30 April 2015

A Bit of a Blog Change

blog rebranding

I've gone and done it, finally. Rebranded my Blog - just a bit.
I've been thinking about it for months and months, racking my brains to come up with a new name/title that would take this blog into the future and make more sense of where I am now?

(Remember waaaay back in January when I talked about needing a new name for my blog?)

I was worried that "Greatfun4kids" might just be a little misleading/confusing/no longer appropriate now that my kids are getting older, and my parties/inspiring ideas are (sort of) winding back.

I had a few goes at "Peek User Testing" - a free analysis by a real person who lands on your blog/website and tries to navigate it/figure out what it's about.

Too often the person doing the test would say, "Hmmmm, Great fun for kids... I guess this is a website that recommends fun activities for children and families."
No! It's not! It's a blog written by a mum who just happens to be a bit of a DIY party nut. Arrrggh!

When this same conclusion was reached by different people on a number of occasions I thought, I really have to do something about this. I need to come up with a new blog name.

business card for blog
[My blog "business card" - saves spelling it all out] 

I put it out to my readers/facebook followers, asking for suggestions. There were a number of good ones, the most popular of which was "Greatfun4life" but when I really thought about it, I don't think this blog is just about fun. I mean, is it? No. It has changed so much over the years, and I write about so many random-yet-connected things. Connected only because they are all things that mean something to me, they are things I enjoy, things I've done, things I think might interest/help/encourage other people. There is no other rhyme or reason to it: DIY, Travel, Book Reviews, Parenting, Parties, Movie Nights, Recipes and Mental Health... not a very specific niche!

I wanted any new name to somehow link to the old one because:
  1. People know me as that name. People usually hate change. I don't want to lose people.
  2. I just really can't be faffed figuring out how to change my URL and I was scared I'd mess it up 
  3. I also couldn't be faffed changing all my email and social media pages/identities to match. I'd have to start again with followers and all my logins - Nope not doing that.
  4. Last year I finally got business cards printed for my blog ($20 from Vistaprint); I'd hate to waste them
  5. I know there was a number (5) but I can't think of it right now...
So there I was, needing a new name but not really wanting one.
Whenever I'd think of something that might fit I'd google search to see if some other blogger had already thought of it.

Life as it Happens - taken.
Simone Says - taken.
Getting There - taken.

You get the idea.

Then this morning, I decided to just play with fonts in Photoshop, using the picture of my lemonade stand (which I think is still very appropriate and which I love).

Great fun.
It links back to the old. But that's not all I write here. I write other stories.

From the Rollercoaster of Life? On the Rollercoaster of Life?
Hmmm. Does that make sense? Or should it be...

I think we have a winner, folks.
It makes sense to me - I hope it does to you too.

The new title doesn't require me to change my URL, email address, Facebook Page or anything else major. It connects with the old well enough while being a little less specific and giving me more room to move. Hopefully The peek User Testing people will approve.

What do you think?


 The name "Greatfun4kids" was right off the top of my head...
Greatfun4kids blog original header
Next I tried collage headers, which I changed every season (I get bored easily)
Greatfun4kids blog original headers
 When I grew tired of that, I asked my six-year-old daughter to create some artwork for me...

Child draws design for blog header

Child's design for blog header

Our family in all the seasons...

Greatfun4kids blog sketchy style header

That one stuck around for quite a few years, but eventually I started playing again, and tried a bunch of different versions (none of which stuck) and eventually arrived at:

Greatfun4kids blog PicMonkey header
Which soon became...

Greatfun4kids blog new name

I'd love to hear what you think of my attempt at a new name/identity for this blog... let me know!
23 April 2015

PARENTING: Detours, Road Blocks & Getting There Eventually

kids with ADHD self esteem

One of the hardest things about being a parent is watching your child struggle. It's tough having to stand by helplessly as the outside world distorts the way your precious kid sees themselves. It's gut-wrenching hearing them say things like, "I'm so stupid! I'm dumb! Why couldn't I be born smarter!"
Worst of all is when they really truly believe it - that just breaks your heart.

School is a pretty tough place to be sometimes. There's the fitting-in-socially struggle (and coming up against the kind of nasty kids who whisper things like "faggot" and"dumb-ass" when they think nobody's watching).
Even if your self-esteem is pretty robust, that can be pretty hard to take on a daily basis. Especially when the Kids Code of Silence has drummed into you: "Don't be a snitch".
So you suffer in silence and your parents are left wondering why you are moody and anxious and reluctant to get out of bed each morning.

kids struggle at achool

That would be enough to deal with on its own.
But then there's the actual schoolwork. Academic effort. Maths. English. Science.
All the subjects that require you to write and calculate and remember and reason and recall endless facts and methods and weird names for things. And then they test you and grade you and compare you to everyone else in the class/grade/country.
At that point, when you know you've tried so hard to learn the stuff they've been trying to teach you, well those test-results can be pretty soul-destroying.

Some kids just struggle at school, full stop.
I have kids like that. And the further into school they get, the more difficult they find it, the more anxious they become and the more trouble I have getting them up every morning.

My kids have my brain. The dyslexic bit that makes remembering stuff difficult, that makes maths numbers slide out of your head like slippery fish. The kind of brain that makes you feel like you're forever missing the point, not quite fitting in. The kind of brain that needs to experience and see and do before you can understand something new. The kind of brain that gets confused by long technical explanations. It's called a low working memory, and slow processing speed (dyslexic traits).

On top that my kids have ADHD. Yep, that's brand new information, and it makes SO MUCH SENSE. (They are highly physical, easily distracted, easily bored, passionate, impulsive, emotional and high energy). But this post is not about that.

dyslexic kids self esteem

This post is about a conversation I had with my son the other day as I attempted to drive him to school (late) in the middle of rush hour. His school is a half hour bus ride away, so when he missed it I had to take him, at the busiest time of the morning.
Every road we turned down had traffic backed up, jammed, not moving.
Rather than sitting stuck in traffic, going nowhere, I turned the car around, tried another road.
More traffic backed up! This was worse than usual. Was it caused by an accident? Road works? Who knew!
So we took another detour, tried another route.

As we drove, we talked.
He told me how he felt about school, why he didn't want to go. He told me how he got some grades back the day before, and had compared his grades to those of his classmates. He told me how he watched others in his class quickly clicking onto a new maths concept, while he sat there in confusion with his brain fizzing. He told me how disappointed he was when he worked really hard on an English project and thought he'd done well... until he got his results.
He felt like it just wasn't worth trying. Like he couldn't ever get it.
"Why can't I be smart? Why am I so dumb?" he said.
And my heart broke for him as I pulled another u-turn and tried another road.

Then, light-bulb.
All these detours, all this blocked traffic is exactly what happens in my brain - and his.
We hit a mental road block and have a choice: Stay stuck in traffic or try another way.
Again and again it happens.
But if we keep refusing to stay stuck, if we keep turning around and trying another route, WE WILL GET THERE EVENTUALLY!

dyslexic and adhd kids self esteem

So that's what I told my son. My frustrated, discouraged, brilliant son who is a genius with a ball at his feet and who can read a game and create goal opportunities like no-one else.
My son is a genius in his own way. He has things he is amazing at. Like the way he engages with little kids and the way he has insights and asks questions about deep stuff that just doesn't usually occur to kids his age.

I told him, Don't give up. School can be rough when your brain works in a different way. Just take it one day at a time.
There's no pressure from me or dad. We've got your back, you're not alone.
When you hit a learning road block, we'll try another route. When you feel stuck, we'll try something else. And you will get there eventually.
Because you are smart. You are clever. You are amazing at lots of things.
And nobody is expecting you to be an accountant or a brain surgeon.
You just need to figure out what YOU are a genius at, and do what you can about the rest.

Because as Albert Einstein said so brilliantly:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I think it helped.
And we were only ten minutes late for school, because I found the best back street route, no traffic jams. (We might take the long way round but we get there in the end).


**P.S. The bullying was finally disclosed, and the school notified. In the meantime, as I've put into practise being the squeaky wheel, they are supporting my son amazingly with new inclusion in two great programmes, B-Cool and Boyzone. Very grateful for a supportive school guidance counselor and a great form teacher. It pays to be a squeaky wheel

P.P.S.: The ADHD diagnosis for my son is in place of an earlier one which suggested mild Aspergers traits; this has now been discounted. It has also been suggested that Dyslexia in some form has gone undiagnosed, which is what we thought all along.

P.P.P.S.: My son gave me permission to share this story as long as I didn't mention his name. But he wanted this photo added in!

21 April 2015

TMNT Party for Young Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party (TMNT)

This was one of those parties where I wasn't in love with the theme (birthday boy Scrag's choice) until waaaay down the track. But as the plans began to come together and the ideas started flowing, the more excited I got about it.
Of course my excitement was NOTHING compared to Scrag. He's been counting sleeps for months, and as Miss Fab and I got stuck into papier-mâché-ing piñatas and hot glueing googly eyes on ninja lollipops, the more excited he got - which meant the more hugs I got. (It's the reason I do these parties, really, for the hugs and the exclamations of "Mum you're the best! Mum you're so clever!" Makes it all worth it).

15 April 2015

Bedroom Swapsies for a Whole New House

Lots of people I know are making massive moves in their living situations - shifting houses, moving towns, doing major renovations and the like.

Us, well we're staying put. No plans to move, knock down walls, or do extensions - although sometimes I've felt like we need to do SOMETHING.

[Dash's old room was less than 1.5 metres wide; it used to be the laundry; now it's my craft room]

Especially for poor Dash whose bedroom was only slightly bigger than his bed. He'd been in there for *gulp* five years, he reminded me the other day.
I shook my head, unable to accept that, I mean, it was only ever meant to be temporary. He was sharing with his baby brother, but set up a bed in the teensy ex-laundry-ex-babyroom when he found that sharing with a two year old was less than ideal.

Recently he started to experience claustrophobia at night and couldn't go to sleep in his cupboard own bedroom so we had to start looking at alternative options. How could we give him more space without spending a gazillion bucks building an extension?

[Scrag's old room which is now ours; I only painted the chalkboard wall just before Christmas]

I racked my brains and came up with a solution: We'd have to give up our giant room-with-sunroom and give it to the boys. Put french doors to close off the sunroom giving Dash his own room, which could still be opened up into a giant space when needed.
Dash's cupboard-sized bedroom would become a study/craft space. And we'd move into Scrag's old room.

The trick was to try and sell this idea to my hubby. I knew he wouldn't likely be keen - I mean, who would? Our bedroom was lush, with all that space.

I took a while to let the idea sink in, time to to bring hubby around. The fact that every night was a drama getting our big boy to sleep helped.

Finally we made the call: we'd give up our room. And do a giant bedroom swap on Easter Weekend. All systems were go.

[Our old room, now Scrag's room/rumpus. The new french doors to divide the room are still leaning against the wall waiting to be hung]

I found the perfect french doors on TradeMe for a song (rimu, with bevelled glass, just the right size); and I promised myself we'd get new carpet and fresh paint before we moved in (the carpet is completely had it, the walls dinged-up beyond belief).

We ran out of time for carpet in our new room, it would have to be an old rug to cover the spilled paint and threadbare patches. But I bought a tin of paint and set to work the day before Easter, patching up holes and painting over the giant green chalkboard wall  painted just before Christmas.

The kids and I set to work carrying armfuls of clothes and boxes of toys to their new homes on Good Friday morning, maneuvering bookshelves and relocating drawers. We left the big stuff to daddy when he came back from his game of golf.

Yes, golf. Poor Daddy went off for a game and came home to find the house in chaos, no turning back. (He'd thought we'd do it slowly over the weekend. Me, I like to get things over with).

By the end of the day we all had new homes.

[Our new room is painted in Resene Half Beryl Green - a double strength version of the soft green I painted the kitchen/dining]

Hubby and I have a peaceful sanctuary at one end of the house, overlooking the garden, opening onto the deck. We have two wardrobes and freshly painted walls. One day we'll get new carpet and that one-way film on the windows so we don't give someone a nasty surprise if they walk round the corner while we're dressing (it has happened already; I guess we could just shut the curtains??!).

The boys have a massive new space which doubles as a rumpus room. Scrag has the bunk beds AND a pull-out couch with the little TV and DVD player. It's a space perfect for sleepovers and hangouts.

Dash has a new room that is three times the size of his old cupboard. Once we get those doors hung it'll be the perfect retreat for him (and since the move, there's been no more fuss at bedtime. I think he appreciates our sacrifice).

The little room (Dash's old cupboard) has a new incarnation as a craft room/study. It's still a bit of a mess as I'm in the middle of party crafting and finishing off painting the hallway so there are cans and boxes stacked everywhere, but you get the idea. It's the perfect size for a a creative space.

We've made space for everyone without spending more than $60 on a tin of paint and $175 for some new doors. No walls knocked down, no new rooms built, but now everybody's happy and we've made the most of the space that we have.

It's like having a whole new house.

01 April 2015

An Outdoor Movie Party

We like to make a fuss for birthdays round here, for the big kids grown-ups as much as the younguns, and today is my husband's birthday.

For many a year I've been wanting to hold a Pinterest-worthy outdoor movie party, complete with lanterns in trees and friends snuggled under rugs on beanbags, watching a classic movie under the stars.
Last year I planned to do it for my own birthday, but life, overseas trips and weather got in the way.
This year when I asked the husband what he wanted to do for his 42nd birthday, he offered to fulfill my wish for a Movie Party, even though it wasn't exactly his idea of fun.

[Not enough Y's or R's to write "Happy Birthday Rory" on my Typo sign! Rocky is my hubby's midlife crisis name tho, so it's all good]

(My husband is very social and watching a movie on his birthday is not his idea of a good time. But he offered to do this theme because his mission trip to the Philippines upset my birthday movie party plans back in November.)

My idea was to show a movie we all know and love, something funny and familiar which wouldn't need to be watched intensely but which we could dip in and out of as we sat under the stars munching popcorn/jaffas/icecream and laughing with friends on beanbags.

With the theme decided, the Pinterest board running hot, a borrowed movie projector stashed away and movie party ideas flowing thick and fast, the only thing which could thwart a gorgeous evening of movie watching and popcorn munching was... the Auckland weather.

[I hung up one of our woven checked mats to keep the rain and wind out, plus another went on the floor - made it cosy]

Silly me. What was I thinking? An outdoor movie party in Autumn? In Auckland??? When it has been fine for weeks??? Now that's just asking for trouble.

Yep. Sure enough, a week out, the weather forecast was not looking pretty. I could stay in denial and cling to my plans/hopes OR I could face reality and come up with a workable Plan B. Because, really, who wants to watch a movie outside in the pouring rain? It just aint no fun at all.

[I played with vintage signs in Photoshop and got these cuties printed and framed; the bunting is SEWN by me. That's a first!]

By the end of the week a Plan B was definitely needed. The predicted rain was inescapable.
I won't bore you with all the permutations of Possible Plan B's - suffice it to say that we ended up with a compromise. Part Outdoor Movie-themed party; part Indoor movie (which only the kids ended up watching).

[MOVIE PARTY FOOD & DRINK: Lemonade & Sangria; cupcakes, popcorn & potato chips]

Sometimes you just have to surrender to Plan B and make the best of it. Sure I was disappointed that there was no cosy beanbag-movie-watching under the stars. (My day will come. One day I'll pull it off. ONE DAY!)

[The birthday boy meets my cousin Cheryl and contemplates the rain on the roof while we wait for guests to arrive...]
See, the main thing that makes a party a success is not the styling. It's not the decor, the themed food or the clever little touches that most people won't even notice.
No. The main thing - the most IMPORTANT thing - is that the birthday person feels sufficiently celebrated and that everyone who comes has a good time.
By that definition our Outdoor (sort-of) Movie Party was a raving success.

[Amazing six-layer chocolate cake made by the clever and awesome Ella-Talei]
The birthday boy had a fab time hanging out with his mates having an epic spontaneous darts championship.
The female contingent had a fab time hanging out in a cosy lantern-lit corner of the carport  movie-themed pavilion. The kids watched a movie or two on the big screen (inside)...

Everyone ate popcorn and drank (decaf) coffee, sangria, lemonade (and beer or two). There were MNMs, Jaffas, tangy fruits and oddfellows. Cupcakes and chips. And popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn.

We stayed dry, we were cosy. We had fun. And it all looked fab too. 

Happy birthday husband!


I used lots of red, white and gold. Trays, crates, black and white prints of movie posters, borrowed glassware, bunting. Lots of lights, lanterns and candles, cushions and old wool blankets made the outdoor space feel cosy. The black and white checked mats are the ones we use for camping (we own three); they were purchased from an Asian emporium years ago and come in handy for so many things!
  • The walls were decorated with retro Movie Posters, which I found online, played around with in Photoshop, turned B&W and printed cheaply at Warehouse Stationery for .40c each on thick A3 paper. I stuck them up with gold striped washi tape.
  • Retro "concession" prints were also found online tweaked in Photoshop, printed in colour and framed using cheap re-usable frames I had bought for $7 from Bed Bath and Beyond. 
  • Trays, crates, tablecloths, lights and bunting have all been re-used from earlier parties. 
  • Gold bunting was the string type bought from Typo which I sewed into thick bias binding (and now looks so much better)
  • Rope jar lanterns are from Kmart. 
  • Treat bags, serviettes, cupcake wrappers and chevron cups are all from Look Sharp.
  • Food was simply movie concession treats (classic chocolates, lollies (like jaffas, tangy fruits, maltesers & MnMs), popcorn, chips, plus cupcakes) and the usual drinks, including our party faves Old Fashioned Lemonade and Sangria.