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.

12 December 2016

Surviving (and enjoying) Christmas

Decorating the Christmas Tree - at least it SMELLS like Christmas

How are things in the Christmas trenches where you are? How's that to-do list? Got an Elf infestation? An Advent Calendar mental block? Feeling like a Grinch?

I'm just writing in solidarity to say, I feel ya. Hang in thereThis too shall pass.

December 26th will dawn and we will have made it through another Christmas - hopefully without too many additional grey hairs.

This is me and the kids' first Christmas on our own, and I have been fairly dreading it. We put up the Christmas tree on December 1st as usual, because the kids wanted to - they were excited that it was nearly Christmas. Me? not so much.
I strung up lights and garlands, hung decorations and Christmas wreaths with a rock lodged in my chest - going through the motions for them. The morning we were due to have our gingerbread house decorating "party" I sat on my windowseat with a few tears leaking - this Christmas season was not feeling OK at all. The first Christmas is the hardest, they reckon.

07 December 2016

How to Construct a GingerBread House (& have fun doing it)

How to construct a gingerbread house (and have fun while you;re at it)

Right now you might be finding yourself in the thick of Christmas madness and this may at first appear to be another story to add to the pressure of all the things you could be/should be doing to make the season magical.
Don't worry, it's not.
This is a post written by a mum from deep in the trenches, who is facing her first Christmas as a sole parent and who turned to an old favourite tradition - and some dear friends - to help connect with JOY.

You won't find any professional-looking Pinterest-inspired gingerbread houses in this post to make you feel overawed or intimidated (though our houses are VERY well constructed and could withstand any earthquake - we'll tell you how). All decorating in this post was done by lolly-guzzling children and mums with sticky fingers and hands shaking with tiredness (or was that shoulders shaking with laughter?)

Here is a record of a village construction party that brought warm fuzzies into what was feeling like a very bleak time. It was an afternoon filled with laughter and teamwork, lollies and helping hands.

Let's get on with it:

30 November 2016

How to throw a party for your teenager (the easy way)

How to throw a party for your teenager the easy way

When it comes to birthday parties, I am usually known for going over the top with party prep and creativity. For years this blog has offered tips, ideas and how to's on how to create themed birthday parties that your kid will look forward to for months and reminisce about for years.

This is not one of those parties. Those days are gone - at least when it comes to my eldest son, anyway.
These days we are teenagers; we are not little kids any more. We want our birthday parties to be "chill" and "lit". (Oldie speak = "cool" and "legit" - I think???)

Last weekend I managed to pull off a pretty "lit" party quite successfully, without embarrassing my brand-new 14-year-old - and it was really easy. Here's what ya do...

09 November 2016

What Kids Learn from Having a Dog

What kids learn from Having a Dog

In just four short months our rescue puppy, Clyde, has turned us into a bunch of fully converted Dog People. Of course the kids had been begging for us to become a Dog Family for donkey's years, but I had taken some convincing, because I'd heard the rumours.
Dogs are lots of work. They stink, they shed hair, they chew everything, they pee and poop everywhere, they eat you out of house and home. Having a puppy is the same amount of work as having a newborn; having a dog is like having another kid.

Being your quintessential Lazy Mother, I was extremely reluctant to sign up for extra work. I mean, I already had my hands full with three human children.
Who needs the extra job of picking up poop and bathing a dog when it's all you can do to keep your boys regularly showering and your toilet floor a urine-free zone.
Am I right?
Having a dog sounded like sooooo much work.

But then we got Clyde. In some kind of weird fit of intuition, I had a gut feeling that a puppy was just what the kids needed to help them get through a tough time.
It seemed counter-intuitive, and plenty of people thought I really had finally gone crazy taking on extra work in the middle of a crisis, but I turned out to be right on the money with this one.

09 October 2016

Taking Stock (cos that's what i do when i've got writers block)

Cheerleading on the beach - Mission Bay Auckland, NZ

I really thought that when I got the giant boulder-sized "elephant in the room" blog post out of the way, my writer's wellspring would unblock and the stories would flow once more. I guess I was wrong about that.

Sometimes there's just so much going on that the thought of finding a way to write it all down in a manner which is honest, heartfelt, but lighthearted - yet also manages to avoid upsetting half the people in my life - well, it's just too exhausting. Consequently, I still seem to have a rather insidious case of writers block.

But I can't go wrong with a list, right? A summary of recent happenings and photos from the past few weeks? It's either that or I blurt out my angst about the upcoming Silly Season and how much I'm dreading it with a capital D. That could be awkward.

So here goes with some taking stock instead. The last few weeks I've been...

23 September 2016

Me & My Girl: That Time We Went to Hawaii

Hawaii - a beautiful palmtreed sunset poolside cliche come true

Is this what you think of when you think of Hawaii? Poolside at sunset with palms gently waving in the breeze? In that case, Hawaii did not disappoint us.
After all those months of fundraising - hosting tea parties, pop-up cafes and garage sales - me and my girl were finally off on our Hawaiian adventure with her Cheerleading team, to compete at the inaugural Global Dance and Cheer Games.

Here we are at the airport on the night we flew out, excited as can be...

14 September 2016

Twists & Turns on the Rollercoaster

Huia Wharf, West Coast New Zealand

Ahhh Life. We never know what it'll throw at us.

I read a guest post on Ann Voscamp's blog the other day which really resonated with me, called "When you're living a life you didn't choose". That happens sometimes - we end up in a life that wasn't what we hoped/dreamed/planned.
We have a dream for the life we want to live, and then it isn't.
Life throws us a curveball. There's an unexpected twist in the rollercoaster. And oh help, here we go again on another not-so-great-fun adventure.

Right now you could say that I'm living a life I didn't choose - in so far as I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would have imagined that my marriage would end after 15 years of trying.
But, yep, there it is.
I've been separated and sole-parenting for over three months now.
That's the twist my life's rollercoaster has taken me on.

31 August 2016

O August Where Did You Go?

I had the best of intentions, I really did.
This was going to be more than a one-post blogging month.
I started well, didn't I? Blogging on the very first day of August? It was a good post too, that lonely August birthday party post.
It was meant to be joined by others, at least three more.
Yet here I sit, late on the 31st, and that one post was all I managed.

01 August 2016

A Magical Woodland Campfire Party

A Magical Woodland Campfire Party

You see them everywhere on Pinterest these days: gorgeous whimsical woodland-themed parties. I've been admiring them for a while now, and when Miss Fab was making noises earlier in the year about "not having a themed party" (gasp) I pulled up this theme on my Pinterest board and showed her the prettiness. It didn't take much to convince her to adopt this as the party theme for her 12th birthday. Throw in a campfire, good friends and toasting marshmallows on a winters evening, and what could be more magical? Just to make things more enjoyable, we decided to combine with the party with Fab's friend Em, who turns 12 a few days before her. They share many of the same friends, and her mum, Mel, is one of my besties, so this was a no brainer (plus I know Mel is a whizz at campfires).

Well ahead of time we started collecting things. We scoured Ali Express, we placed our order with Kiwicakes, we pinned and gathered and foraged months in advance. Which was just as well, because a tumultuous June/July meant that party-planning was the last thing on either of our minds and we came very close to cancelling the whole thing. But thankfully, after chatting with our buddies Mel and Em, we decided to go ahead. Maybe a magical woodland party was just the antidote we all needed?

Yes it was. A little bit of woodland magic on a cold winter's night, with good friends and plenty of laughter around a campfire - what could be better? Very reviving for the spirits.

So here it is, in all it's rustic glory: our home-made take on a woodland party (with a real campfire).

21 July 2016

Hello, it's Me (and Clyde the Puppy)

Clyde the puppy meets the ocean for the first time

Tap. Tap. Hello. Is this thing on? Oh good! It's working.
Um, hi. I know it's been a while.
I can't go into the details of *why* because, um, well, I just can't.
But trust me when I say that I would never neglect my beloved blog for so long without good cause.
However, with this post, I am back.

06 June 2016

We Did It! (We're off to Hawaii Tomorrow!)

Our little cheerleader worked hard to reach her goal - and now she's off to Hawaii!

It's hard to believe, but WE DID IT! Me and Miss fab raised the money necessary (around NZ$2,500) and we're GOING TO HAWAII tomorrow night!
It seemed like an unattainable goal, in the beginning, but the two of us worked together to pull it off.
We used every skill and bright idea in our arsenal of tricks to raise money, without once asking for handouts from anyone.
And we did it!
We reached our goal to get our little cheerleader to Hawaii to compete in the Global Dance and Cheer Games with her team.
Only one more sleep.
Bags need to to be packed tonight; tickets and Passports stowed safely.
There's a Showcase at 3pm today for all the Auckland teams going to show off their routines to admiring family and friends. We can't wait.
But first, here's a recap of how we did it...

30 May 2016

Corners of My Home: The Lounge Room

I promised to show you "the corners of my home" and today I'm going to welcome you into my favourite corner of the house - the lounge room.

We live in a 1920's Californian bungalow, which has many beautiful original features, including beamed ceilings, paned glass and - my favourite - a lovely north-facing bay window.
Somehow the lounge is perfect in all seasons: in summer it's a cool retreat from the heat of the day, but in winter it's cosy and warm, with a gas fire and plenty of snuggly cushions and throws.

I've painted the room a restful shade of duck-egg blue...

24 May 2016

In Defense of Ritalin (and ADHD Kids)

In defence of Ritalin (and kids with ADHD)

ADHD seems to be misunderstood and get a bad rap from people who don't actually know much about it, so I'm here today to throw my hat in the ring and clear up a few misconceptions.

I've heard comments from many quarters about the tendency these days to "throw around labels" and "bung kids on medication". In some circles it's rumoured that ADHD isn't even a thing - that it's made up - because apparently "French children don't get ADHD" (the same way French women don't get fat. Yeah right).
Some people have the idea that ADHD is a convenient excuse for the bad behaviour of children who, in earlier generations, would just be called "naughty". Sigh.

Of course it's one thing to be able to sit up on a very high horse and spout theories, it's another to live with children who actually have that very real thing going on in their brains, which makes life and school so painfully difficult, for them and us as parents.

16 May 2016

Action-Packed Video Game Party: *Star Wars vs Superheroes*

Video game battle Party: Star Wars vs. Superheroes

What do you do when your baby turns eight, and he wants to have a party that encompasses all his favourite things? He loves Star Wars, he loves Super Heroes, he loves Video Games - and he just can't decide what kind of party he wants.
Well, if you're me (and you're slightly mad) you find a way to to mix all three themes together. You and the birthday boy  put your heads together and dream up an action packed "Video Game Battle Party: Star Wars vs. Superheroes". It's like having three party themes in one, really. But you reckon you can pull it off because you've done Star Wars before (and already have loads of stuff), you've always wanted to do a Super Hero party and the video game thing can tie the other two themes he loves together.

So here we go - a crazy, action packed, Video Game Battle Birthday (which did  not involve much actual video gaming) but was LOADS of fun for all.

30 April 2016

How to Host a Pop-Up Cafe in Your Garden

How to Host a Pop-Up Cafe in your Garden

This week we held a pop-up cafe in our garden - me, Miss Fab, a bunch of her lovely pals and Grandma. It was a raving success - and bloddy hard work - as well as super fun.
This was part of our fundraising efforts to get our young cheerleader to Hawaii for her competition in June,

Hubby and I are firm believers in getting the kids to work for what they want. We want them to put in an effort themselves rather than just expecting the Bank of Dad to hand over endless wads of cash for the exciting things they want to do. It's important, we reckon, to teach our kids how to work for their goals. I mean, that's real life, isn't it? They'll be out there for real one day with the trainer wheels off, doing life on their own. The more experience they've had working for what they want, putting in sweat and elbow grease toward their dreams, the more confidence they'll have facing their future.

Miss Fab and I are both going to Hawaii and Daddy has agreed to pay half if we come up with the other half. We'd need to raise $2,500 towards the cost of this (very expensive) trip, so she and I put our thinking caps on and began to use what we're good at to raise the money. We are good at hosting. And decorating. And not bad at baking and making coffee. So we ran a garage sale, hosted a High Tea and did a bunch of jobs for people (including daddy). But by far the best (funnest) thing we've done was the Pop-Up Garden Cafe we ran this Tuesday gone, during the school holidays. It was amazing.

Here's how we did it (and how you could do it too).

20 April 2016

Baby Turns Eight (and Mum Ponders his Struggles)

Today I'm writing a post about my youngest child - the ray of sunshine affectionately known as Scrag.
He turned eight this week. EIGHT. My baby.
Scrag was born happy. He was a delight and a joy, the pet of the family and everybody's snuggle bug from his earliest days.
I remember being in the hospital, wracked with post-surgery pain (like nothing I've ever experienced before; so bad I wanted to die. The morphine did nothing.) My newborn baby was lying there gazing into my eyes, and he knew me. As we locked eyes, me in pain, him serene, I said to myself: it's worth it. This pain is worth it to have this child.

04 April 2016

Flying a Kite is a bit like Parenting

Flying a kite is a bit like parenting

On Saturday we went out to Piha Beach on the wild West Coast, in an attempt to break through the lethargy and blahness that sometimes descends on us all after an exhausting, busy week.
The car was loaded with reluctant, groaning kids, a bag of snacks, a soccer ball and our never-before-used, still-in-its-packet Kite.

We've never had much luck with kites before, but for once the wind was blowing right and the kite's string was barely let out when the wind caught it and whipped it up into the air.

31 March 2016

Paris Party Cakes & Cookies

Paris Party Cakes and Cookies

Today I'm going to share with you how to create beautiful (deceptively simple  and gorgeous) cakes and cookies for a Paris Party. Last year's Café de Paris 11th birthday party was one of our best ever. It was fabulously gorgeous AND fun. I'm going to deliver the final installment on how to recreate this party by sharing with you how to make the Rosette Birthday Cake, the Eiffel Tower cupcakes and the gorgeous Café de Paris Cookies.

This is a post for beginners. If that sounds like you - this how-to post is for you. If I can do it, so can you (with the right equipment).
Pulling off these creations is totally doable by amateurs like me, as you will see. No need to spend gazillions on professionally-created delicacies in order to pull off a pin-worthy scrumptious party. Invest the moolah you'd otherwise spend in getting a few cake decorating essentials for yourself, that you can use again and again, year after year.
I am far from an expert cake decorator. My hand shakes and my rosettes are a bit wobbly, but the overall effect was amazing when it all came together. Read on, dear amateur cake maker - you can do this!

25 March 2016

Our Easter Traditions Roundup

Breakfast this morning was hot chocolate, hot cross buns and "what was happening right now two thousand years ago?"

Happy Easter! In case you're wanting something more than chocolate and bunnies to celebrate the reason for the season, I decided to pop up a quick post sharing our Easter inspiration from years gone by.
We've developed a tradition that of Easter dinners and communion in a Passover style which has evolved over the years... Beginning with this first crazy one way back in 2009, when hubby and I "time traveled" from AD30 to tell our kids about the first Easter - dressed as "Mary Magdalene" and "Peter".
It was hilarious - and thanks to Grandma's secret filming of our antics, we can still crack ourselves up at our dodgy accents.

16 March 2016

The Perils of Thinking Straight

When Thinking Straight is exhausting, downtime helps

"Thinking straight" is hard work for some kids - just getting through an average day is a feat of endurance and nuclear meltdowns can occur with worrying frequency. You might know someone like this (it might be your kid) and you are baffled as to why, for no apparent reason, they seem to melt down on a regular basis.

I'm writing this post to clue you in dear readers: mums, teachers, friends of people with kids like mine. I'm reminding us all that for kids whose brains are a bit quirky (like those with dyslexia or ADHD), thinking straight is hard work.

What I mean is, ordering your thoughts, sequencing your actions, forcing your jumping-about, big-picture brain to work in a straight, ordered line, day after day, hour after hour is flippin exhausting.
The daily routine of getting up, getting dressed and ready, getting out the door on time EVERY DAY is like running a marathon every single day, with no end in sight.

09 March 2016

Paper Garlands and Getting to Hawaii

Did you know that I am no long the Glue Gun Queen? I have a SEWING MACHINE and I use it all the time. Most recently I used it to create a bunch of paper garlands to sell at our garage sale on the weekend.

Miss Fab and I are fundraising to get her (and me) to Hawaii in June for an international Cheerleading competition. How cool is that?
Me and Fab in Hawaii. Competing with the best cheerleading teams from around the world.
But first we have to get there.

01 March 2016

Corners of My Home: Entry & Hallway

I love DIY. I love picking up a paintbrush and turning something tired and naff into something fresh and new with nothing more than paint, elbow grease and a bit of imagination.

In the last week I've been on a painting binge. One day I was driving past Resene (on my way to pick up coffee) and on a whim, stopped in and grabbed a litre of white paint. Or should I say "Quarter Thorndon Cream water-based enamel, low sheen" - to touch up the dings that were bugging me in the kitchen I made-over nearly two years ago.

Once I started I couldn't stop, and ended up retouching all the white paintwork in the bathroom and toilet as well. I was on a roll, so yesterday I moved on to the half-finished hallway I started painting over a year ago and finally completed it, and felt so proud I wanted to show you all.

Which gave me an idea. Why not do a series of posts called "Corners of My Home"?
Space by space, show you my little corners, share my home-grown DIY decorating style and welcome you in to the place we live.

Today I'm beginning with the entrance and hallway. Our home is a large-ish 1920's Californian bungalow that we bought nearly ten years ago before house prices went completely nuts. It was extended in the 1970's by a craftsman-joiner, painted pastel shades by the owner before us, and has been turned into a home that reflects "us" by me and my paintbrush over the last two years.

25 February 2016

Parenting at the Pointy End

Feeling sad and nostalgic - and wishing I had a time machine

Last night I lay awake writing this post in my head. This week I've been discombobulated, out of sorts, tearful and nostalgic as the reality of this latest stage of parenting has made itself felt. I feel the need to put it all into words, so I can reconcile myself to our new reality: My kids aren't little any more.

Every stage of parenting (and life) has it's pain and its rewards. It's just very easy to slip into a wee bit of melancholy when you compare your rose-tinted memories of "the simple fun-filled days" of yesteryear with the serious business of parenting a teenager and an adolescent, with one lone seven year old bringing up the rear.

I've been overwhelmed with nostalgia for the days when homework was simply reading a PM book together each night and I could relax a bit knowing that we had years ahead of us to get our parenting crap together, years to figure out "adulting", years for our kids to nail the academic side of life.
We had a reassuring buffer zone of time.
It's OK, I kidded myself. By the time we get to High School we'll have it all figured out. We'll know what we're doing. We'll be sorted.

20 February 2016

Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Cake (that Actually Tastes Good)

chocolate fudge cake recipe - gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, refined sugar free (and still tastes good)

Last week I hosted a wee last minute birthday surprise for a dear friend, who was right in the middle of a "Daniel Fast" - three weeks of eating nothing but vegan food, but with the added complicated of no gluten, no sugar, no caffeine and no alcohol. Awesome time to have a birthday, right? Not.
To put it plainly my friend had pretty much resigned herself to not celebrating her birthday, because, how?

A birthday with raw nuts, fruit and veg. I mean, not even a birthday cake?

We couldn't have that.
I remembered my clever friend Delissimon's amazingly easy, egg-and-dairy free chocolate fudge cake that I've made on a number of occasions, and decided to try and adapt that, to make it completely Daniel Fast friendly. thereby supplying my fasting friend with a birthday cake that sat within "the rules" of her fast.
Even after messing with the recipe to replace sugar with coconut sugar etc, it still tasted like a chocolate cake should - light, fudgey, rich and a wee bit decadent. The verdict from the birthday girl was a big thumbs up.

After posting photos on Instagram, I had a bunch of requests for the recipe, so I decided to share my version of it with my adaptations to make it everything-free.
This version used decaf coffee instead of plain water which gave it a rich fudgey flavour. As well as tasting great and being allergy friendly, it's ridiculously easy to make.

Here it is:

11 February 2016

This is Normal (apparently)

All Dogs Have ADHD - by Kathy Hoopman

Sometimes everything works. Every now and then we have a day - or a few days in a row even! - where everything just flows. There are no meltdowns, no raised voices, no tears or tantrums. There is no reason to tear out my hair or wish human ears came with a volume control.
Sometimes, every now and then, I feel like a good mum. Like we've figured it out. Like we are winning.

And then there are the other days.
The days where nothing works.
The days where we are like kittens in a bag, scratching at each other. The days where if it's not one kid crying/shouting/fighting/whingeing, it's another. Scrapping and answering back. Needling each other. Melting down over the littlest things. I should be bald by now with the frequency of these days.

09 February 2016

"Style-Challenged Mum gets Rescued by Personal Stylist"

A fashion adventure for the style challnged

It's been really hot lately, hasn't it? The sticky, humid, icky type of hot that you get in exotic places like Queensland and Singapore. The type of heat that makes you want to go to the shops in a sarong. The type of heat that makes those of us carrying "a little bit extra" wish we'd had more self control when we visited Little and Friday for donuts (cos every donut is now being carried on our hips, weighing us down and make us sweat in the flippin' sweaty heat).

But this isn't a post about the heat. Or about losing weight, getting fit or making any kind of resolutions.

No. This is a post I'm writing because I am excited about a Christmas present I got that is gonna help me make the best of who I am, my body (as it is now) and my wardrobe. See, for Christmas I got a voucher for a style makeover with a personal stylist.

05 February 2016

A Ubiquitous Post about Change, New Schools & Time Flying

Starting new schools can be scary and overwhelming

Look at them.
There they are all dressed up in strange new uniforms on the first day of school.
New schools for both, and a new era for us all.
One of them is off to High School. He is very chilled.
One of them is off to Intermediate. She is overwhelmed and struggling, trying to be brave.

I look at this photograph and my heart is kind of bursting. With pride, with love, with the need to throw my arms around them and squeeze them tight.
They are my babies. They are growing up. Way too fast.

28 January 2016

A Tent Odyssey

A tent Odyssey

Every year in January we head to our favourite spot, pitch our trusty Kmart tent and live under canvas for a week or two, beachfront. The kids roam barefoot with friends, coming back when they're hungry, going to sleep when they're tired.