Where Do I Start? Tips for Moving Abroad with a Young Family

Where Do I Start Well hello there. I know I haven’t blogged for an awfully long time. But it feels really great to be blogging again. Late last year saw the publication of my first book ‘Heart Matters in Early Motherhood.’ You know they say that if writing a book doesn’t kill you, promoting the book will. Ain’t that the truth.

Oh and did I mention that during the book promotion process, our family also began the process for relocating……..to the other side of the world. Yes a week ago we moved from New Zealand to Britain with our three small children. You see we always knew that we would move to England. In fact, people used to chuckle that we had been talking about moving to England for many, many years. Frustratingly, as it turned out my husband had to complete an enormous application that took 18 months to complete on top of full time work, followed by a series of exams for anyone who hadn’t worked in the health system over here. So we endured a very long waiting period. But in God’s perfect timing we finally, eventually moved. I can’t believe we’ve actually moved, given that it was such a long drawn out process.

our house

It could be argued that moving internationally is somewhat stressful. Actually it can be significantly stressful. Stress just goes with the territory. But when the intricacies of moving abroad threatened to overwhelm me, I reminded myself that we are not refugees. Plenty of people across the globe encounter far greater challenges. However, moving for anyone can’t be minimized. Moving country as a single young person has its challenges, however add in a family with a few small children, and the challenges increase exponentially. There’s just so much to do. Moving country is a mission. It’s not mission impossible, but it’s certainly a mission. I recall searching the internet for articles on international family moves, and I didn’t really discover much written on the subject. I probably have enough material to write a small book on the subject, but I’ll start small with a simple blog post.

If moving country were easy, people would do it everyday. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy logistically, physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially. Moving house to another house just around the corner, or in the same city can be stressful. But moving country is that multiplied by about ten. When my children were very small, the notion of moving country completely overwhelmed me if I’m to be honest. Those were the days where just getting a shower was an achievement. I’m glad that my children were all over three when we moved. Looking back, I think the process would have been more challenging if they had been younger. Now that everyone walks, everyone can use the toilet on their own and everyone sleeps (most of the time), it has made the process of moving country more manageable. Like many things in life, moving country requires many hours of planning and hard work and there is a lot more involved that one would think. With a move to anywhere in the world there are so many details to organise – purging possessions, shipping possessions, passports, visas, air tickets, jobs, schools, preschools, house, car/s, medical/dental records, change of address notifications, putting property on the market. It really was a full-time job (in and around family commitments) for three to six months. I was the ‘International Move Coordinator.’

On the topic of moving abroad, friends would often say to me ‘I wouldn’t know where to start.’ I felt like that too. Especially when I looked at my house! For me it wasn’t getting to know others in a new place that daunted me, it was the practical logistics of arranging a seamless move. And the bureaucracy was also a Goliath. In fact, tackling British bureaucracy has made me stronger. If you can handle British bureaucracy, you can handle anything!

So just in case you ever contemplate moving to another country, (unless this exhaustive to-do list hasn’t put you off) here are my top tips:

Plan well in advance: Give yourself three to six months to plan, so that it isn’t an exhausting rush when you move. Create a spreadsheet with all your tasks to be complete on it. Remember to share it with your spouse so that you are both singing from the same song sheet.

Weed out your commitments well in advance of your move. This was really key in our move. Six to nine months before our move I retired from different activities such as playing in an orchestra and making meals for others, and resigned from different responsibilities such as a church ministry position. I allowed myself time to take a sabbatical from writing, and I also cut down on children’s activities. My eldest had two extra-curricular activities, my three year old had one and my five year old didn’t want to do any extra curricular activities. We kept life simple, meals were simplified, I didn’t bake and I didn’t do crafts with the children! And they have survived! In fact, they are thriving.

Bertie and kids collage

Bertie, the cousin’s dog with the kids

Purge, de clutter and sell. This took a year. The purging of possessions was by far the biggest most daunting aspect of moving (besides completing my visa application). We had a garage sale, we sold items on facebook (where there are no fees), we gave items to charity shops and to friends (who by the end of it probably grimaced when they saw us coming!). I spent much time de-cluttering, and although we have never been hoarders, we still filled a six metre skip before we moved out of our house (with some help from our lovely neighbours, who of course asked first before helping us fill our skip).

Organise well in advance. Due to the thirteen hour time difference, I spent many late evenings or early mornings skype calling schools, preschools and accommodation options in the UK. It was tiring, but it meant that when we got to the UK, things had fallen into place.

Take advantage of technology. Isn’t technology amazing. I ordered our grocery shopping online two weeks before we moved to the UK. And the day we moved into our house over here, the groceries were delivered to our door. Some furniture and a washing machine were also delivered. This was a Godsend in our jet lagged state.

Accept help. That friend who offers to bring you a meal in the week before you move? Say ‘Yes please.’ And the other dear friend who offers to help you fill your skip? Also, say ‘Yes please.’ Because it really does take a village.

Self-care. What is challenging about moving country with a family, is that life really doesn’t stop. There are still meals to be made, children to be taxi-ed here there and everywhere, birthday parties to attend, fundraisers to play our part in and so on. In the last month before we moved I allowed myself to have a nana nap if possible each afternoon. I also gave myself permission to go slower. Because transitions such as moving abroad are really tiring. Coffee and chocolate are also acceptable methods of self-care. Remember also that self-care goes for children too. Make sure they have some familiar toys and books to take in their suitcase because with a move to the opposite side of the world, it takes three months before a shipment arrives.

Adjusting to life in a new country. When you land in your new country, give yourself six months to a year to adjust. Be open minded. Write a list of the positive attributes of your new country. Many people do not emigrate successfully due to home sickness or an inability to adjust to the differences. Luckily the cultural differences between Britain and New Zealand are only subtle, given that a significant percentage of our culture came from Britain in the first place. And we have family here who have been so good to us. It must be even more challenging to move to a country where you don’t know anyone or where there are language barriers.

phone booth

Our local library – just over the road from our house.

Someone I met who had emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand said that her best piece of advice is to ‘put yourself out there.’ It’s probably good advice. Who knows I might even become adventurous and join the WI (Women’s Institute). It meets in the village hall just over the road from our house.

I would also add to that piece of advice, my own. And that is, to be gentle on yourself. Take things slowly. It will be lonely at first. It can take much time to get to know others. Thanks to skype and social media I can keep in contact with friends at home.

Car Sign

If you have moved abroad with a family, what are your top tips that you would add to this list?

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A verse that a friend gave me before we moved.

 

Big Days Out in London with Little Ones

Big days out in LondonLast week we embarked on a little intrepid journey to London as my husband had a meeting there. When I first visited London in my twenties I wasn’t that taken with it. Perhaps it was just too big. I prefer picturesque little villages. However London is really growing on me. And from our recent visit I came up with a little list of top things to do in London with little ones if you are on a budget. Oh the places you’ll go in this bustling city!

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Firstly, getting around. Kids go free on transport into and around London. You can get an all day pass that let’s you take any bus, train or tube within the central area. We took a train in to London from Winchester, and we then hopped on a double decker bus. I’d never travelled London by double decker bus before but provided that you have time on your hands, it’s a great way of seeing the city. It did however take 45 minutes to get to our destination of Euston, whereas on the tube it would have taken 15 minutes.

redbuses We then tubed our way around for the rest of the day as it was quicker. We took our pushchair for our three year old as I still prefer pushchairs to toddler carriers for long journeys and you can always carry things in a pushchair too. However, navigating the stairs on the underground with a pushchair was hard work. But I was pleasantly surprised how helpful and kind Londoners were to pushchair wielding parents. Everywhere we went people helped us carry the buggy up and down stairs.

Katieonthetube

Firstly we visited Regents Park near Euston station and viewed the ever so friendly local squirrels. charlotte and the squirrel.JPG

Then we visited the Natural History Museum at Kensington. This was also a hit with the little ones, especially the enormous dinosaur skeleton in the entrance hall, and the stuffed animals. The collosal Science Museum is just next door, and so is the Victoria and Albert Museum, with it’s Childhood Sensory Pod.

Charlottewithlion

Free activities that we didn’t get around to but were on our list were:

  • A visit to the Diana Memorial Playground. This is supposed to be magnificent with it’s huge pirate ship.
  • Feeding the ducks at St James Park and Playground.
  • Walking the walkway across the top of Tower Bridge.
  • A visit to Covent Garden.
  • A visit to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.

Other places you could go:

  • A visit to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark.
  • Polka Theatre

  • Taking a cable car over the Thames
  • Mini Masterpieces @ Dulwich Picture Gallery

  • The London Eye
  • The Bee’s Knees Indoor Children’s Garden

  • If you are feeling brave you could always visit Hamley’s Toy Store in Regents Street!

And for about 45 more ideas for Big Days Out for the little ones in London, see this great list here: http://notanothermummyblog.com/2014/05/21/50-things-london-youre-5/

Yep even in January when the weather is really rubbish, there is still so much to see and do with little ones in London. Happy Londoning!london

Long-haul and Loving it: Top Ten Tips for Travelling with Tiny Tots

Long haul and loving it

Happy New Year readers. I trust you had a peaceful and relaxing New Year. You might have noticed that my blog has been rather quiet over the last few months. But I hope to get back up on the blogging bike this year.

Well we finally touched down in the UK just after Christmas. I haven’t travelled out of the country for eight years and it has been almost a decade since we last saw family on this side of the world. It has been so exciting to travel again and even more wonderful to see family. Before we left NZ I was more excited than a kid on Christmas Day! When you have to wait for something, you really appreciate it when it finally happens!

When one mentions long haul flying with young children, you are bound to hear the inevitable groans and well wishes from other people. It’s common knowledge that flying with young children can be a challenge. I’ve always enjoyed long-haul flights, probably because I’ve only ever flown long haul a couple of times in my life. I find them fun. I mean how often does one get to sit back and read a book? I enjoy watching films and I even like the aeroplane food! But this was all B. C (before children). I’d never attempted it with children and I was apprehensive yet feeling positive, given that my youngest is now three and a half. Flying with babies and toddlers is even more challenging. I recall just flying domestically with an eighteen month old was wearying. But if your kids are toilet trained, can walk and can communicate their basic needs, it makes the experience easier.

Just like anything in life, the perfect flight does not exist. But here are some little crowd-sourced tips that I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Safety first. Tips from a flight attendant – Pay new attention to the safety briefing. If the flight attendant does not bring you an infant life vest before take-off, ask for one. Do not, buckle the seat belt over you and the child. If the pilot hits the brakes for any reason, your weight could crush the child.
  2. Choose your flight departure time carefully. On the advice of the travel agent, we chose to take a flight that left at 1:15am. At first I was apprehensive about this, but apparently it makes for better adjustment of children’s body clocks. But it did mean carrying sleeping children onto the plane along with our carry-on luggage, which was the most challenging part of the journey.
  3. Consider your seating. Many parents of infants favour the bulkhead row because it can accommodate a bassinet. The second-best place is near any engin, as the hum of the engine works like audio Ambien. Even if you don’t like the sound of it, you are more apt to sleep if your child does. The other option is to consider sitting in the back of the plane. It is far away from the business travellers and people may therefore be more forgiving.
  4. Packing list. Never depend on your airline to have any baby amenities. Most airlines don’t stock nappies these days. The following are just a few of the items that proved helpful to us: wet wipes!, a change of clothes, a small towel, child paracetamol and medicine spoon (you can have it prescribed in a 100ml bottle), lots of zip up plastic bags. For babies, consider taking toys that you can tether to the seat.
  5. But don’t take too much stuff. If you are changing planes once or twice, don’t take too much carry on luggage, otherwise it will be cumbersome to manage the kids and the luggage on and off the plane and through security. The trick is having what you need without overpacking your hand luggage. Have all liquids (<100mls) easily accessible in small zip lock plastic bags in the outer part of your hand luggage.
  6. Feeding time at the Zoo. Though flights overfeed passengers, take some familiar snacks with you. They are especially helpful for use during flight transfers at airports. If babies and young children eat upon take-off and during the descent for landing, it relieves the discomfort of changing air pressure in the ears and will distract the child from strange noises or turbulence. Lollipops can be helpful for take offs too.
  7. Get some space. If you are taking an extremely long flight, or you are shepherding older children as well, you might consider booking an extra seat for the baby if you can afford to. Many airlines have infant fares available, and the extra money you spend could save your sanity. The consensus of many parents with lap-held children after a ten-hour flight is: “Never again.”
  8. Choose comfort – we had our kids dressed in onesies for the first night flight, with another comfortable outfit to put on for the second leg of the journey. They also took their pillow pets which were familiar and comfortable.
  9. Keeping the little ones entertained: Thanks to technological advances, it’s never been easier to keep kids entertained on flights. Most flights have a screen for every seat and the Air NZ flight that we took had the most up to date technology. There are films, TV programmes, games and audio books on the Ipad. You could even order extra drinks and snacks through your Ipad and they would be delivered to your seat! But we still were armed with a bag of tricks. In it were a few favourite books, a colouring book, crayons, felt pens, a scrapbook to write and draw in, a small tin of magnetic dolls, a whiteboard that they received for Christmas, a card game and another travel game. I also included a craft pack with coloured paper, pipe cleaners and a glue stick (no scissors). The other half wanted to include glitter but I thought that glitter would be best left at home!
  10. An experiment led by Professor Robert Winston demonstrated that parents admit their main concern with flying is how to keep children entertained. His research discovered that the top ten toys to take on a flight were: loom bands, play doh, lego, Usborne Activity Cards, finger puppets, Aquadoodle, Top Trumps, Uno, Magnetic Travel Games, Sticker books. They are creative activities that allow for extended play. Winston discovered that it’s actually the cheapest toys that kept children entertained the longest. You can read the full article here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2691372/Top-10-toys-entertain-children-plane-Play-Doh-Loom-Bands.html

robert winston

Other games are ones that don’t have to be packed – consider I-spy and Twenty Questions. You could also get creative with the tray table and drape a blanket over the seat or between the upraised armrest and immediately you have a world of fun in your row. Better yet, bring along a dark blanket and charm your children with glow-in-the-dark toys; they’re perfect for night flights, too. Another tip is to wrap toys up in wrapping paper. Unwrapping helps pass the time.

10. Courtesy. If your child cries and cries, get up and go to the back of the airplane and try to calm him down. If you are unsuccessful, at least you tried. There was a baby on our second flight that screamed for about two hours. Yes it was a little irritating but I really felt for the poor parents. If you see a parent in distress, offer a hand and cut the parent some slack. One thoughtful parent made up goodies bags for the unfortunate strangers who were seated next to her on her child’s first flight. The goodie bag went viral.

goodie bag

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with how well the kids handled the long haul flight. And we as the parents enjoyed it (mostly). Jet lag is another story however. The other day we discovered our five year old up at 4am in the morning, drawing herself a bath!

 

Praying Upside Down: A Book Review

praying upside down

If like me, you are someone that often gets distracted during prayer, then Praying Upside Down by Kelly O’Dell Stanley is sure to turn your prayer life upside down, in a positive way! This book discusses how prayer is an art form, and it offers many creative strategies for kick starting and maintaining one’s prayer life. As a graphic designer, Stanley invites us to craft artistic pathways to spiritual intimacy with God.  Her rich background in the creative arts offer the reader fresh perspectives on an intimate relationship with God . These are perspectives that encourage the reader to want to pray. It’s so easy to let our prayer lives slip isn’t it? Stanley understands this and in ‘Praying Upside Down’, she offers personal stories from her own pilgrimage in prayer that demonstrate great vulnerability in asking the hard questions. This raw honesty will inspire confidence in the God who is always there for us. Each chapter ends with very practical advice that will add vitality to our prayer life and communion with God. There are many good books on prayer available today, however ‘Praying Upside Down’ is a fresh and unique yet biblically based look at prayer.

‘CPR for your prayer life’ – Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes

Be sure to check out the author’s website: http://www.prayingupsidedown.com/

I received this book in exchange for posting a review by Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to dinner, and I heard the Greatest Story ever told: A Book Review

The time Mom met Hitler

If history and literature floats your boat, then be sure not to miss this memoir ‘The Time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to dinner and I heard the Greatest Story ever told’ by Dekkon Eberhart. The author is of course the son of the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Richard Eberhart, who was raised surrounded by literary legends. Dinner guests included, among others, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, W. H. Auden, and T. S. Eliot. To Dikkon, they were friends who read him bedtime stories, gave him advice, and, even helped him with his English homework. In this memoir we get to see the human side of these famous poets. But in Dikkon’s personal life he was often lonely, living  for years in the shadow of his father’s fame, and strugging to create an identity of his own. He first took up writing and then moved to the stage, before inadvertently stumbling upon the answer he’d been looking for all along―in the most unlikely of places. With an eye catching cover and an interesting title, The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told will draw you into an appealing coming-of-age story about one man’s search for identity and what happens when he finally finds it. This is a really interesting well written book filled with short and amusing stories. These anecdotes provide an insight into the author’s childhood, demonstrating what has always been acknowledged – that to be the child of a famous person is often a difficult assignment. Eberhart’s memoir also discusses how he comes to faith in God. A rare glimse into a forgotten era.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers for the purpose of review.

Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World by Kristen Welch: A Book Review

Raising Grateful Kids

‘We are THAT family’. It’s a blog that caught my eye about a year ago and since then I’ve enjoyed reading blogger Kristen Welch’s real accounts of the ups and downs of family life. Because we are THAT family too. You know, the ones that lose library books and have hairbrush, sock and pyjama monsters in our house. So when this book became available for review, I jumped at the chance to review it. How to move children from entitlement to gratitude is such a key issue for our generation. We all know that children today often have so much. As a parent of three children I struggle to get the balance right between giving my children opportunities but not spoiling them on the other hand. This is such a thought-provoking topic, and a timely one too, being Christmastime and all.

Author Kristen Welch has also published Rhinestone Jesus (which I haven’t read yet). She is an (in)courage writer; a frequent speaker; and founder of Mercy House, a nonprofit ministry which empowers women around the globe. You can check out Kristen’s blog online at: wearethatfamily.com. In ‘Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned that Saying No Leads to Life’s Biggest Yes’ author Kristen Welch transparently shares her family’s journey of encouraging gratitude in their children. The back cover reads:

“But everyone else has it.” “If you loved me, you’d get it for me!” When you hear these comments from your kids, it can be tough not to cave. You love your children–don’t you want them to be happy and to fit in?Kristen Welch knows firsthand it’s not that easy. In fact, she’s found out that when you say yes too often, it’s not only hard on your peace of mind and your wallet–it actually “puts your kids at long-term risk.” In “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World,” Kristen shares the ups and downs in her own family’s journey of discovering why it’s healthiest “not” to give their kids everything. Teaching them the difference between “want” and “need” is the first step in the right direction. With many practical tips and anecdotes, she shares how to help kids become hardworking, fulfilled, and successful adults.It’s never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation in your family and create a home in which your kids don’t just say–but “mean”!–“thank you” for everything they have.”

I really enjoyed this book. It’s an easy read but it imparts so many significant truths. Kristen really gets to the heart of why children are me-focused and offers many practical strategies for change. This book is engaging, inspiring and encouraging. I especially appreciated the chapter on technology as this is an area that we really battle in our household. I can’t say that I agreed with everything in the book. But most of it resonated with me, and I really appreciated the author’s humble stance. She reiterated many times that she was not a parenting expert and that she and her husband don’t have it all together. This makes her so much more relatable.

‘Raising Grateful Kids’ is going to be released by Tyndale in January 2016 and it’s a must read for Christian and non-Christian parents alike. There is something for everyone in this gem of a book. Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

RGK-gratefulheart

 

Introducing ‘Lakeview Cottage’: A Children’s Novel by Mary Crosson

The Forever Years

Lakeview Cottage ReviewWhen shopping for Christmas presents for the kids, good quality books are always top of my list. If you are looking for children’s fiction with family values this Christmas, then look no further than ‘Lakeview Cottage’, the first in a series of children’s novels for 8-11 year olds by local author Mary Crosson. Lakeview Cottage is set in picturesque Queenstown, New Zealand and features Sarah, a Dunedin girl who goes to stay with her Aunt and Uncle for the holidays. What Sarah thought was going to be a fairly ordinary holiday, turns into something extra ordinary. At the family’s home in Queenstown, the Lakeview Cottage of the title, Sarah and her cousins embark on a series of adventures and ‘firsts’, including uncovering a criminal activity.  Although this is a children’s novel, I enjoyed it and if your kids are a fan of the adventure/mystery genre, they are sure to enjoy it…

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An Excerpt from ‘Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotionals to Help You Heal’ by Elisabeth Klein

Holidays for the HurtingHere’s a guest post by author Elizabeth Klein. If you’re coming up on the holiday season and you are struggling – in your marriage, with your divorce, as a single mom, with an illness, with a hurting relationship…with LIFE – Holidays for the Hurting will gently come beside you and walk you through the season with grace and tenderness, pointing you to Jesus each day for twenty-five days.

She writes: ‘Healing is perhaps one of my absolute favorite words. It calms me. It soothes me. It gives me hope.

But maybe even more than that…it reminds me that if there is a healing, then there is a Healer.

That we have a Healer.

That I have a Healer.

That you have a Healer.

Jesus came for a multitude of reasons and theologians might argue that some are more important than others.

He came to die for our sins.

He came to kill sin and death.

He came to teach us how to live life correctly or better.

He came to make us more like him.

He came to bridge the gap between God and man.

He came so that we could go to heaven.

He came to teach us how to love.

And all of this is true. And yet there’s so much more.

But one of the best reasons, in my humble opinion, that Jesus came for us is this:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has…sent me to heal the brokenhearted… -Luke 4:18-

He came to heal those of us who are brokenhearted.

I am among the brokenhearted.

And if you are reading this today, then I’m going to not-so-boldly assume that you are among the brokenhearted as well. And that you are in need of healing.

Listen, I have walked through deep waters and passed through the fires. And I can tell you that time did not heal me. And my friends, whom I love, did not heal me. And books, God love ‘em, did not heal me. And counseling did not heal me. And the Church did not heal me.

If I have ever been healed – and I have, time and time again – it is because Jesus is my Healer and Jesus bent low and came close to bring me healing.

And as you lean in to Christmas, as it’s coming closer and closer, I want to invite you to ask sweet Baby Jesus to bring you the healing you so desperately need. And then believe and wait in expectation.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. –Psalm 6:2-

 

 

Thanksgiving 101: An Introduction to Thanksgiving for Kiwis and Brits

Thanksgiving

So this year our family has decided to celebrate Thanksgiving. Neither of us have any American ancestry (although I do have a few Canadian cousins that I’ve never met), but a celebration centered around gratitude and thankfulness has got to be a good thing. Right? In a hope to unleash gratitude in the lives of my children, this year we thought we might borrow this American tradition. For none of us seem to be naturally thankful by nature.

In Britain where my husband is from, Harvest Festival is celebrated in September but really only in the church. Here in New Zealand a universal thanksgiving celebration isn’t even on our radar. It isn’t part of our culture, nor do stores market to it. But perhaps it is something that could be celebrated. After all, to give thanks is very biblical, and all cultures have hosted harvest festivals from the beginning of time. However, some traditional aspects of a Thanksgiving celebration don’t really make sense in New Zealand. For one, it’s almost summer, although here in Dunedin we are still wearing our puffer jackets and it’s only around ten degrees! Harvest occurred in April/May and pumpkins aren’t really in season. Furthermore, in November life starts to get a little crazy in the Southern Hemisphere as the end of the academic school year looms, and people start to think about preparing for the consumerist onslaught that is Christmas. And then many of us prepare to go away on Summer holiday on Boxing Day!

We tend to think of Thanksgiving (in North America) as an annual national holiday commemorating a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621. While we aren’t celebrating the founding of our country, our Thanksgiving feast will be focused on giving thanks to God for who He is and everything He has given us. Here in New Zealand we can sometimes be a pretty cynical bunch. But would it change our values as a society to have a time set apart each year to come together to and give thanks? Many research studies demonstrate that thankfulness is associated with positive mental health outcomes. In fact, grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression. Grateful people cope better with a life changes. Gratefulness improves the likelihood that people will be altruistic. It is also correlated with empathy, generosity, and helpfulness, and increased general well-being for all individuals involved.

Thanksgiving invite for blog

So in my enthusiasm I googled Thanksgiving and surfed Pinterest for some creative inspiration. I even found a Martha Stewart website devoted solely to Thanksgiving. But I want to keep it simple as we have a whole lot going on right now.  Our plan is to have a traditional dinner substituting chicken instead of turkey (turkey is crazy expensive in New Zealand), and serve it with some other Thanksgiving faves such as mashed potatoes, corn, maple glazed carrots and bean casserole. I might even try and make a pumpkin pie. After all, you’ve got to try pumpkin pie at least once in your life! We thought we might say a prayer, share a few Bible verses on the topic of thanksgiving and enjoy each other’s company.

pumpkin muffins

Here are some other simple Thanksgiving activities that we might try:

The Thankfulness Pumpkin: Invite each guest or member of the family to write one thing that they are thankful for on a pumpkin. This could make a nice centerpiece for the table. (Pumpkins are available in a New Zealand November but they tend to look rather different to the US ones).

Thankful pumpkin

Credit: 24-7moms.com

The Thankful Tree: Cut a branch off a tree in the backyard and make this simple ‘Thankful Tree.’ Have each member of the family write something they are thankful for one of the leaves.

very-cute-thankful-tree

Check out a thanksgiving tree free printable here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/11/a-christian-family-thanksgiving-activity-the-thanks-giving-tree-free-printable/

And here are some good links to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving, before the Advent and Christmas seasons are suddenly upon us.

Free Printable Family Trivia booklets for any big gathering

Immediate Elegance for any thanksgiving table

Bless Someone with this 

Free Gratitude Journal for the Kids this week

Why not try this amazing little activity together?

And the perfect devotionals to carry you peacefully all through this holiday season — arriving just in time to help really celebrate Thanksgiving.

And The One Thousand Gifts Free App – I’m going to download mine today on Google Playstore.

(Credit: http://www.aholyexperience.com)

1000 gifts app (1)

While it will be fun to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time, we don’t want a practice of giving thanks to be limited to one day. Perhaps everyday we can cultivate this dying art, and in doing so, thanksgiving becomes ‘thanksliving’. Consider that ‘neglecting to give thanks only deepens the wound of the world.’ Thanksgiving is warfare. And through thanksgiving lies the victory. Happy Thanksgiving down under.

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A November to Remember: The Big Blog-Book Tour #HeartMattersinEM

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Well we are still waiting to move to England. In fact I’m itching to get on that plane (even though I will dearly miss the wonderful friends and family that we leave behind). Meanwhile, my book is about to embark on a little worldwide book-blog tour, albeit a virtual tour. Next month I’m privileged to have several wonderful blogs hosting my new book. I’m excited to release my book, but I’m also really excited to be donating the royalties earned from book sales to the non-profit organisation A21. Abolishing human trafficking is a cause dear to my heart, and A21 are passionate about abolishing slavery in the 21st century by working together. A21 states that:

‘Human trafficking fuels the growth of organized crime, undermining health, safety, security, and the basic needs of humanity. It is the fastest growing crime in the world.’ By purchasing a copy of my book you will be helping in a small way to free those men, women and children bound in slavery. (See: http://www.A21.com).

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Here is a sneak preview of the ‘Big Blog-Book Tour 2015.’ 

I decided to write this book, not because motherhood has been a breeze for me, but because it hasn’t been. In fact, this book has been borne out of my struggles, rather than my successes. These struggles are common to most mothers, yet they remain unarticulated. A conspiracy of silence seems to exist around motherhood, yet the well-being of mothers is worth talking about.’

Many who have experienced early motherhood might agree that it is a life-changing rollercoaster journey full of highs and lows. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride! It can be enjoyable, exhilarating, exhausting and terrifying. Early motherhood can be a deeply fulfilling experience, yet it can also be a testing time for many women. Motherhood is achingly beautiful, yet it can also bring pain and heartache. Matters of the Heart in Early Motherhood is an honest look at the joys and challenges of early motherhood from a Christian perspective. It’s a motherhood myth-buster, melding psychological research with spiritual nourishment. This book is about getting to the heart issues of motherhood. The heart is the seat of who we are. Yet many heart issues can arise when we become mothers. ‘Heart Matters in Early Motherhood’ discusses how we can recognise and process the emotions that surface, and how we can be encouraged that we are not alone in this season of life. In this book I also offer clear-eyed elements of my story and the stories of other mothers, including the scrapes and bruises we have acquired on our journey through early motherhood.

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Why another book on motherhood? Well there seem to be many pressures on families today. New mothers have to navigate a minefield of conflicting advice and often parent without close support networks around. Consequently, many mothers of young children sometimes feel unable to trust their instincts.   This book offers hope and healing to mothers of young children who have overwhelmed hearts – those, like me, who have sometimes felt alone, fearful,  discouraged, or just plain weary in their journey through early motherhood. This book discusses what it is like to be a mother of young children today, and encourages mothers to trust in God’s abundant grace, developing confidence as they parent their little ones. Each chapter invites the reader into important discussions, from the pressures and expectations that mothers grapple with, to mess, miscarriage, marriage, and postnatal depression. This book aims to minister to the hearts of all mothers, whether they are married or parenting alone, staying at home or going out to work. A must-read for any mother immersed in the terrific yet testing time of raising little ones, and for anyone who wishes to thrive rather than just survive in the trenches.

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 What others are saying about ‘Heart Matters in Early Motherhood’

‘Each chapter is a breath of fresh air.’

Trina Pockett, Author of Unexpected: Grit, Grace and Life “In Between.’

‘Sarah presents an encouraging, balanced study on what it means to be a mother today, and it is an excellent companion in the challenging years that accompany mothers of young children.’ Mary Crosson, Children’s Author, Midwife, Pastor’s Wife and Mother of three.

‘Sarah writes with transparency, insight and encouragement of her early parenting experiences. She offers a frank and supportive message to parents and a word to the Church about it’s role in caring for today’s family’.

Robyn Appleton, Children’s Pastor, Nurse and Mother of three and Grandmother of three.

Questions & Answers:

Q: Why did I write the book?

A: When I had my first child 8 and a half years ago, I longed for a book that put into words what I was feeling and experiencing. Of course I loved motherhood, and it was amazing, but it was also much harder than I ever imagined it would be. It was a steep learning curve! While there are many other great books on motherhood out there, I decided to write my story and listen to the stories of others, to create the book that I needed to read in my early years of motherhood.

Q: Who is the book for?

A: Anyone in the trenches of early motherhood. If you are a Mum that has it all together, then you don’t need to read this book! But if you have ever felt weary, struggling, or in need of encouragement (isn’t that most of us?) then it is my hope that this book would be a balm for your soul.

Q: How would you sum up this book in one sentence?

A: This book aims to encourage the heart of mothers in the early years.

Q: What was the hardest part to write?

A: Being vulnerable hasn’t come easily to this private person. Sharing my heart in the pages of this book has been a brave step for me.

Q: How do you find time to write a book when you are a mother?

A: I’ve squeezed in writing in the small pockets of time that I have available – when the children are at school & kindergarten, and late into the night.

What is your next book going to be?

My next book is going to be about ‘Restoring Hope in Depression’.

‘Heart Matters in Early Motherhood’ will be available in paperback and ebook from the publisher and through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and ‘The Book Depository. It will eventually be available in bookstores (that is a work in progress). If you are local, I am going to host a ‘Bubbles & Book’ evening in late November (date tba) and there will be copies available there too. If you would like to come please let me know, I’d love to see you. And if you are a blogger that would like to host me on the Big Blog-Book Tour, then please get in touch with me on the blog or by email: bigblogbooktour@wilsontribe.net.

Bubbles and Book Evening for blog

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