31 October 2013

A Family Horse Riding Adventure

At last, here is the story I've been wanting to share all week - our family horse riding adventure! The photos were rescued from the camera at a Fuji Shop and put onto a USB stick - much to my relief. As you can see, they are worth saving.
It was one of those warm fuzzy never-to-be-forgotten experiences that you know will be a highlight in your kids' memories once they have flown the coop and are looking back on their childhood.
But I digress.

The farm was Summer Fields, in Karaka (South Auckland). The opportunity came through the lovely girl, Alysha, who works there. She had been on the soccer team Mr G went with to Brazil last year and she'd been inviting him to bring his family out for a horse ride for a while. Finally the planets lined up and the diaries were empty enough for it to happen.

I wasn't expecting much, to be honest. A muddy paddock and an old nag to sit on, perhaps?
So when we pulled up the farm's driveway I was unprepared for how fabulous Summer Fields Farm is.
It's not just any old farm. It's a farm with a purpose. They bring troubled children there to ride the horses and get up close to nature. It's a beautiful thing.

Our Fab was in horsey heaven. She is animal-mad and has dreamed of horse riding, like, forever.

First we caught the horses...

Beautiful horses, every one.
An old horse called Annie, aged 33 in human years (that's like 80 or 90 in horse years). Annie is gentle and patient. Perfect for horse newbies.
Then there's Angel, rescued from the meatworks. A stunning golden palomino.
And Slipper, a stately thoroughbred put out to pasture.

[Angel was saved from the meatworks and now helps kids at Summer Fields.]

Next, after leading the horses to the stable, we got up close and personal with them, doing a bit of horse grooming.

This is where I saw a wee miracle unfold before my eyes.
Dash was very nervous, reluctant to go near the horses at first. Unsure if he even wanted to ride. He stood back with his arms wrapped around his body, clinging to the fence.

Until Alysha handed him the curry comb and introduced him to Annie. Patient gentle Annie.
Tentative at first, Dash began to brush this wonderful old horse.
As he did, you could see him relax, unwind. And by the time he was done, Annie was "his" heart and soul.

In caring for the horses, the kids became comfortable with them. I can totally see how troubled kids would benefit from being around these amazing animals.

Then, after saddling up, it was finally time to ride...

We ALL had a go. Me and Mr G taking turns on Slipper. Miss fab on beautiful Angel, Dash on his beloved Annie. Reluctant to get off "his" horse so Scrag could have a go... until he realised he was the one who'd be leading her. That was OK. As long as he was still near his precious.

It was wonderful. (sigh)
One of those adventures that is a landmark in your family's life.
There really is something magical about horses.

(Scrag was funny, riding along shouting, "Ride em cowboy, Yeeeharrr!")

Did I mention it was wonderful?

Now just a little shout out on behalf of the wonderful people at Summer Fields Farm.
Alysha is leaving (sniff) to go and study to be a doctor. She's amazing and they don't know what they are going to do without her. Marie, the owner, is desperate to find someone to fill her shoes.

She says:  If you ever come across any Lovely Christian horsey girls that want to live in for two or more terms . Please let me know It is hard out door work, but if they love Jesus, Children and horses, its a great place to be."
If you know anyone who would fit the bill, please email summerfields@maxnet.co.nz

Wonderful. Thank you Alysha and Marie, Summer Fields Farm, Slipper, Angel and Annie. I hope you find someone soon. It would be such a shame to see the doors close :(
30 October 2013

A Bit of a Rant

If you're wondering where I am... I'm here.
But not quite "all there", if you know what I mean?
A few things are doing my head in, so hold onto your seatbelts here comes a blethering rant, if you can handle it.
Firstly, my stupid camera has malfunctioned and I am beyond frustrated.
I have a hundred beautiful photos of an epic family day horseriding which are stuck on the camera. Which freezes and makes everything crash. And then my computer tells me there ARE no photos on the camera, when I can plainly see that there ARE.
Beautiful ones of horses, a farm, my kids riding ponies.
I am beyond ticked.

And secondly? I'm kind of getting frustrated with the whole blogging palaver.
I saw a graphic the other day which was "What to do once you publish your post".
There had to have been fifty things on there to do.
SEO and social media and promoting your post here there and flippin everywhere.
I'm not in favour of writing those "I'm sick of blogging and don't know if I should continue" posts; I'm not sick of blogging. I'm sick of all the other stuff you seem to have to do these days to try and get your post "seen".
All I want to do is write. Share stories. Take photos. Connect.
All the other stuff is robbing the joy, to be honest.
But if I don't put myself out there on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/G+ etc etc then what?
If I can't get my post "reach" up (on Facebook) then what?
OK, Simoney, what's the worst that can happen? Will the world end?
Will my blog explode?
What did I used to do?
I would write a post, stick in some half-decent photos, hit publish and walk away.
Oh the innocence of those bygone days.

Where is all this pressure coming from?
Is it external or internal? Is it an outside pressure to grow numbers and gain readers - or is it coming from within me? Some lack inside me that pushes me to be significant?
Who knows.

Coming back to why I do this, why I blog, what I started it all for - none of that has changed.
I have something to say, things to share, a voice which aches to be heard.
I love nothing better than encouraging someone else, helping someone else gain confidence, or at least know they're not alone.

Of course I want comments, I crave feedback, I want to know that people are out there reading what I'm labouring over to create and finding it worthwhile.

And of course I would like to reach more people, grow my readership, expand my influence.
But why? So I get more pageclicks, so that brands will work with me and I'll make some money?
Honestly, NO.
I enjoyed doing the Spring Declutter because it made sense for my life, it benefitted my family, and it it was useful/inspiring/helpful for my readers. I'm excited to have a party partner on board to help reduce the financial cost of the parties I love to create.
But I'd be doing those projects anyway, with or without partners. I'd be sharing those stories, writing those posts either way.
And I'm not pimping my blog out to anyone who offers me a reciprocal link. I don't want this space to become commercial.
This blog is like a home to me. I've put my heart into it.
In the same way I wouldn't let Telecom build a cellphone tower in my backyard or Bunnings put a billboard on my front lawn, I don't want this blog to become a "for-money" operation.

So the pressure is not because I want to make money.

Actually I think what it might be is this: I do get a teensy bit jealous when I see posts go viral.
There I said it.
I start wishing people would share/like/comment on some of the awesome stuff I've written (increasing my reach, so it would go viral... oh the depths we sink to).
Then I start to doubt myself. Maybe my stuff is not that awesome? Maybe it's not WORTH sharing?

And there we have it. That underlying self-doubt that makes you crave approval.
What do I do with that?
Can I blog purely for myself and a few loyal readers who get me (and the other bunch of randoms who find my parties on Pinterest?)
Do I give up on trying to crack the Facebook Reach Algorithm? Stop trying to work out which gets the better "reach" ("link in comments" or just plain links? Photos or Photo Albums?).
Do I stop hoping that people will "interact" with my posts on Facebook so Facebook will let more of my Facebook likers actually see the post links in their feed? (It's a mission I tell you. Why can't Facebook just let ALL the people who have signed up to follow me on Facebook see my posts??? Why do we have to jump through all these hoops endlessly and forever???)

Do I stop trying to do all the things "they tell you" on infographics, once you've hit "publish" and just... write. Will anybody find me, read me still?

Gah, I'm blowed if I know.

Thoughts, anyone?
If you're a blogger, what do YOU do? If you're not a blogger, how do you usually find/read my new posts?

P.S. Thanks for all the lovely comments. I have sorted the photo/camera issue by taking the camera into a shop and getting them to put the photos onto a USB stick. Photos saved, hurrah. And for those of you feeling similar to what I have expressed here about "the new blogging" Maxabella's latest post is a gem: The FIFO Approach to the New Blogging. Let's start a FIFO revolution, I say.

25 October 2013

My Book "An Unexpected Christmas" (2nd Edition) OUT NOW

This is what I've been working on. The Second Edition of my Christmas Book, which I started months ago, long before I got sick. Only now -this week, today - have I finally finished updating the layout and design. It's now available on Blurb ON AMAZON!!!
*Sigh* Yes I'm still stuck with Blurb I have self-published through CreateSpace and my book is now available on AMAZON at a much reduced rate. Wahoo!

I love the new version of the book.

[this angel belongs to Hannah and Byron]

I have simplified it, keeping the feel of the original but eliminating some of the fussiness.

I've gone with the simple idea of "angels" - and now they are not all my own offspring with wings attached. I've "borrowed angels" from some of my friends, who supplied me with quirky photos like this one.

[this angel belongs to Remaliah]

I've simplified the fonts too, made it cleaner, but still just a little off-beat, like my story.

[the angel on the right is my adorable Spanish neice]

Scragger is still there, of course. the story hasn't changed, or the main characters...

I just found better images of my Warrior Angel, and my Wise Angel...

[This photo was taken by Meg; I've properly photo-credited everyone]
Here's a preview of the whole book, so you know what you'll be getting:
(this is what the book looks like on Blurb; don't buy it from here - buy it from AMAZON (much cheaper).

You can also download the eBook version (for iPad only) for $US3.99
It will shortly be available on Kindle. I will keep you posted.

Phew. I did it. Now to go and order a copy for myself, and the friends who supplied their angels for me.

The profit I make on each book is small, but there is immense satisfaction in knowing that people around the world are reading my story to their kids this Christmas.

So if you like the look of my book, please share it (and I'd love to hear what you think).

P.S. Readers in New Zealand you can order the book directly from me to save on shipping. I have a limited number of copies and they are going fast. NZ Order form HERE
24 October 2013

Freeze Frame

A picture paints a thousand words, they say, so here are a few thousand words about my two eldest offspring. Captured on Athletics Day, with their school-pals, as summer lurks around the corner and their childhood lingers sweetly.
They are growing up at the speed of light (as kids do).
Thank goodness for digital photography, I say.
Remember the days of film and processing? You counted every snap, and crossed your fingers hoping you'd got something good on the roll.
Only the big moments were photographed. Everyday life passed by largely unrecorded.

Not any more. These days, thanks to technology, we can snap a hundred photos, capture a hundred moments of our children's lives in one afternoon.
Freeze-frame their world in a hundred ways.
(And then blog about it, so the world gets to see just how precious and lovely these mini humans are that we are attempting to raise.)

One day, in our dottage, when the grandchildren cluster round our feet asking "What was my mummy like when she was little?" we'll be able to bore them to tears/fascinate them with a thousand different moments from their parents' lives in living colour.
It will be as if they can peek into their past and gaze at their roots.

I've found that the memories caught on film are the ones our children remember the best.
If they watch that home-movie (of the trip to Fiji when they were one) enough times, it's as if they can really remember being there.
Chances are they will remember so much more of their childhood than we could of ours, thanks to the endless photo-snapping.

Our kids are having their everyday lives caught and preserved for the future. The memories will remain fresh, both for them and for us, and for the generations to come.
Can you imagine Ancestry.com in a hundred years?
Little Azariel G. will be asking, "I want to find out more about my great-grandad Scrag."
Boop! Pffft!
There he is. Oh look, he's potty training! Here's his 2nd birthday Wacky Wheels party. Awww, he used to lisp. How cute.

All you ever wanted to know and so much more. Recorded, captured, kept for posterity.

And when I am old(er) and gray(er) than I am now, when the inconceivable has finally happened and my nest is echoingly empty, all I need to do is call up this blog (in whatever form it exists in the future) and there will be my little ones, suspended in time. Their stories, their faces, their moments big and small.
Yay for technology, I say.
22 October 2013

Now Spring is Here for real...

Round these parts, Spring hasn't officially started until the weather is nice enough to eat outside, under the grapevine. And last night, Spring finally sprung.

Miss Fab helped me knock up some homemade hamburgers & hand-cut wedges. I whizzed up a fruit smoothie in the blender... and we headed outdoors for our dinner.

It's kind of a tradition.

Here we all are back in 2008. Same people, just smaller;

[Spring 2008, five years ago]

I can't believe how fast they are all growing up. It's cliched, but true. Time goes too fast.

[Trampoline antics after dinner last night]

 I mean, look at them. So tall. Bouncing and wrestling on the tramp after munching on burgers.
(how do they DO that??)

[trampoline antics after dinner five years ago, Dash was Scrag's age]
Some things don't change. Like my kids being energetic clowns. Who can do flips on the tramp after a burger and a smoothie.

This morning on the way to school:
MISS FAB: Man o man, last night was awesome!
ME: Huh? Last night? What was last night? (I'm a bit slow in the morning)
MISS FAB: Last night! Dinner Outside??! It was the BEST. Just THE BEST!!

Yeah. The simple things, traditions, like making burgers and eating them outside and then bouncing til you want to puke. This is the stuff of memories and dreams.

21 October 2013

Parenting is a Challenge (but I'm still Grateful)

It's not like the movies. It's not like the storybooks. And it sure aint what I imagined when I was a little girl playing with my dollies.

Parenting is the toughest, most challenging thing I have ever (or will ever) attempt to do.

I thought the hard part was the sleepless nights and endless pooey nappies. Toddler tantrums, food battles, week-long tummy bugs... surely that was the tough part? Isn't this meant to get easier once they're all at school and can wipe their own bottoms?

But no. The pre-school years are turning out to have been the easy part.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would look back on broken sleep and midnight feeds with misty eyes. I would not have believed you if you told me that I would be getting all nostalgic over the days when you never finished a conversation or sat still for second (because every unlatched cupboard and piece of lego on the floor represented life-threatening danger and your children lost their ability to sit when they found their ability to crawl/walk).

Back then, I longed for these days. I looked forward with relish to the idea of my kids clipping their own seatbelts, making their own breakfast, sleeping past 7am.

It's something of a shock to realise that as your children get older, as they advance into the world, parenting gets harder, not easier.
Your voice, your values, your ideas must all compete with the louder and louder voices of the world outside your gate. Your children must leave you every day and navigate their way through the world of school, friendships and the media.
Sometimes you don't recognise that sweet cheeked child whose sticky little hand you used to hold to cross the street in the moody pre-pubescent rebel who is refusing to [insert simple request here].

Sometimes (often) you worry for their future.
You see their strengths, but do others?
You know they're special, but will others?
You see their potential, but will you be able to help them successfully negotiate all the pitfalls between here and adulthood?

Sometimes you feel like the worst-equipped parent in the world.
All the parenting courses, books and talk-shows have not prepared you for the overwhelming responsibility of getting three children (all with their unique struggles) through the minefield of growing up, day-after-grinding-day.

Sometimes you lie awake in your bed at night unable to sleep as you count down the days until puberty hits.
Sometimes you wonder, why on earth did I think I could do this? And how on earth are they going to survive having me as a parent?

At that point the only thing you can do to retain what's left of your sanity is step away from the picture, and list down all the things you have to be grateful for.
The blessings that come with parenting, the absolute goosebumpy thrill of those golden moments when you can heave a sigh and say, "It's going to be worth it," and "I can do this. WE can do this..."

So here is a list of the good stuff. Right off the top of my head, as it comes to me:

The things I'm Grateful for about Being a Parent to My Children Right Now...

  1. I love the things they come out with. The questions that make you laugh on the inside while you keep a straight face and wink at your husband while you answer...
  2. I love the way they keep stretching out, getting taller and taller; lanky legs and long limbs (they are heart-throbbingly gorgeous)
  3. I love their energy, the way they love to run, jump, swing just for the heck of it
  4. I love the little glimpses of maturity that give a peek into the kind of adults they will one day be - the thoughtfulness and unlooked-for kindness that sometimes takes us by surprise
  5. I love the little notes that are sometimes left around the place: "Notes to self" and sometimes notes to me. Or to dad. Very sweet.
  6. I love the cute signs that appear on bedroom doors: "Boys Keep out" and "My room is out of order between 9am and 3pm" from the same funny little person who writes the notes. Which brings me to...
  7. Daughters. I love them. I only have one, and she is a revelation. Naturally empathetic, often selfless, she'll be the one who gets us the sunny room in the retirement home.
  8. Childish hilarity. Children naturally want to laugh, enjoy themselves, have fun. Often the mischief they cause is while on a quest for "said laughter". We serious anxious groan-ups could learn a lot from them
  9. Unexpected helpfulness. Sometimes my kids surprise me. With a cup of tea. Or a rush to pick up whatever has dropped. This helpfulness is a wonderful treasure. It's in there, somewhere. And when I least expect it, there it is, making my day.
  10. Hugs. And kisses. My lot are rather affectionate, so I am never short of cuddles, huggles, snuggles and more kisses than I actually need.
  11. I'm grateful they know how to behave themselves for other people. I need not fear when they go to parties, to a friends house etc. I know they will remember their manners. They might not always remember them at home, but at least they use them on the rest of the world.
  12. Grateful for growing independence. Though this independence can be rather terrifying at times, it is also a wonderful testament to the fact they my kids are learning to manage themselves. Get themselves ready in the morning. Walk to and from school. Make themselves a snack. Tidy their rooms when pushed. Take regular showers, change their undies, clean their teeth. Something is getting through.
  13. I'm grateful I'm not alone in this parenting boat. I have a bunch of wonderful parent-friends who are all on the same parenting journey. They are quick to encourage, eager to share ideas, non-judgemental and altogether a blessing. I am grateful for them.
  14. I am grateful that I AM a parent. Difficult, challenging and anxious-making as it can be, I wouldn't swap it for a life of unencumbered travel or endless gala events. Tough as it can be, I wouldn't have it any other way. (I think. No, I'm sure. Truly.)

So my fellow parents, we're in this together. We're not alone. You're not alone. I'm not alone.
If we can encourage each other and share our struggles instead of feeling the need to compete or compare, I think our parenting job would be a whole lot less stressful.

And if we can remind ourselves, that somehow we survived our childhoods and our parents, and if we're doing the best we can, surely our kids will survive us too.

What about you? Thoughts, anyone?

Join in with The Grateful Project
Use #thegratefulproject hashtag on Instagram and your "Gratefuls" will show up here automagically...

Use the #thegratefulproject hashtag to join us on instagram (and twitter)... or you can share your gratefuls in the comments section. There's even a button so you can let others know you're joining in...

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Gratefully Yours,

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19 October 2013

Family Movie Night: Aliens in the Attic

Each weekend we share our ideas for family movie nights, with Movie reviews, fun theme night ideas and a month of FREE DVDs courtesy of our sponsor, Fatso (see below for details).

Our Super-Cool-Fab Review Team...

Our crack team of expert Movie Reviewers are this week reviewing Aliens in the Attic.

This one is a bit of an oldie. But if you haven't seen it and you have a reasonably wide spread of ages in your family that you need to cater for, you might also find it's a goodie.
In our family it's actually a classic, which you may think is a bit sad, but for us, "a classic" is one of those movies you don't mind watching again and again. Where the funny bits are still funny when you're watching it for the seventh time. And where everyone doesn't mind the reruns.

It's silly. It's goofy. It's light. You can't take it seriously, yet somehow Aliens in the Attic remains at the top of our "don't mind watching again" list. Go figure.

This movie has a bit of everything. Teen girl angst and a slappable boyfriend. A nerdy older brother who wants to be cool. A family holiday. A cute little sister, cousins, weird uncles, a ninja-kicking nana... and aliens. In the Attic.


I should make mention of "Ricky". Oh yeah. Almost all the laughs are centred on him. He's the one you want to slap, and who at the beginning of the movie, you worry might make this movie less-than-PG. (He is the teen sister's boyfriend, who is lying about being in high school. The brother knows he's a loser and is trying to get his sister to see that.) Don't worry. Ricky gets what's coming his way. And the geeky older brother learns the value of family. And the siblings who once fought like cats and dogs, learn to get along and help each other defend the planet. Oh and the aliens? They're pretty harmless.

Parents Guide:  This is rated [PG], mainly because of the aliens (who grow large at the end of the movie and who may scare little ones when they are taller than house), some gratuitous (funny, slapstick) violence and a bit of kissing and bikini wearing very early on. This doesn't last long at all and is interrupted by the nerdy brother with a paintball gun. He's doing his bit to defend his sister's honour from Ricky, the creep. Gosh am I making this sound worse than it is? It's a very clean movie. The kids say "heck" instead of "hell".

For a more detailed parental breakdown of the movie, visit IMDB.

Here's what our experts have to say about Aliens in the Attic.

Dash. B. Cool: "Aliens in the Attic is a cool movie. it's funny, really funny. Especially when Ricky is being remote controlled and when he fights the grandma. "It's the Po-Po, be cool!" - now I have a stuffed toy called Po-Po. I like that there's lots of action and lots of laughs. Kids my age will like this movie."

Dash scores this movie's "coolness" as: 

Foxy Fab: "Hahahaha, I love it. I love Ricky. I love how they get him back. It's so funny. And Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale)is in this movie but she's not mean. The Aliens are funny too. It's not a scary movie. It's just funny."

Foxy rates this movie's "fabness" as: 

Super Scrag: "I like this movie. I like the Ricky bits the best. It's funny for me and it's not scary for me either. Really little kids might be scared of the aliens but I'm not. It's a funny movie."

SuperScrag scores this movie's "super-ness" as: 


What are your favourite family moviesSend me an email or leave me a comment with your suggestions so we can check it out and feature it here.

If you haven't tried Fatso Online DVD rental before, check out my post about why I love it. Then click the box above and use the magic code FAMILY45 to get a Month's Free Trial on the Super Plan (worth $28.99).

Have a great Weekend!