Thursday, 26 November 2015

Hoyts Crying Room

When I was pregnant, one of the main things people told us to do before having a baby was to go to the movies. According to these experienced parents, we wouldn't be able to do this for YEARS once we'd had a child. This wasn't hugely devastating news to me as we are not major movie goers anyway, however I will admit it can be pretty nice to go and see an excellent movie on the big screen with a huge tube of popcorn and just chill out for a few hours. 

I had heard of cinemas here doing "Mums and Bubs" movie sessions during the day, which is one of those things that sounds fun at first, but then when you really think about it sounds kind of horrible. A dark room full of babies all crying at different times while trying to watch a movie, anxiously waiting for your own baby to start crying? No thanks. I think I'd rather stay home and watch a movie for free with just my own crying baby to worry about.

The closest cinema to us is Hoyts Victoria Gardens in Richmond. When I went to enquire about the Mums and Bubs sessions they told me only ran once a month. However, they told me, they do have a "crying room". A crying room?! This I had never heard of, but it is a fantastic idea. Two of their biggest theatres have a small, soundproof room with seven seats at the back of the theatre. There is a big pane of glass to watch the movie through and the sounds is piped in through speakers. So you can watch the movie with your baby, safe in the knowledge that if they start crying you are not disturbing other customers, and you can continue to watch the film. Brilliant!

Ella at 6 weeks in the crying room

I've since been twice to the movies and its been a great experience. The first time was with my mom, we saw the movie "Trainwreck" when Ella was about six weeks old. She did indeed cry during the adverts at the start, but then slept through the whole movie on my mom. Success! The great thing about the room is that it is like you are in your own personal movie theatre, so I could also talk to my mom during the film without annoying anyone else. (When we went it was actually a Monday afternoon so I think there were like two other people in the main theatre anyway, but you get the idea).

Yesterday I went again with two of my other mummy friends to see "Mockingjay Part 2". We decided to go as the weather was 33 degrees and windy, which is not fun weather to hang out in with an infant. A cool air conditioned cinema seemed like a much better idea.  This time I didn't think Ella would sleep the whole time as she is older and doesn't just drop off for a sleep after a feed like she used to. However luckily she woke from her morning nap about two hours before the start of the film, so she actually did sleep most of the time as she was due a nap anyway. I brought the Hug a Bub wrap for her to sleep in, and she cuddled up inside next to me from the start of the film until about 15 minutes before the end. Well done Ella! The only thing was it was quite a loud movie, even in the crying room, so I spent most of the movie with my hand covering her exposed ear thinking a loud sound would wake her up. (This never happened... it is amazing what babies sleep through when they are in a deep sleep!)

Ella at 4.5 months - checking out the Maltesers!

So there you go, Hoyts cinemas are amazing. This is just another example of how child friendly this city is, I love it! The only real downfall is that you have limited selection of the movie you want to see as there is only a crying room in two theatres, but hey, when it comes to being able to get out of your house and do something with your baby that isn't stressful you tend to be less picky about things like that!

Friday, 20 November 2015

City 2 Sea

Last weekend I participated in City 2 Sea, a 15km run from... you guessed it... the city to the sea! Andy and I did this run back in 2013, when it was 14km and started at the Arts Centre on St. Kilda road. For whatever reason the race organisers extended the race by a kilometer and this year it started at the MCG.

Now, back in my pre-pregnancy days a 15km race would not have been a huge deal. Not that I am some sort of amazing runner, but I did get out and run a few times a week, and have done a few half and full marathons. While pregnant I stopped running altogether after the first trimester, and wasn't able to start running again until about two months after Ella was born. I stupidly thought that signing up for this race, four and a half months after giving birth, would be good motivation to get back into shape. Quite an attainable goal, I thought to myself. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out like that! Not only has it taken me longer to get back into shape physically (and I am no where near where I used to be), but I don't actually feel like I have the time to go running anymore. During the day I am obviously with Ella (and I don't have one of those cool jogging prams... maybe I should get one?!) and in the evenings Andy and I sort of alternate who gets to go out and do exercise. This is one of the things I really miss about our pre-baby lives: being able to exercise together. Andy and I both like running, swimming, cycling and yoga (ok, I like yoga and Andy would grudgingly join me sometimes) so it was nice to do those things together. Now we do go on walks with Ella together but anything else is on our own really.

Anyway, back to the race. Andy and Ella came with me to the start and then drove down to St. Kilda to meet me at the end. Pre-race I had these lovely images of running to the finish line, and then spotting Andy and Ella cheering me on, Ella's face lighting up when she saw me, and then having a burst of energy to finish the race. HAHAHA. The reality was a bit different...

We arrived at the MCG at 8am to meet Adam, Charlotte, and Charlotte's brother Luke. I, of course, had to use the toilet before starting. The toilet lines were pretty much the longest I have ever seen at the start of a race. It was ridiculous. I waited in line for about 40 minutes and there were still over 20 people in front of me to use two toilets. I'm not sure why there weren't more toilets, or why they didn't some in the MCG. This was a huge mistake on the race organisers, in my opinion. Having to go to the bathroom while you are running is the worst! Especially if you have just had a baby. Everyone from my start group had started before I go the chance to go, so I panicked and left the toilet queue and started my run, hoping to find a toilet on the way. What a mistake! About 200 metres in I seriously thought I was going to have an accident, and thankfully there was an empty cafe that I ducked into to use their toilet. I'm sure the girl working there thought that hoards of runners were going to start streaming in after me, but luckily no one followed me in. After that I felt much better and was able to settle into a nice, steady pace.

I had my phone with me but hadn't put together a specific playlist, which is always a pre-race mistake. I just had my whole library on shuffle which meant I was constantly flipping past songs that were too slow, or I just wasn't "feeling" on my run. The course was good, nice and flat, and the weather was cool in the morning, about 14 degrees and cloudy, pretty much perfect for a run. I just didn't have a great time. The whole bathroom thing was a terrible start, and it meant that I didn't even get to start the run with my friends and was running alone the whole time. The longest run I'd done in "training" was 7km, which wasn't even halfway, so I think in my mind I kept questioning what the heck I was doing! I did have a loose plan which I stuck to of walking at each drink station, every 3.5km, and for the last 4km I walked about 100m every kilometer. That sort of kept me going, because I only ever had to run 900m at a time and at that point my legs were starting to tire. 

As I ran down Fitzroy street towards the finish I pictured Andy and Ella waiting for me and searched for them through the crowds. However traffic and parking was so horrible that Andy only arrived in St. Kilda just before I completed the run, and didn't have time to get to the finish line. So that was a pretty big letdown! When I found them after the race, Ella was cranky as she was now hungry and the milk we had for her was too cold, so we left quickly and walked 20 minutes back to the car with an unhappy baby. Andy had to carry her the whole time so that she wouldn't cry. Once we got back to the car we realized that she'd had a huge poo and that was probably why she was so upset. We changed her in the back of the car (always a fun place to change a baby) and then left the busyness of St. Kilda to find a quiet cafe to feed Ella and ourselves.

Basically, this was one of my worst races ever, mainly due to things that were my fault: Not training properly, not having a good music playlist, not having a plan of how to warm Ella's milk. I do blame the toilet situation on the race organisers though!

Once we got to the cafe it was like a huge relief to just be in a calm, quiet environment with Ella. We are realising more and more that lots of the things we used to love doing are just not as fun with a baby. I know that it will only be like this for a short period of time though, and things like this will get better as she gets older. However, it is times like these that I feel the absence of close family - I know either of our parents would have happily watched Ella and the race so that we could have both run it stress-free. It really is a different experience being new parent expats, and I find myself again questioning why we chose this life, and how much easier things would be if we had just stayed in the UK or gone to Canada! But, there is no point in dwelling on this, and of course we need to enjoy the time we have here in Melbourne - just maybe at a slower pace while Ella is still small!

Charlotte, Adam and me at the finish 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Swimming Lessons

A couple of weeks ago we started taking Ella to swimming lessons. Most of the pools around us, in Yarra Council, will only let you start lessons with babies that are at least six months old, but the pool that is owned by Andy's school, part of Paul Sadler Swimland, starts with babies that are four months old. And even better, babies that are four and five months old swim free. Four months old is the recommended starting age by Swim Australia, as by then babies' immune systems have started to mature and they have established a bond with their primary carers. They also say to start earlier rather than later, as babies naturally like the water (they were in water for nine months in the womb, and usually bath time is very pleasant for them), but they can start to develop fears about water as they get older. This does mean that we have to trek across the city to the western suburb of Sunshine for the lessons, so once she hits six months we might look for a pool closer to home. 

Ella has had three lessons so far, and she seems to really like them. I wouldn't say she is loving them yet, as she isn't smiling or giggling heaps, but she isn't crying either so we are taking that as a good sign. Andy has gone in the pool with her every time so far, but eventually I will get in with her as well. They have not had hot water in the showers at the pool the past two weeks, so there is no way I am going until that is fixed! I'm actually having a ball watching them... before having a baby I thought that watching your kids do all their various activities must be SO boring, but I couldn't have been more wrong! It's like, the best thing ever! I'm the crazy one taking loads of pictures at the side of the pool. To be fair, there are other mums doing this as well!

Ella's lessons pretty much consist of her being in an inflatable ring and Andy pushing her around the pool, kicking her legs for her, singing songs, and tummy time on a floating raft. The older babies crawl across the raft, but Ella is not quite there yet. At some point we will have to completely dunk her head under water, but for now she just gets the side of her face wet, prompting her to close her eyes when her face touches the water.

After swimming we've started a little family tradition of going for brunch (What? Brunch? On a Saturday morning? In Melbourne? How original...) I thought we'd sample some new cafes from the west side of Melbourne but so far we've ended up going to the same place twice, called West 48. Both times we have been there the food and service have been amazing. The first time we both ordered the special, which was waffles with bacon two ways (I'm not even sure what that means...), poached eggs, blueberry mascarpone cream and honeycomb. It was the perfect combination of sweet and savoury for me, although Andy said he found it too sweet by the end. I actually would go as far to say that it was one of my favourite brunch plates ever, and that is saying something. Ella was so tired after her first swimming lesson that she fell asleep on Andy's lap in the cafe, and stayed asleep while we put her in the car and drove home. Being pushed around a pool is hard work!

Post swimming brunch at West 48
This week we ordered two different meals to share, which I can hardly ever convince Andy to do, so that was a win. We again tried the special of the day which was soft shelled tacos with pulled beef and beans, corn salsa, avocado and fried eggs. Our second dish was a sweet one, ricotta hotcakes with vanilla mascarpone cream, poached pears and topped with a white chocolate and macadamia crumble. Amazing!! This week Ella stayed awake through brunch and stared at our food while we ate. She now will follow the fork from plate to our mouth and makes chewing motions while she stares at the food... I think she is telling us she wants some! So this week we will start introducing solids to her by way of cooked and pureed veggies. I am looking forward to this new milestone and also to the look on Andy's face when he sees what a mess she makes!

Give me some food!!

I don't usually talk about current events on here, but I do feel the need to mention the atrocious acts that happened today in Paris. We have been fortunate enough to have had a wonderful day with Ella, those in France have suffered a day of horror after the coordinated shootings and bombings across the capital. I have contacted those that I know living there and have heard back that they are ok thankfully. My thoughts are with those who have lost someone. It is sometimes sad and scary to think about raising a child in a world where attacks like these are becoming more and more common. I hope that those in power and they media start to think about and report on the underlying causes of terrorism and what we can do without responding to violence with violence. This TED talk called "The Surprising way groups like ISIS stay in power" is very interesting and though-provoking. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Cup Weekend in Lakes Entrance

Last Tuesday was Melbourne Cup, which is Australia's biggest horse racing event, held on the first Tuesday in November every year. It is a public holiday in Victoria, and most schools in the Melbourne area have the Monday off as well. We decided to spend the four day weekend in Lakes Entrance with our friends Charlotte, Adam, Chris and Ness. Lakes Entrance is in Gippsland, about 320km east of Melbourne. The Gippsland Lakes are the largest inland network of waterways in Australia, and Lakes Entrance is located where these lakes meet the Southern Ocean. 

Sleeping baby in the car!
We headed off on Saturday morning in two cars, girls (including Ella) in one and boys in the other. I have no idea what the boys talked about although I can guess it consisted mostly of football, the activities we would do that weekend, and moaning about their respective wives/girlfriends ;) All three couples are going through some big life changes at the moment: Obviously Andy and I just had a baby, Chris and Ness are expecting their first child in March, and Charlotte and Adam just moved in together. So lots of deep and meaningful conversations about life in the girls car. (No moaning about husbands and boyfriends in our car... nooooo, of course not!)

We drove for about the first 2.5 hours straight, our first stop dictated by when Ella woke from her nap in the car. We had lunch at a place called Wa-De-Lock Cellar Door in Stratford, fed Ella, and then headed back to the cars for the last hour and a half. Ella slept most of the way, which was very considerate of her!

Lunch break with Uncle Adam!
We stayed in a five bedroom holiday home with an amazing view over one of the lakes (located on the aptly named View Street!) Adam did the booking for us, and as usual came up aces. We had two big lounge rooms, three bathrooms, two deck areas, a pool and BBQ - more than enough room for six adults and a baby. Our only real complaint was that some of the decor was a bit tired, mainly the bathrooms, and also they could have done with a new BBQ (or so I'm told from the boys!)

View of the lake from the lounge room
Kitchen area in our holiday house
We arrived in the late afternoon. Chris, Adam and Ness went to get groceries for the weekend while Charlotte stayed home to get some work finished off. Andy and I dealt with Ella - early evening is her notoriously fussy time, so we took her for a walk through the main street in town to get some fresh air after having been in the car most of the day. Andy also had to work out the nearest place for his daily morning coffee run!

That evening we had the first of three amazing BBQs. Chris and Adam did the majority of the cooking on the trip, and we enjoyed a variety of barbecued meat along with fresh local prawns, halloumi, corn and salad each evening. Because of this we didn't end up sample any of the local restaurants, however I think we probably ate much better this way, and of course saved money in the process. 

On Sunday we rented a small boat to explore the lakes and waterways. The weather was calling for thunderstorms, but luckily these held off until the evening and we had beautiful blue skies up until then. I was a bit apprehensive about having Ella on the boat all day. I wore her in the Hug a Bub most of the time while on the boat (when I say boat... it was a pretty small motorboat that went a maximum of 5 knots) which worked well until the afternoon when it got pretty hot. We stopped off to check out the Ninety Mile Beach, which is the third longest uninterrupted beach in the world. We only stayed a short time there though, as the ocean was freezing and probably too rough to swim in. Or second stop was on a beach on a lake, where we had some shade to lay Ella in. She seemed to enjoy the beach, and the boys got in a game of skim ball so of course they were happy!

We're on a boat!
Ninety Mile Beach
Beach selfie!
Skim ball in the lake

Beach baby
We then set off to find a place for lunch, and ended up scoring an amazing table. As we moored our boat next to some tables on the dock, overlooking the lake, the family at the table next to our boat asked if we wanted their table as they were just about to leave. Awesome timing! Andy and I split the fish and chips which was delicious. It ended up getting pretty hot through the afternoon and having Ella in the Hug a Bub started to get pretty uncomfortable. Andy and I decided we would head back to our house after lunch, thinking the others would want to do a bit more exploring, but it turned out that everyone was happy to go back as well.

Lunch lakeside
We spent a bit of time in the pool when we got home... well the other four did while Andy and I tried to settle Ella to sleep for a nap for about an hour! The thunder and lightening storms arrived in the early evening, which made for a pretty good show out the full-length windows overlooking the lake. Everyone was pretty tired after the full day in the sun so we all had pre-dinner naps, because, why not? That's what holiday weekends are for.

We had another amazing BBQ that evening along with games of Uno, Cards Against Humanity (Aussie version, not nearly as funny as the UK version), and "that game with the words" which has no name but those that know us will understand!

Monday was pretty cool and rainy all day. Andy and I were up early with Ella while everyone else had a lie-in... parenthood... sigh... But then we both went on a nice long run (alternating of course, sadly we can no longer go on runs together.) Adam, Charlotte, Andy and I are meant to be doing the City to Sea run on 15th November, which is a 15km run from the city centre down to St. Kilda. None of us have done a huge amount of training so it should be interesting to say the least. I have already conceded to doing this as a walk/run, and am definitely not worried about getting any sort of PB!

Tuesday we packed up the house and started our long drive back to Melbourne. We had two stops along the way. Well we tried to stop for brunch first only to realise that everything was closed because of Melbourne Cup. There was only one small bakery that was open and seemed overwhelmed by the amount of people there that day, as it was the only place to get a coffee and something to eat. So after that our first real stop was Raymond Island, located in Paynesville in Gippsland. To get to Raymond Island you catch a ferry which costs $11 for cars or is free for pedestrians and departs every 20 minutes. We took our cars across as we didn't know how far we would have to drive to get to the famous Koala walk... turns out it is basically on the other side of the river. Oops! So not recommended to bother paying to take your car!

Chalotte and Adam with Ella - great friends and so helpful with the baby!
The Koala walk is about 1km long and you are pretty much guaranteed to see a lot of koalas. We saw koalas sleeping (of course), eating, climbing a tree, and we even saw one sitting on the ground at the base of a tree. We also saw a few echidnas just walking around on people's front lawns. The only downside to this walk was there were quite a few mosquitoes and I ended up with about 10 bites on my legs and back, and also stressing that Ella would get bitten. I can only imagine how annoying a mosquito bite would be for a baby. 

Koala spotting

Our second stop was at a pub somewhere between Lakes Entrance and Melbourne to watch the Melbourne Cup. So much fuss for a three minute race - I will never understand it, but who I am to question a public holiday?! This year for the first time a woman jockey won which was pretty cool. Unfortunately none of us thought to bet on her, so no big winnings from our group.

The rest of the ride home was not that fun with Ella as she was pretty cranky and tired from being in the car a lot of the day. We ended up having to stop a few times to feed her or just cuddle her to calm her down. Poor Charlotte was in our car with us and had to put up with the crying and also Andy and I getting stressed about it! We did finally calm her down and she slept the last 45 minutes or so back to Melbourne, and then thankfully had a good nights sleep when we got in.

And that was our weekend. Whew, that was a long post. Thanks for reading to this point!