24 February 2014

When Being the Youngest Gets Tough

When you're the youngest you're everybody's pet. You're the cute one, you get to stay the baby the longest, everyone dotes on you. Your mum and dad are worn out from wrestling with the first two, so you can get away with just about anything by batting your baby blues.
Some might say that being the youngest is easy, that you're on a pretty good wicket, you've got it made.

But it's not always so. Sometimes being the youngest is really hard, especially when you are trying to grow up and shed your "baby" image.

You know you're a big boy, but your big sister keeps calling you "bubba" and your big brother just thinks you're annoying and embarrassing. Your mum still wants to hold your hand in public and everyone thinks you're just so cuuuute... but they don't take you seriously.
THEN, people, it can get pretty darn frustrating to be the youngest.

Around the end of last year we noticed a change in our beloved "baby" Scrag. Our formerly happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine was having previously unheard-of meltdowns. He would cry tears of rage and frustration over the littlest things and we were at a loss to know what had brought this on. What was happening to our baby?

I wondered if it was a stage, a testosterone surge, a developmental phase. I picked the brains of every mother-of-boys I knew, trying to figure out if this was a unique experience or if it was common to all.
Similar experiences seemed to be common enough to mean that it might be perhaps developmental, maybe hormonal, a part of growing up. But how do we help our lad through this? And will we ever get our happy chap back?

Then about a month ago I had a eureka moment. I have after all had a couple of five-nearly-six year olds pass this way before. Around now they all start to want to shed their "baby" cloak, they want to establish themselves as "big".

The difference is that at the same age as Scrag is now, Dash had both a younger sister and a younger brother to "lead". He was the eldest. The others looked up to him, listened to him, respected him. He was responsible and listened to; he had some control. His voice was heard, by them at least.

At the same age (five-nearly-six), Miss Fab had little Scrag following along behind, copying her, adoring her, hanging on her every word.
When our eldest two hit the "needing to lead, have some control and have your voice heard" stage, they both had ready-made disciples in their younger siblings.

But poor ole Scrag has no-one but Dave the cat (who it must be said, still runs when she sees him; she has a long memory).

Scrag is frustrated. Scrag has no-one to listen to him, follow him, look up to him; he has no-one to lead, no-one to boss around.

When this lightbulb went off in my head, I was trying to get Big Sister to be a little more understanding of her little brother (the older two were getting mighty annoyed by the regular meltdowns). As I tried to articulate the thoughts that had just come to me, Scrag was sitting there nodding his head vigorously.

"That's it! that's just how I feel, mum," Scrag said. He's very articulate, he has a lot to say. Which is why he was getting so frustrated - nobody was listening to him.

[Grandma is fantastic at Scragball]
I shared all this with my counsellor (who is something of a genius) and she gave me this suggestion: Create opportunities where he is given the chance to teach you something, to show his skill, to take the lead.

The opportunity presented itself a few days later on a steamy Sunday afternoon. Scrag had found an old softball bat and a tennis ball and was begging to play baseball in the backyard.

Before long we found ourselves playing a variation of baseball with rules that only a Scrag could follow. At first we tried to convince the lad that his rules made no sense and that was not how real baseball is played; Scrag's frustration was mounting by the minute... but then *ding* I remembered what my counsellor had said.

I called over the big kids and told them what to do - let Scrag lead. Follow his rules. Let him have this one thing where he is in charge, where he takes the lead. They were brilliant when they understood that this was something their little brother really needs. It's part of him growing up. Give him a chance to be the boss for once.

We have since played baseball Scragball on several occasions with great hilarity and lots of fun. We had to explain to Daddy (an expert on Real Rules) that this game is unlike any other game of baseball. Just think of it as Scragball and you'll be fine.

You wouldn't think that something as a simple as a semi-regular game of backyard baseball would make such a difference, but coupled with an insight into what our "baby" needs (respect, a sense of autonomy, having his voice heard) the frustrated tears of rage are rarely seen. And when they are, we are much quicker to understand why, and listen to this little lad who is not so little any more.
He's growing up.

How to Play ScragBall

A tennis ball, a bat and four cushions, spaced out on the ground in a square.

The first person (usually Scrag) is The Hitter. They use the bat to hit the ball thrown by The Thrower.
When they hit it they have to run around all four cushions (don't stop!) without being tagged by the ball. Meanwhile The Backstopper (who stands behind The Hitter) has to catch the ball and throw it to The Chaser.

The Chaser has to get the ball after it is hit and run with it to try and tag The Hitter before they make it all the way round the bases.

  • You can't throw the ball at The Hitter to get them out - you have to run with it and catch them
  • You get three turns at being The Hitter and then it is someone else's turn
  • When Scrag is not The Hitter he is The Chaser; The Thrower and The Backstopper have to throw the ball to him so he can chase The Hitter and try to get them out
Those are the Rules of ScragBall. Play it if you dare!

Have you ever experienced something like this with a youngest child - or even AS the youngest child?
18 February 2014

Camping... or Glamping?

Camping isn't everybody's cup of tea, I know. But me? I have to admit that I rather love it.
Of course I wouldn't have said the same thing back in the days when kids were young and sleepless, days and nights were endless and every waking moment was spent trying to keep your curious toddler from exploring the neighbours' tents / drowning in the sea / keeping the whole campground awake with their wailing.
Oh no, camping was not my favourite thing back in those days.

But now that our kids have grown to a sensible age and can be left to wander, play, make friends and swim a good ole Kiwi camping holiday can be very enjoyable.

[Our three-room+gazebo tent palace, waterproofed with heavy duty tarp and secured with jumbo tent pegs] 
It helps that we have also learnt a few tricks to help make life under canvas nice and comfortable. I mean I wouldn't go as far as some people do but the days when cold water showers and long drop loos held any appeal are long gone. Getting back to nature and roughing it a little is one thing; sleeping for a week (with a bad back) on a 5mm thick bedroll with sand in your sleeping bag is quite another.

The campground we go to each year is great for families. It has a safe swimming beach, a games room and a couple of playgrounds, sparkling clean toilet blocks and kitchen facilities... and power.

[Inside our tent palace is a home-from-home: might as well be comfortable aye?]
 When we go camping we can take a mini fridge, a stereo, twinkle lights and an electric kettle. We line our floors with woven mats which filters the sand (around $20 from traders), we take the elephant foam mattress from our pull-out couch, camp stretchers, cushions and moon chairs.
Some might call it "Glamping" - I call it comfy.

Glamping is having Sky TV in your caravan or backing up the furniture truck and unloading your bed from home and your 42" plasma. It's happens. (A friend of a friend saw the truck, witnessed unloading of the full sized fridge and couch into the tent - I kid you not).

So while my bunting and cushions add style and prettiness to our week under canvas, and while the cider gets served chilled, I still like to wash the dishes in a bucket outside the tent and cook our food on the portable BBQ. Not once did I step foot inside the camp kitchen - that would be too much like normalcy.
When I'm camping I like to know it.

The beauty of camping when your kids are old enough and you find a great place to return to each year, is they way the kids can roam free like we did in the glory days of our Kiwi childhood. They make friends and swim all day, dig in the sand and play spotlight when it gets dark. Ipods are forgotten, memories are made and adventures had.

Meanwhile mum and dad can alternate between reading in the shade and swimming in the sun. Kayaking, sipping a cold one with friends. There are no clocks, nothing scheduled. Lunchtime is when you're hungry, dinner time is when it's ready and bedtime is when it's too dark to see.

It was awesome to see Dash and his two buddies compete in the campground's annual kids beach tryathlon and witness just how far our boy has come with both his water confidence and his kayaking skills.

Surely there is nothing more thrilling than watching your child compete and come away proud of his efforts?

Just this weekend we returned to our favourite spot, an hour out of Auckland, to introduce Grandma from England to our little slice of Kiwi camping paradise.

We hired an on-site caravan for the two nights (I still prefer tenting - see, I'm not really a glamper) and met up with our good friends who have a permanent site there.
While we were sitting on the beach, just chillin, we realised that dolphins (dolphins!!!) had come into the bay. Eek!

What a magical afternoon as this pod of five dolphins swam and played with any who could swim/kayak/jetski out to where they were. I was one of the the lucky ones who was able to swim all the way out, where I joined Mr G on his kayak and Dash and his pals on their boogie boards.
For over an hour the dolphins teased and delighted us with their antics, coming almost close enough for me to touch.
It was thrilling.
People pay hundreds of dollars to swim with the dolphins and here I was, a hands breadth away from them, four big dolphins and a baby who dived under us and swam around us and gave us an afternoon to remember.

I guess when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter if you're glamping in a caravan, roughing it in a tent or something in between... as long as you're there beside the sea, enjoying summer with your family by the beach... and if you're lucky enough you might even get to be there when the dolphins turn up.

Are you a true-blue roughing-it Camper, a comfort-loving Glamper or something in between? (Or is camping still in the too-hard basket?)


14 February 2014

Gravity Strikes Again

This morning I thought I'd be virtuous and walk Scrag to school. He's been begging me all week as it's just him and me, with Miss Fab off at camp and Dash leaving the house before the birds are up to catch his bus. Other days there had always been a reason not to, but today for once we were running early and I ran out of excuses.

Of course he insisted on taking his scooter. He got the MGP for Christmas and had been bursting to ride it to school. Just one problem: I hadn't got round to getting him a lock yet, which meant I was looking at lugging the jolly thing home on my shoulder.
(Have you picked one of those things up before? They are HEAVY.)

Scrag was not to be dissuaded, his heart was set on scooter-riding so I resigned myself to a bit of weights-and-cardio on the return journey.

See those pretty pink Chucks in the picture? I wasn't wearing those. They are a new addition to my shoe collection and I'm still getting used to them. Walking in them to school may have resulted in blisters so my Kiwi feet were slopping along in my comfy jandals* ... (*a.k.a. flipflops)

My footwear should have given me pause when the scooter got heavy on my shoulder on the way home and that gently sloping downward hill looked so inviting (since everyone knows you don't wear jandals on a scooter).

There I was on a quiet side street with that gentle slope calling to me and my shoulder aching.
I knew the MGP could take my weight so I threw caution and dignity to the wind and hopped on board...

Wheeeee! This was fun! I was grinning as I passed an old man crossing the road who stared in astonishment at the sight of this middleaged mama whizzing by on a scooter.

"Better to ride it than carry it!" I called out blithely as the scooter picked up speed...

Suddenly there loomed in front of me a bump in the pavement, an uneven join, a veritable mountain... could I take it?
My new-found inner daredevil skatergirl told me yes.
So I hit that bump at full speed, all 80kgs of me and gravity did the rest.

As I rolled spectacularly across the pavement, landing heavily on my hip and scraping my hands and bare jandal-wearing toes I was dimly aware of a car pulling out of the driveway right next to me... ouch, there goes my pride as well as the skin on my palms. I took care not to meet the driver's eye, or to look back and see if the old gent had seen my acrobatic tumble.

I picked myself up, slung the darned scooter over my shoulder and limped the rest of the way home, not even bothering to squeeze out a self-pitying tear. After all what did I expect? MGPs are not for MiddleAge Mamas.
And obviously Gravity is still out to get me. Darn you Gravity!


Some More of my Adventures with Gravity

10 February 2014

Rambling and Raving on Life and Blogging

I wonder if you've noticed I'm not posting as often here on my blog? The reduced frequency of my stories popping up in your inbox or on your reader may have you asking, Hey what gives?
Or, more likely, you didn't even realise because you are actually out there living your life, instead of waiting with baited breath for something new from me to materialise.
Almost certainly.

My husband says this to me quite regularly: "You know Simoney nobody will die if you don't post something on your blog today. it's not like people are sitting there at their computers, holding on, waiting for you to write something."

I know this, I do. At least I thought I did.
In my head I knew this was true, but deep down something was pushing me from the inside as if the fate of the world rested upon me updating my blog on a daily basis.

Towards the end of last year things were starting to get to me. Facebook was the trigger. Anyone with a fanpage will know what I'm talking about - the frustration of trying to increase your "reach" after Facebook changed the rules of engagement. Now only 4% of your fans get to see your post unless enough of that 4% engage with said post.
I got sucked in there briefly as madly, obsessively I tried to "up my reach" all to no avail. Even if one post did well, the next post was back to square one. I was fighting a losing battle which seemed to me to be just one symptom of everything that had gone wrong with blogging in the last few years.

Amidst the push to grow readership, interpret stats, work with partners and promote your blog on social media I had all-but lost the simple joy of blogging. And in the meantime the obsessive anxious media-holic that I had become was disengaged from life and family as - wait for it - the need to succeed drove me onwards on the performance treadmill to the detriment of all else.

One day I woke up to the fact that I was disatisfied, unhappy and over it. I needed to make some changes and I needed to face facts. This whole blogging thing was way out of kilter.
I committed myself to a blogging go-slow, promising myself (and my counsellor and my husband) that through December I would blog just once a week.
I made no announcements, I declared no blog-holiday. I just... pulled back.
There was no December Christmas Linky, no Christmas craft tutorials, no mad Christmas blog-fest here. Once a week I checked in and shared a story, some photos, some thoughts.

Meanwhile I started trying to re-engage with my real life again.
By the time January rolled around, things were different. I felt differently about blogging and social media than I had for a while. I felt... free. That awful inner drive to prove myself and find a sense of significance through blogging has loosened its grip.

That inner drive has always been there; it didn't start with blogging. My life has been dogged by a deep-seated sense of inadequacy which created an unquenchable desire for approval that saw me pushing myself to all kinds of extremes throughout my working life. Blogging is just the latest manifestation.
"Keep going, keep going, when you get there you can finally relax and know you're enough..." Or so I believed deep down.

But I will never "arrive" at that mythical place where I can rest and be satisfied and just be... unless I deliberately get off the performance treadmill and change the record.

So this isn't really about the blogging. It's about me being enough just as I am. Recognising what was driving me and not yielding to it anymore.

The main thing with me blogging now is that my motivation needs to be different. I need to just do it because I love it, not because I'm trying to keep my pageviews up or build a famous blog so I feel significant or worthwhile.
So what if I never write a post that goes viral? As long as one person gets something out of what I write, it's worth it.

My blog doesn't need to be Big to be worth reading, right? I don't need a gazillion random pageviews, just loyal readers who think it's worthwhile coming back because they like what I have to share.

As for Social Media, it can be an endless treadmill of self promotion and anxious blog-pushing if I let it. A trap for young players, a quicksand of trying to get ahead. Enough already.

Facebook you can have your reach, I'm done with trying to beat you. If only 40 people see my posts in their feed, so be it. I am not going to lose any sleep over it any more.

I'm just going to write my stories when the inspiration strikes, I'll share my heart and my ideas and my life with my readers in the hopes that they find encouragement, inspiration or just get a good laugh and know they're not alone on this crazy journey of life.
That's why I blog. Come read me who may.

Unhealthy obsession, YOU'RE OVER. Back to the basics of writing cos I love it? YOU'RE ON.


Do you ever find yourself stuck on a performance treadmill? If you blog, have you battled with this issue at all? 
05 February 2014

A Very Big Week

Writing from the trenches, in the midst of a VERY BIG WEEK. This is the week when the summer holidays end, new school terms begin and Grandma arrives from England all in one breath.

You'll be glad to know that somehow I managed to complete everything on my list. I navigated the minefield of Britomart (for the Bus Pass), ordered the new CHEAP specs from SpecSavers (woop), visited Circus school (and decided it was NOT for us), heard from the Cheerleading team (and booked in a free trial day), contacted the rugby club and found out about Scrag's upcoming season... all in one mad day.

[On Sunday Dash and I went for Starbucks together. I had a big lump in my throat]

D-Day arrived at last, Dash headed off to Intermediate, Bus Pass in hand. He's a wonder, that boy. makes his lunchbox at night, sets his alarm early and has figured out which bus to catch to get him there nice and early. He loves his new school, and his enthusiasm is endearing and (dare I say?) CUTE. It's almost like being back in Year Two where everything The Teacher says GOES. Bless.

(Miss Fab and Scrag's school goes back on Friday, of all things. Counting down the days)

[Miss Fab's room all ready for Grandma's arrival yesterday]

Now Grandma has arrived from England, bringing with her... onesies. I must point out that it's mid-summer. But my lot are so enraptured with their onesies they wore them to bed. Yes they did. Aren't they cute?

And here's Michael Jackson - oh no, that's Scrag. Another gift from Grandma. Hehe.

Before the dawning of this epic week, we squeezed in some fun at Rainbow's End (theme park), so before I rush off to play hostess and do all the things on my list today (buy birthday present, drop forgotten hat money into school for anxious tween, see shrink, look after jetlagged granny) I thought I'd share with you these fun photos....

It's been years since we've been, and in the meantime, Scrag has grown so tall
 he can go on every ride... and Dash can even drive the race cars.

[Dodgems; big brother took little brother on them for a second go. When I went to check on them I caught him out at being super a responsible, lovely big brother when he didn't know I was looking. A proud moment.]

Dash challenged his Dad to go on the "Power Surge" with these words and a cheeky grin: If you were a real man you'd go on it. Words no Dad can resist.
Mr G felt like puking for hours afterwards as the ride is one of those "everything is spinning in every direction" horror shows.

[On the PowerSurge everything spins *shudder* My worst nightmare - but I loved the Invader]

Miss Fab, meanwhile (that adrenaline junkie who cartwheels everywhere) lined up for that ride three times straight... and came off (you guessed it) turning cartwheels.
There's all these grownups staggering off disorientated and green, while this crazy girl spins and grins, "I wanna do that AGAIN!"
(Her dad and I are wondering where on earth she got that gene from. Not from either of us, that's for sure!)

I personally went on every ride but the horror show (I know my limits). While waiting for my personal fave - the gentle log flume - a kind bystander snapped this lovely family pic. Here we all are, Team G, in all our glory.

The year has begun, the holidays are over and I am still smiling. Cheese!

Have your kids gone back to school yet? How has the start of the year been for your lot?