Friday, 30 September 2016

Currently... September

It is currently the end of the school holidays. We've had the best time just chilling out in Melbourne, a nice change from our usual travel-packed holidays. I can't believe it's the end of September already, which means that Ella will be 15 months old tomorrow. Here's what we've been up to this month:

Reading: I'm in the middle of two books at the moment. I find I can read two books at a time as long as they are not both fiction. My non-fiction book I mentioned in my last post, called All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. It's a look at the impact of children on parents, and the title is a good description of what it can sometimes feel like to be a parent: a lot of joyful moments, but not a lot of fun. I'm only about a quarter of the way through but I'd recommend it for any parents out there, regardless of how old your children are.

The fiction book I'm reading is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I reserved this from the library about four months ago, and I was 270th on the waiting list. So, it's a popular book. When I finally got notified that it was my turn to borrow the book, I almost gave it right back when I saw the size of it. At over 700 pages I'm not sure how I'm going to get through it by the time my three week loan is up. However, I am SO GLAD I did start reading it. It is utterly gripping (but devastating) and I can't put it down at night, even as my eyelids are closing while I try and squeeze in one more page. 

Watching: We are about halfway through Australian Survivor and I'm loving it, but shhhhh don't tell anyone! Andy always makes fun of me for watching it, but when he actually pays attention I can tell he is secretly hooked as well. Also loving Master of None on Netflix, and Season 2 of Narcos. Oh and for the first time I watched the American presidential debate. SO MANY THINGS that could be said about this. I don't even know where to start. I won't bother. Personally, I find it hard to understand how anyone can think that Donald Trump is fit to run a country.

Listening to: A couple of new podcasts (for me): Planet Money and This American Life from NPR, both are ace. Also I've started listening to Optimal Finance Daily and Optimal Living Daily. Both follow the same format, which is the reading of a popular blog on personal finance/life - it's a good way to get a daily dose of current blog posts without having to find them yourself. Each episode is less than 10 minutes long as well, so very manageable.

Wearing: Less leggings, more jeans/real people's clothes. I figured that the "new mom" excuse of always wearing leggings/yoga pants is not valid for more then a year after giving birth. Don't get me wrong, I still love a bit of activewear, especially if I'm not actually going anywhere beyond Woolworths. But I've made a bit more of an effort to wear jeans when going out lately, and it does make me feel more put together. 

Planning: Our move next month. Yes, we are moving AGAIN. This will be our fourth, and hopefully last, rental in Melbourne. We are moving a few km further north, to Brunswick East. We wanted a 3 bed, 2 bath house as the plan is to get an au pair to help with childcare next year. (We're also hoping that we will have some extended visits from the grandparents as well!) We move in two weeks time, so lots to be done by then. The good thing about the moving is that it forces a clear out of our "stuff" and we've already got rid of loads, either via gumtree, the charity shop, or throwing things out. It always feels so cleansing when you have a good clear out!

Cooking: Beans! For the first time I cooked dried black beans instead of just buying them in a can (which can be hard to find in Australia). I used this recipe, and Ella loved them! With them I made a sweet potato/quinoa/avocado mix with a coriander lime dressing, and also used them to just make rice and bean tacos. Yum! This is part of my effort to use up lots of our food from the pantry before our move.

Also, I bought the new One Handed Cooks cookbook. One Handed Cooks is a website with baby/toddler friendly recipes that are good for the whole family. Loving the recipes I have made so far. From their website my favourite thing to make Ella is these Turkey Broccoli nuggets. You can put lots of veggies in these, they have a lot of protein, and they are a great "on-the-go" food. Perfect!

Loving: School holidays. They really are the best. We've sent Ella to daycare on her regular days which has given Andy and I some time alone together, which is very rare for us as expat parents. It's been so great.

Hating: Hmmmm, I can't think of anything for this one. I guess that's a good thing?!

Working on: Gratitude. I went to a school leader's dinner earlier in the month and saw Hugh van Cuylenburg from The Resilience Project speak. It was one of the best talks I've been to in a long time, and an excellent reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. I've re-ignited my gratitude joural, writing about three things that I'm grateful for/made me happy each day. I've even got Andy on board this past week.  

Feeling: Sad about our move, as I love our area. I'm especially going to miss my yoga studio, my mother's group, and our neighbours. I do wish we could afford to stay in this area, but 3 bed/2 bath houses are hard to come by so close to the city, and cost about $800/week - yikes!

Looking forward to: Ella's first steps. She is so, so close. 

Grateful for: My yoga studio, which, as mentioned I will really miss. But it has really got me much more interested and dedicated to my yoga practice, which I will hopefully continue once we move.

Pic of the Month: A rare day out, just the two of us!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The highs and lows

I'm reading this book at the moment called All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, which is all about the impact having children has on their parents. One of the parts that has stuck in my mind is the research findings of the happiness of parents vs. non-parents. The author writes for New York magazine, and wrote a story examining studies that showed that parents are no happier than non-parents, and in some cases are actually a lot less happy. That sounds pretty negative, but when digging deeper the research shows that parents tend to experience more highs, as well as more lows, than non-parents. Raising children, it would seem, is a very "high cost/high reward" activity. A more positive finding from the research is that parents report greater feelings of meaning and reward in their lives than non-parents, so I guess it's not all bad news for us! Last weekend I really felt like I could relate to this research, as I was reminded of how quickly moods and feelings can change when you have a child.

Friday night Andy and I stayed in, ordered pizza and watch a few episodes of Narcos on Netflix. Season 2 is pretty epic, even more so than season 1. We both in a great mood as Friday was the last day of term, so we had a whole two weeks of school holidays to look forward to. We had an early night, and woke on Saturday at 5:30am, with the joyful realisation that all three of us had slept through the night. There is nothing like waking up to realise that you have been asleep for a whole EIGHT HOURS. It is pretty much the best thing ever. It is becoming more of a regular thing for us as well, which is wonderful. We enjoyed coffees together in the early morning before Ella woke, and then did our usual yoga/swimming routine, before coming home and putting Ella down for her nap. Domestic bliss.

That afternoon we joined some friends who had organized a pub crawl in the Collingwood and Fitzroy area, which is conveniently walking distance for us. A pub crawl sounds more like something from our pre-baby lives, but it started at noon and at a pub within walking distance of our house, so we were able to both go and take Ella with us. Our good friends Chris and Ness were there with their 5 month old as well, so it was great to catch up with them and have another baby around.

The first pub we went to was The Fox Hotel in Collingwood. We had been there about an hour when Ella started to get a bit fussy. Ness and I decided to take the babies for a walk to see if they would have a little nap. Now, I actually don't mind that we went for a walk, it was nice to have time to catch up with Ness, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were near Gelato Messina, which is one of my favourite Melbourne treats, so naturally we stopped in to get a scoop of gelato. And I didn't even really think anything of it at the time. However, on reflection, it is such a cliché that it was the mums that left the pub to take the babies for a walk. I can pretty confidently say that no one would have expected Chris or Andy to do this, nor did either of them offer. Also, I'd bet good money that if they had been the ones to take the babies on a walk, at least one person would comment on how lucky we were to have such helpful husbands, or there would be some mention of "daddy daycare". I'm pretty sure no one told Andy and Chris how lucky they were to be the ones that got to stay at the pub and socialise. It's annoying, not because I mind going on a walk, but more that it was expected that I would be the one to go.

Anyway, I don't want my little rant to overshadow the fact that it was a really lovely afternoon, and besides a little bit of fussiness when she was tired, Ella was a perfect little lady, very cute and sociable with everyone.

Soon after Ness and I arrived back with the babies everyone headed off to the next pub in Fitzroy, the Marquis of Lorne. Ness headed home her little one while Ella and I stayed about another hour before I took her home. (Again, dads stayed out, mums went home with the baby. Sigh.) Ella and I got in around 6pm, did the bed/bath/bottle/book night routine and Ella fell asleep easily around 7pm. I made myself some fajitas for dinner, had a glass of wine, and settled in to watch Master of None on Netflix. I was feeling pretty content.

Helping daddy play ping pong
At about 10pm, just as I was getting ready for bed, Ella woke up. This is an unusual time for her to wake up - she does sometimes wake once in the night for a bit of water around 2-3am. I gave her some water and she went back to sleep quite easily, and I got into bed. I've got into the habit of writing three good things that happened each day before going to sleep, in order to try and focus more on the positives that happen in my life. As I reflected on my day I noted how lovely it had been and how happy I was feeling with life in general.

I heard Andy get in around 11:30pm, and again Ella woke up. Andy dealt with it this time, and I stayed in bed pretending to sleep. Pretending to sleep is one of the skills both Andy and I have perfected since having Ella. This is a vital skill for all new parents. Otherwise, you will end up being the one constantly getting up to check on the baby. 

Ella woke again at 1am, and then 2am. Andy, having had a few more drinks than usual, did not have to pretend to sleep through her cries this time. Each time I got up and gave her some water and then rocked her until she fell back asleep. By this time I knew something was up, this was not a normal night of sleep for her. When she woke again at 2:30am I got up for the third time and discovered she had a fever. I gave her some Panadol and tried putting her back in bed but she wasn't having any of it. My darling husband was still fast asleep, snoring peacefully. It's hard to describe the intense rage you can feel towards your partner when they are sleeping through multiple night wakings, especially when they've just had a fun night out with friends. Now feeling both stressed and annoyed, I left Ella in her cot to tell Andy it was his turn. I'd like to think I sweetly whispered this request, but it's more likely that it came out as a hiss. All I got was a groan in response so I left to get Ella. This time I took her out into the living room. From past experience I know that at this point it's normally better for everyone to just let Ella play for a little while rather than try and force her to sleep in her room. She was clearly tired but not feeling well. To his credit Andy did get up to try and help a bit later. Once he did the rage monster inside me subsided, as now that we were both up it felt like we were on the same team, working together to try and calm Ella down. Eventually we got her to sleep in our bed at about 4am, both of us falling asleep shortly after.

I woke groggily to her cries and was dismayed to see that it was still dark outside. A quick check of my phone confirmed my fears... it was only 5am. Noooooo! We tried to resettle her in our bed but it was no use. We both got up with Ella and tried to calm her down. About half an hour later Andy looked at me (pathetically) and was like "I need to go back to bed". Welcome back, rage monster! Not wanting to upset Ella I took a deep breath and just said ok. It was definitely not ok, and I had a lot of irrational, sleep deprived fantasies of exactly how I would tell him it was not ok in the morning!

Finally, at about 6:30am, Ella fell asleep with me on the sofa. I was exhausted but still able to appreciate how lovely it was to see her finally asleep, my little angel snuggled up next to me. She stirred an hour later and I took her into her room and layed with her in the spare bed we have in there. She snuggled into me again and fell fast asleep. I was uncomfortable and unable to sleep much, but relieved that she at least was getting some rest. 

We woke at 10:30am. Andy came in to the room and sheepishly apologised. I was still a bit angry, but things never seem as bad in the morning. He then had to leave to coach soccer for the afternoon, and the rage monster briefly bubbled up again, although I was too tired to really let it take over. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that the soccer season is nearly over! Before Andy left he told me he'd look after Ella once he got home and I should book in to do something for myself that afternoon. "Like what?" I thought bitterly. But then I remembered there was a Yoga Nidra workshop at my yoga studio that afternoon at 4pm. Perfect!

The morning/afternoon was actually not too bad considering how tired I was. Ella went down for a nap at 1pm for two hours, so I had a chance to get a shower, make a cup of tea, and start this post, reflecting on how my mood and feelings had done a complete 180 in the past 12 hours. It was a perfect example of how things can change so drastically, and how not sleeping really amplifies any negative feelings you have. 

Andy got home from soccer just as Ella was waking from her nap. I unapologetically told Andy I was going to the yoga workshop. I had never done Yoga Nidra before, nor did I really have any idea of what to expect. But this workshop could not have been more perfectly timed following the night I'd just had. Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation practice. It is a lying down guided meditation, where you consciously focus on different parts of your body in order to relax them. It was a 90 minute workshop, and at the start I thought that seemed like a really long time, and that I would probably fall asleep (you are encouraged throughout to stay awake). However the time seemed to fly by. Before I knew it we were told the practice was finished. I managed to not fall asleep (yay), and I felt SO relaxed and rejuvenated. It was the perfect antidote for my negative mood and tiredness, and I walked home feeling much lighter. I've realized lately that I tend to hold a lot of tension in my jaw, and for the first time I felt like it was fully released.

When I got home Andy and Ella had been on a walk to see the animals, and the household was peaceful again. We put Ella to bed at 7pm and started cooking dinner, thinking we'd be able to finally relax together... except our darling Ella had other ideas! We had a hard time getting her to bed, and Andy ended up cuddling her on the sofa while watching soccer. Thankfully he sent me to bed, where I promptly fell into a deep sleep. Ella fell asleep around 10pm, which is ver unlike her, so she was obviously still not feeling well. I blame her teeth... a new one seems to pop up almost weekly. Luckily we didn't have to worry about getting up for work the next day.

Finishing up this post now, nearly a week later, it's hard to even remember what that sleepless night felt like. Ella has been pretty good since then - we're not sure what it was, as it is so hard to figure this stuff out with toddler whose only way of communicating that something is wrong is to cry. However I definitely remember that I felt a lot of highs, and a lot lows, as a parent last weekend... I'm sure not for the last time!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Babyology Box

My parents gave me the coolest gift for my birthday this year: A one year subscription for Babyology Boxes. The boxes are delivered every three months and are full of surprises for both me and Ella. I just received my second box last week, here's what was inside:

For Mummy:

1. A black Bodypeace Bamboo scarf. This scarf is SO soft and in a super practical colour for me. Love it!

2. Burt's Bees Intense Hydration treatment mask. A perfect product for me as I've got dry skin. I tried it out while Ella was having her bath the other night. You leave the mask on for 5-10 minutes which is a good length for using while she is in the bath, but I think she was a bit weirded out by it, and maybe a little scared too! She seemed relieved that her normal mummy was back when I wiped it off. My skin felt nice and soft after using it, so I'll be adding it to my (non-existent) skin care routine 1-2 times a week, as recommended.

3. Table of Plenty dark chocolate rice cakes. Yum. A good snack to take on our morning walks together. 

4. A voucher for You could order any A4 print valued at $20, so I got one that has Ella's name and the origin/meaning of her name. I had no idea what that was, but after consulting google I've learned it is of English origin and usually short for Ellen or Eleanor. It can mean "beautiful fairy woman" (lol) or "light". We'll see what the printing company go for when the print arrives! 

5. Wooden Feather keychain. Bit random but I've put it on my keyring anyway as I don't have a keychain and now look like less of a janitor with my keys.

For Baby:

1. Emotion & Kids muslin wrap. This is beautiful but will be put away for baby #2, as we don't really need muslin wraps anymore (we used them heaps in the first few months of Ella's life though).

2. Babylove diaper. Diapers are useful.

3. Organic Bubs mango, peach & banana fruit purée pouch. Perfect for when we are out and about. I have to hide these from Ella now as once she sees one she wants it (and will let you know she wants it!)

4. Owl wall sticker. This comes with a voucher for 20% off at The Wall Sticker Company, which is a great way to decorate a room if you are renting, as the stickers peel off very easily. We stuck this one up in the bathroom and Ella loves it, and says "whooo whooo" now when she sees it which is cute.

5. Johnson's Baby Bedtime Oil. Used after the bath during her baby massage. She is so spoiled!

6. "Oh the places you'll go!" print. We got a similar style print in the last box (which says "the snuggle is real") so we really should get a few frames and put them up in Ella's room. I love this Dr. Suess book. There are so many good messages for both children and adults in it about having a positive attitude and learning from life's challenges. This is a perfect quote for my little girl's room.

And that's it! There was a bit less in this box than the one I received in June, but I'd have to say pretty much everything in it is quality and will get some use. I love the surprise I get each time a box is delivered and it is nice to get a few pampering gifts for me that I probably wouldn't buy myself. (Last month there was hair serum and hair balm, and face lotion from the body shop). It would make a great gift for ideas for any new mum. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Weekends with a 14-month old

I have had a super crazy work week, meaning that this post that I started last weekend has had to wait until today, Friday, to finish. Last week marked the first day of spring here in Australia, as well as Ella's 14-months month birthday. Although I guess technically its not really a birthday, but you know what I mean. 14 months! How has that happened?! This is such a cliché, but time is flying with her now. My baby is not a baby anymore, but a toddler. Crazy. 

At the moment I don't work on Fridays, so Ella and I get to have a three-day weekend together. Last Friday morning started in our usual way. Ella woke up around 6:30am, just in time to see Andy off to work. Mornings are one of my favourite times of the day with Ella. She has a bottle of warmed milk upon waking and we cuddle on the sofa while she drinks it. I know that she is probably getting too old to be still drinking from a bottle, according to my Maternal Health Nurse and the internet, but I love this quiet time we have together and I think she does too. I'm really not into forcing Ella to do things just because she has hit a certain age and that is what she is "supposed to" do, so we will cut out this bottle when we are both good and ready! Shortly after that we ate some breakfast, porridge with blueberries, while chatting on FaceTime with my parents. My original plan was to take Ella into the city that afternoon, after her morning nap, to run a few errands including picking up a Father's Day gift for Andy. Ella obviously had other plans though, and refused to go down for her nap. Lately she's been more difficult to get to sleep during the day, which is unusual for her. I think she is going through some major teething pains. Every time I look in her mouth a new tooth seems to be popping through! So instead of spending ages trying to get her to nap in her cot, I decided I would just take her on a long walk into the city. Walks are the best recipe for a cranky, overtired baby. Of course, she fell asleep within minutes of leaving the house, it was a nice day, and I was able to listen to a podcast for the 50 minute journey, so it was all good in the end. 

She woke just as we were getting to the main shopping area around Bourke St. Our first stop was at a parents room inside the Emporium shopping centre so that I could give Ella some lunch. Parent's Rooms are the greatest thing ever, and this one is pretty nice. There were microwaves to heat up her lunch in and a few toys, like the one pictured below:
Playing in the Emporium Parent's Room
After lunch we went to Myer to pick up a Andy's present, and then headed over to the State Library, where I had read about a Play Pod inside that was good for crawling babies. The Play Pod is for children under 8, and is set up in a section of the Courtyard in the State Library. There are some bean bags and reading areas, arts and craft tables, and some random toys. It is a nice big space for a baby to crawl around and explore as well. There is a children book theme that changes every few months, at the moment it is "Mr Chicken arriva a Roma", so the theme was ancient Rome. I thought the whole thing was a bit average but Ella seemed very amused and we stayed there for AGES. I think my standards and Ella's standards for what is fun are very different. By the time we left it was time for her to have another nap so I decided to walk back home instead of taking the train. I was very impressed with myself for all the walking I did that day, and needless to say I was pretty tired by the time we got home!

Play Pod, State Library

Favourite activity: dropping pencil crayons on the floor.
Andy was able to leave work nice and early and was home in time for me to go to Yoga at 5:30pm. That class is my absolute favourite, it's a combination of slow flow and Yin yoga. I got home so centred and relaxed, it was the perfect way to end a week. When I got home Andy had already put Ella to bed. We ordered takeaway pizzas, opened a bottle of red, and rented a movie (Steve Jobs, great film). Bliss! And to top it all off, we went to bed and woke at 5:15am to discover that all three of us had slept through the night. Amazing. Andy and I felt so well rested that we just got up at that time, and enjoyed a coffee and the morning news together before Ella woke.

Saturday mornings we have a pretty set routine where I go to yoga at 8am, and then we take Ella to her swimming lessons. Swimming is a very tiring activity for a baby, so once we got home Ella went down for her nap. While she was napping Andy and I contacted a guy on Gumtree who was selling his Tokyobike. It's the male version of the bike I bought in April and we were planning on getting one for Andy in place of his road bike he just sold. We've both moved on to bikes that will be good for family friendly bike rides. Anyway, it was a definite score to find the bike we wanted in Andy's size on Gumtree for about half the price, so we arranged to go and have a look at the bike later that day. We had to travel to the west side of the city for the bike, so we thought we'd make a day of going out west, and arranged to visit friends that live in Williamstown.

On the way down we stopped at a Happy River Café in Footscray. This place has picnic blankets and toys on their big front lawn, so a perfect place to take Ella. We both had sandwiches, which were pretty average, but reasonably priced. However Ella loved it there, and at this stage in our lives I will choose average food at a kid-friendly place over a hip place with amazing food if we have Ella with us, as it is a much more enjoyable experience overall. 

After lunch we hung out on the beach in Williamstown with friends who have a daughter called Millie that is a few months older than Ella. They were kept pretty entertained by a few other kids who were on the beach and played with them. It's so nice that Ella is at an age where she can start to "play" with other kids.

After the beach we went to a nearby park. Ella was having fun until about the last half hour when she started to crack it. We thought she was probably tired, but she didn't sleep the whole way home (it was not a fun car ride), and then when we did finally get home Ella fell fast asleep on Andy's chest, which never really happens anymore. It turns out that she was at the start of a cold, poor thing. We'd had a good 6-8 weeks without any illness for Ella, so our luck was bound to run out at some point! Oh and there was good news about the bike: It was in great condition so Andy arranged to go and pick it up the next day (we didn't have room in the car to take it right away).

Williamstown Beach

Playing at the park in Williamstown
Sunday started out pretty "blah" for me (and Ella). Andy coaches soccer every Sunday, so I was left alone with my sick baby. She was hard work for a while, and I was very much looking forward to Andy getting home. When she is sick she is very clingy, so it is hard to get anything done, however I did manage to get pulled pork going in the slow cooker, which I was planning for our dinner. When Andy got back we all went for a walk down the Yarra River and over to Abbotsford Convent. The convent was buzzing, with a jazz band playing outside the bakery. We sat down with Ella to watch the band and eat some lunch, and just like that everything was ok again. 

That night Charlotte and Adam came over to show us their pictures from their trip to Uluru. It looked pretty spectacular and they both raved about their trip. I hope we are able to make it there before we leave Australia! I know my dad really wants to go so maybe we can plan to go the next time they are in Aus. We had a good night catching up with them, and the pulled pork turned our really well (reciepe here). 

Listening to jazz at Abbotsford Convent
Young lambs at Collingwood Children's Farm
And that was our weekend! It was pretty good overall, and I'm looking forward to the next one, starting... now!