Out and About: The Moe Show and the APO

Before we go into the details of this Out and About, a little bit of background is needed. The Moe Show is a New Zealand children’s television show that CJ is absolutely in love with. It stars a furry monster called Moe who lives in a tree house in the Coromandel region of New Zealand and several of his friends – Jason, Fern, Frank and Gilbert. CJ loves it for all the exciting adventures that Moe goes on and the songs. Mummy loves it because of the use of Te Reo (Maori language) and the subtle inclusion of adult-targeted humour a la Shrek.

One evening while browsing Facebook I saw an advertisement for a special The Moe Show event at the Auckland Town Hall. They were going to be performing a show with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra called Moe’s Musical Mystery. I must admit that I did hum and hah a little bit before organizing the (free!) tickets – CJ would be just shy of fifteen months when we attended and is super active. In the end though, I couldn’t deny him the chance to see his idol so I arranged to have the day off call for work and pressed purchase on the tickets.

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We drove into the city early to make sure we’d get there in time and CJ was awesome about the wait, taking the opportunity to explore the town hall and “chat” to fellow Moe-goers. We even got a Moe sticker and bought a Moe badge from the souvenir stand. The doors opened and we walked in to find some traditional seating but also a whole bunch of beanbags – being that we have an active wee dude we decided on the bean bags. The lights went down and the show began – I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on CJ’s face when Moe appeared on stage! He was so incredibly happy… what a special moment to experience.

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What I didn’t realize was that the Auckland Philharmonia does a lot of family friendly events, including an upcoming Open Orchestra in July. Most of these events are free, so a family can drive, bus or catch the train into the city and enjoy a cultural experience for very little! What a great way to introduce your kids to classical music and create some of the Philharmonic’s littlest supporters. We’ll definitely be keeping our eyes peeled for more of these opportunities in future.

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Helicopter? Free-range? What type am I?

There’s been a huge kerfuffle in certain areas of social media lately about the way that parents and children play at the park… I know, right? Some mums get annoyed at the so-called helicopter mums who are on the playground “hovering” over their children. Said “helicopter” mums get annoyed at the mums on the bench sipping coffee and playing on the phones. As I have said before, I have no issue with you parenting the way you want to parent – and in whichever way works best for your kids. It did get me thinking though as to what type of mother I am.

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I’m a manners parent

CJ is only 14 months old but he already knows “please” and “thank you” – well, peas and giggoo, but same difference. We have books that we read that explain the concept of Sorry and Excuse Me. We talk about when his behavior is rude and about how to be respectful to others. Manners are very important to us and while I know he’s not always going to get it right, it doesn’t stop us trying.

I’m a literacy is important parent

Books are the one thing this house positively hoards. As a high school teacher I’ve seen the negative effects of entering high school with little to no basic literacy skills so having books in this house (and modeling reading behavior) is so important. One of my most recent parenting highlights was CJ “reading” his bed time book back to me after I read it to him. I’m always going to drop whatever I’m doing (well, almost anything) if CJ wants me to read him a book.

I’m a get-outside parent

Us kids were very much free-range as kids roaming in and out of houses on our street, walking about a kilometer away to the local dairy and staying out til dark. While the world has changed a bit, and we’re all in favor of a little screen time, CJ is not going to be one of these kids cooped up inside, in front of the TV all day. No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices – I love coming home, opening the back door wide and letting him blow off some steam before dinner.

I’m a playful parent

And that might be partially because I have an adventurous kid. More often than not lately I find myself two storeys up on a playground because CJ wants to go down the big kid’s slide and he needs my help getting there. That boy is a thrill-seeker, that’s for sure. I’m sure I look like a total moron squeezing my way up through kiddie tunnels but I really don’t care – the look on his face as he zooms down the slide is reward enough. Likewise, I always get a laugh out of our wrestling matches, even when he misjudges and gives me a fat lip.

I’m a let’s see what happens parent

That sounds horrendously cavalier, but I’m all for letting CJ do things within reason so that he can see the outcome. Most often this is with food – he always wants what we are eating, even if it’s a little spicier than what I would think he would like. Sometimes he surprises me – like by how much he loved the cajun hushpuppies at Miss Clawdy’s. We’ve also let him take wee “low-stakes” tumbles so that he learns the consequences before he manages to catapult himself off the top of a playground, aged three. We’re all for being adventurous in this house, within reason.

I’m an experiences over stuff parent

I can literally remember maybe three toys my parents bought me growing up, but I remember loads of things that we did together as a family. The one item that got the most use in our house was the playhouse that my parents made out of a massive box. It’s been something to bear in mind as we raise CJ; he may not always be the kid with the coolest gears but he’ll be the kid that gets to travel, the kid that gets to go wild at the zoo or eat his way through a food festival. Memories to us are way more important than things and I’m hoping that we teach him that too.

I know our parenting choices aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (as evidenced by the lady at the cafe yesterday who commented that her 1 year old grandchild wouldn’t even know what a fluffy drink was) but they work well for us and our family. Our family values good food, good books, great experiences and exploring the world and I think our “types” of parenting reflect this. What type of parent are you?

Check out more #BlogGreatness from my fellow NZ bloggers.

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Four years ago…

Papa M asked me to marry him.

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We’d talked about it. In fact we spoke about it so much that I told him to shut up unless he was going to ask me. We’d gone looking for rings just for future reference. With mum sick, I was anxious about whether she’d be around to even help me plan a wedding and I was not so zen about “the wait” but not ballsy or non-traditional enough to ask him. I thought it was pretty sweet of Papa M to tell me to attend a wedding expo with mum while she was still well enough to go – little did I know it was part of a clever plan to get me out of his hair for a day and go ring shopping. As unlikely as I thought it was at the time, he did manage to surprise me.

We headed out to Duder Regional Park, a favorite of ours in our early dating days. We had a rock there that we used to sit on and discuss life, the universe and everything. As we headed out along the track, we came across a massive slip where a tree had taken half the cliff down with it. I was all for turning back, but Papa M insisted that we double back just a short way and then cut down and walk along the beach. We stumbled down what was barely a track and finally made it to our rock where, precariously balanced in a half sitting-half kneeling position, Papa M asked me to be his wife. Obviously I said yes!

I think I spent most of the walk back staring at the rock on my finger… after all the talk, it seemed so surreal. We decided we definitely wanted to tell some people in person but first went for lunch at a nearby eatery, Pepperjacks, so that we could enjoy our moment in secret for just a little while longer. Then it was off to see my parents first. My mum had received some professional photos back and was so excited about them that it took us a while to get a word in edgewise, but once we did they were ecstatic! Good news was fairly sparse in our house in the last couple of years of mum’s cancer battle so it was nice to have a little bit of joy. Papa M’s parents were also happy and opened a bottle of wine in celebration – note to those yet to get engaged, everyone will want to ply you with alcohol when they find out!

It’s stunning to think how much life has changed, our relationship has changed – heck, how much we’ve changed since then. Four years doesn’t seem that long but I certainly don’t think that 26-year-old me had any idea of the highs and lows the years to come would bring. One thing’s for sure – I’m so glad that that man asked me to marry him because there’s no one else I would have rather experienced these adventures with, that’s for darn sure!

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Perceptions

Something that has struck me lately is how two people can have such disparate views of one situation. Neither is right or wrong, per se, but their backgrounds have led them to make judgements and decisions that are yards apart from each other. I vaccinate my child, and I know others who do and others who don’t. Some parents abhor the idea of daycare; my son loves it so much that I feel bad when he is sick and unable to go – he loves his little bestie so much.

The way that we perceive things leads to these “mummy wars” – and yes, despite the fact that I’m aware that that is a very heteronormative term, I feel that it is far more prevalent amongst women who identify as mothers – that could easily be avoided if we realised that our decisions are the product of a dozen different experiences that made us who we are today. Explain why you make the decisions you make, but don’t expect people to conform to your point of view. I think this poem by New Zealand poet Glenn Colquhoun sums it up perfectly:

The word as a memory

Not everyone agrees that blue
is the correct word for a fine sky.

For parents of children who have drowned
in deep water blue is the colour of dying.

For lovers undressed silently by the light
of the moon blue is the colour of desire.

For travellers who wander the edges of
mountains blue is the colour of horizons.

For the lonely left aching by scandalous
lovers blue is the colour of music.

For soldiers who have died in defence
of their flag blue is the colour of glory.

For children raised on a street of brick houses
blue is the colour of rebellion.

For thieves who have been asked to empty
their pockets blue is the colour of policemen.

For women who love men with indigo eyes
blue is the colour of swimming.

For undertakers who apply lipstick to the
mouths of the dead blue is the colour of ice.

For dogs who have been fed from blue plastic
bowls blue is the colour of a full stomach.

And we’re just talking about a colour here – imagine how complex it is when we’re discussing intricate social issues. For my part, I’ll be trying to share my experiences but I’ll never tell you that I’ve got it right and you’ve got it wrong. We’re all in this world together and none of us are getting out alive!

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Mixed-Feelings Mothers’ Day

Like grandson, like nana

Last Mothers’ Day was my first as a mother and to be honest it was a bit of a blur. We were still in that immensely difficult newborn phase, stressed about feeding and growing and sleeping. I had all these doubts in my heart about whether I was a good mother and I wished that my mother was around to reassure me. I was still taking each day at a time, not thinking much about the future.

This year, I look back at 2014 me and I wish I could give her a cuddle. I wish I could tell her how awesome her little man will become at giving cuddles. Part of me is SO looking forward to a Mothers’ Day in which I can snuggle with my boy and play his favorite games. I don’t feel like a bad mum, even when my son is protesting that I am one. Instead of feeling like I’m drowning, I feel like I’m living the life I imagined when CJ was the cliched “twinkle in my eye”.

I’m not going to deny though, that this time of year DRIVES ME MAD. TV ads declaring that they have just the thing for my mother, radio voiceovers asking me whether I’ve shopped for her yet. Even three years later it feels like a slap in the face that my mum isn’t around. Social media giveaways  – share a pic of you and your mother, give us a reason why your mother is the best – seem to have picked up this year and even my carefully cultivated accounts no longer feel safe. Part of me will be so glad when Sunday is over and my Instagram feed goes back to cute babies and delicious food.

I know I can’t expect everybody to think about it, but it can be very hard to be a motherless mother – whether you never knew her, whether you lost her recently or long ago, whether she’s passed beyond this world or simply disconnected from you in this one. It’s hard to have a holiday that will remind you in perpetuity of something that you’ve lost, especially at a point in your life where you’d value her presence more than ever.

On Sunday, I will enjoy my place as mother of my small family. We’ll visit my mother-in-law and show that we value her work in creating the fantastic man we have as husband and dad in our lives. We’ll be thinking of my mother and hoping that she is looking down at us and enjoying the family we are today but we’ll also be thinking of those other mums out there for whom Mothers’ Day brings mixed feelings too.

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[SAGE] Advice from one mother to another…

With three out of three recent arrivals in my circle of friends being less than straightforward, it’s lead me to think about my own birthing and newborn experience. While CJ’s birth was pretty easy, the weeks that followed were extremely hard, in a way that it can be hard to comprehend if you haven’t been there yourself – and even hard to comprehend if you are there for the first time. Coincidentally, the NZBlogger prompt this week is Sage – so here’s my hopefully sage advice from someone who has been there before to the mum who wonders what the hell she’s done:

It’s not like you imagined it, I know and I’m sorry. I’m not going to tell you that everyone finds it this hard either, because the reality is that some mums and babies just hit the ground running. Don’t let anyone tell you – even yourself – that this means you aren’t a natural mother. It’s just taking you a little longer to adjust – whether it’s from zero to one, one to two, or four to five kids. And that’s okay.

There have been obstacles in your road. Your health or his health or her health or your husband’s mental health. Things didn’t go the way that you planned. Ask for help. It doesn’t make you a bad mum. It doesn’t serve anyone for you to battle on trying to trick everyone into thinking that you have it all sorted – let people do what they can to help. There will never be another time where people are more willing to be your village, as much as you’ll wish someone would step in when your toddler throws a tantrum in the supermarket.

Get out of the house! I know that it’s hard, she’s crying, you’re crying and you never know what is happening next. Ask your mum friends about a family-friendly cafe and then go with them to get that monster-sized coffee and a big lump of cake. Go out with your baby. Go out without your baby – no one should judge you if you need an hour to just get your head to rights and if you’re leaving your baby with food (of breast milk or formula variety) and supervision (of partner or friend or grandparent variety) then it’s none of their damn business anyway. Do something that makes you feel human again whether it’s swinging on a swing, or reading a book or going late night shopping. 

Feed your baby however works for you. Know that no matter what you do, people will judge you. If breast-feeding feels like the one thing you can do right for your baby, keep doing it. If it makes you want to cringe every feed-time, if you want to run screaming from the house, stop doing it. Breast milk does have great benefits but it certainly doesn’t work for everyone and it’s okay to accept defeat. It doesn’t make you less of a woman.

Know that “this too shall pass” – the good and the bad. The screaming, hungry, lip-tied newborn will turn into a sassy toddler that refuses to lie down in bed and will scream as you take him home from the park. Your fantastic sleeper turns into a gorgeous boy who says Yes like Sean Connery and who gives the best cuddles. Then those phases pass too. It feels like the longest time when you’re in it but the saying becomes even more true – The days are long but the years are short. You stop counting in weeks and start counting in months, then years. This hard part fails into the distance, even if you’re still dealing with repercussions of earlier issues. It does get better.

You have this. Whether you’re covered in baby vomit or decided that having lunch was more important than having a shower. You have this. Whether you had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner or decided to have take-aways for the third time (or fifth time) this week. You have this. I know you don’t feel like it, but you do.

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Crummy Weather Confessions #1

The weather outside is absolutely frightful, the hubby is out running errands (it’s a public holiday here, so he’s not at work for once) and the little dude is down for a nap. I’m curled up on the couch under a blanket and, to be honest, still in my pajamas (at 1pm NZT). My aim when I started this blog was to keep it real and so I’ve decided to start a Crummy Weather Confessions series!

  • This afternoon pajamas situation happens more than I would care to admit. When there is so much to do, I focus on getting everyone else and everything else ready before myself… unless of course, it’s a work day. Think it would be pretty frowned upon if I showed up in my nightwear…
  • Some days, I just have to phone it in. I’ve been getting some ridiculous headaches lately (I think it’s hormonal – thanks HORMONES) and if that ties in with a day I’m home with CJ, I pretty much lie on the couch, we have finger food for lunch – and by that I mean crackers, ham and processed cheese slices – and the TV is my friendly baby-sitter as I try and battle through to the next nap time. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?
  • The cat is driving me mental! Originally my cat, she was adopted by my parents when I moved into a share flat that I couldn’t have her at. Now, the cat lives with us again but she has been completely coddled by my dad and, being allergic, I can’t give her the same amount of cuddles that she’s used to.  And today she’s been in, out, in, out… we need a damn cat door.
  • I slept on the couch last night because hubby was sick and thrashing round like a landed snapper. I really wanted to yell at him but it’s not very nice to yell at sick people. I had the worst sleep and feel like death today.
  • I sometimes stare at CJ and then say “I made you…” – it sounds totally creepy, but sometimes I’m still in awe of the fact that I actually have a kid.
  • I don’t understand how there are these mums out there that do all this baking and stuff with babies – what do you do with your kid? What am I missing? CJ’s too little to help yet, but he’s not going to just sit and watch either. My options are nap time (sometimes) or when he’s in bed; enough time to maybe get one batch of cookies done but certainly not enough for a week.
  • In addition to the above, I sometimes wish that Papa M didn’t work such long hours and it wasn’t all up to me to work out how to balance kids and work and a household… but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, right? It is what it is.
  • My guilty pleasure right now is buttered toast with just a sprinkle of chicken stock powder… don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!
  • My house is completely non-Pinterest worthy and in dire need of renovation.
  • It’s only in the last three months that I’ve realized how I pushed everyone away when I was having feeding problems with a newborn CJ and in hindsight I wish I hadn’t. As a first time mum you feel like such a failure, not being able to do what you are told comes naturally. I wish I’d let people in more, let them tell me it was okay and that I would be okay.

So there you go, some candor on a crummy, rainy, windy day in the interests of keeping it real. If you’ve got a confession to get off your chest, feel free to leave it below!

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In another lifetime…

CJ

I was having a conversation with Corrine the other day about the study that she is doing – it’s in a field that has always fascinated me and I made the passing comment “In another lifetime…”. I’m really happy with my life the way it is; I’m a case in point that you can always change careers, having changed from marketing and PR to secondary school teaching. The reality is, however, that in order to establish yourself in any type of career you do need to maintain some focus – there really are a finite amount of things that one can do in a lifetime. But it’s fun to think of the “what ifs” sometimes.

So alternate universe me might have:

Become a midwife

The idea of assisting in bringing babies into the world has always fascinated me, even more so since I brought my son into the world. A really bad experience with a science teacher at high school put me off pursuing any of the the sciences further and so by the time I was selecting tertiary study, any science and health-based subjects weren’t even on my radar. I’d love to be present at a birth one day though, even just in a support capacity. I was so not with it enough at my own birth to really appreciate the miracle of bringing a new human into the world.

Travelled more

The downside of studying two separate qualifications in my teens and twenties meant that I missed out on that quintessential Kiwi experience, the O.E. While slumming it in backpacker hostels has never been my particular style (I’m a horrendously light sleeper), I feel like there’s so much of the world to see and I’ve barely seen a sliver of it yet. I know there’s still time, and I’m a huge advocate for travelling both with your kids and without them, but a part of me does wonder what it would have been like to “do Europe” while I was still young and free from responsibilities.

Moved cities

I LOVE the beach, and as I moved into my teaching qualification I was seriously toying with the idea of moving to Tauranga/Mt Maunganui once I graduated. I saw myself teaching during the day then strolling along the beach at night to wind down. Then I met a man whose specialist job is likely to keep us in Auckland, where the housing market prices keep us far from the beach… ah well, at least petrol is cheap enough at the moment that I can drive there on a regular basis!

Opened a cafe

To be honest, I still think about doing this sometimes. Our current town lacks a cafe with a really decent child-friendly zone and most parents are stuck driving to the nearest Mitre 10 Mega  – they do have pretty awesome playgrounds. I’m a foodie, plus I’ve had years of customer service experience so it wouldn’t be completely out of the blue for me to do, but it’s a heck of a lot of capital investment and I’m pretty content with my life right now.

Been a “professional student”

I think that one of the reasons that I love teaching is because I LOVE learning too. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three other courses of studies that I would love to do and I would honestly be happy attending university for the rest of my life… but that’s just not a practical step to do when, you know, you actually need to earn some money to support your family.

Stayed at home longer (or worked out another solution)

I moved out of home at seventeen, due to the difficulties of having a sister with a high level of special needs – she was still at the time not very verbal, so a lot of screams – and also due to just sheer stubborness and strong will. I can’t deny, however, that Present Me would have been a lot better off financially if I’d managed to stick it out at home or come up with another solution like moving in with family. Hindsight, huh?

It’s so interesting to look back and see how you might have done things differently if your life had bene just that little bit different. It’s never too late to make changes but it’s also alright to just leave them as dreams “in another lifetime” and enjoy the life you have.

What would you have done in another lifetime?

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Currently – the April edition

It’s hard to believe the school holidays have drawn to a close and we’re all back to work and daycare again! We got to cross a lot of fun things off our holiday checklist and I’m pleased because this term is shaping up to be an absolute cracker. It’s hard to believe the year is slowly ticking by into winter, and CJ’s 15 month check-up is just around the corner. He’s becoming a little helper to me though, able to bring me items when I ask for them and handing me my shoes when he wants to head out!

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So currently:

CJ is full of talking – loves to chat away to his parents. Shoes, bananas and kitties are all big topics of conversation, as is the unfortunate insult of “meanie”

I’ve taken up a short-term contract and there’s another potential short-term contract in the offing that I would be REALLY excited to take up. Fingers crossed!

I’m absolutely loving my new exercise regime – it’s so easy to stick to when it’s something that you enjoy and that is something that I had forgotten.

CJ is still not walking. We’re trying to be zen parents about it but it’s driving us (and him, I think) a little bit nuts. We catch him standing by himself on a regular basis but then the moment he realizes, he’s back to holding onto something. Yet he’ll climb up flights of stairs, all over playgrounds and on top of tables… I don’t get it.

We’re reshuffling some of our goals at the moment – it feels a little bit disappointing but we have to remind ourselves that they are aspirational, not set in stone, and we have to do what is best for our family.

We’re making lists of winter clothing to be bought and hunting out the bargains – it’s amazing how unprepared we’ve been for  the recent cold snap!

We are plowing through another Wonder Week – I definitely think that it gets harder to deal with the personality changes that these weeks (and this one could be four weeks’ long!) bring. Our previously awesome sleeper now refuses to go down without a fight and that is SO hard. Roll on mid-May and having our happy little guy back!

We’ve booked our flights and accommodation for a long weekend getaway in Christchurch. It’s so exciting to think that this will be the first plane ride that CJ gets to take – coincidentally Papa M’s first flight was with me to Christchurch six years ago!

We’re finally (mostly) settled in to our new home. We had our first dinner party just this last weekend and it was SO nice. It’s great to go out on date nights but it’s also great to spend evenings just shooting the breeze with friends… I think I’d forgotten a bit what that was like!

We’re really excited to see what the next few months bring!

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Getting back on the (healthy) horse: April update

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My first goal is to hit this weight (about 14 kg away), last seen circa 2012

Slowly but surely, I’m beginning to get on my way! I spent much of the earlier part of the year “fluffing around” with no real plan of how I was going to reach my goal. Life was so busy and so much was changing and I had no real sense of how to maintain my self-care as well as look after everyone else – isn’t that the typical “mum life” scenario? After the manic months of February and March, all our massive special occasions were over, we were settled into our new place and I literally had no more excuses. I needed to come up with something that would work for me exercise-wise (my diet is fairly good) and for my family.

Back when I was trying to get in shape for the wedding I was doing aquarobics twice a week and it really worked for me. I know that it can conjure up pictures of retirees slowly ambling through a routine but our instructor drove our mixed-age class hard. Now, with juggling child care and a husband who can’t always guarantee the time he gets home, the class environment doesn’t work for me. But there’s nothing stopping me doing it on my own! I can’t road-run due to old injuries but for the last two weeks, two nights a week, I’ve been slogging up and down the public pool lanes (about 1 km in 30 minutes) as soon as Papa M gets home. Yay for aqua-jogging! Our local pool also has lanes specifically set aside for “Water Walking” so I don’t feel like I’m annoying any swimmers. In the first week I’d already lost 500g, a nice maintainable level of weight loss.

The other thing helping my weight loss has to be my new belated birthday present from my father, a Garmin Vivosmart! This little piece of technology is so fun. Initially I was attracted to it for the ability to get phone notifications on a wristband – I keep my phone away and in silent mode in class while teaching so it’s a very handy way to see if my husband or daycare are ringing or texting me with an urgent message. The reality, though is that the steps counter and the Move! alert (to let you know you’ve been sitting idle for more than an hour) has been very handy. Back when I first lost weight for my wedding, I found Weight Watchers and My Fitness Pal useful methods of actually increasing my awareness of what I was putting in my body – it is SO easy to underestimate. Likewise, I think it can be easy to overestimate the amount of exercise you get in a day. The wristband lets me know at a glance exactly how active I’ve been, and when I need to get my butt out of my chair. The final neat perk is the sleep tracker – it’s really interesting to compare my sleep patterns each night and how awake I am in the morning. It really is my new best friend when it comes to weight loss.

I’m hoping that this is the start of something really positive for me in terms of getting my health and fitness goals on track. I’m going to think positively and say that I’ll be reporting back in June with at least a 5 kg weight loss! If you have any tips for losing weight while balancing a family, I’d love to hear them!

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