Somehow, the school holidays are over, and The Campground Kid goes back her second year of school on Monday. Which, of course, means that I spent half my Saturday night covering books. We managed to avoid it for her first half-year, so this is the first time I’ve brought out the duraseal in probably 20 years. That fact is a little unbelievable to me (how did I get so old? how is my kid five-and-a-half? what even is time?), and is also why I’d entirely forgotten how annoying and hard covering exercise books is.

I used to pride myself on my book covering skills. I was creative (printing pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio and Alanis Morissette to collage my books or covering them like brown paper packages), and had a knack for getting them neat. Twenty years later, I could remember the basics, and one of my recent tasks involved applying A4 sized stickers (which involves similar bubbling and creasing issues), so I thought that me and my library-card-smoother had this in the bag. If we came rolling into school on Monday in total chaos, at least we were going to do it with well-covered books.

Well… let’s just say, I overestimated my talents. The fronts are better than the backs, but all of The Campground Kid’s books have creases. At least one of them is off centre to the point that it’s only just covered. I didn’t buy enough of the mermaid creatures + ice creams, so two of the six are covered with old Richard Scarry book pages (I like those ones better, but I suspect the five-and-a-half year old may not feel the same way). They’ll do the job, and at the end of the process, I’m just glad that the worst one (which I was considering buying a replacement for it’s such a mess) is a random book that somehow ended up in the school pile not the home pile, and doesn’t need to be seen by anyone else.

The book covering itself is not really noteworthy (but when you spend over an hour of your Saturday night doing a dumb job, sometimes you just want to share it). But I like to read too much into everything, and my hour of sticking and durasealing and trying to smooth/undo the worst parts was a reminder for me that when you don’t do something regularly, whatever skills you had can easily be lost. I’m not going to cover books more than I absolutely have to in order to retain skills, OF COURSE, but the idea applies more broadly: a “talent” for something quickly becomes meaningless if you don’t do it and work at it.

Growing up, I had a “natural talent” for quite a few things. And it was fairly easy to avoid most of the rest. But over the years I’ve realised that this avoidance strategy wasn’t the best plan. Because some things just need to be done. And some things you just want to do. And even if you don’t do the best job, it’s okay. Like, it’s REALLY okay. No one is going to care if the books aren’t crease free. No one is going to care if your house is a mess at the end of your busiest six weeks of the year. No one is going to care if you fill a whole sketch book with mediocre sketches. No one is going to care if your dough doesn’t rise sometimes. No one is going to care if you don’t blog for ages (AGES!) and then your first blog back is a bit of a jumble (right?!)

Forget about talent. Do the things you have to do. Do the things you want to do. Do things badly. Do things slowly. Come back to things you haven’t tried in ages. Put your energy into doing things instead of worrying about school and kid friendships and how you haven’t given your kid a proper holiday because you have to work too much. Practice and get better at things if you want to. Keep on doing them badly if you want to. Give them a go occasionally or do them often.

Just don’t stress about doing things badly to the point that you don’t do them at all.

Good enough is good enough.

It’s going to be okay.

Your kid’s going to be okay.

(And it’s going to be bloody great to get back into a routine!)

One year at The Campground

I have a whole list of drafts in various states of completion. But they all seem just a little bit too hard right now.  The owners of The Campground are away at the moment, which means we’re working every day.  I’ve lost my voice, which makes both working and parenting more difficult. I’m sooooo tiiiiiiiired.

But this week marks ONE YEAR in The Campground, so I can’t let it go by without a blog. And that can only mean one thing…. It’s time for a lazy photo blog.

And so, I present: A year in The Campground (in photos)

October 2016: The Campground Kid “mowing the lawns” and enjoying our new home.

November 2016: Abseiling 100m into the Lost World with Waitomo Adventures.

December 2016: The road between Kawhia and Waitomo on a beautiful summer day.

January 2017: The view from the Waitomo lookout while out on an evening walk.

February 2017: A walk in the Ruakuri reserve. A snack on top of the rocks.

March 2017: Watching the sheep shearing at the Waitomo Caves Sports Day.

April 2017: Stomping in the mud during a very rainy autumn.

May 2017: A holiday in Taupō. Beautiful sun over the lake.

June 2017: A walk in the Waitomo hills. A view to Mt Pirongia.

July 2017: Another holiday. Toddler’s first snow.

August: A sunset. The end of our first winter in five years.

September 2017: A walk to Opapaka Pā. A view over Waitomo.

It’s been a BIG YEAR. In and around these photos there have been ups and downs. Some things have been surprisingly easy. Other things have been very very hard. But one year in, we’ve made it through together, and we don’t regret the decision to come here for a second.

Taking our kid camping, and other goals

We have been The Campground Family for nearly a year, and I have a confession to make: The Campground Kid has never ever been camping.

She’s never stayed in a tent or a caravan. She’s never known the joys of campsite cooking. She’s never slept outside. She’s never woken up in a tent-oven. She’s never pushed the huge puddles that build up in the roof of a canvas tent after rain.

She HAS helped set up a tent, and she HAS slept in a sleeping bag. But STILL… What kind of Campground Parents are we?!

This is something that NEEDS to happen. And SOON.

So our goal for this summer? Go camping.

We have all the equipment. We could go camping for free pretty much at our house, pretty much any day of the week.  We’re coming into Spring now (HOW?!?) and Summer is just around the corner. This is not a difficult goal for us, but with this first goal in mind, I started thinking about goals in general.

The Campground Kid in a tent last summer. The closest she’s come to camping!

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been feeling drifty and planless. There are reasons, but one of those reasons it just that we haven’t made a plan. So, inspired by a great list of at home date ideas by a friend, we decided to sit down and extend this one easy goal into a list of 100 life goals.

We started our list yesterday, and as we hoped, it was a great chance to talk and a fun thing to do together. (Can you tell we don’t get out much?) We’re up to 30 goals on the list now, ranging from tiny (have a freak shake) to medium (travel to the Great Barrier Reef) to huge (buy and run our own business).

Even The Campground Kid got in on the action. And her additions were surprisingly appropriate: See a volcano; Ride a rollercoaster.

But a list of goals is nothing but a kinda fun distraction if you just create it and do nothing about it. Which is a thing I tend to do. So along with the list of goals, I’m taking some life advice from a dude on reddit (OF ALL PLACES) and committing to no more “zero days”. That means that every. single. day. I’m going to take some action towards one of these goals.

Some days, I’m sure, are going to be very-nearly-but-not-quite-zero days. Some days are going to be I-really-really-don’t-want-to-but-I-will-not-do-zero days. Some days will probably be I’m-stretching-it-to-call-this-non-zero days. But I’m hoping that building up my number of non-zero days will lead to more really-truly-not-even-close-to-zero days.

Two days into the #nonzeroday challenge, it’s good (OF COURSE it is. EVERYTHING is good two days in!) It’s not exactly life-changing just yet (after all, this is what I’ve done so far, as well as working working working):

Day 1: start a list of goals
Day 2: write a blog post

But I think that, with time and consistency, it could be.  (Don’t burst my bubble!)

We might have to wait a bit to get to the camping one, though. We’ve had a shit ton of rain this week, there are new ponds and lakes popping up all around us, and there’s more rain in the forecast. Thanks New Zealand Spring!


Winter Holiday

When you work in a campground, you have to take your holidays in the winter. It’s fun, because you get to take your nearly-three-year-old to see snow for the first time.

And because you get to be with family when that nearly-three-year-old becomes a three-year-old (Happy Birthday, Campground Kid!)

And because you get to stay in a big ol’ farm house and see all the animals and stay cosy around the fire playing card games, and chatting.  And you get to go for walks in your gumboots and jump in muddy puddles.

And New Zealand still looks pretty beautiful in the winter.

Orewa Beach

Mahia Beach

But then you go and lose your voice halfway through the trip, and spend a week of your holiday being sick and miserable.

(No pictures allowed of me moping around in my PJs)

And then you get rained on allll the time, even at the three-year-old’s special and planned-in-advance outing.

But at least you can still balance bike along a wet beach.

And at least you can still say that, all things considered, it was a very rad holiday.

(And also, I’m glad to be home again and well again!)





Looking in the mirror

(Today a wonderful Facebook group that I’m a part of hosted a five-minute writing challenge. The theme: the last time you looked in a mirror. I liked what I wrote, so I’m sharing it here, along with a couple of related stories.)

“Okay my dear, here you go”
As I pull pink flowery sleeves up to sweet chubby elbows, I catch a glimpse of a face that looks just like my mother’s. I see my messy bun. And I see my eyes rolling.

I realise that she, too, sees my eyes rolling.
She, too, sees through my false patience.
She, too, knows that her Mama feels overwhelmed by her big feelings and loud demands.

So I stop my eyes, mid-roll. I grab a big fluffy towel. “The towelosaurus is coming to get you! Rrrooooarrrr.”

Her giggles echo through the bathroom as I catch her into a big towelosaurus hug.

I’m not perfect, but we’re going to be okay.

Speaking of being imperfect, I’ve been finding the adjustment to our first winter for aaaaages quite difficult. I’m staying inside too much. Spending too much time online. And The Campground Kid is following my lead too much for my liking. She’s like a little mirror, and all too often she shines a light on all the habits that I’d rather keep in the dark.

So when my little homebody asked me to take her on a walk to the digger (we were having some work done on the park), of course I said yes.

She brought her teddy too.

We walked around the park. She climbed the digger. We ran down hills. I took photos.

It was simple and wonderful and exactly why we came home.


Sometimes her little toddler mirror shines on the things I don’t want to admit. Other times it lights up the things I didn’t know she had noticed.

A few months ago, in an effort to encourage The Campground Kid to talk about her day, we started a little dinnertime routine. We take turns talking about times that we were happy/sad/scared/frustrated/excited. It’s new, so mostly Campground Papa and I take turns and The Campground Kid just gives her stock “What did you do today?” answer of “Played inside and outside!”

But the other day, in the middle of dinner, she turned to Campground Papa, and with a quizzical little face she asked “What made you happy today, Papa?”

And after he answered, she turned to me and said “Nice curry. Thanks, Mama!”

We may not be perfect, but we’re going to be okay.

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!