Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Back to Reality

Andy's parents went back to England at the end of January and both Andy and I are back to work. Sigh. Back to reality, indeed. Andy is working full time and I have gone back to work two days a week with a new role I wrote about in my previous post. I am now a "working mother" which I've come to realise is a stupidly outdated term, as no one ever refers to Andy as a "working father". 

Ella is in daycare the days I work, which I felt immense guilt about to begin with but we are all slowly getting used to it. She didn't have the greatest start, acquiring her first cold almost immediately, and having to be picked up early on her first full day as she had a fever. It is so sad watching Ella suffer through a cold as she can't blow her nose... I mean, how annoying would that be? I'd be in a pretty foul mood if I had a runny nose all day and couldn't do anything about it! Apparently babies and children get colds all the time. The Internet has informed me anywhere from 6-12 colds per year is pretty normal, so we'd better get used to it. She has now recovered, and by all accounts is starting to get used to daycare, smiling and giggling when she sees her carers, and we haven't had to pick her up early since that first day. Still, it is a long day for her there, as Andy drops her off around 7:30am and then we try to pick her up as soon as possible, but sometimes that is not until after 5pm. It's ok for two days a week, but I am not looking forward to going back full time and we are exploring other options for child care, such as an au pair, for when that time comes.

Going back to work has been harder than expected. On one hand it is really nice to break up the monotony of staying at home alone all day with a baby and interact with adults. I really like a lot of people I work with so the social side of going back to work has been great. Working two days is amazing in theory, but my new role really needs more time to be done well. I am finding it difficult to find a way to do the job to the ability I would like to without taking too much home. I've already mentioned this to my Principal though and so hopefully we can work out a way to manage things.

The best thing about going back to work though has been the way it makes me appreciate the days I have with Ella. They no longer feel monotonous or even that challenging and I am trying to be more present and enjoy all of the time I have with her. Now that I have a taste of what it is like to be at work all day I feel like I know what more experienced parents are talking about when they tell me to treasure every moment, and how quickly time flies. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are still times when I will feel frustration and annoyance with Ella, but overall I know now that this stage of her life will not last forever and I am lucky to have the time off with her that I have. 

Other than that things have been pretty quiet around here. Obviously we've been busy getting into a new routine for the work/daycare days and settling back into life without grandparents around again. Last weekend we got back into the yoga (for mummy), swimming (for Ella and daddy) and brunch (for everyone) routine which was lovely. Ella has really grown over the summer and is really engaged in her swimming lessons now. Also, we sat her in a high chair for the first time at brunch last weekend which meant we could both eat our meals with two hands - what a treat! Now that she eats real food we can order her a side of toast and she happily sits there munching away on it. (I say munching, I really mean she sucks on it until its nice and soggy and then some of it gets ingested and the rest ends up on the floor. But don't worry, I clean up after her. I'm not one of those parents... yet.) I think we need to take advantage of actually enjoying brunching with Ella as I'm sure once she is walking around it won't be quite so relaxing!

Mmmmm toast

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Delayed! and New Job Update

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

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

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

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

Bonding with Daddy
Back to swimming lessons!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Tekapo, New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 21 January 2016


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

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

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

TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu, docked in Queenstown

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

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

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

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

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

Luge track

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

Lovely Ella, pondering life with Lake Wakapitu in the background

Family shot!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Welcome to the Grandnobles!

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

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

Lunch at Mayfield

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 31 December 2015

De Code Adventures and The Keg

As part of our Christmas present this year we decided to take everyone to an Escape Room. An escape room is an interactive puzzle, where you are locked in a room for a set amount of time and you have to solve different clues in order to get a code that will let you out of the room. We did one of these in Melbourne about a year ago and loved it. We found a place in Mississauga about 10 minutes from my parent's house called De Code Adventures which offers six different rooms/scenarios to choose from, all varying in difficulty. Five of them are for groups of four to six people, but if you have a larger group there is one room that you play in two teams against each other, which is pretty cool. We had a group of six: Andy, my brother Mike and his girlfriend Ashley, our friend Nikki, my dad and me. 

The room we chose to complete was called De Scientific Code and the scenario was this:

The evil scientist. Professor D. invented a destructive element that threatens humanity. The government selected your team to break into the lab to gather research on this element. However, the lab is armed with a high tech security system that scans for intruders every 45 minutes. Will you be able to stop this threat?

There are three levels you can play at: Guiding, where your group can be given unlimited hints to help you solve the puzzle; Challenge, where you get just one clue at any point you choose; and Insane, where you get no help at all. We chose to play at Challenge level. Once we were briefed we entered the room and our 45 minutes began. The beginning of an escape room is always a bit overwhelming, as you have absolutely no idea what you are looking for. There are things in the room that you might eventually need for a clue, but other things that are decoys and will be no help whatsoever. It took us about 15 minutes before we cracked the first code, which my dad ultimately got, but we got stuck while trying to get the second so asked for our one hint at that point. It was reassuring to know we were on the right track and once we solved the second clue we were on a role. In the end we escaped from the room with seven minutes to spare. It was really fun and a good level of difficulty for us, and everyone was able to help out at different points. 

After completing the Escape Room at De Code Adventures
There is also a Board Game Cafe that you can visit at De Code Adventures, but we didn't have time for this as we had dinner reservations to keep. Actually the cafe looked pretty lame and lacking atmosphere which was disappointing as I feel like a board game cafe sounds like the funnest thing ever. I love going to a cafe that also has games for you to play! This place was less a cafe and more just a huge room with tables set up to play at, with some refreshments for sale. They did have an amazing selection of games to choose from though, including like ten different variations of Settlers of Catan. 

After leaving De Code Adventures we met up with my mom, Ella, Nikki's mom Carol and our friend Maria at The Keg for dinner. The Keg is like my favourite restaurant to go to when we visit Canada. It's a steakhouse restaurant with consistently good food and cocktails. I always order the fillet mignon and this time had a variation with a blue cheese and garlic crust, OMG it was SO good. We had a great dinner and Ella was brilliant, falling asleep just before the mains arrived and slept, the entire time we were eating so we were all able to enjoy our meals while they were hot. I did feel pretty stuffed when we left though, I think I ate too much bread before our meals were served... I am definitely going to have to clean up my eating once our holiday is over!

At The Keg
This morning we took advantage of the blue skies and relatively warm weather (anything above 0 degrees at this time of year is considered warm) and took Ella for a walk in her new pram. My brother got us a very generous and thoughtful gift this Christmas: a jogging pram! So now Andy and I can go on runs again together with Ella which is very exciting. I really want to enter a running event in the next few months with it. It means that we won't have the debacle we had last month when we both wanted to do the City to Sea run in Melbourne

Ella in her new jogging pram
I can't believe tomorrow is New Year's Eve and 2015 is almost over! It's been a life changing year for us and we have so much to be thankful for. We will be ringing in the new year at my parent's house with a few close friends... hopefully Ella will sleep through her first New Year's Eve!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

We've been in Canada the past two weeks, celebrating the holidays with my family in Mississauga (a suburb of Toronto). It's been difficult to update the blog since arriving. As usual, the holiday season is packed and goes by so quickly. I had expected our first week here to be fairly quiet, as we arrived pretty early in December. But a few days after getting here Ella had her first ever bout of illness, a stomach virus, which was contagious and struck down my mom, Andy and myself a few days later. Although it was sad to see Ella sick and throwing up, we were lucky that she didn't have a fever and recovered within a day. And I was very glad to have my own mom around to ensure that as first time parents we didn't totally freak out! 

In between illnesses we managed to get out and visit the Toronto Christmas Market with my parents, putting everyone in the Christmas spirit. We had an enjoyable time browsing the different shops and stalls, stopping first for some chocolate fondue and then for a cup of mulled wine. Ella was all bundled up in her snowsuit which was super cute and we got a lovely family photo in front of the giant Christmas tree. 


We also had to get all of our Christmas shopping done, so we braved the shopping mall crowds to get this done... once again cursing myself for not getting my shopping done sooner, and in Melbourne. One of these years I will take a page from my mom's book and start next year's Christmas shopping on Boxing Day. We did manage to get Ella's picture with Santa done as well, although weirdly I don't think the picture really looks like her - her colouring is much darker than it looks here:

We spent Christmas Eve as we usually do, with our close family friends Carol and Nikki. It was so lovely to catch up with them after three years, and it is always nice to have friends that no matter how long it has been since you last saw them, when you do meet again it feels like nothing has changed. 

My mom outdid herself again this year and we had a perfect Christmas morning as a family. Ella was in a great mood all day and we had a leisurley morning, going from drinking coffee and Bailey's to champagne and orange juice and opening presents. My mom also makes this thing called "The Land of Nod" which is sort of like a cinnamon bread, but that description does not do it justice. It is served hot out of the oven and is like a little peice of heaven in your mouth!  Ella was spoiled by Santa for her first Christmas, but like all babies, she was much more amused by the wrapping paper and ribbons. We had a traditional turkey dinner and then a game of Settlers of Catan - which I won! Being the reigning house champion of Settlers of Catan gives you huge bragging rights in my house.

On Boxing Day we visited my dad's family (including my FAVOURITE cousin Joanne, who should definitely come out and visit us in Australia), as per usual. We had to squeeze all the visiting into the morning as my brother's girlfriend, Ashley, arrived from California in the afternoon. But we got to introduce Ella to a lot of her Canadian family which was nice. When Ashley arrived we went for a pretty mediocre dinner at the chain restaurant Montana's (I miss Melbourne food!) and then played the very un-PC but hilarious game Cards Against Humanity. You know you are a grown up when you can play this game with your husband, brother, AND your parents without blushing too much! We also watched the first game of the World Junior Hockey Championships, Canada vs. the USA. Unfortunately we lost which always hurts more when its against the Americans, but it is early on in the tournament so hopefully our boys will learn from this game and improve. 

Ella  and Rudolph
We are having a pretty chilled out week this week, catching up with a few friends, playing games at home and just enjoying spending time with family. I am so grateful that we got to take this trip with Ella to spend time with everyone, and I am already dreading saying good-bye when we leave next week. 

Christmas Morning

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Kindred Movement Yoga

A few months ago a new yoga studio opened up in Abbotsford called Kindred Movement. It is conveniently located about a five minute walk from my house, just off Gipps Street and across from one of our favourite brunch spots, Kitchen. Previous to Kindred Movement opening there was a lack of yoga studios within walking distance of our house - we must live in the only place in Melbourne where that is true. There are classes at Abbotsford Convent, but the timetable is really limited or you have to commit to eight week courses. One of my mother's group friends, Trudie, told me about Kindred Movement opening when we got back from London in October, and that night I excitedly went to my first Yin Yoga class with her. 

I was initially underwhelmed with the studio, but probably for all the wrong reasons. I was used to Kaya Health Studios, where I used to go before we moved to Abbotsford. Kaya is a much larger club, with various group fitness rooms, a small gym and a full shower and changing room. I loved Kaya and would have continued my membership there if we hadn't moved. Kindred Movement is a much simpler space, just one room to do yoga and Pilates with a class maximum of 16 students.

I started by doing their intro offer of $25 for 10 days and managed to fit in three classes. Upon finishing the 10 days there is a follow-up offer of one month unlimited for $90. I signed up for this as well, and ended up going consistently three times a week. I've since completely fallen in love with the studio! It is just such a welcoming space and as soon as I arrive I feel completely relaxed, even (or especially) after a particularly challenging day with Ella. Because it is so new and small it feels like a community you belong to instead of just a huge club where you don't know anyone and no one knows you. I've decided to become a member, which is $30 per week for unlimited classes. My aim is three classes a week, but even if I only do two I figure $15 per yoga class is still cheaper than a drop-in session anywhere (they tend to be about $20 per class).

Kindred Movement Yoga Studio, Abbotsford

There are three styles of Yoga offered: Power Flow, Slow Flow and Yin. The flow classes are both Vinyasa style and pretty similar, except that the flows tend to be faster paced in the power class, and the room temperature is much warmer at around 27-30 degrees. Yin is the total opposite, where poses are held passively for 3-5 minutes, giving a really deep stretch. This class is challenging in a different way to the flow classes, as you have to be really mindful and try not to let your mind wander while you are holding the poses, so there is a truly meditative aspect to the class. It can also be pretty excruciating to hold a pose for that long, and sometimes getting out of them I feel like a creaky old woman! Yin is a really good complement to the flow classes (which are a Yang style) and can really help to increase flexibility. I have been going to one of each class every week for the past two months and am really starting to see the difference. I feel stronger and more flexible than when I started, and the back pain I had due to breastfeeding is almost non-existent. Kindred Movement also offer Pilates which I haven't tried out yet, but my friend Trudie has and said its very challenging! The timetable is pretty limited at the moment, but they are very new and so will be adding classes as demand increases. A lot of the classes are still pretty small, which is so great as you get a lot of individual attention from the teachers and they are able to correct your posture in poses which I desperately need!

All of the teachers I have had are excellent, very unique in their styles, and they always give me something to think about each class, an intention or a theme to focus on. The owner, Mandy, teaches the Yin class I go to on a Tuesday night, and she always has a delicious pot of lemongrass and ginger tea for us brewing before class. Last week Mandy started the class by reminding us that our lives are a series of moments, and all you really have to do is attend to the moment that you are in. I've thought about that a lot this week, as it is so easy to worry about "what might happen" in the future, or "what has happened" in the past, instead of just focusing on what is happening now. Since her class I've been trying to bring myself back to the present by telling myself to "attend to the moment", whether it is while I am walking somewhere, or trying to get Ella to sleep, or talking to Andy or a friend. It's so easy to just let my mind wander to where I am going, or what I am going to get done when Ella falls asleep, or how I am going to respond to whoever I am talking to... I'm so busy thinking about what happens next that I forget to enjoy what is happening now. When you focus on the now everything becomes much simpler and easier to deal with, and I think it has really helped me to be more calm, especially when dealing with a fussy baby!

Since having Ella "me time" has become much more scarce, and so I really appreciate the hour I have to myself when I am at yoga. I feel a lot more committed to my practice than I did pre-baby, and I now even do about 20-30 minutes of yoga at home on my own each morning. It is basically a priority for me during Ella's first morning nap. As soon as she is asleep I roll out my mat and put on a video via YouTube. I have told myself I am not allowed to do ANYTHING prior to yoga... No checking my phone, Facebook, replying to text messages, etc. (OK, I do allow myself to go to the bathroom, but I think that's a valid exception!) I've found two yoga channels that I really like: Bad Yogi, and Yoga with Adriene. Both have 30 Day Challenges which give you a different class every day for 30 days, so its not like you are watching the same video over and over again, which would get pretty boring! I've already completed the Bad Yogi challenge and am on Day 7 of the one on Yoga with Adrien. 

On Friday we leave to go to Canada for Christmas which I am so, SO excited about, and I am determined to keep up my daily yoga practice while we are there. I will really miss practicing at Kindred Movement and have to put my membership on hold for the next six weeks as we will be travelling for most of that time. But it does give me something to look forward to at the end of the summer, and I am eager to see what additions to the timetable there will be in the new year.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Hoyts Crying Room

When I was pregnant, one of the main things people told us to do before having a baby was to go to the movies. According to these experienced parents, we wouldn't be able to do this for YEARS once we'd had a child. This wasn't hugely devastating news to me as we are not major movie goers anyway, however I will admit it can be pretty nice to go and see an excellent movie on the big screen with a huge tube of popcorn and just chill out for a few hours. 

I had heard of cinemas here doing "Mums and Bubs" movie sessions during the day, which is one of those things that sounds fun at first, but then when you really think about it sounds kind of horrible. A dark room full of babies all crying at different times while trying to watch a movie, anxiously waiting for your own baby to start crying? No thanks. I think I'd rather stay home and watch a movie for free with just my own crying baby to worry about.

The closest cinema to us is Hoyts Victoria Gardens in Richmond. When I went to enquire about the Mums and Bubs sessions they told me only ran once a month. However, they told me, they do have a "crying room". A crying room?! This I had never heard of, but it is a fantastic idea. Two of their biggest theatres have a small, soundproof room with seven seats at the back of the theatre. There is a big pane of glass to watch the movie through and the sounds is piped in through speakers. So you can watch the movie with your baby, safe in the knowledge that if they start crying you are not disturbing other customers, and you can continue to watch the film. Brilliant!

Ella at 6 weeks in the crying room

I've since been twice to the movies and its been a great experience. The first time was with my mom, we saw the movie "Trainwreck" when Ella was about six weeks old. She did indeed cry during the adverts at the start, but then slept through the whole movie on my mom. Success! The great thing about the room is that it is like you are in your own personal movie theatre, so I could also talk to my mom during the film without annoying anyone else. (When we went it was actually a Monday afternoon so I think there were like two other people in the main theatre anyway, but you get the idea).

Yesterday I went again with two of my other mummy friends to see "Mockingjay Part 2". We decided to go as the weather was 33 degrees and windy, which is not fun weather to hang out in with an infant. A cool air conditioned cinema seemed like a much better idea.  This time I didn't think Ella would sleep the whole time as she is older and doesn't just drop off for a sleep after a feed like she used to. However luckily she woke from her morning nap about two hours before the start of the film, so she actually did sleep most of the time as she was due a nap anyway. I brought the Hug a Bub wrap for her to sleep in, and she cuddled up inside next to me from the start of the film until about 15 minutes before the end. Well done Ella! The only thing was it was quite a loud movie, even in the crying room, so I spent most of the movie with my hand covering her exposed ear thinking a loud sound would wake her up. (This never happened... it is amazing what babies sleep through when they are in a deep sleep!)

Ella at 4.5 months - checking out the Maltesers!

So there you go, Hoyts cinemas are amazing. This is just another example of how child friendly this city is, I love it! The only real downfall is that you have limited selection of the movie you want to see as there is only a crying room in two theatres, but hey, when it comes to being able to get out of your house and do something with your baby that isn't stressful you tend to be less picky about things like that!