Monday, 31 August 2015

Some Wise Words from Dr. Seuss

I've been trying to write this post for over a week, but it was just so overwhelming to try and get all of my thoughts down coherently - even now I probably haven't done justice to how much I appreciated my parents' visit with us. But sometimes you have to remember that "Done is better than perfect" (a quote I learned about from Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook) and so I need to just get this post up!

My parents flew back home to Toronto last Friday morning. I was devastated to see them go. I always get quite upset when I have to say good-bye to them, but this time was particularly difficult as I had to watch them say good-bye to Ella. It is painful to think about the fact that the next time they hold her she will be five months old, and she will have changed so much. At this time the following quote from Dr. Seuss is helping me to try and just appreciate the time we had together, rather than dwell on their return home:

We had such a great time together with Ella, and I've come out of this more appreciative of them as parents than ever. They have set such a good example for me of how to raise a child in a loving, supportive home. They have give me confidence in myself as a new mother, and in Andy and I as a team and parents. 

Before they came I was pretty apprehensive about going out with Ella on my own. I kept thinking "What if she cries? What if she needs to eat? What if she has a big poo?" Well the reality is, those things are definitely going to happen, because, like, she's a baby. And like all babies, she is especially good at having HUGE poo when she is either wearing a new outfit or in a really inconvenient place. (The best/worst time this happened was when we went to get her passport photos done. Basically it is pretty much impossible to get a baby to take a picture where they are staring straight ahead, both ears showing, eyes open, mouth closed. It took us about an hour to get a photo that would be accepted, and in the middle of this Ella had her first poo that was so big it leaked out of her diaper and down her leg. Great timing! Had I been on my own I just would have given up on the photo and gone home. Not my mom! She pragmatically just changed Ella in her pram in the post office and then we got on with it. Big thanks to the guy at the post office who had the upmost patience with Ella and persisted until we got the right picture.) I learned that it doesn't really matter what happens when you're out with the baby, you just deal with it. Babies cry, eat and poo pretty much all day and usually it is not hard to solve whatever issue you have with food, a nappy change, or a cuddle.

I am now also more confident about breastfeeding in public. This was a huge step for me, and if not for my mom's encouragement I would probably be a hermit right now. I've learned that it's just not that big of a deal, most people don't care or even notice what you are doing. And it is a natural thing, to feed your baby. New mothers shouldn't have to stay at home all day long just because they have to feed their baby frequently.
And our house is in great shape now! My mom cleaned it top to bottom and my dad fixed up things like the draughty windows and installing a doorbell. Andy and I were very well fed while they were here as well thanks to my mom's cooking, and had a month of hot meals that we were able to eat together. Ah, bliss! 

The time we had together has really made me question our decision to live away from family as expats. I love, love, love living in Melbourne (its not the number one city in the world for no reason!) but it is just so far from both of our families. Our plan has always been to stay here for at least four years so that we can apply for citizenship, and then see where we go from there. That would take us to January 2017 at the earliest. I have always wanted to return to Canada to raise my kids so that is most likely what we would do next, although the thought of starting yet another visa application (for Andy) makes my head hurt! However it will take over a year to get a spousal visa for Canada so we'll probably have to get on it sometime soon.

But rather than dwell on the negatives I am grateful for the time we had together and that my daughter has them as grandparents. We are also lucky that in a few weeks we will be heading over to England so that Ella can meet her other set of grandparents... pending the timely arrival of her passport... but that is a whole other post!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Sunny Weekend in Melbourne

We got a taste of spring this weekend in Melbourne. It feels long overdue; this winter the temperature has hardly risen above 14 degrees, and it's been consistently cloudy and rainy. We had some lovely sunshine this weekend though, making me very hopeful that spring is on its way!

Yarra Bend Park

On Friday we went on a walk through Yarra Bend Park along the river to the Studley Park Boathouse. The boathouse is set in a peaceful location along the river, and there is a choice of restaurant, café or outdoor kiosk for food. My mom got pretty excited when we saw a sign advertising Ice Creamery, but unfortunately it was not open at this time of year.  We sat outside and got coffees and some light food at the kiosk. The selection is not huge in terms of breakfast/lunch items, but there are some yummy looking sweet treats to choose from. We had egg and bacon muffins and a ham and cheese croissant and then tried a few of their cakes. My dad and I wanted to try the Coffee and Cinnamon, while my mom was more drawn to the Fig, Ginger and Walnut. Both cakes were served warm with cream and were very moist, however the flavours were not particularly strong in either. At $8 per slice they were not cheap, especially for a self-service kiosk. I guess what you are paying for there is the location, which admittedly is pretty much perfect.  My parents got a taste of how different the air feels in Melbourne whether the sun is shining or not. When the sun was out we all had to take off our jackets and it felt like the middle of summer (in England anyway). However as soon as the sun went behind a cloud we had to bundle up again to avoid getting a chill. Ella seems to really enjoy having the sun on her, a new experience as it has mostly been cold and cloudy since she was born.

Ella enjoying some time with Nannie at Studley Park Boathouse

And time with Grampy!

On Saturday Andy and I went for brunch alone while my parents took care of Ella. My parents have been encouraging us to try and have some time alone while they are here, as that won't be an option when they leave as she is too young (in my mind!) to be left with a babysitter. Our brunch was on the end of a stressful visit to Brighton Ford, where we are in a seemingly never ending battle with them about our car, which has had its clutch replaced three times in two years. We are contemplating a trade-in deal with them for a new car, but the budget side of me does not want to part with any more money - especially not if it is going to Ford, who I will never buy a car from again. Anyway, live and learn I guess! Brunch was nearby at the Artful Dodger in Elsternwick. We enjoyed being outside in the sunshine that morning, even if we spent most of the meal writing up the pros and cons of keeping or trading in our current car. As a brunch spot, the Artful Dodge was good, and I would eat there again if I was a local, but I don't think there was anything special about it that would bring me back.
The Artful Dodger, Elsternwick

HUGE Chai latte!

In the afternoon we ventured down to the Middle Park Hotel on the east side of Albert Park. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous afternoon. We enjoyed a few beers and glasses of prosecco on the patio while catching up with our friends Pete and Elle and their daughter Poppy, who is 2 and a half. Watching Poppy gave us a little glimpse of what is to come. I love Ella being a newborn but on the other hand I can't wait for her to be a little older and more interactive! We pushed it a little with Ella and stayed until after 5pm, when of course the traffic going back to our place north of the river was horrendous. Ella was hungry and crying so my mom fed her with a bottle in the backseat, but she was not happy about being so strapped in! It was not the most enjoyable car ride, to say the least. Note to self: Feed baby before you leave a venue if there is more than a five minute car ride ahead!

Enjoying the sunshine at Middle Park Hotel
Sunday was supposed to be nice, my iPhone said it was going to be 18 degrees and sunny. It was more like 14 degrees with sun and cloud which was a little disappointing. Andy had soccer coaching in the morning and Ella was having a rather fussy day, so we didn't get out of the house until after 2pm. We wandered over to the Maker's Market at Abbotsford Convent, which is held on the third Sunday of every month. After browsing through the stalls, which were ok, but I'm not sure I'd rush back, we decided to sit down for a coffee. The places in the Convent were packed so we tried to check out this café that is across from the convent entrance called One Fine Day. This place NEVER looks open and I am totally confused to how you get in and what it's hours are. I can only find a few things about it on the internet, including this facebook page which is an unofficial page and so doesnt' have any useful information like opening hours or contact details. Just a few posts with rave reviews and pictures of people enjoying themselves there, it's like they are taunting me! My mom and I are determined to work out how we can eat there before my parents leave. We gave up on One Fine Day and resigned ourselves to another lunch at the Farm Café, which frankly is not the worst thing that could happen. Food and service are always good, and now that I have a baby I am very appreciative of places that are pram and child friendly. Oh, how things change! 

Makers Market Abbotsford Convent
Sunday night we spent relaxing at home and my mom cooked us an amazing dinner of fillet mignon, baked sweet potato and salad that could have come from a top restaurant. My parents made a trip to Costco in the Docklands last week and brought home some delicious cuts of meat - things we would never buy regularly ourselves. Apparently the cuts of meat from Costco are top quality... hmmmm we may have to look into a membership when they leave!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Grampy is here! and walks along the Yarra

My dad arrived in Melbourne last weekend! It was another joyous reunion at the airport, where he met his granddaughter Ella for the first time. We have had a great week with both Nannie and Grampy here to help us with Ella. The only downside is that there are now four people in the house competing for baby cuddles!

Dad meeting Ella for the first time

Nannie and Gram with Ella

My dad is SO cute with Ella. He loves holding and playing with her, and always makes sure she gets in her daily "Tummy Time", which she is a lot more tolerant of since he got here. He has got up with my mom nightly to give her a bottle of expressed breastmilk and loves being part of bath time. He's also pretty good at burping her and has been denoted "Chief Pram Pusher" as whenever we go out he automatically takes charge of the pram. He's had a go at wearing Ella in the Hug-a-Bub wrap, which she still loves to be in.  The only task he shies away from is nappy changing, although he stands by to offer assistance by getting cotton balls and warm water. Apparently this is a trait he carries forward form his time as a dad!

Having a nap with Ella

Bath Time!

Baby wearing in the Hug-a-Bub

Dan the Pram Man!

Dad's also been great at helping fix some things up around the house. He has developed a love of Bunnings's Warehouse.  (He calls it Australia's Home Depot!)  One key thing Dad has improved is the comfort level indoors by installing weather stripping around our windows and doors. This house is super draughty and has been freezing cold all winter... a few days in I can already notice the difference in temperature, especially at night. I also have a new retractable clothesline in the back garden thanks to dad.  Having both my parents here with my newborn baby reminds me of what I am missing by living so far from home and I am absolutely dreading next Friday when they leave. Even writing that sentence makes me a little teary...

This week the weather has improved a little and it finally feels like winter might actually turn into spring at some point in the near future. We've been able to go out for some lovely walks along the Yarra River and of course sample some of the fine cafés along the Main Yarra Trail.

We've visited the Fairfield Boathouse twice for lunch and coffees. Their burgers and pulled pork eggs benedict are VERY tasty! The Boathouse is absolutely huge, with lots of different seating areas all looking out over the river. There is also a teahouse where you can get delicious cakes (the marble chocolate cheesecake was amazing), scones, coffee and tea. The only downside is that the service here is VERY slow, so when it is busy (as it often is on the weekend) you will be waiting quite a while for anything you order here. 

Lunch at the Fairfield Boathouse

The Collingwood Children's Farm Café is about a 5 minute walk from our house. This place is very child/baby friendly, pretty much everyone here has a pram with them, which is nice as you don't feel stressed if your baby gets fussy. (Maybe less appealing for those without children!) My dad ordered the best dish - toasted banana bread with rhubarb, poached pears, and Earl Grey caramel sauce. SO yummy! 

Abbotsford Convent Bakery is always super packed on the weekend, especially if the weather is nice. I went here once with Andy and had the WORST chai latte ever which made me less than impressed with this place. My parents and I visited and again I thought it was just ok... my mom and I shared a Nutella donut, which is a huge thing in Melbourne right now, and we both just didn't really get it. Yes Nutella is yummy but I'm not quite sure what the huge fuss it about!

Ella is just over six weeks old now and it is incredible how much she has changed in such a short time. She is more aware of her surroundings now and is starting to smile, which is the cutest thing ever. We have one more week left with the grandparents - very sad but I am so glad we have been able to have this time with them so far. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Breastfeeding in the City

So basically my life at the moment revolves around breastfeeding Ella. We have not implemented any sort of feeding routine at this point, we are feeding "on demand", which means when Ella is hungry, she eats! This can be anywhere from every 2 to 5 hours. There absolutely nothing regular about this, which can be a little frustrating as you have absolutely no control, but we are getting used to it. Irregularity is our new normal.

This is all ok when we are in the comfort of our own home. It does mean, however, that in order to leave the house and not become a total hermit I need to be willing to breastfeed in public places. This is not something that I am totally comfortable with, and at this point I am not sure I ever will be! I did do my first café breastfeed last week in Three Bags Full (an awesome place near us in Abbotsford). I had a huge snood on which I used as a cover, but it was really fiddly and I couldn't actually see Ella, and we are not practiced enough for her to be able to latch on totally on her own. However I do think I got it done without flashing any nipple, so I'd consider it a success. And I am happy to report no one said anything rude to me or gave me any dirty looks... in fact I am pretty sure that most people there didn't even notice!

Nothing to see here people!

Regardless of this first experience I am still a little reluctant to feed in public on a regular basis. However I have discovered the most amazing places exist: Parent Rooms! These are rooms with couches, sinks, change tables, microwaves and private rooms so you can breastfeed baby in private. Some even have toys for toddlers to play with, so your other child can be occupied while you are feeding the baby. I like that these are specifically called "parent" rooms, as it means that dads can feel comfortable going in as well. The discovery that these exist have made venturing out into the city so much less stressful for me. The parent rooms I have discovered and visited so far are located in:

Victoria Gardens (pictured)

Myer (CBD)

The Emporium

Melbourne Central (this one is actually called a Parents Retreat. Luxury!)

I think there are Parent Rooms in most major shopping centres like Chadstone and Highpoint and also at places where there is typically lots of children, like the zoo. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that these rooms exist - I no longer feel tied to home around Ella's random feeding schedule. Amazing!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Parenthood One Month In

It sounds so cliché, but I can't believe our little Ella is one month old already! Time has both flown, and gone by very slowly... mainly during late night feeds. Both Andy and I have learned a lot in this time, and we continue to learn more and more everyday. 

The internet is both a blessing and a curse at this time, as you can find answers to any baby problem via google, however there is a lot of conflicting information out there. We've spent countless hours googling things like "how do I cut my baby's fingernails" and "my baby always leans her head to the right". The most consistent advice that we are given is to just do what works for you, which is both comforting and confusing at the same time. Sometimes you do wish that babies came with a manual that you could follow exactly so that your baby is always content. We are lucky in that we seem to have missed out on colic.  When Ella cries she is either hungry, has a dirty nappy or wants to be cuddled, so most of the time we can solve the problem.  That doesn't make it easier when her little lower lip quivers when she cries - heartbreaking!

I have read a lot of lists on the internet regarding parenting (ie "Five Things Never To Say To a New Mom") so I thought I'd write my own list:

Things We've Learned in One Month of Parenthood
  • This article explained perhaps the most important thing we've learnt so far: A newborn and a baby are not really the same thing. When I used to think about a baby I thought about something that was probably more like six months old. A newborn needs sleep, cuddles and for you to change their nappy and that's about it. Even though you babble incessantly to them (my mom is great at this) the newborn hardly responds and you feel slightly crazy. A newborn also has no short term memory so it can be screaming one minute and then completely calm the next, which is a little hilarious. In one short month Ella has become increasing more alert. She responds to our voices and it seems like she is looking at us. You can even trick yourself into believing that her smile is real, and not because she's just farted.  
  • Breastfeeding. Oh my... This has been the most challenging part about motherhood so far. I definitely underestimated how hard this would be, and how painful it would be in the beginning. Lansinoh nipple cream is a must for any hospital bag (I didn't have any but luckily at Sandringham Hospital they gave me a few free samples). Everyone goes on about how breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, and while this may be true a few weeks down the track, it DEFINITELY hurts at first. I have yet to meet a mother who has said breastfeeding was pain free from the start. During my first day in hospital, one midwife kept telling me it shouldn't hurt (while I sat there in tears), however she didn't have any children of her own so I shouldn't have taken what she had to heart! Other midwives who were mothers assured me that this pain was normal would and pass.  In the middle of writing this post I came across this article about what the first 48 hours of breastfeeding are like and it's pretty good. 

  • There are no nice nursing clothes; or very few; or they are really expensive. I wish clothing designers would realise that nursing mums would like to go out in public in nice clothes and also be able to nurse their babies with minimal fumbling around with their clothes. I've found button-down shirts are by far the best option. 

  • I don't think anyone takes the "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice, at least not during the day. It's so hard to do that! 
  • White noise is amazing as a sleeping aid. Originally we used it for Ella as she wouldn't sleep in our quiet, dark room in her bassinet at night. However, now I think we actually use it for our own sleep - babies are so noisy when they sleep. They are constantly grunting, sighing, squealing and moaning and you never know if they are actually awake or not. Usually they are not fully awake and by the time you get yourself out of your warm bed to check they are fast asleep again. 
  • A good breast pump will be your best friend. We invested in the Medela Swing electric pump and it's amazing. 
  • Newborns don't really need real clothes or cute outfits. They need onesies - and preferably Bonds Wondersuits with built-in, removable mittens and socks and two way zippers. Dealing with complicated clothing during the 9-10 diaper changes per day is just not worth it. I am looking forward to cute outfits when she is a bit older but for now I'm all about convenience.
  • Breastmilk poo doesn't smell! Surely this is one of the greatest benefits of breastfeeding. 
  • When you live away from family your real friends are a Godsend. We have been so lucky with some of our friends who have come over and made us brunch, or brought a treat for afternoon tea, or travelled to our end of the city so we can have brunch in a nearby cafe. Some of our friends have just been so accommodating and lovely and I can't wait to repay them when they have babies of their own. I know most people are not interested in your baby, especially if they don't have children of their own, but these guys have been pretty good at faking it. Also, it's nice to still be able to have conversations about things other than babies with them. I love these guys and we would not have survived our first few weeks without them!
  • However good your friends are, there is no replacement for grandparents. They are the only ones who think your baby is as brilliant as you do, and on top of that you are still their baby. As mentioned before, having my mom here has been the best thing ever, and I can't wait until my dad arrives next week. Unfortunately we have to wait until our trip to the UK to spend time with Andy's parents, but I know that will be just as special. 

  • And yes, it's true, you can't understand the love your parents have for you until you have your own baby. And you have to accept that they will never understand how much you love them until they have their own children, but that's ok.