• Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    Advent with kids: on the road edition

    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 to celebrate 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.

    x Angela

  • Faith,  Family

    Waiting

    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.

    Limbo.

    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.

    Be like Miss E, and savour the moment!
  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living,  Parenting

    Woah, we’re halfway there!

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

     

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

     

    Why Living on a Prayer? 

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

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

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

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

    So how’s it all going?

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

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

    Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

    Here are some observations I’ve made:

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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