken and boil away merrily on the stove top. Does pasta sauce do that to you?
I am very privileged.
I guess I’ve been thinking about this stuff because I am intrigued by what makes my society tick. There’s been a lot of shaming language relating to COVID-19 being flung about, at least here in New Zealand. People are ‘panic-buying’. People are being ‘selfish’. People are ‘overreacting’. People are ‘underreacting’. People are ‘not taking it seriously’. Where is the moral line that separates ‘panic-buying’ from ‘being prepared to stay at home for two weeks’?
Having worked with people on the margins, I am deeply worried about how they will be affected in the weeks and months to come. Those of us who are privileged have a duty of care for them. Indeed, there are many people among us who we also need to check in on. Let me explain.
I am not out there panic-buying because we already have plenty of pantry items due to having a fully-kitted-out emergency supply of food and water. We live in New Zealand. We have earthquakes. Sometimes really bad earthquakes. I was told that this is why New Zealand supplies are faring better than in Australia, because New Zealanders tend to have emergency supplies as a matter of course.
The way I shop and meal plan means we normally have a decent supply of food in our pantry. We have four people to feed. Several friends who live alone have said to me that they needed to stock up in case they had to self-isolate, because they shop almost daily due to only needing food for one. When you live alone, it’s very easy for things to spoil before you can get around to eating it, so I know plenty of single people who shop this way. I used to when I lived alone! So before judging someone for stuffing their trolley, just remember it could be someone in this situation who normally has very little in their cupboards.
The Dollar Diet means I’m able to take advantage of items on special and can afford to buy a few discounted items at a time. It’s not uncommon for us to have several boxes of crackers and soy milk, jars of peanut butter and gluten free pasta in our pantry, because when our frequently used items are on special, I snap them up! I am privileged to be able to do this. Many families and individuals aren’t able to shop like this because there is no extra money. An extra tin here and there is an impossible ask. It’s more important than ever to donate to food banks, soup kitchens and shelters, and to be generous with people in your community. We’re not even in self-isolation yet, but my local Facebook group is full of people offering to help. People are beautiful.
Should the shopocalypse get any worse (although currently my local supermarket is fine…), I am confident in my ability to make what food we have stretch for quite some time. I am a pretty decent cook (having learned the art from my friend R), and know how to use up what we have. This is privilege (not to mention that having a home with a kitchen, electricity, pots, pans etc is a huge privilege in itself…). I know loads of people who might look at their cupboards in despair, wondering what to do with that tin of chickpeas lurking at the back of the shelf, a manky zucchini and half a tomato, and a past-its-used-by-date box of Chinese Five Spice. Many people don’t know how to cook, and are dependant on takeaways and eating out. They don’t have the basic skills, let alone knowing the skills of how to stretch a meal or making things from scratch. If you know someone like that, check in on them.
I am currently housebound – not because of COVID-19, but due to damaged tendons in my knee (probably a knock on of last year’s car crash). I am under strict instructions to rest my knee for at least two weeks. I live with my supportive husband who can get groceries and do housework, and with two children who are capable of getting themselves dressed, fed and passing me the remote control etc. I’ve had friends drop meals around, been inundated with books to read and DVDs to watch. I have people who care and who are praying for me (healing is going well, by the way!). My community is a privilege. There may be sick or immune-compromised people where you are who live alone, and who have no one to ask for help. Again, please reach out to your neighbours and friends – particularly those who are elderly or live alone.
The idea of self-isolating doesn’t fill me with dread. I have a family to interact with. My children are very entertaining, and I’m sure we can fill the time quite happily. But again, many people live alone. Not everyone has a wide circle of friends and a close family. Loneliness is a real problem. Check in with your single friends, with any elderly relatives. Maybe have regular phone calls, texts or Skype etc with those who are particularly vulnerable. Organise a online group with friends to chat and keep your spirits up. Make sure you include your more introverted friends who wouldn’t normally instigate something like that!
Please stay safe and connected, my friends. Think of others, reach out. Be the village.
It feels like a year’s worth of living has been crammed into the last two months since we left Pleasant Point.
I’d like to say it’s been a swell time, but the truth is it has been an exhausting ride to get to our new home in Wellington. I hung in there by the skin of my teeth, often counting the hours and minutes until the children started their new school.
Mr G left Pleasant Point a week before the children and I, to finish his last block course for his studies. We had a riotous celebration the day he handed in his last assignment. I simultaneously wanted to leap for joy and burn all of his textbooks, as he has been beavering away at assignments and essays for the last EIGHT years! Not having the spectre of assignments looming large over Mr G and our time as a family, feels like an enormous burden has been lifted.
We decided to depart as soon as Mr G’s internship had finished, despite there being two more weeks of school, Christmas etc – because it was imperative that Mr G got a decent break between jobs. Having your father pass away, your wife be in a serious car crash, plus a workload of several assignments does not make for a fun time. But he got through it, with his usual grace, grit and humour, and earned that holiday.
In his absence, I readied the house for moving. The movers packed everything, but I still had a list a mile long of things I needed to do before the moving trucks arrived.
We bade a tearful farewell to our friends in Pleasant Point. In the weeks leading up to our departure, the stress and anxiety started to show up in the children’s behaviour. Miss E, kept saying things like “I just got a bit of that plant in my mouth, will I die?” I don’t know why, but that’s just how her anxiety manifested.
Master D was even more argumentative and tantrumy than he usually is (he’s very strong-willed, …like his mama). He also stopped eating very much. He’s a very slender child, so it was a worry! My MiL is very wise and remembered not eating as a child herself in response to stress in her life, and I think that is true for Master D as well. Both my children are out-going extroverts who handle change pretty well, but there’s no getting around the fact that moving towns as a child is just blimmin’ hard and stressful.
We spent two weeks on the road – seeing Mr G graduate from his studies, visiting friends and seeing some of the beautiful South Island. There was a major weather event (which we missed!) that closed several main roads, and meant we had to change our route. It was disappointing, but I know we will be back that way one day.
Our road trip was a good one – our kids are good travellers, who are unphased by sleeping in different places. They had a wonderful time playing with the five children of our friends who farm near Gore. It was a beautiful thing to watch my two happily join in a triathlon that the other children were doing, and for them to experience life on a farm. Animals galore! Quad bikes! Marshmallow roasting! What’s not to like?
We spent several days chilling out at Lake Manapouri, which is just as beautiful, but less touristy and expensive than Lake Te Anau. We stayed right on the lake front, and spent most of our time outside walking and enjoying the incredible scenery. We spent a night in Queenstown. I loved nearby Arrowtown, which has retained many of its heritage buildings from New Zealand’s gold mining era.
After two weeks we were glad to put down temporary roots in our previous hometown of Whanganui. On the ferry from the South Island to the North Island, we were informed the church had rented us a house in Wellington and we could move in mid-January!
We spent several weeks in Whanganui staying at a property our friends own, which is right next to their home. Our children are a similar age, and so the five kids had the kind of nostalgic summers one only reads about. Long hours of playing with friends, uninterrupted by adults. Coming home only for food and drink and to reapply sunscreen. Friends just a fence climb away.
It was especially neat to see a firm friendship develop between my son D (5.5) and their son Z (4.5), as D went through a terrible bullying phase as a toddler. The usual object of his toddler rage was poor Z! But now they are great buds. Within three days of being back in Whanganui, among his old friends and his grandparents, I’m happy to say D resumed his normal eating patterns. E’s anxiety tapered off.
We all got sick at some point during our time in Whanganui – which is typical for us when we are exposed to different bugs in new places. I got glutened twice, which took me quite a while to recover from. I didn’t get t see everyone I wanted to – but we don’t live far away now, so there will be other opportunities!
Miss E turned 7 during our stay, and celebrated with a high tea party.
Mr G and I spent two nights away doing something fun and relaxing…jokes, we UNPACKED OUR ENTIRE HOUSE. I’m not sure how it’s possible considering all the stuff I sled/gave away/got rid of before we moved, but unpacking a house seems to get more tiring each time I do it! We wanted the children to be able to arrive at their new home with everything unpacked and ready for them.
My original plan was to return to Whanganui, where we had playdates, friends and family on tap, and stay on there for the duration of the summer holidays with E and D. Whereas many of our friends in Wellington either don’t have children, or were away or busy working/at holiday programmes. But once Mr G left so he could start his new ministry job, E’s anxiety came back. After a few days she tearfully admitted to me, “I know Daddy is okay, but my brain keeps telling me he’s dead.”
We left for our new home in Wellington the next day.
Once we were all together in our new house, she came right again. She was definitely anxious about her first day at school, but she’s had a fantastic first week there, and seems to love it. Long may that continue!
We did a few fun things before school went back (like the Weta Workshops tour, so cool!), but mostly we were just weary, worn out, cranky and tired. Living out of a suitcase for two months wasn’t much fun, and we are grateful to be settled in to our new home, and into life in Wellington. Being back in Wellington is a bit like putting on my favourite cardi that I gleefully pull out each winter – it is comforting, warm and familiar.
We received a heartfelt welcome from our new congregation. I’m sure it won’t all be unicorns and rainbows over the next few years, but I like them very much already. Mr G’s ordination ceremony was a fun occasion and he is now fully-fledged Reverend. It was a fitting conclusion to all his years of hard work.
As for me? I am taking it easy for a while. I need to have back surgery (due to my car crash), so I won’t be looking for work until that’s done. The only trouble with being back in Wellington is that I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS! There are so many shows, workshops, lectures, exhibitions, talks etc on my doorstep, that ‘taking it easy’ might be harder than it seems! I am also helping out at church, so there is plenty to keep me occupied.
Longtime readers will know that I LOVE all things Christmas. Advent is my favourite time of year. I enjoy all the things that this time of year brings, like carols and driving around to see the lights, nativity plays, going to church on Christmas Eve; all of it. My tree goes up on December 1st, and you might (okay, you will definitely) see me singing along to all those annoying Christmas songs that stores start pumping out in November.
As a Christian, it is also a very meaningful time of year. I try to take time out each day to do a devotional, to re-read Luke’s gospel, to reflect on the gift that is Jesus.
This year will be a Christmas like no other for my family.
In less than two weeks, our belongings will be packed up, shipped to Wellington and put into storage. We don’t know how long for, because Mr G’s new job still has to find us a house to rent! We’re very fortunate that we can stay with friends in my hometown for as long as we need to.
We are taking a much needed holiday between jobs – a break that includes a two week road trip around the gorgeous sights of the South Island, and catching up with friends who we’ve not seen in ages. So, for much of Advent, we will be on the road.
It feels somewhat flat to not have a Christmas tree, the end-year-parties to attend, and no plans to make gifts for my loved ones (normally by now we are knee deep in ginger beer and other goody-makings). The advent calendar I made several years ago, will be gathering dust in storage. The nativity books we read each year will be boxed up.
This year I have been super organised with getting my Christmas cards out and gifts for my December birthday friends, but I’m not making a single thing this year. Moving is stressful enough without adding a long road trip and Christmas to it, and I don’t want to add crafting or baking madly on Dec 23rd into the mix because of some self-imposed idea of what I should or should not gift at Christmas.
As my kids get older, the more they are exposed to the world. Santa is everywhere. Gimme, gimme, gimme is everywhere. So I plan to keep on observing Advent on the road to help my children (and me) focus on the ‘reason for the season’.
Here’s how we’re doing advent on the road:
I’ve bought a couple of chocolate advent calendars. One has Marvel superheroes and one has Toy Story 4. Because nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like Hulk Smash, am I right? Actually, they did have ONE solitary nativity chocolate advent calendar but it looked of very dubious origin and I don’t want to give my kids radioactive chocolate. Anyway, Buzz, Woody and Hulk Smash etc are light, and way more robust than the family advent calendar I created a few years ago. Hopefully the two calendars will make it to Dec 24 after being battered around in the car.
We’re still going tocelebrate St Nicholas’ Day (Dec 5 or 6, depending on what country you live in). We don’t do Santa, but we do celebrate the actual saint who inspired the Santa myth. We’ll read a story about him(I must write my own because, trust me, there is quite a gap in the market for a well-written book on St Nick), and the kids will find some coins in their shoes when they wake up.
We’re going to ‘follow the star’. In a similar vein to Elf on the Shelf (which I despise, so I’m kinda ashamed to realise I’m doing something similar), I am taking the star from our Christmas tree with us. It’s light and doesn’t take up much space. Where ever we are, the kids can wake up to find the star hiding in plain sight, and follow it, like the Wise Men. We’re going to be staying in a dazzling array of places, but that twinkling, comforting star will be there too.
We’ve got a carols playlist. As I mentioned, I have zero shame belting out carols way before December, so why should the confines of my car be any different? For the record, O, Holy Night is my favourite.
We’ll read a bit of the Christmas story from the Bible each day. I also have a small advent journey game I picked up last year, for when we’re looking for something to do while we’re travelling.
I’m bringing the kid’s Christmas sacks with me, because familiar things are comforting.
And that’s plenty. Now I see it in a list it seems like a lot, but they are all very simple things. Calendar, story, songs.
We will be in my hometown for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to seeing our church family there, and their annual Christmas Eve family service. This will be our last Christmas where we are free to do what we want and go where we want, as Mr G will be pretty darn busy as a minister in Christmases to come.
As our time in Pleasant Point comes to an end, I am mostly feeling surprisingly chill about the move. I’ve whizzed through my to-do list, and have only got fun things like farewell parties, and not-so-fun things like defrosting the fridge left to do.
May your own journey towards Christmas be a joyful and peaceful one.
People, we have seven weeks left here in Pleasant Point. Seven!
Mr G’s two year internship has simultaneously dragged and whizzed by. I’m not entirely sure how that’s even possible, but it’s definitely how the two years have seemed to me. Perhaps there’s a time/space vortex just down the road from me, that the local council really should do something about? Don’t believe me?
My baby started school today. My baby is FIVE and is at SCHOOL.
He had a wonderful first day, and is so blase about the whole thing. If he were a teenager he’d be rolling his eyes, saying ‘Chill mum, I start school, like ALL the time!’ He’s not a teenager, so he just lays out the info like most children. In other words, school was ‘good’, and his teacher was ‘nice’ and he ‘played’. Can’t ask for much more! Well, there’s no getting any more out of him…
Now D is at school, I find myself with seven glorious weeks before we pack up our stuff and move to Wellington. My oh-my-Lord-I-have-all-this-time-to-myself-for-the-first-time-in-forever list is ambitious, like always. Daily walks, dusting off my beginners French, writing, painting (a desk, not art), getting our things ready for the move. Bliss.
I find myself in a familiar place.
That waiting-for-my-life-to-start-in-our-new-place feeling. I have moved so many times (I think I’m up to move 29), that once I know I am on the move (especially cross-country), I find it tempting to shed my ‘old life’ and am usually impatient to just get on with it and get to the ‘new’ place. I distance myself from friends in my old place as saying goodbye hurts. I stop trying as hard at work and elsewhere because ‘I’m leaving so it doesn’t matter’. I am eager to get to the ‘new’.
But this time, I find myself strangely enjoying limbo. The old is comfortable and familiar. I am in no rush.
Perhaps it is because this time our move is a little bit like going home? Mr G will soon be the Minister for Wadestown Presbyterian Church. Wellington is his hometown, and I have lived there for 15 years, on and off. We have good, old friends there who just know us as “DnA”, not as the minister and his wife. We have family there too (who we are looking forward to seeing more often!). I used to live a few suburbs over from where we will be based, and know the area well.
Wadestown is a very affluent suburb, and not somewhere we’d ever visualised ending up as a ministry family. But God has been in each step of the process and we feel confident that we are going right where He wants us to be. I know it won’t be all unicorns and kittens and rainbows because church can be a difficult and messy thing at times, but I also know that God sure knows what he’s doing.
Our two years in Pleasant Point hasn’t been easy. Many times Mr G and I have been on our knees, asking God why He brought us here, or why we needed such tough life lessons! Mr G has borne the brunt of it, of course, but has been moulded into a blimmin’ good preacher, if I do say so myself. It has been and still is, a troubling time for our small parish here, who are facing an uncertain future. But I have confidence that we were sent here for a reason, even though I may never know what that was or see the fruit of it. And I know that God is with our parish here.
We have met some beautiful people, who I will really miss. I will miss the jaw-dropping scenery. Being able to walk anywhere in town in five minutes. The slow pace of life. The lack of traffic.
I will not miss the parochialism that is rife here. The ‘oh, your family hasn’t been here for 150 years’ attitude which I find bizarre, not being the sort of person who actually cares about that kind of thing. I hear it gets worse the further south you go, but it’s not like there’s any scientific data to back that up so let’s chalk it up to a cultural experience?
Anyway, as I’m going to take a leaf out of my kid’s books and live in the moment more over these seven weeks. Because I actually can. Seven weeks to myself. Wow.