My Birthday Wish List…

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I can hardly fathom it, but this weekend I turn 30! It’s the type of age that always seems old when you are young but now that I’m there I feel barely mature enough to be part of the 30s club! Just goes to show that our parents were never as grown-up as we thought they were anyway.

I sat down to write this wish list and while there are a few material things I want (leopard print Toms, vouchers to revamp my wardrobe, a spa treatment like above, a new computer so I don’t feel like smashing this one into a wall), there is really nothing material that I need. What a blessed place to be! That said, there are some things that I’m hoping to get this year!

Me time

I’m very guilty of taking on lots of different things at once – I’m terrible at saying no. I still make an effort to be a good wife and good mother and so that inevitably means that I’m the one that misses out. I’m hoping to become more judicious with how I use my “yeses”. With this move reducing Papa M’s commute, I’m also hoping to reclaim some of the evenings for my own personal project time. Which leads me to…

Fit and healthy

I know I sound like a broken record but this really is a priority for me this year! My plan is to hit the pools at least twice a week  after Papa M gets home from work. Pool work (swimming, aqua jogging, aquarobics) was what got me trim and toned for my wedding – I know it works for me so I just need to get back in the habit.

My hostess groove back

Living in a tiny house on the rural fringe of Auckland has been great in some regards but it has been incredibly limiting in others – it’s a bit hard to have people round for dinner when you don’t even have room for a dining table. I’m looking forward to building back up that sense of community with our friends again – I definitely think that one of my love languages is food!

An understanding of my own personal style

Looking at my wardrobe as I pack,  I see a really eclectic range of clothes. I think I’m finally grasping what a) looks good on me post-baby and b) caring less about current fads. I really want to focus on buying timeless pieces that I will love as much five years from now as I do today.

What intangibles are you hoping for this year?

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CJ @ 1 year!

We all survived! CJ turned one at the end of last week and we celebrated with an absolutely massive party at what is soon to be our new house. He was a huge fan of his first ever cupcake and the bouncy castle – will have a much bigger post on that later this week.

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CJ – 20/2/14 and 20/2/15 – be still my heart!

This month CJ:

  • Became a much better crawler – he’d been haphazardly on his knees and then bam when I came back from Perth he was properly crawling. He’ll occasionally revert to his army crawl but he’s pretty happy with himself right now
  • Started cruising – it hasn’t been without his share of bumps and bruises but he’s so nimble with pulling himself up and along. This also means that nothing is safe! We’ve been putting off relocating things because of the upcoming move but we’re seriously going to have to rethink where we put things “out of reach”
  • Has started saying two word sentences – the best have to be when he yelled “hello daddy” at some stranger’s phone – we often call Papa M on speaker phone – and then he said “Daddy naughty” when things weren’t going his way. Not backwards  in coming forward, this boy
  • Loves daycare – he’s always so chuffed to see the backpack coming off the counter on daycare days and is climbing out of his carseat as soon as we arrive. He gets to do so many fun activities that just aren’t possible for us to do here
  • Is cutting his eye teeth which seems to be a particularly painful business. Thank goodness it’s just sporadically on and off, meaning that he’s been able to enjoy things like his birthday party without any tears
  • Had his first meal off the kid’s menu! We caught up with Papa M for lunch on CJ’s birthday (cause how better to spend your birthday than seeing your daddy when he’s usually at work?) and dined at this fantastic hidden gem by the airport – Szimpla Gastro Bar. CJ got his first meal off the kids menu – a pita pizza and chips! He loved it and the staff there were super nice – more on that soon over on my Zomato page
  • Loves his books – this makes his teacher mummy so happy. Quite often he’ll just disappear into his room and pull his books off his little low shelf for a read. We’ve had to remove some of his more fragile books due to his lack of gentleness but he still has plenty he loves to look through
  • Is all about the wheels, baby! Got a Smartrike from his grandparents for his birthday and we’ve used that in lieu of a stroller to run some errands downtown. I’m pretty taken aback at how quickly he’s taken to his new ride!

I have to say that I am really loving this time. Despite the tantrums, the dirty nappies and the occasional nights of interrupted sleep, one is SO much fun. I can’t wait to see how this cheeky little monkey grows in the year to come. I haven’t decided yet whether I am going to continue with monthly updates or perhaps move into a slightly different formal, but never fear – you haven’t heard the last of CJ by a long shot.

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Wines & Dines: Sachie’s Kitchen Dumpling Class

On Sunday the 15th of February, I was lucky enough to attend a dumpling class hosted by Contiki New Zealand at Sachie’s Kitchen. For those unfamiliar with Sachie’s Kitchen, it is a fun, team-building Asian cuisine cooking school set in a beautiful building in Parnell, Auckland. Contiki have recently released a new tour of Japan and so twenty bloggers descended upon the school to learn how to make gyoza dumplings. Little known fact? I LOVE dumplings. The sales reps I worked with straight out of university used to take me to yum cha to butter me up and they are one of my favorite things to order at the cafe across from work.

We were divided into groups, a little like school camp, and given some genuinely fun team building activities to help us bond. I have to admit that I liked that this was done as it gave me the chance to talk to some bloggers that I might otherwise never had the opportunity to meet. Our team did relatively well in the pre-cook off activities, scoring a fairly decent amount of points. Once we were dressed in our chef kimonos and headbands, we were able to watch Sachie give us her demonstration. I was impressed at her skill but also her personality – it is clear that she loves and enjoys what she does.

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Team Ninja Hands livery

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Sachie completing her demonstration

Demonstrations complete, it was back to our stations for preparation. We had three different methods of cooking (pan-fry, steam and deep-fry) and three different flavors – pork, prawn and cheese (this last one was the one to be deep-fried and yes it is just as amazing as you are thinking) dumplings to be presented for judging. I found the pleating on the dumplings a little bit difficult but nothing that I wouldn’t be able to practice in future. One of my team mates also showed me how to wrap up a tortellini – as they say in Thailand, same same but different – which I think will also be a useful skill! I was actually surprised by how simple they were to make and I can definitely see this becoming part of our meal rotation at home. As time wound down we were feeling under pressure to plate perfectly; those cooking shows we all love are such an influence!

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Prepping our dumpling contents

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Perfectly pan-fried dumpling

 

Sachie came round to view and taste the meals and I felt as nervous as when Plunket weighs and measures CJ – did we do well enough? Our sauce wasn’t quite spot on and when I tasted another group’s I realized our proportion of soy to vinegar was off – too salty, not enough tart. I was therefore surprised to see that we remained the head of the pack in points. One more round of “guess the ingredients” – yay umeboshi! – and we had won! I don’t think I’ve won a medal since gymnastics when I was about nine years old! I was chuffed.

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Winner winner dumpling dinner

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Part of aforementioned dumpling dinner

We then had a Q & A with Contiki. While still fitting in the age group of Contiki, the reality is that most of our future travel will be with the little dude and I wondered whether they had anything to offer. Clever Melissa asked that question and I was excited to find out that their sister company Trafalgar does family tours – basically Contiki for the whole family! Talk about taking the stress out of travel with children; this is definitely something I would look into if we make it over to Europe while we have young children.

Arigato Sachie’s Kitchen and Contiki New Zealand – an awesome AND educational time!

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We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once – Friedrich Nietzsche

Do you dance every day? I do.

Dance and I have a long history together. Some of my oldest memories are of pony-galloping around a church hall in Papatoetoe with a girl that I am still in touch with today. Alongside a complementary diet of gymnastics classes (aids the flexibility), after-school ballet classes two to three times a week kept me very busy. Building up to performances, weeks were even busier with additional rehearsals. There was something just magical about losing myself in the music and driving myself harder and harder with each repetition of the routine. Ballet classes also led to some fantastic opportunities; performing as part of a production in a major Auckland theatre and seeing an all-male ballet being amongst them. One made me realize how strong I could be, the other made me realize the strong masculine side of ballet – one that Sergei Polunin demonstrates admirably above.

As I grew older, and (let’s face it) curvier, I realized a professional ballet career was slipping out of reach. I threw myself into acting but still craved the feeling that dance gave. Movement classes were some of my favorite days in Drama classes – I’m sure that if Glee Club or Show Choir had been a thing in my school I would have been right in there. I vividly remember nights at a friend’s house as my friends (and a mother) taught me how to dance dirty; something that my ballet training had somehow forgot. My late teens and early twenties saw me get my dancing fix through parties and clubs in varying states of sobriety. No matter how much I’d had to drink, however, dancing always helped me through any rough times I was going through.

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On June the 1st, 2012, I had my “first dance” with the man who I married, my dance partner for life. It was perfectly imperfect – we’d had no time for dance lessons and so we selected Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing by Aerosmith as an easy song to choreograph a short dance to. A few whirls in the lounge room and we called it good. On the night we finished our routine and called our parents onto the dance floor. Some of my favorite photos of the night were caught in that moment; my parents relaxing into each other despite the stresses that were going on in their lives (my mum passed away just under two months later) and my uncle taking my sole grandmother for a spin on the dance floor.

Dancing, of course, looks very different now. I’m not often out shaking my booty in the club. Papa M and I don’t get a lot of slow dancing time to ourselves either, although occasionally I’ll drag him into a little kitchen waltz. Dancing these days usually involves cracking my son up with my crazy moves to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, playing him like a guitar or bopping along with other tots at our local Wriggle and Rhyme. It’s not worse, just different. And I can’t deny that a little smile pops on my face when I see CJ bounce up and down as the theme music to his favorite show comes on; maybe I’ve created a second generation of dancers too, one that also feels that a day is not complete without a dance.

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Day Care: The Debut

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This past Monday, CJ had his first day at daycare. I’d always said that I would stay home for the first year of his life so even returning to work at eleven months felt like breaking a promise to myself. But the fact remains that we need me to be earning money to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves this year, and (if I’m being perfectly honest with myself) CJ needs more stimulation in his days than I can necessarily offer him at home, and especially in our current house. This certainly wouldn’t be the same for all families and I give stay-at-home-mums a huge thumbs up.

I decided to go back to work as a substitute teacher this year for several reasons – most of them outlined in this post. This left me with the challenge of finding day care to suit as we’re not lucky enough to have family members available to look after CJ on a casual basis. I looked at a traditional daycare centre and decided that the environment wasn’t right for CJ, at least not at this point in time. We then looked into at-home day cares; in New Zealand these are quite highly regulated by umbrella companies so we didn’t have the same qualms as some of my American readers and friends. We were very lucky to be matched quite quickly with a carer that has a lot of the same views as we do about raising children and a visit to her home and to meet the other children in her care seemed like a perfect fit.

Already in the couple of days that CJ has spent at daycare he has flourished. He loves the social interaction – his naps haven’t been as long as usual and I suspect that’s because he doesn’t want to miss out on anything! He’s already learnt a couple of cheeky tricks and is now climbing up on things to reach the items that he wants. He is SO excited when I grab his backpack off the bench because he seems to just click that it means a day at L’s house. He’s totally lapping up the attention from the older kids when I get there in the afternoon and is in no rush to leave with Mummy at all.

But back in the keeping it real zone: it is hard finding the money to pay for daycare when you haven’t earned anything yet. It’s even harder when you haven’t had any calls into work yet – damn this warm summer climate and people’s rude health! It’s especially hard when you are combining all of this with finding the funds for a first birthday party, two new tires and a car Warrant of Fitness. In times like this it can be hard to hold onto that abundance mindset but I need to tell myself to be patient; people will get sick, the work will come and Papa M and I will look back on this time and laugh. While things are tight, we are certainly blessed with a lot more than others and articles like this one in Metro Magazine make me appreciative for what we have. And funnily enough, in the weirdest ways, God/The Universe has provided for everything we need so far.

This year is looking to be one of huge change for us all and I’m excited about what it will bring. I’m trying to reframe this time as the warm-up zone, a quiet time of productivity that I will appreciate in times to come. Or at least that’s the plan!

Day care is a hot topic amongst the mothers that I follow right now- check out other posts on the day care dilemma from Awesomely Unprepared and Sadie & Co.

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CJ’s Birthday Wishlist

Yup, just a few short weeks before CJ turns one – I have no earthly idea how this happened! In some ways he seems so grown up and in other ways he’s still my little baby boy… nope, not ready to think of having another one! He’s very lucky to be getting his own teepee (similar to this one) and another Dinosaur Train toy… to think that I used to say “No plastic toys in my house!”… Never say never, right? I’m also looking into getting him a couple of my favorite childhood books but I’m a bit wary of buying him too much, knowing how generous family and friends tend to be!

Never the less, I know there are a few things that he would absolutely LOVE:

Teepee Cushions

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He’ll have the house, now he’ll need the decor! We really want to make the teepee his cosy, wind down place and a couple of these would really help. These cushions are a nice large size, ideal for snuggling into and I can see them getting a thorough thrashing as he gets older and has more friends around to play.

Let’s Find Adventure (Paw Patrol)*

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Puppies that drive trucks that have sirens? That’s like the motherlode of awesome to CJ. I love that this book is both a board book and a lift-the-flap book; great for working on those fine motor skills while still being relatively indestructible.

Ride on Bumble Bee

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There are so many ride on toys out there, but I love the cheerful face and the steel construction of this little fellow! I also love that the wheels are designed to be used both indoor and outdoor, making it more multipurpose than some other ride-on toys.

Melissa & Doug Taco & Burrito Set*

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We eat a LOT of Tex-Mex/Cajun food in this house (I firmly believe that if reincarnation were true, Papa M would have the soul of someone who used to live in the American South) so this set would be right at home with the rest of the play kitchen we are making for our little gourmand.

Vehicle Sound Blocks*

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A two piece puzzle that makes noise when you match the two pieces up correctly! I can see CJ being absolutely thrilled with the sirens and the train noises, plus I think it’s a splendid precursor to more complex puzzle building.

Mocka Stacka Box

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Of course, with all these cool toys he’s going to need somewhere to keep them, especially seeing that our living arrangements are soon to change! A collection of these in white and natural colors would be absolutely perfect. I love that you can keep adding more as required; it’s nowhere near as limiting as a book case and is far more easily carted around (maybe even into the teepee).

Auckland Zoo Couple’s Membership

It sounds a little funny to buy CJ a couple’s membership, and indeed it would have to be in our names but it would mean a heck of a lot of fun and adventure for him too. This works out to be the best membership deal if you have children under the age of four. A couple’s membership would mean either or both of us can take CJ to the zoo as many times as we wanted within a year for free (the membership pays for itself in under four visits) plus make use of the great discounts at the zoo and other Auckland tourist attractions.

I think what we wish for most, however, is a delightful day with our friends and family celebrating the awesome wee boy in our lives. I know that he makes our days shine brighter and my bad moods evaporate with his cheeky little grin! Invites are on their way to our dearest friends and I’m going to start praying for a sunny day!

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*affiliate links

Refreshed…

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Personal Image – Smiths Beach, Yallingup, WA

Those of you who are avid followers of the blog may notice that this post is winging it’s way to you a little bit later than usual. I’d planned my posts for while I was away but felt sure that I would be back and on the ball enough to write a post on my travels yesterday to post today. Bahahahaha. It’s obviously been far too long since I flew anywhere that qualified for more than a two hour time difference because I have been totally caned by jet lag. I said to A on my final day in Perth that my stomach was finally starting to adjust to the five-hour time difference and that my brain would probably follow, just as I flew back. A delayed flight and lack of sleep on the plane, a three hour nap in the middle of the day yesterday and the inability to fall asleep until 2am this morning meant there was no hope in hell of publishing a Perth recap. Even now I’m still trying to get my head around the whole experience – such a fleeting visit has made the whole thing feel quite surreal.

The one thing that has been huge for me, despite the jet lag and the lack of sleep, is this amazing feeling of being refreshed. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there but being a parent can be so mentally taxing, always having to think two steps ahead. If we hop in the car straight after his nap, how long am I going to have before he needs to be fed? He only slept for an hour, how is this going to affect when he needs to go to bed tonight? It all seems like small fry, but parenting is this continuous juggling act of how to get it right.

Papa M and I have definitely had our date nights out and it’s been great to get those moments together. But even those moments still have the “mummy brain” ticking along in the background – “when do we need to leave to get home in time for the baby-sitter to go home?”. I have absolutely no idea how much I drank the night of the wedding – not because I was absolutely comatose but because for once it didn’t actually matter if I was a little hungover and I didn’t have to be positively meticulous about counting my drinks to make sure that I was fit for parenting in the morning. It didn’t matter that meal times were at warped hours and that most days started (& ended) with no definitive plans. For the first time in a long time I only had to worry about pleasing myself and it was fabulous!

I missed my dudes (both big & little), don’t get me wrong! I love being a mum and a wife and my life wouldn’t feel whole without them. But I’ve known for a long time that I was an introvert and this short but sweet holiday really helped me recharge batteries that I didn’t even realize were flat. It’s made me more conscious that, moving forward, Papa M and I definitely need to try and work in these opportunities (both alone and together) to make sure that we are the best parents we can be. I love how happy our home is right now and we need to hold onto this vibe.

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Tag! My secrets of blogging

By the time you read this, I will be all the way across an ocean and a continent, watching a lovely friend of mine get married near Perth in Western Australia. This friend is just one of the many I have made through blogging – she attended my wedding in 2012 and I’m so happy to be there on her special day. To celebrate online friends, I could think of nothing better than completing this ‘blog tag’ posted by Sarah-Elizabeth from Child of Ponderings.


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The mummy war inside…

alternatively titled “how I struggle to do the ‘right’ thing”.

So much has been written over the last few years about the mummy wars – bottle vs. breast, attachment vs. free range, sleep train vs wait it out, working vs. stay at home. You may have even seen the following video doing rounds on social media, produced by US formula manufacturer Similac:


I try my very best to tune out well-intentioned yet mummy-wars inducing comments from the mums I meet. Attachment parenting and strict RIE philosophy have never worked for either me or CJ and so we mosey along, working out what makes us both the happiest along the way. Likewise I’m firmly in the vaccinator camp but, much like with my faith, we can still be friends even if we don’t have the same beliefs.

The biggest opponent I’m fighting in this mummy war? Myself.

Breast-feeding was hard. Hard physically, of course, for both me and for CJ; but also hard mentally and emotionally in so many ways. Every time I “gave in” to a change in our feeding routine I felt guilty. The first bottle, the first formula top-up, the nursing strike and the decision to stop. And for what? In the end formula feeding made CJ so much happier – he really is such an insatiable baby – and isn’t that the main point? I bought into this breast is best philosophy and I gave myself a metaphorical flogging when it wasn’t best for us. It’s only with the passage of time that I can look back and feel confident in my decisions.

Now you’d think that I would have learnt my lesson but I’m starting to beat myself up all over again about my return to work. Despite researching child care options carefully, despite doing transition visits, despite doing budget after budget to reconcile another regular outgoing with a irregular income… I still can’t help but wonder whether we are doing the right thing. I mean, for us to get ahead at all, and achieve our future goals (like buying a home) I have to work. Providing a stable home for CJ is hugely important to us. We’ve chosen an in-home carer who has the same philosophies as us and will continue to take him to activities outside the home. So much of me knows that CJ will be SO happy having two little friends to play with every day but that small wee asshole of a voice still pipes up in there saying that I’m a shitty mum for letting someone else raise my kid. I know, my inner demon works in hyperbole!

I’m soaking up all the time I can with my little guy right now, knowing that in two weeks things are going to be a little different in our house. I’m trying to keep us as busy with fun activities as possible so that I don’t have time to dwell on the thought of missing my little dude, my adventure buddy. Most of all, I’m praying that with the value of hindsight I will look back on this and realize, like with bottle feeding, it was the best decision I could have made for our family. I’m ordering a ceasefire on this internal mummy war.

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Has social media affected our child-raising village?

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Aging myself here, but I was in the first generation to grow up with social media being a “thing”. I first made an email penpal (off Teletext – now I’m really dating myself), I had and was an avid user of ICQ and chat rooms then transitioned to MSN Messenger. I had my own Geocities site and when Bebo came along, I was right on board with that too! I met my husband online and I’m attending the wedding of a friend I met through blogging and Twitter next week. Social media has brought so many positive things into my life but lately I’ve been wondering about what we’ve lost, in this world of constant technological connectivity.

Our world is increasingly a global one and I have dear, close friends in many countries around the world. I post pictures and the occasional anecdote about my son on Facebook and Instagram because I know it’s way too much to ask that they just pop over from France, Israel or Paraguay. By the same token, I love seeing photos of their wee ones in exotic climes. I post about CJ here because I want to share my uncensored experiences while creating a sort of virtual baby book – losing my own mum before I had my son has left so many questions in my mind as to whether what I am going through was an experience that her and I have shared.

The downside? Sometimes, I feel like we’re really alone. A like on a photo, a comment on a picture – it doesn’t really make up for people being physically present in your life. I think it’s a safe way for people to feel involved in your life while realistically not having to put in much effort. We’ve lost the real presence in each other’s lives, the popping round “just because” to see if we can help out; we’re seeing kids grow through a progression of photos rather than experience the joy of newborn smells, baby chatter and the drunken waddling of a toddler.

I’m the first to admit that I haven’t found it as easy to get out and about to see friends – it’s hard when you are juggling nap times and feeding troubles. I totally get that. But I feel like something’s been lost in amongst the technological gains. We don’t have a village, we’re more like wee islands in an archipelago – popping into the mainland once in a while but mainly just waving at each other as we sail past. Am I being hypersensitive? Would I feel differently if I still had my mum around? I don’t know. How do I fix this feeling? I’m not sure of that either. I love to blog and I love that my friends on the other side of the world can still be part of my life. I don’t want to change that. But some way, somehow, I hope to bring the feeling of abundance back into this area of scarcity in my life this year.

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