Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Currently... November

I've just put Ella to bed after a particularly long day at work. Andy is out enjoying the Australian soccer final, and I've just finished making dinner and tidying up from when Ella and I got home from daycare/work. I'm enjoying the quiet and calm with a small glass of wine as I finish writing this post.

Reading: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I'm about 80% of the way through this book and loving it. I love anything by this author. The genre is sort of one step up from chic lit and is perfect holiday reading. We're not currently on holidays so I've been staying up way past my bedtime reading "just a few more pages..."

Watching: Animal Kingdom on Netflix. We are four episodes in and I'm still undecided on whether I like it or not. It's somewhat uncomfortable viewing. I'm going to push on for a few more episodes, mainly as there is nothing else that interests me at the moment. I want to watch The Crown but that will have to be one for when I'm home alone as Andy isn't keen.

On Youtube Russell Brand has restarted episodes of The Trews. And of course I watched a lot coverage of the US election. My favourite post-election reaction is from John Oliver on the season finale of Last Week Tonight.

Listening to: Lots of podcasts! Mainly This American Life, Planet Money, and of course, Hamish and Andy. I have lots of time to do this because since we moved we have a horrendous commute taking Ella to her old daycare in Abbotsford, where we used to live, and then going to and from work. Andy and I are alternating doing this drive while the other person cycles. I'm trying not to get annoyed at all the time I now spend in a car by thinking instead about how great it is that I have all this time to catch up on my podcasts.

Loving: My new cookbook: One Handed Cooks. Healthy, simple, delicious recipes for babies, toddlers, kids and families. Ella pretty much loves anything I cook from this and there is a huge range of recipes from breakfast to snacks to dinners for the whole family. It's also Australian which helps when reading the ingredients list and the measurements, and has helpful tips for raising good eaters at any stage. I wish I had this book when we first started Ella on solids, and it is my first port of call when meal planning now. 

Planning: A trip to Bali! Easter next year is our five year wedding anniversary and we've managed to coordinate both sets of grandparents, plus my brother and his girlfriend, for a 10 day holiday in Canggu, Bali. I. can't. wait. Of course we also have our Christmas in California to visit said brother/girlfriend and my parents to look forward to in three weeks. Gosh, we are lucky people.

Wanting: Some new luggage. Our current set was a gift from my parents quite a few years ago and has definitely got a lot of use! But there is a lot of wear and tear so some new cases for our trip in three weeks would be useful. We are currently on the hunt but it has to be one of the most boring things to research and shop for. Ever.

Wearing: These "smart joggers" from Uniqlo. I can wear them to work and they are so, so comfortable. I have them in black and grey and I love them. And at $40 how could you go wrong?

Enjoying: Watching Ella learn to walk. She took her first steps a few weeks ago and is growing in confidence every day. She looks so proud of herself when she walks, and the best thing is that if Andy and I hold our arms out and say "cuddle" she walks over and falls into us for a hug. I can't think of anything better than when your child starts to cuddle/kiss you on purpose!

Missing: My mother's group! It's been lonely during the day at our new place. I miss being able to send a text to my mother's group to see who is around for a walk or a park visit. I still take Ella for walks and to the park on my days off, and usually manage to strike up a pleasant chat with another mum who is there with her kids. But I can never summon the courage to ask for their number or take it further. Making friends when you are an adult is hard! But today another mum who I was chatting with at the park asked me for my number, yay! Hopefully it's the start of making some local mum friends.

Trying: To get back into yoga. After about a month off after our move I've started going to a studio in Northcote called Good Vibes. It's about a 12 minute cycle from our place, so not nearly as convenient as my old studio but not impossible to get to, especially in decent weather. I felt a big difference in my body with the month off yoga. My back was a lot more sore and my hips felt really stiff. I'm so glad I'm practicing regularly again. I do really like the studio and all the teachers/classes I've been to so far, although it is a bit more expensive then my last place. But in the long run I think it is worth investing in yoga, for the long term benefits on both my body and my mind. 

Feeling: Tired. Typical teacher end of the year burnout. I am ready for the summer holidays! 

Grateful for: The fact that although we live far from both of our families at the moment, we can all afford to take holidays and fly to see each other fairly often.

Pic of the Month: This was so hard to choose! We've had so many lovely weekends this month, but I've already written about them and used some of my favourite pics on the Healesville post and the Beach Baby post. But last weekend we took Ella to a shopping centre and stumbled upon the mall Santa Clause and winter scene. Ella was totally entranced, she stood looking at the fake polar bears and reindeer for ages. It was so cute and made me excited for Christmas!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Beach Baby

The weekend before last we had a brief glimpse of summer, with some glorious hot sunny days.You'd be forgiven for thinking that was just a dream based the weather that followed.. We went from 34 degrees on Monday to 15 and rainy on Tuesday and it pretty much stayed that way the whole week. Oh Melbourne, you are such a big tease! But seriously, I am ready for summer now, please. (Update: I'm pleased to report that now that I've got around to publishing this post we have had some spring like weather thy past two days, and it seems like it is here to stay).  

Anyway, on the Sunday we decided to take advantage of the rare sunshine and head down Brighton beach with Ella. We decided to leave earlyish that morning, while the temperature was still in the low 20s and therefore not too hot. (It's so typical, all winter I complain about the cold and long for summer, and then bang! It's over 30 degrees and I'm way too hot!)

We stopped on the way at Big W for some beach supplies: a pail and shovel for Ella and a pop up beach tent to provide some shade. We then headed to The Pantry in Brighton for a pre-beach breakfast, which was awesome as they have paper covering all the tables and crayons for kids to draw with while you are waiting for your food. I am so appreciative of things like this now - we don't go out for meals with Ella very much at the moment as sitting still for an hour while we eat isn't her idea of fun. Also, keeping her occupied while I wolf down my meal is not my idea of fun. But the colouring definitely kept her busy and happy, as did her ham and cheese toastie when it came. Andy and I shared the Kabir Scrambled Eggs, which came with chilli, garlic, onion, smoked potatoes, avocado, tomatoes, coriander, sriracha and a side of roti bread. It was so so good, I really wished we hadn't shared! (By the way, I have no idea what Kabir is. I just tried to google it and it's a name of a 15th century Indian poet... so I guess the naming of the dish is meant to imply that it is Indian? Who knows... I should have asked while we were there I guess.) We also had an order of scones with cream and jam, also super yummy. Our friends who live in Brighton always rave about The Pantry and I can see why... we would definitely come back again for another meal. 

Ella at The Pantry
Once on the beach we set up our tent (super easy, love a pop up!), and Ella happily played in the sand for way longer than we expected. She even tolerated wearing her hat the whole time! I am in love with her matching swimsuit and hat - my uncle gave us some money for a birthday present for Ella when my mom came to visit in August and we bought them with it while we were in Noosa. It fits her perfectly (which means it is a little big and will hopefully last the whole summer) and has a SPF of 50 so some good protection from the hot Australian sun.

Ella playing in the sand at Brighton Beach

Ella finding the cooler bag full of food! This girl loves to eat.
We took Ella down to the water to splash around and she loved it! She has always loved her swimming lessons but when we went to the beach in Noosa a few months ago she was a little fearful around the water - I think she was confused by the waves and the fact that the water kept coming up to her and then disappearing back into the ocean again. This time, however, was totally different and I can already see that we will be taking a few more trips to the beach this summer!

Loving the water
Every time we visit "bayside", the area of Melbourne along Port Philip Bay, I regret taking a job in the north east end of the city, far away from the beach. When I initially started thinking about us moving here, I did fantasise about living near the beach, spending evenings and weekends going for walks and lazing around in the sand reading a book. But the thought of an hour plus commute across the city to work was enough to put those fantasies aside, and when I really think about it, I'm not even a huge fan of the beach. Once and a while, yes, its a great way to spend a nice afternoon. But really, sand can be irritating, you get super sweaty, the water is salty, and at times the flies in Melbourne can be pretty annoying. Also, beach weather is limited to 3-4 months a year here. Even if we lived by the beach we probably wouldn't actually go there that often. Much better to live near a nice open air pool! Haha. On a serious note though, we've always lived close to the Yarra River, and I have loved being near all the different cycling and walking trails. You can't have everything!

Once it started to get hot we packed everything up and headed off to visit our friends that live in Brighton. The day was almost perfect, the only hiccup was when Andy tried to pack up our pop up tent. Easy to put up, however folding it back into it's carry case was a whole different story! 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Cycling the Capital City Trail

Last month Andy and I spent a morning cycling the Capital City Trail (CCT) during our school holidays. The CCT is a 29km loop around the whole city, which conveniently goes right past our old house. We've cycled parts of the trail before, many times, especially as I used to use part of it to get to work. Other sections were completely new to us, and it was a great to way to see the city. It's really something we should have done when we first moved to Melbourne, as we realised how certain suburbs connected to each other. It gave us a better sense of the northern part of the city, which we were pretty unfamiliar with, especially prior to our move last month.

By Stevage - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
The trail is the yellow highlighted loop on the map above. We started in Abbotsford, by the Collingwood Children's Farm, which is the eastern part of the loop, riding north. This part of the trail is also part of the Yarra Trail, and the part I used to walk multiple times a week with Ella, and cycle to work. Cycling past the farm you can often see sheep, goats, horses and cows, and there is a peacock that is sometimes around as well. The farm also has pigs which you can't see from the path. A few months ago some lambs and piglets were born at the farm, which are super cute.

Collingwood Children's Farm, Abbotsford
Collingwood Children's Farm, Abbotsford
About 2km past the farm is Dight Falls, which is just downstream from the junction of the Yarra River and the Merri Creek. 

Dight Falls
Continuing on past Dight Falls the path is part of both the CCT and the Merri Creek trail. There are many overlapping trails on the CCT. A few km from the falls, in Clifton Hill, we stumbled on the Merri Creek Labyrinth and Wishing Tree. The labyrinth is made out of rocks, and the idea is that you walk the path to the centre and then back out again as a walking meditation. Apparently this is an ancient practice that is now becoming mainstream probably due to the recent popularity of mindfulness, and in fact I've come across two other labyrinth's (one during our weekend in Healesville, the other at a school I visited in Queensland) since we did this ride.

Merri Creek Labyrinth
Wishing Tree
We strayed off the CCT at this point (which starts to head west across the city) and continued north on the Merri Creek trail, as we wanted to check out our new neighbourhood. Our new house is just off the Merri Creek trail in Brunswick East. We stopped for a coffee at the Merri Creek Table, the café at Ceres Environmental Park, which is right around the corner from our house.

Merri Creek Trail

Ceres Environmental Park

The Merri Creek Table
Refuelled by our coffee and cake, we rode back down the Merri Creek trail to join back up with the CCT. At this point of the loop the path runs east/west across the top of the city, through the suburbs of Fitzroy and Carlton North. It's a really nice, flat bike path and super easy to ride here. At the western edge of the city the loop then starts to turn south, going through the Royal Park and past the Melbourne Zoo.

Royal Park Melbourne

The next part of the CCT is pretty industrial, towards the Docklands and under a lot of the major highways. It continues south through North Melbourne, all the way to the Melbourne Star - Melbourne's (poor) version of the London Eye. Once through the Docklands the CCT heads back East, through the city along the Yarra River/Southbank. Lots of restaurants, bars, and of course the casino along here. We stopped for lunch at Arbory Bar, which runs between Platform 13 at Flinders Street Station and the Yarra River.

Riding through the Docklands

A cool bike rack

Crossing the Yarra to Southbank


Bikes having a rest for lunch

Arbory Bar, Flinders Street Station
After lunch we continued east, riding along the Yarra towards our first apartment in Melbourne, in South Yarra.  Just past our old place are some climbing walls beside the river, so of course we stopped to try them out. The river then twists and turns towards the north, through Richmond, Hawthorn, and then finally we were back in Abbotsford. This part of the CCT we are very familiar with, having done bike rides along here often when we first moved to Melbourne.

In South Yarra, looking back towards the city

Climbing wall in Richmond
It was a lovely morning, and definitely gave me a better sense of where our new house was located in relation to the rest of the city. If you're new to Melbourne, or have even been here a few years, riding the CCT loop is a great way to explore the city!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Weekend in Healesville

We had a four day weekend last weekend, due to the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Gotta love Melbourne at it's sports themed public holidays (there is another on in October for the AFL Grand Final). Monday wasn’t an official public holiday but most schools in Melbourne are closed, which is a nice mid-term long weekend for us. 

Initially a group of our friends were going to spend the Saturday of that weekend at the country races in Healesville. This has become somewhat of a yearly tradition with our friends, although last year I didn’t go because Ella was only four months old. I was looking forward to taking her this year though - I think she would have really loved seeing the horses, and it is a pretty kid-friendly venue. Unfortunately due to all the rain we’ve had lately the races were cancelled as the track was too wet. Andy and I had already decided to get an Airbnb and stay in Healesville for the weekend, so although we were disappointed that there were no races, we still went, looking forward to getting out of the city for a few days.

We drove to Healesville on Friday after Andy finished work. It’s normally about an hour from Melbourne but it took us about 90 minutes due to the Friday night traffic. We arrived just in time to put Ella to bed, and thankfully she didn’t seem to have any problem going to sleep in her portacot in a new room. She is such a seasoned traveller! While I put her to sleep Andy went and got us take away pizzas and some local wine, which we enjoyed while watching the film "Catch Me if You Can". (I'm a sucker for anything with Leo in it! I really want to watch his new documentary on climate change called "Before the Flood".)

Our Airbnb was a cosy two bedroom house just off the Main street in Healesville. The furniture was a bit older styled, but otherwise it was perfect for us. The kitchen was well stocked, complete with fresh bread, milk and butter (very helpful with a baby) and there was a huge garden that backed onto a stream and had a very full orange tree. Ella absolutely loved this, oranges are a favourite of hers at the moment, and she happily tried to pick a few for herself.

Picking oranges
Saturday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the promise of a high of 25 degrees. Finally, some warm weather! It seriously feels like winter has gone on forever this year. Andy went to get us some coffees from Beechwood Bakery which was a convenient five minute walk from the house. We had a leisurely morning eating breakfast together and playing with Ella, and before we knew it, it was time for her to have a nap. Recently she has transition (most days) to having one big nap for 2-3 hours at around 10:30/11am. During her nap I realised one of the huge appeals to going away for the weekend - there are no chores to do when you are in someone else's home! Usually during Ella's nap time I am always thinking of what needs to get done around the house, or trying to catch up on this blog (what I'm currently doing) or on work. But that morning I just sat outside in the sunny garden, drinking tea and reading the weekend papers. Bliss! I wistfully remember the days when I used to read the paper EVERY weekend while Andy played soccer, back when we were living in London. Oh, how indulgent that now seems!

Reading the paper in the garden at our Airbnb

Once Ella woke up we met with Charlotte, Adam and another couple Jim and Sophie, who had all driven to Healesville for the day. Our first stop was Four Pillars, a gin distillery located on the main street in Healesville. We did a gin tasting, which I can't really tell you much about except that I definitely do NOT like gin on its own! It was a fun change from your regular wine tasting, however it wasn't the most child friendly venue so we decided to move on after about an hour.

Inside the gin distillery

Gin tasting
We drove 15 minutes to Yarrawood Winery, which is VERY child friendly and my favourite Yarra Valley winery at the moment, for that very reason. They have an unpretentious restaurant with good food with both indoor and outdoor seating. Alternatively, there is a huge lawn with picnic blankets where you can sit and enjoy your wine and food, the beautiful views, and also some live music they have on the weekends. There is a croquet lawn set up, along with a few other games. We even saw a kangaroo and some ducks waddling around, which delighted Ella. Her favourite animal sound to make at the moment is "quack quack" (sounds more like "kak kak"), which she does when she sees any animal, and I'm not sure she associated the live duck with the bright yellow one she has in her bath, but it was cute nonetheless.

Kangaroo spotting with daddy

Playing croquet
Ella wants to play too!
We got kicked out once they had closed at 5pm, and decided to go to Innocent Bystander for dinner. This was a bit of a gamble with Ella, as she would have to sit in a high chair for a long period of time, but she was in excellent form that day. I'm sure it was at least partly due to Adam, who was sitting on one side of her for dinner, entertaining her pretty much the whole time. We discovered that day that ice is a good toy, and she had the best time putting it in and out of a glass, finding it pretty interesting that it just disappeared and turned into water after a while. As it was a hot day, and we were sat outside, she didn't make too much of a mess. 

Yum oysters... let me have some Uncle Adam!
Ella and Adam, playing on Snapchat
Around 8pm Ella started to crack it (fair enough as it was well past her bedtime), so Andy and I got some dessert from the bakery section to go and walked back to our Airbnb, which again was helpfully only a five minute walk away. I can highly recommend the brownie and canalé (a french pastry) if you are ever in the area. I'd never heard of canalé before, it has a thick pastry/custard centre flavoured with vanilla and rum, and the outside is caramelised, giving it a pleasant burnt taste. Yum!

Sunday morning we were less leisurely and got ready in time to ride the Yarra Valley Railway, a restored railway line starting in Healesville that meanders through the Yarra Valley. I wasn't sure how Ella would go on this, I thought it might be a bit boring for her, but boy was I wrong! She loved it. She was excitedly bouncing around in her seat and looking out the window when the train pulled away from the station. It was about half an hour long, which was about perfect for her. Once back at Healesville station we played at the pretty epic train themed playground outside, and then took Ella home for her nap. 

Ella and bunny, waiting for the train
Ella loving the train ride!
Family selfie!
Playground outside Healesville station
After nap time we went to the Healesville Sanctuary. Healesville Sanctuary is one of the three zoos that are part of Zoos Victoria. The other two are the Melbourne Zoo and the Weribee Open Range Zoo. We have a yearly membership now as the Melbourne Zoo is pretty close by and good for an afternoon outing with Ella. We spent an hour or two there, getting pretty up close with the kangaroos and checking out the koala bears, before heading back to the house. 

I'm coming to get you, kangaroo!
Koala bears
Ella seemed pretty tired (as I mentioned, she mostly has only one nap now, but if that nap is under two hours she will normally need a power nap around 4pm to get her through until bedtime), so we decided to check out the Black Spur scenic drive, from Healesville to Marysville. The drive winds and curves through massive mountain ash trees, with huge ferns that cover the ground, almost looking like something from Jurassic park. Ella nodded off and we enjoyed the drive listening to the podcast Sophie's Law (a Melbourne based true crime story - very interesting).

Black Spur scenic drive
Monday morning we packed up and were all set to leave in time with Ella's nap, when our first (and only) glitch of the weekend occurred - our car wouldn't start. We called the RACV and they said they would have someone out to help us within the hour. Ella was pretty cranky by then so we had to set up the portacot again and put her to sleep while we waited. I took the opportunity to walk over to Innocent Bystander to get us some coffees, and of course couldn't resist picking up another brownie and canalé to snack on - a silver lining to our car troubles! Luckily there was nothing seriously wrong with the car, just a cold night something or other, blah blah blah, Andy knows what to do if it happens again. And then we were off, back to home to Melbourne and reality, already planning our next family weekend away!

Monday, 31 October 2016


Two weekends ago we moved house, from Abbotsford to Brunswick East. This is our fourth move since arriving in Melbourne back in 2013, and hopefully our last one. Moving is the biggest pain! Packing, arranging movers and an end-of-lease clean (complete with steam cleaning of carpets, which all rentals here seem to require), changing addresses, and then the first few weeks of getting into new routines. It's exhausting, and even more so with a one-year-old. But we survived, mostly thanks to our friends who helped out on the day and our lovely 'man with a van'.

Our move was scheduled for 9am Saturday morning, and the whole week prior I was stressed that we weren't going to get all the packing done. I like to feel completely packed and organised when the movers arrive so that the actual "moving" part is seamless and organised. Luckily on Friday, which is a day off from work for me, I managed to get Ella into an extra day of daycare. As you can imagine, packing is extra hard with a toddler around, who's favourite game at the moment is to take things OUT of boxes. Um, you're missing the point here Ella! I managed to get heaps of packing done with her out of the way, and even had time to pick Ella up early and take her to the park to meet with my mother's group, who I already miss. The two days I've been home this week I've really noticed that I don't have any mum friends in the area to call on to go for a walk or to the park, which is a bit sad.

Anyway, on our way home I ran into one of our neighbours, Jill, who we've become friendly with since living in Abbotsford. Jill and her husband Brendan have two kids, age 7 and 9, who are absolutely delightful and love to play with Ella now that she is a bit older. Jill offered to watch Ella for a little while while I went to get some more packing done. 20 minutes later, Brendan was knocking on our door, and I immediately thought he was coming to return our child. But he was actually just seeing if we wanted to join them for dinner! We gratefully accepted, as all our dishes were already packed and we were just planning on getting take-away for dinner, and of course because we really enjoy their company! We had a great dinner with their family, complete with a few too many glasses of wine, and I felt really sad that we were moving away from the area again. This was the first place we've lived in both Melbourne and London that I feel like we've really got to know our neighbours, and it is such a nice thing to come home and stop and chit chat with them. We've promised to stay in touch so Andy and I are planning on inviting them round for dinner once we are settled so that we don't lose the connection.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early to get those last few "things" into boxes. It's funny how you can feel like you are almost finished packing for a LONG time. Stuff just seems to appear out of nowhere. We did try to have a big clear out before moving, selling and donating what seemed like a lot, but we still seem to have acquired so much. I have this fantasy of one day being a super happy minimalist, unconcerned with material items, but I've got a far way to go before achieving that status yet.

Saying goodbye to her first house!
I found a man with a van via the website Airtasker. It's kind of like an Airbnb or Uber, but for odd jobs. So I posted a job for a mover and van for a 2bed house, and then others wrote back saying how much they would charge to do it. Like Airbnb and Uber, there is a two-way rating system, so I could read the ratings on the movers and then choose the one I thought would work best for us. We also did this for our end-of-lease cleaning. For both jobs I didn't necessarily choose the cheapest labour, but rather a combination of what I thought was a fair rate and the person's rating. I was a bit nervous as it was my first time using Airtasker, but I have to say that both of the guys we hired to help us were excellent. Walide was our mover, and he was just super nice and easy going, while also being efficient and careful with our stuff. Our cleaner did a fantastic and very thorough job, and we were told that our landlord was thrilled with the condition we left the house in and we got our full bond back with no problems. Yay!

Charlotte and Adam arrived soon after Walide to help as well. The first thing Charlotte and I did was take Ella for a quick walk down the Yarra river to see the farm animals for the last time. (sob!) We then went to the bakery at Abbotsford Convent to get breakfast and coffees for everyone. By the time we got back Andy, Adam and Walide had loaded most of the big stuff into the van and drove our first load off at the new house. What a great moving day for me so far, all I had to do was occupy Ella and get everyone food and drinks! Not bad. The second load was pretty quick and we had it all moved in by the early afternoon.

We were all hungry again by then, so headed over to Ceres Environmental Park, which is just around the corner from our new place. There is a cafe there called The Merri Table (named after the Merri Creek, which is a branch of the Yarra River. Ceres is focused on sustainability, and I'm looking forward to exploring it more over the coming months. 

So now that I’ve finally got around to finishing off this post, we’ve been in our new place for two weeks. We are just about finished unpacking and sorting the place out. We have a lot more space but luckily we didn’t have to buy any new furniture. Our biggest new house purchase was baby gates for the stairs. Ella is LOVING the stairs and constantly wants to walk up and down them, assisted by us of course. It gets pretty old after your third round up and down them! I think she’s pretty annoyed we’ve blocked them off now, she tries to walk through the gates and shakes them trying to get through. 

The biggest hassle at the moment is that Ella’s daycare is a 25-30 minute drive from home, depending on traffic. So on the three days that I work she spends an hour in the car, which isn’t ideal. I am trying to find her a daycare closer to home but getting a daycare spot in Melbourne is quite a challenge, especially this time of year. If we are lucky we will get into one in January, when I start working four days a week (eek!) Thankfully we both only have 7 weeks of work left until summer holidays - and that means 7 weeks until we go to California for Christmas with my family, yay!

Our new home in Brunswick East

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!