Negotiations

The Campground Kid has recently started negotiating in a different way. It’s kinda hard to describe how it’s different, or why it even feels like a thing, but it’s totally lovely and hilarious.

The lovely-and-hilariousness may not come across in words, so you have to picture this little face saying all the following very earnestly and  sweetly, with a little tilt of the head.

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“It’s Saturday because I NEED to watch a video”

“No, because I’m only little so I need to do jumps, not tidy up.”

“How ’bout we read the dictionary just one time before I get my nappy changed?”…. “No,  okay, how about just TWO more times?”

“Okay, you go get your water. I will meet you on the couch for a story”

“I change nappy and then I go to the trampoline. Okay, it’s a DEAL.” *shake hands*

“Okay. How ’bout I have just one biscuit and then I watch Puffins?”

“Can I have just ONE story before we go to the office?”… “Can you read it one more time, Mama?”

“But I’m little because I don’t want to go to sleep”

“Can you please just cuddle for one more minute?”

“Okay Mama, how about you stay here and sleep and Papa comes to the lounge and reads me a story”

(way more of that last one, please, kid!)

She hasn’t quite landed on the meaning of “because” yet. But you can see all the pieces coming together and it’s amazing.  I mean, I know it’s just normal kid stuff and I only find it amazing because she’s my kid. But this is also my blog, so I can talk about what I want. And development of language and reasoning is one of my most favourite parts of watching this kid grow, so here we are.

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Sometimes, though, her “negotiations” are not so lovely and hilarious and it sounds a bit more like this (you don’t need to picture the sweet voice and head tilt anymore!):

“NO, I DON’T WANT QUIET TIME, I WANT LOOOOUD TIME.”

“BUT I LIKE IT MESSY”

“I DON’T WANT TO BRUSH MY TEETH EVERY DAY”

“ARGHHHHHHHHGAGHHHHHHHH”

I suppose, maybe, just maybe, we’re straying out of negotiation with these ones…?

Surprisingly enough, when we get into this zone, me reflecting her words back and saying “Okay, how about we brush your teeth just one time and then we go to bed?” doesn’t yield the greatest results.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have that cute face and head tilt down..?

Seriously, though, usually these reactions are because she’s usually over-tired or over-hungry or over-stimulated, and any form of negotiation is pretty much pointless.  So we mostly listen, support, soldier on, and ride it out as best we can.

(Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we stern-voice and eye-roll and grit-teeth and get frustrated. We do okay, but I don’t at all want to suggest we deal with all toddlerness with grace and goodwill.)

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The more this kid grows, the more excited I am for each next step. Not because I’ve heard three is easy (I’ve heard the opposite, in fact), and not because I want to get past this stage (it’s frustrating, for sure, but a big part of me is tempted to stay here forever – she’s hilarious and awesome and amazing), but because I just love seeing how that little mind works and seeing the milestones-that-I-never-realised-would-feel-like-milestones. I never ever thought I’d be so amazed by my kid weaselling out of tasks, but now that we’re here, my brain is all like “oh, LOOK at her figuring out logic and reason and how to make things happen”, and as completely ordinary as it is, I’m impressed.

 

On Hobbies, Clubs, and Commitment 

This weekend, our park hosted lots of guests from a car club’s Vintage Bike Rally. It was great for us, because they stayed all weekend, so we had minimal cleaning and laundry. And also because we met some great people, and had some cool bikes roaring around.

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And, although the weather wasn’t the best, it was also great for them, because they got to see old friends and meet new people, they got to see a new area of the country, and they got to spend a weekend doing something they love with other people who love it too.

And I just kept thinking how cool that is.

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It has really made me want a hobby. A real, proper hobby.  (Not vintage bike restoration, though!)

I have hobbies, I guess, in that there are lots of things I like to do, and I usually try to make time to do them. I think there are two problems, though:

  1. is that I have TOO MANY hobbies. I want to do everything, and I never manage to commit to one thing.
  2. is that because I never commit, they all remain individual.

So, it’s not so much that I need a hobby. It’s that I need a club. I’m in Facebook groups for a couple of things. I have friends who do a couple of others. But mostly I just do things by myself, and never really feel “good enough” or “interested enough” to take any of them to the next level. So they’re fun, but none really give that sense of community.

The closest I’ve come is being in choirs for most of my life. Last year was one of the first ever that I haven’t sung in a Christmas concert, and I definitely noticed the absence.  I LOVE choral singing, and I miss my choirs so much. But I’ve never really lived in one place long enough to really get properly involved. I’ve met great people, and sung great music, but I’ve always had to move on as we’ve moved away. I’ve got my eyes on a choir for a Christmas concert this year, but apparently it’s pretty popular, so I’ll have to wait and see how that pans out.

And because I don’t want to put all my eggs in that one choir-basket, I’m going to start looking around for some other options too.

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This weekend has also had me thinking about the generational gap in joining clubs. I’m not saying everyone there was old… but I am also not exaggerating when I say that were I to go to that particular event, I’d be the youngest by a good twenty years. And in many of the choirs and clubs I’ve been in over the years, it’s been similar.

So why don’t 30-somethings join clubs? Has it always been this way – only the older generations have time for clubs? Or is it more of a Boomers/Millenials difference? Are we all too busy with work and/or families? Will it change when I have a school kid? Have we all found “our people” on the internet instead? Or am I just missing out by not being sporty? Have I lived in the wrong places, or am I just too uncool to know about the right clubs? Are we all like me – too thinly spread and unable to commit to one hobby?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I suspect it’s a bit of a mix of all of the above. And also that there are lots of different factors that contribute to each individual’s decisions. And also that people in different situations to me DO join clubs of various sorts (thus making my original question invalid).

But the specific question/answers don’t entirely matter, because even if 30-somethings don’t join clubs (and I know that plenty probably do), I want to. And I’m going to make it my mission to find a club in rural-village-New Zealand that is a) active, b) fits around my schedule, and c) is something I’m interested in and where I might find a group of “my people”.  I think I’m probably on a losing mission here, but it’s worth a try.

Does anyone have ideas on where to start? (again, definitely not vintage motorcycles, and definitely definitely not “Axe and Gun Club”, which is the only option that comes up for my location on Google 😳😳😳)

The No Nap Kid

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Campground Kid has recently given up naps. To be fair, it wasn’t entirely her decision, but when her 1 hour of sleep in the middle of the day started leading to her fighting sleep until 9:30pm, and still getting up at the same time in the morning, we decided it was time to call it a day on sleeping in the day.

I was really worried about losing naps. After some pretty big nap struggles in her first year and a half, we were onto a pretty good daily nap routine. She liked naps. We liked to get a break. It was a win win. 

Until it wasn’t.

On a post about sleep, I couldn’t resist a picture of this sleeping cutie. Because 😍😍😍. (Also, this was before 6:30pm!!) (Also also, when does it become creepy to take pictures of your kid sleeping?)

When the time came to cut naps, we were all ready, it was easy, and it has been great. Now, instead of tossing and turning for an hour and a half, it’s into bed, one story, and she’s gone. At 6pm. Ish. 

It’s not all perfect, though. There are some not-so-great things about being a nap free time:

  • Not being able to drive anywhere in the afternoon without copious snacks and distraction techniques
  • Eating dinner at 5pm
  • 5:30pm meltdowns
  • There isn’t such a logical time for ME to have a nap on the weekend
  • Missing out on evening playground time
  • Having The Campground Kid at our weekly team meetings

But there are some great things too:

  • Evening yoga and/or walks
  • Easy bedtimes
  • Getting our kitchen tidy before the office closes at 8pm (usually)
  • Sometimes getting to have grown up dinner
  • Easy bedtimes
  • More time for writing and reading
  • More flexibility for playground time in the day
  • EASY BEDTIMES

And these great things definitely make up for the challenges.

    I’ve almost certainly jinxed myself by talking about bedtime. But seriously, it’s life-changing. 

    As with a lot of parenting things, I questioned and I wondered about dropping naps. I didn’t know if I’d know the right time. I didn’t know how it would go. But when the time came, it was obvious. There was no question that we were all ready. It happened quickly and easily. In fact, this is how many parenting challenges have played out.

    Which means it’s going to be exactly the same with toilet training(/learning), right? 

    Right…?

     

    A day in the life of The Campground Family 

    Note: if you don’t care about the details of our life at the campground, don’t bother reading. This is long, and it isn’t going to turn around to a profound conclusion, nor is it going to contain any wisdom at all. It really is just an outline of our daily routine. A detailed outline?

    6:30 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) – someone gets up, often with The Campground Kid, and starts breakfast or reads some stories or mucks around on Facebook for a bit.

    7:00 – we eat breakfast, usually all together, but sometimes I’m a bit slow to get started (I used to be a morning person, but that’s certainly not the case these days).

    7:30 – someone starts work (usually Campground Papa, because I’m usually still in PJs; see previous item) by doing a walk around the park and then checking the tills and opening the office.

    The other person gets The Campground Kid dressed, reads more stories, and gets ready.

    8:00 – The office is open. The Campground Kid and the home-parent usually join the office-parent not too much later.

    8:30 – we get ready for the day, which includes setting up folders and kits for the cleaning staff, processing online bookings that came through overnight, replying to online reviews and emails, and on weekends, cleaning the pool (that’s Campground Papa’s job when our groundsman has his days off). 

    9:00 – our first staff member arrives to start “stripping” the rooms (collecting laundry from vacated rooms). As laundry comes back in, we sort it and start the machines. Guests come and we answer questions, check them out, and make bookings at other parks.

    9:30 – If we haven’t had a coffee already, we have one (who are we kidding, we’ve definitely had a coffee already. But sometimes we have a second.) The Campground Kid gets cranky and has a snack or someone takes her to the playground or on some errands around the park.


    10:00 – The person who is in reception for the day arrives, and gets stuck into laundry, bookings, or whatever else needs doing. Cleaners arrive and start cleaning. On the weekend, Campground Papa goes to collect all the site rubbish, usually with a toddler in tow. I don’t do this because I don’t like driving nee vehicles and haven’t yet driven the little “tuk tuk” that he takes around.

    10:30 – We continue with laundry, we answer phones, and we help whoever comes into the office. Sometimes I have a specific task on my list to get started with, sometimes we meet with the owners, sometimes we take The Campground Kid for a play or to do some jobs around the park or the village.

    11:30 – We start thinking about lunch. Someone cooks/prepares; someone else covers the office while reception staff have a break. We fold laundry.

    12:00 – We all go and have lunch together and have a bit of a break.

    12:30 – The Campground Kid doesn’t nap anymore, so we try to convince her to have quiet time, with mixed results. Usually she shouts “HELP MEEEE” or “NO, I WANT LOOOUD TIME”, but will eventually do a puzzle or build something with magnatiles or duplo for a while. 

    1:00 – We’re back in the office most of the afternoon. The Campground Kid sometimes plays in the house. Sometimes we take her to the playground. Sometimes she plays in the office (usually jumping on laundry bags or hiding in a little cubby in the laundry or “checking people in”). Sometimes we’re busy and she shouts “up up up” over and over and throws tantrums and makes every childless person who comes into the office glad about that status. 

    1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00 – Same as above. Bookings, laundry, checking people in, answering questions, trying to entertain The Campground Kid and also get our work done. Cleaners finish for the day, and guests start to arrive for the night.

    3:30 – Our laundry is usually done by now, and the van is packed with linen. It seems early, but we often start preparing dinner around this time. The Campground Kid sometimes helps with prep (she likes washing potatoes, watching what we do, and coming perilously close to finding any hot and/or sharp items), other times she prefers to watch Puffin Rock.

    4:00, 4:30 – Our busy periods are unpredictable, but this is often when campervans really start to roll in. Except over the peak of summer, we don’t have many forward bookings for campervans – people like to leave their plans flexible. We check everyone in, sell discount cards, and help people connect to the Wifi.

    5:00 – Dinner time! We all eat together, and catch up a bit (we see a lot of each other, but don’t always have much time to talk!)

    5:30 – Someone goes back to the office, someone else starts a bath for The Campground Kid. The home-parent whips through the bedtime routine (bath, PJs, goodnight to office-parent, teeth, stories, bed)

    6:00, 6:30 – The Campground Kid goes to bed and is usually asleep quickly (Thanks no naps!) On busy days, the bedtime-parent goes back to the office. On quiet days, they have some downtime (if it’s me, I do yoga or writing or go for a walk).


    7:00 – Our reception worker leaves, and office-parent is on their own. Or sometimes not. It’s not usually too busy, so this isn’t usually too hard!

    7:30 – We need to get ready to close the office. This means preparing signs for late arrivals, running reports, answering last minute questions and requests for change (for the laundry). 

    8:00 – We close the office (usually! Every so often the requests and questions just don’t end and we don’t manage to close until 15 minutes later.) Office-parent comes home, and we clean or do other chores or watch TV.

    8:30 – Often one of us will take the chance to some outside exercise (Campground Papa runs, I walk.)  Often one of us will do dishes. Sometimes we’re both so exhausted that we blob on the couch instead.

    9:00 – I go and start “the rounds”. I check the guest laundry, the toilet paper in the bathrooms, change towels in bathroom and kitchen, and empty rubbish bins. Campground Papa finishes the rounds by checking the men’s bathrooms, closing the pool, and closing the TV room.

    9:30 – We are finally off the clock. We watch TV (currently: rewatching The West Wing) and Facebook. I write my journal and sometimes knit.

    10:00 – We should probably go to bed. We never do.

    10:30 (or later) – We go to bed. We read. We sleep. 

    And then we start it all over again!

    Budget cut

    “Why would someone move back from making big bucks overseas to live here and work more and make less?” I’ve been asked this question once, and kinda-nearly-but-not-outright asked this question several more times. And the answer is basically: we love New Zealand. But from the way it was asked, that wasn’t quite what they meant. To get more specific, yes, this change involved a pretty decent drop in income. But even if we just focus on money (which ignores the multitude of reasons we made this choice) it’s not really that simple. Our overall household income is less, even with both of us working now, we pay more tax than we did in Brunei, and we work many more hours for less pay. At the same time, we pay less in household bills (rent, power, phone etc.), we still don’t have to pay much in the way of childcare, and we have less free time to spend money. 

    But the biggest reason that the income drop hasn’t been so bad is that it’s so much easier to be frugal in New Zealand (for us, anyway). We’ve definitely had an adjustment period as we get back into the rhythm of frugality, and there are still plenty of things I’d like to change, but our lifestyle here lets us do several things that help us save money compared to our lifestyle in Brunei:

    • Shopping at op shops. We LOVE op shops. You may call them thrift shops or secondhand stores or junk shops or something else entirely. But whatever you call them, we think they’re great. The Campground Kid doesn’t get any new toys except at Christmas and birthdays, but she occasionally gets a book or a toy from the op shop; I have found some of my favourite clothes in op shops (though it’s a lot harder now that I’m fat!); and there’s no better place for cheap craft supplies. Plus, it’s really satisfying to find a great bargain.
    • Having a vegetable garden. In Brunei we pretty much just had concrete around our flat. It was a bit miserable, and it made it impossible to garden. Now we have lots of space, and big raised vegetable garden. We learned from previous mistakes and kept it pretty low maintenance, but we’ve had a near endless supply of silverbeet, spinach, zucchini, lettuce, and herbs. And we’re pretty excited to see capsicums growing on our plants and passionfruit and feijoas coming through on the vine/trees that were planted before we arrived. It takes a bit of work, but we have so many fresh veges, and have even managed to stock up our freezer a bit. Speaking of which, next on the list is…

    Vege garden haul

    • Having a deep freeze. Our tiny little freezer in Brunei was always crammed full, just from our weekly shop. Now we have a big chest freezer, so we can buy meat and veges and bread and other staples in bulk when they’re a good price and freeze them until we need them. We always have food available, and can keep a decent stock of easy-to-prepare meals on hand, which saves money on takeaways. I didn’t realise how much I had missed having a big freezer until we had one again.
    • Driving less. In our new job, we almost never drive during our work week (except driving 3 min down the road on the days The Campground Kid goes to hang out with a child minder). I drove a lot in Brunei, so this is a nice change. It probably doesn’t save us much actual money, though, because petrol is more than three times the price here 😬😳😮. I do miss 53c petrol!
    • Wearing a uniform. We both wear a uniform five days a week now, which a) makes it very easy to get dressed in the morning and b) means I hardly need any clothes. I tend to be someone who has too many clothes (waaay too many), so this probably hasn’t even reduced my wardrobe to normal, but it’s definitely reduced it from totally over the top. Baby steps, right?!

    Bonus points: our uniform is awesome.

    • Taking fewer holidays. We were in Brunei for a limited time, so very much felt like we needed to see as much of the area as possible. This meant lots of international holidays (and we still didn’t manage to see even close to everything we wanted to!). And even though Southeast Asia is cheap, international holidays still put a dent in the budget. We have less time and less drive for holidays now – we’re homebodies at heart – which saves us a lot. We also have a caravan now, so we anticipate most of our holidays being campgrounds, which are a little easier on the pocket. It will definitely be a change from the fancy hotels we quite often stayed at in Asia, but it’s a good change.

    Coming home and making this change was NEVER about the money. At the same time, we didn’t want to be constantly scrimping and saving and worrying about money. Before we moved, I did worry that this would be the case. But, so far, it’s not at all. I think if we’d gone from similar job/lifestyle to similar job/lifestyle and had this same pay cut, it would have been quite a shock (we would still have done it, but it would have been hard). But because we changed EVERYTHING, the change in budget has been pretty low on the list of changes. By living a little more frugally, saving in some important areas (RENT), and staying at home more often, it just hasn’t been a big deal. PHEW. 

    Ten years of Februaries

    TL; DR – a whole lot has changed in the last decade!

    February 2007

    I had just graduated from university with a chemistry degree. I was living in Hawera, and working in a milk powder factory as part of a graduate program. Campground Papa (then just My Boyfriend) was in Wellington finishing off his study. I was boarding with a rad couple and had a few friends around as well as a great group of people in my graduate class. I missed my sisters and friends in Wellington, but it was a grand adventure. I was training for a triathlon, and I also read a lot of books (I didn’t have Facebook yet!) I was excited to have my first real job and real paycheck.

    February 2008 

    We had just moved to New Plymouth, and I had started work at a cheese factory in Eltham. My Boyfriend was still unemployed, or maybe he worked at Farmers. We lived in a funny orange house in a cul de sac full of cars in the backyards and noisy DIY mopeds. There was an awesome swimming hole just down the road. We were excited about being in our first proper house and living together again. I met a few great people through my job, and joined a carpool so I didn’t have to drive 500 km per week on my own. 

    February 2009

    My Boyfriend had become My Fiancé. I was still working in the same job, but was preparing to leave for three months to a scholarship in the Netherlands. We were planning the six week backpacking holiday that would follow said scholarship. We had a lovely kitten called Trudy and some great friends. My Fiancé was working as an engineer and we were really enjoying life in New Plymouth. 

    February 2010

    We were in the last stages of wedding planning, and were excited but also a bit stressed about it all. I was starting to get frustrated with my job, and was thinking about moving into HR/training. We still lived in the orange house with the swimming hole nearby, and our European adventure was a distant memory. We had another cat called George; he and Trudy were, unfortunately, not good friends. We had bought mountain bikes and loved spending time mountain biking and tramping and enjoying the amazing New Plymouth outdoors.


    February 2011

    I was working at the same cheese factory, but everything had changed. I’d been away for 6 months, and had just returned for a big project management and HR role. I was excited and hopeful about the new job and not too worried about going back to commuting after 6 months without it. We had been living in our new house for around 8 months and had not made nearly as much renovation progress as we would have liked. The cats were still not friends. We had recently returned from one of the greatest camping trips ever. I was in the thick of training for the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km walk.

    February 2012

    The job I started in 2011 didn’t work out, and I was working part time and about to start a full time distance course in career development. I had recently stopped fertility treatments and was trying to plan the next steps. I was thoroughly unhappy about that situation. We got an amazing new nephew. We were slowly slowly getting through our renovations. I won tickets to WOMAD, which was one of the most fun weekends we’ve had.


    February 2013

    I’d finished my study, and had given up some cool career opportunities for a cool life opportunity: we were moving to Brunei. The Engineer was there already and I was waiting for my visa. I had recently had surgery and worried about the time apart from my husband. I had an awesome new tattoo. I did lots of yoga and acupuncture and started knitting. I started a blog and read a lot of books. 


    February 2014

    I was four months pregnant with The Campground Kid and was still pretty unable to deal with the heat of the tropics. So I stayed at home and napped in the air conditioning a lot. We had met some great people in Brunei, and coincidentally quite a few of them were pregnant too. I started swimming and was doing a prenatal yoga class. I had just finished recovering from a nasty dog bite to the leg and was excited that I could walk again. We were doing a lot of baby planning.


    February 2015

    The Campground Kid was seven months old and we had recently returned from our first trip back to New Zealand. She was amazing, crawling quickly and just starting to stand up, but she also slept terribly and coming back from the holiday was a tough time. We were teaching a Mums and Babies yoga class, and attending a couple of great playgroups. 


    February 2016

    We were still in Brunei, but were pretty convinced we’d be back in New Zealand very soon. The Campground Kid was 19 months old, and she was obsessed with her toys Teddy and Moose.  We’d recently returned from a holiday in Lao that was pretty great but also ended up revolving around me slamming her fingers in a door pretty badly. I had travelled alone with her in Bangkok, and we survived, so I was planning to do it again in a few months for a trip to New Zealand. We went on a holiday to Mulu and Kuala Lumpur and it was awesome, (despite me being pretty sick at the time). 


    February 2017
    We are back in New Zealand, though it wasn’t as soon as we had thought it would be. We live in a small village and manage a holiday park. The Campground Kid is two and a half and she’s really getting to be a kid, not a baby. We are busy, but I am getting back into crafting and yoga and walking. We read a LOT of kid’s books, but not very many grown up books. We spend more time together as a family, but a lot of it isn’t really quality time. We just bought a caravan and are excited to do it up and travel around with it. 

    Our Big Campground Kid

    Today The Campground Kid told me she was “a big little puffling” (that’s a baby Puffin, by the way; she may or may not be totally obsessed with Puffin Rock on Netflix. But of all the kids’ shows to be obsessed with, it’s probably the best (in my opinion), so we just roll with it and answer to Mama and Papa Puffin and pretend to put fish in our bills and swim and fly.) A big little puffling, if you weren’t aware, is “not much big, but not much little either. And one day I’ll grow much much MUCH taller, but now I’m just a little bit big and a little bit little.” She’s not the clearest at making her point (yet), but she’s totally right.

    Two and a half (plus a little bit) is such an in between age. She’s just dropping her naps. She’s using full and complex sentences. She’s growing taller and her feet are huge. She’s almost entirely lost her baby chub and is getting longer and leaner. She’s vaguely contemplating toilet training. She’s starting to learn the ins and outs of social interactions. She talks to strangers (sometimes). She’s clever, and getting cleverer every day.

    But at the same time, she’s such a baby still. She loses her mind when she’s hungry or overtired and is impossible to understand. She definitely definitely hasn’t got emotional regulation figured out (then again, there are quite a number of adults who haven’t either!) She is still so needy. She throws tantrums. She needs so much help to exist in the world. These may sound negative all in a list like this, but I don’t intend them to be so. They are totally and absolutely normal for a two year old, and I recognise and appreciate that. I only mention these things because I find it such an interesting age. It’s not always an easy age, but it’s definitely one of my favourite ages so far. 

    And for a description of one of my favourite ages, and of my very favourite kid, I thought I’d share a few of her favourite things:

    • Puffin Rock. As mentioned earlier, Puffin Rock has 100% taken over from Peppa Pig as #1 favourite show. I’m not at all sad about this. I quite enjoy Peppa Pig, but Puffin Rock is just lovely. 
    • Helping in the office and the laundry. She’s not always helpful (today she tipped a box of labels out all over the office and poured pepper out all over the floor in the laundry), but she’s pretty good at getting paper from the printer and stamping and pressing the green button on the EFTPOS machine and passing keys and milk to people and other such important jobs.
    • Books. If there’s one thing she could never give up, it’s books. She goes for the “read one book over and over again” system, which can get tiresome, but I love how much she enjoys stories.
    • Her baby doll, usually called Baby, sometimes called Baba Boo. She goes through phases in her play, but at the moment she’s very much in a baby phase. My personal favourite is her tendency to ask “Baby want to see your room, Mama. Would that be okay?” Her favourite is probably taking Baby for a swim.
    • Macaroni Cheese. She eats quite well, in general, but she will scoff down cheesy pasta like there’s no tomorrow!
    • Birthdays. She brings me birthday gifts (usually stones or daisies) most days, she reads a Birthday Cake baking book over and over, she talks about her birthday party “in July”, and she loves to pick birthday presents. 
    • Jumping. She jumps when she’s excited. She jumps on the trampoline. She jumps off the couch arm onto bean bags. She jumps onto us and off us again. She jumps down stairs and around the garden and everywhere.

    This list is not exhaustive, and changes all the time. But, for now, it’s a pretty good little summary of what she’s like. She’s amazing, as all kids are amazing. But she’s our kid, so to us, she’s the most amazing! Thanks for indulging my parental pride! 

    Love and justice and action

    This morning we went to run errands in our nearest biggish town, followed by sushi for lunch, as requested by The Campground Kid. We kept her awake for the drive home (we’re working on dropping her naps) and then we all watched a movie. It was a ridiculous family movie about puppies who play sports and get up to hijinks. It was terrible and amazing and happy-endinged and exactly like a million other family movies. Now Campground Papa is reading a story to The Campground Kid while dinner is in the oven and I am writing on the couch. Our little family is cosy and comfortable and familiar.

    Our little bubble: Toddler football in the sun.

    Our little bubble: Toddler football in the sun.

    But when I look outside of this little bubble, the world feels anything but comfortable and familiar. In the run-up to the election in the USA, I dismissed Trump as a possibility at all. Once he was elected, I thought that surely all the checks and balances in the system would keep him… well… in check.

    I was wrong.

    I never like to be wrong, but this is one time that I really really don’t like to be wrong. The change in leadership in another country may not have a direct impact on my daily life, but even way down here in small town New Zealand, it’s disconcerting to see such toddler-like behaviour in arguably the most powerful office in the world. Thalia over at Sacraparental has a good list of why New Zealanders might care about what’s happening in the United States, but the two points that sum it up best for me are #3: New Zealand is not exempt from the fascism and selfishness that is infecting the world in a new wave right now (in fact we have a leader who is doing nothing to stand up to it) and #11: I need to choose a side. I’m choosing love and justice and action.

    In the short term, there are lots of ways to choose love and justice and action and to protest the shocking changes we’re seeing right now. There are lists all over the internet of how you can get involved and make your resistance known. And those are important. SO important. (I mean, come on, when breastfed babies are being separated from their mothers for hours at a time against their will and five year old children are being handcuffed as security threats, we have to DO SOMETHING).

    But as well as the immediate actions in response to immediate threats, it’s important for me to consider the long term ways in which I can choose love and justice and action. Because it’s these longer term actions that will (hopefully) prevent this being repeated in future generations.  I recognise that being able to focus my thoughts on long term actions is a HUGE privilege, and I don’t at all mean to imply that everyone should be thinking long term at this time, but it’s what I need to do right now to ease my anxiety about the state of the world.

    Unrelated Beach Scene, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

    Unrelated Beach Scene, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

    Over the last few years, I’ve learnt a lot about myself and the way I see the world. And in the wake of this election, I am reinvigorating my commitment to a few of the concepts that resonate most strongly and that I believe are powerful forces against the trend towards right-wing, nationalistic thinking (which is not just a US problem – not even close).

    The first is Non-Violent Communication (NVC)NVC is a communication strategy that “begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that each of our actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs.” NVC is not easy – it’s a huge shift in mindset for me, and it’s a lot of work to understand and apply the principles consistently. But for me it’s been life-changing (even without doing it anywhere near consistently), and I really believe it has the potential to be world-changing. I don’t claim to be anything like an expert, so if you want to know more, check out the link above, or ask me and I’ll link some resources.

    I came to learn about Non-Violent Communication through some respectful parenting circles, which brings me to the second thing that I believe can be world-changing: respectful parenting. I’m not linking a particular resource here, because there are so many different types of respectful parenting, and I don’t wish to be dogmatic or specific as to what respectful parenting involves. For me it’s about developmentally appropriate expectations of our kids, empathy, and seeing children as fundamentally good. For others it’s about different things, but the important linking thread is that respectful parenting is about respecting both children and the role of parenting.  My views on parenting and the way we as a society value it have shifted greatly over the years; I’m not going to share it all, but the conclusion I’m currently at is: the way we think about and talk about and value parenting is really fucking important.

    Last on my list is radical acceptance. In a world that constantly preys on our fears and doubts about the way things could and should be, accepting the way things are is, I believe, a radical act. Of the three things I’ve mentioned, this one comes the least easily to me. In fact, it’s really fucking hard. But in my experience, things that are really fucking hard are often hard because they’re also really fucking important. There are resources out there, but one of my favourite pieces about radical acceptance is this lovely story about radical acceptance in parenting. But the concept spreads far wider than just parenting. The more we see ourselves, other people, the world, not as a collection of problems to fix but rather as complex and valuable and worthy, the more we learn and understand and the more we are able to move forward and live in ways that fulfill us.

    I do not intend this list to be exhaustive, nor to necessarily apply to anyone else.  We all change the world a little bit each day, through every interaction, and (like most people, I’d imagine) ideally I want the little bit of change I make to be positive. These strategies are the ones that work best FOR ME at this stage of my life to achieve that, and even though I fail at them all constantly, they have all been life-changing for me. Maybe your ways of choosing love and justice and action look completely different to mine. That’s okay (of course it is; you don’t need me to tell you that!)  But whatever love and justice and action look like to you, I hope you’re also choosing them at the moment. Because if anything good is to come out of this election, it’s going to be achieved by a groundswell of people on the side of love and justice and action.