Saturday, 23 January 2016

Delayed! and New Job Update

I am sitting in Heathrow Airport, on my own, counting down the hours until I get home to see Andy and Ella. It should be about 24 and I should be on a plane right now, buckled in and ready to depart, however my flight is delayed two hours. So sad! I just want to get home! 

I've been in London, well, Windsor actually, for the past five days, for a work conference. Work?! Sigh. Yes, work. My maternity leave has sadly come to an end, although the decision was mine to go back early instead of taking a full year off. While on leave I was promoted to Head of Middle Years Curriculum, which means I am responsible for all things to do with "Teaching and Learning" for Years 7 to 9. This includes curriculum, assessment, reporting, along with line management and mentoring of subject leaders. So it is a step up from my former role, which was Head of Mathematics. I am super excited about the role, especially as our Principal wants to totally rethink how we do things in the Middle Years, so there will be a lot of scope for innovation. But I am sad that I will no longer get to spend all my time with Ella. 

The good news is that for the first half of the year I will only be working two days a week, focusing only on the curriculum role and no teaching. That was the agreement my Principal and I came to when I got the job, so that I could come back from maternity leave early but still have some time at home with Ella. Soon after my promotion my Principal asked if I would attend a workshop outlining a new curriculum framework that our school would be piloting in the Middle Years, held in England. This was a difficult decision to make as I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity (it is not often in teaching that you get sent overseas for training) but of course I didn't know how I would feel being apart from Ella. In the end, with Andy's support, I decided to go. I felt like if I was a man then there would be no question about whether or not to go. It was a very "Lean In", feminist/equal rights based decision. I am glad I went in the end, however it has been hard and it does feel like a little piece of me is missing. However Andy has had a great week bonding with Ella and his parents have also been around to help out. It has also made me realise I don't miss my old childless life all that much after all. It's a bit lonely. Yes, it has been nice to sleep without interruption (even though I ended up waking up every 3-4 hours anyway!), and go on a run or do yoga whenever I wanted, but those things are nothing compared to the way I feel when Ella looks at me and smiles, or better yet, I do something that makes her laugh. 

The Long Walk, Windsor
We are putting Ella into daycare for the days that I am at work. Although I am a bit sad about this I do think there are a lot of positive aspects to daycare. It will be great for Ella to be around other babies and make friends as she gets older. I am also looking forward to any "tips" the centre have around things like napping, eating, and development. I know that for her to have a successful time at daycare we need to work in partnership with the centre - just like I do with the parents of the students in my classes. While I have been in England Andy took Ella to her daycare orientation and she had her first half day there on her own. Apparently it went really well, she had a nap, did tummy time with the other babies, and ate well. The centre has a parent portal where they post pictures of what the children do during the day. (Side note: I can't believe I am on the "parent" side of a "parent portal"!!) I am looking forward to meeting her carer on Monday when she does another half day there. 

Bonding with Daddy
Back to swimming lessons!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Tekapo, New Zealand

The drive from Queenstown to Tekapo was pretty uneventful. It takes about three hours and there is not much in between. Aarowtown is just outside of Queenstown and is a cute mining town, with a nice main street filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. Our plan was to stop there for the morning however it was pouring rain so we just did a drive-by instead and then continued on to Tekapo. We did stop at a Cheesery for some cheese tasting and picked out a cumin spiced Gouda to take home. The other main attraction is a salmon farm where you can feed the salmon (for free!) Erm, no thanks.

Sheltering from the rain at the Cheesery
We stayed at Peppers Bluewater Resort in a two bedroom apartment, which had a huge lounge and kitchen area. The resort is right across from Lake Tekapo and the main strip which consists of a few restaurants and cafes, a grocery store, and all the main tourist attractions you can book. The apartment was gorgeous and modern, my only complaint would be that it would have been better to have two bathrooms for four adults, instead of one.

Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo
The next day we drove to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, which is about an hour from Tekapo. Here there are a variety of different hiking trails, all varying in length and difficulty. When we arrived it was unfortunately still raining pretty hard, so we just did a short walk called the Kea Trail, which is about an hour long (return). This walk is fairly easy, taking in views of the Southern Alps and Meuller Glacier Lake. When we got back the rain had let up a bit so we decided to tackle a longer walk, which was the walk Dave was originally interested in doing called the Hooker Valley Trail. This one was 3 hours return and took you over three suspension bridges, swinging high above rushing river water. The suspension bridges are pretty freaky to cross as they swing when you walk on them and the water below looks pretty ferocious. A few months ago there was a video of some backpackers who were on a suspension bridge (in New Zealand!) that broke and they fell into the river below! They all survived thankfully and the footage was captured on a GoPro. Needless to say, I couldn't get that out of my head, but I did keep this knowledge from Bunny who hates heights! If you're interested the video is here
Hooker Valley Trail
Walking with Ella and Bunny

The walk finishes at the Hooker Glacier Lake, although both Bunny and I (with Ella in the baby carrier) turned around before the end. We were all pretty wet and tired after that, and stopped at the OldMountaineer’s Café to warm up and have something to eat before heading back to Tekapo.

That night we had dinner at McKenzie’s Grill restaurant, where you get to grill your meat on your own hot stone grill. It was a bit pricey but that’s pretty typical of being in a small tourist town, but we all enjoyed our meal and the service was very good too. I should also add that we got our morning coffees from Run 76. Excellent coffees and the menu looked great for brunch/lunch although we never had the opportunity to eat here.  

Run 76, nice coffee!
Our last full day in New Zealand was jammed packed. First thing in the morning Dave and Andy went to investigate the activities we could do for the day, and about half an hour later they came marching back to our apartment to tell me I had 15 minutes to get ready as we were going to do a scenic flight over Mt. Cook! We did the flight with Air Safaris, who were a terrific and very professional group of pilots. The weather when we were in Tekapo was pretty cloudy and rainy the whole time, so we didn’t think we’d be able to do this sort of thing, but they pilots thought there would be enough of a break in the clouds to do at least part of the flight. What an experience! Every seat is a window seat and the pilot makes a lot of turns so that everyone can see everything.  Seeing the dramatic landscape from up above is a truly different experience, you take in Lake Tekapo, Mt. Cook and other mountains and glaciers. Unfortunately because of the cloud cover we were not able to see Franz Josef Glacier, but they discounted the price of the flight because of this which was pretty fair. The pilot’s skills were pretty impressive, as he had to try and keep between the upper and lower layers of cloud so we could get a clear view. Big thanks to Dave for generously offering to pay for Andy and I to take part in this, as our budget is a little bit tight until I go back to work!

Lake Tekapo from the plane
Mt. Cook
After this we picked up Bunny and Ella and drove to the Mount John University Observatory. There is a walk up to the top of Mt John or you can pay $5 to take a road to the top. We drove as we had Ella and then had lunch at the café at the top. The café has floor to ceiling glass windows so you are able to enjoy the view over Tekapo from inside. The observatory offers night time star gazing tours which we were not able to do due to the weather. This was unfortunate as it was one of the primary reasons for going to Tekapo! Andy’s brother did it when he visited New Zealand two years ago and he highly recommended it. Instead we spent our time at the top trying to get some creative photos of Ella. Please note there is someone holding her up in all these photos… I nearly had a heart attack while Andy was trying to get the “perfect shot”!

Dave and Andy taking pictures of Ella
Results of Ella's phtotshoot

Cafe at the top of Mt. John
After the observatory we visited Tekapo Springs, where we relaxed and soaked our aching muscles from the previous day’s walks. There are four pools of various temperature, from 27-39 degrees Celsius. All except the hottest pool are ok for children, and in fact there were a lot of families out enjoying themselves here. There is also a waterslide, tube park and ice skating rink (in the winter), however we just stuck to the hot pools. It was nice to have a soak, but if you have been to PeninsulaHot Springs in Mornington Peninsula then this is a bit of a disappointment!

Tekapo Springs
And that was that! The next day we left at about 6am to catch our flight out of Christchurch, which was just under 3 hours’ drive away. This time our flight was on time, even landing a little bit early in Melbourne. We arrived to a sweltering hot day, I think the temperature was somewhere around 35 degrees, which is a bit too hot to do anything! I spent the day repacking my bags as that night I had a flight to London on my own for a work conference this week (which is where I am now). Needless to say I am a little bit sick of flying and am desperately missing my little Ella and of course her dad as well! However he has been taking good care of her with the help of the grandparents and I am sure they have had a lovely time bonding while I’ve been away. I have one more night here where I will catch up with my London friends before catching a flight back to Melbourne tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to just have some time in Melbourne now – I think my New Year’s Resolution is to travel LESS this year!

Thursday, 21 January 2016


Our trip to New Zealand got off to a slow start. Our Jetstar flight was delayed two hours, one of which we spent sat on the plane. The only thing worse than flying with an infant is delayed flights with an infant. Luckily, Ella was her usual brilliant self on the plane, the 13th flight of her young life. I think Andy and I have got plane travel with an infant down to a fine science, which will no doubt be the subject of a future post!

We finally arrived at the very beautiful and new Queenstown airport around 5pm, and then went through the usual palaver of getting our rental car. Why does it always take so long to get a rental car?! It's even worse now that we need a car seat for Ella, which we usually have to install ourselves. After what seemed like an eternity (although was probably more like half an hour), we made our way to our accommodation at Pinewood Lodge, just outside of the centre of Queenstown and about a 15 minutes drive from the airport. We rented a two bedroom apartment at Pinewood, which is a mixture of dorm style accommodation and apartments. The apartment was set in a beautiful location, overlooking woodland and the town, and despite being within some backpacker dorms it was really quiet. 

Queenstown is home to pretty much every adrenaline activity you can think of: bungee jumping, paragliding, jet boating, etc. Unfortunately there are only a few things that are appropriate for when you are travelling with an infant! On our first day we took the TSS Earnslaw Steamboat cruise across Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak High Country Farm. Lake Wakatipu is a glacial lake and is pretty cold, on average only 9-11 degrees year round. It is also one of the purist lakes in the world, I read somewhere that you'd be better off drinking water straight from that lake than drinking bottled water. The scenery while on the steamboat is very dramatic, as the lake is a beautiful deep blue colour and surrounded by mountains on all sides. Once at the farm we got to feed some animals, watch some sheep-herding and sheering, and had a high tea. A very family friendly activity! We tried to show Ella the animals but I'm not sure she is really interested in all that yet.

TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu, docked in Queenstown

Feeding a sheep
Ella check out the animals!
Lake Wakatipu
Our second full day in Queenstown we decided to do something a little more adventurous, and in the morning went on a tour of Skippers Canyon followed by Jet Boating on the Shotover River. The drive through Skippers Canyon is on a narrow road carved out of the vertical wall of the mountains that was built by miners over 120 years ago. This drive is not for those who are afraid of heights, as there are plenty of spots where you look out the window and can't see the road beside you, just a sharp drop into the canyon! The jet boating was a pretty awesome experience, zooming across the turquoise water at 80km/h, the drivers coming ridiculously close to the canyon walls. Needless to say, this is NOT a good activity to do with an infant, and luckily Bunny stayed home with Ella while Andy, Dave and I enjoyed this.

The Remarkables mountain range in the background
Shotover River
Jet boat time!

An old bungee platform over Shotover River
When we got back we all went for lunch to the famous Fergburger, serving "gourmet", humongous burgers. There is usually a massive queue at this place, but luckily when we went it seemed shorter than usual and we only had to wait maybe 20 minutes for our lunch. My burger was good, but to be honest I'm not sure what the fuss is about... I mean, really, who wants to wait ages for a BURGER? Not my thing I guess!

Queue outside Fergburger
After lunch we took the Skyline gondola to the top of Bob's Hill, taking in spectacular views of the town and Lake Wakapitu. While up there Andy and I did a few runs on the luge which was pretty fun. Andy wanted to race me but I'm VERY slow so there was no competition, which was probably pretty boring for him! Ella came up the gondola with us but obviously couldn't come on the luge, so spent some more quality time with her grandparents. We did see a few young kids around 2 years old going on with their parents, and they looked like they were having an awesome time, which made me look forward to when Ella is a bit older and we can do things like this with her.

View of Lake Wakatipu from the top of Bob's Hill

Luge track

So that was basically our time in Queenstown. It's a great town in a beautiful location with a lot of activities to do (although you need a fair bit of money to do them). We definitely could have stayed longer and found a lot to do, but we had decided to split our time between Queenstown and Tekapo, about a 3 hour drive north. In the next post I'll talk about what we did while in Tekapo.

Lovely Ella, pondering life with Lake Wakapitu in the background

Family shot!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Welcome to the Grandnobles!

We are back in Melbourne now, and I can't believe we are already 12 days in to the new year. We are currently sitting in Melbourne airport with Dave and Bunny, Andy's parents, waiting for our flight to Queenstown, New Zealand. Andy's parents arrived three days ago and will be here for the next three weeks. Ella has been spoiled to have both sets of grandparents around for the majority of the summer holidays! (And we have been spoiled as well, as it is a major help to us!)

Hello Grandma Bunny!
We spent the first day they arrived doing our usual tour of the area around our house in Abbotsford. Going for lunch at Mayfield and then a walk along the Yarra River, past the Collingwood Children's Farm and through Abbotsford Convent. We did a similar walk with my good friend Guillaume who was visiting from London last week, except we went to Three Bags Full for brunch. Every time we have people visiting and show them around the area I get to experience the beauty of it through someone else's eyes, and have a renewed appreciation for how lucky we are to be here. Walking down the Yarra through the farm you would not believe you are only about 2km from Melbourne's CBD!

Lunch at Mayfield

The combination of the heat and jet lag tired Dave and Bunny out, and they had a rest that afternoon in our somewhat cool house. There is only air conditioning in the living room and kitchen in our place, and it is not well insulated, meaning the bedrooms can get pretty hot during the day when the temperature is above 30 degrees. I already want to move again...

Yesterday we went to my Dad and Dave's favourite Melbourne attraction... Bunning's Warehouse! Andy's parents helped us weed and clean up our back garden and we were hoping to buy some sort of sun umbrella or shade sail, as we have full sun there all afternoon. I really want to create a beautiful oasis where I can lounge with Ella in the summer afternoons... reading a book while she contently plays beside me. Hahaha, that is the dream anyway!

After Bunnings we headed to Proud Mary in Collingwood for brunch and then over to Gelato Messina for the most amazing gelato in Melbourne. The flavour combinations there are to die for, I had a caramalised white chocolate gelato with pistachio praline and strawberry donuts. Yum! Throughout our lunch we had to keep Ella distracted as she was super interested in our food, almost swiping my pulled pork sandwich at one point. And she gave us a good glare while we were eating our ice cream, probably pretty annoyed she wasn't getting any!

That night we had a BBQ at Charlotte and Adam's where they spoiled us with a delicious spread including Cuban pork that Adam had slow roasting on the spit for 2 hours. Safe to say we've eaten pretty well since Dave and Bunny got here... the post-Christmas detox is going to have to wait!