31 December 2016

Good Riddance 2016 (but Thanks for not Killing Me)

Goodbye and Good Riddance 2016

Today is the last day of this bloody awful year. It has been without a doubt the hardest year of my life - yet strangely it hasn't actually been the worst year. 
Why? Because I'm finishing the year a stronger person than I began it.

My faith in God has been tested, and strengthened, because He has not failed me yet.
I've lost friends along the way, but discovered others whose worth is pure gold. 
I've had to learn to fill the roles of both mum and dad - and have since realised how incredible single mums are.

There are so many of us out there, doing the hard yards, unseen and alone, but rocking parenting in spite of the endless challenges - in spite of incredibly tight budgets, the (unfair and untrue) judgments of others and the sheer relentlessness of doing life on our own. 
I am in awe of the strength of women, and single mums in particular.

Me and Scrag - hammock time

Where once I deep-down believed that I was broken, weak and incapable, I've discovered that I am strong, fierce and determined when it comes to protecting and providing for my kids.
I've learnt that I can do hard things, too.

I can hold down a job (and rock it), pay the bills on time, maintain a property (and keep a pool from turning green) and care for our pets, on top of being a listening ear and soft place for my kids, supporting them while navigating puberty, ADHD and dyslexia and getting them through a school year in one piece. I can put food on the table, keep the household running and create a peaceful, welcoming home environment for them (where they can feel free to bring their friends).

I've faced birthdays and Christmas alone - and lived to tell the tale.
All of this while working through my own emotions at the loss of the dream, and a new reality.

Cruisin with Santa Clyde

I've faced down my insecurities over other people's judgments of me, and found a new place to stand tall. This is huge. Since forever I've battled the "disease to please" - but in this situation where there are some people who really honestly think I'm a horrible person for the decisions I've made I've had to learn how to be OK anyway. 

I've had to dig deep and push through and keep putting one foot in front of the other while my soul was held together by sticky tape. 
It was either push through or fall apart; get strong or fail those who need me; hold it together or lose everything.
So, yep, I'm joining the masses who can't wait to see the back of this dumpster fire of a year, but at least the pain hasn't been a total loss, cos what didn't kill me, really has made me stronger.


Our amazing Swiss Homestay, Carina.

Miss Fab loved having a "big sister"
Carina mentoring Scrag on how to make pancakes
Oh yum - Pancakes with nutella, strwberries, banana and cream!
Man we miss you Carina!!! (at the airport, waaaaah!)

Carina brought Dave home to us xx
We got the chance to host my Swiss friend's daughter for seven weeks while she was here in New Zealand, and it was the best thing we did this year (along with getting Clyde, our rescue puppy). Carina became part of our family, like a big sister to the kids, and an amazing support for me. She brought Dave the female cat home (and pampered her silly) after she'd gone AWOL when we got Clyde.
She played games with us, helped with dishes and cooked the meanest pancakes.
Boy oh boy we miss her. But what it showed me was that we love having someone else in our home - it somehow fills the gap and makes everything more fun. (So we're getting a French homestay in 2017, though we don't know if anyone could be as amazing as our Carina!)

Bumping into my old youth group boys, randomly

I snapped this random picture at the Motat Christmas lights, not realising that the bunch of people walking past were two of my old youth group boys, and their kids... What a reunion we had! Wow. I was proud to be able to introduce them to my kids. I used to sit up nights praying for those boys, and to hear them tell my children, "Your mum, she had unconditional love" was just, wow. It was what I needed to hear  - that I made a difference to somebody all those years ago. (They also still recognised me and said I haven't changed, bless!)

Having Olivier (an orphan from Rwanda) share our Christmas

It was kind of amazing, how we managed to enjoy this Christmas, in spite of everything... We even had quite a lovely pile of gifts under the tree. How is this possible? This Christmas has been full of little miracles, provision, kindness and blessings. Even the usually longed for - but this year dreaded - Christmas Eve was ok. Mainly because we invited a friend of Dash's from school to share Christmas with us. Olivier is a sixteen-year-old orphan from Rwanda, and his host family in New Zealand were returning to Samoa for Christmas, leaving him alone. We couldn't have that, now could we? Funny how when you open up your heart and your home, good things happen. Taking the focus off ourselves and sharing  Christmas with someone who has never had a family Christmas before (!!!!!) saved our Christmas. We watched the Nativity Story movie together after hanging our stockings and drinking hot chocolate. Every Christmas that movie reminds me what Christmas is about: #makingroom #giving #love #selflessness #oursaviourisborn

We enjoyed a traditional early start to Christmas morning (6am - yep Olivier, this is how we do it!) with plenty of gifts (yep you too, Olivier!) Of course we wouldn't invite someone for Christmas without making sure they had prezzies to open too - we'd had a garage sale a few weeks earlier to fund gifts for Olivier and for the kids from each other.  We had a lovely Christmas lunch with my family at my sister's house, and I even got a nap. All in all, surprisingly enjoyable - and Olivier declared it to be "miraculous".

Christmas with Olivier
Hot chocolate, the real kind
stockings hung, candles lit
A pile of prezzies under the tree - makes a mama feel so grateful

This was our first Christmas that I had to pull off on my own, and boy, things got tight there for a while. We found ourselves the recipients of a charitable food box and Christmas ham for the first time ever - which was strangely disorienting, as in the past we've been on the side of creating Christmas food parcels for needy families, not receiving them.
One thing it made me realise is just how much it means to sole parents to be remembered at Christmas - to be thought of, when you're on your own. When friends turned up unexpectedly with a gift for *me* to put under the tree, it meant the world. To have something to open on Christmas morning, myself, when all my focus had been about making sure the kids had gifts and a good Christmas - well, I can tell you I will never forget that feeling. Of being remembered, and thought of. #soflippingrateful

Rainbows End, just us, thanks to my mum and dad

My parents gave us tickets to Rainbows End and we finished off the year having a fun day out together, just the four of us. Scrag finally got to fulfill his wish and drive the Scorpion karts, as he just squeaked past 150cm tall (he was too little last time we went, and it was his goal to be tall enough to ride next time we came. He's only eight, such a tall lad!)
He was also tall enough to go on the more extreme rides like the "stratosfear" (one of those awful spinny-flip-you-upside-down rides that you couldn't pay me to go on).
Miss fab is an adrenaline junkie since ages ago and it was her delight to mentor her little bro into the ways of the anti-gravity force. Ugh. But he loved it.

Just look at his face - he's just passed the height check and is about to DRIVE
Coming into the pits - scorpion karts = nailed
TALL ENOUGH!!! (just)
Crazy weirdos who like these hideous rides - nutters one and all!

And so that's a wrap from us. 
2016, you sucked but you didn't kill me. Thanks for that.

Me and mine


(and 2017 can ya go a bit easier on all of us pleeeeease???!)

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