Sunday, 26 March 2017

Ella's week with Gan-ma (and Gan-ma)

Andy's parents are here! Dave and Bunny arrived Tuesday morning via Emirates business class... (SO jealous). Their timing was pretty good, as Ella was sick all last week with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, and fully recovered just prior to their arrival. When she first saw them she was a bit shy... for all of about 30 seconds. Since then, Ella has been all over her grandparents. She really seemed to recognise them this visit, and can now say "Gan-ma". Hilariously, she calls both of them Gan-ma, much to Dave's dismay!

Wednesday was my day off so Dave, Bunny, Ella and I headed to the Melbourne Museum. We started out in the Children's Gallery, which is a new-ish area designed for children under five. We've been here with Ella several times since it opened in December, and she always has a brilliant time. It's a huge space that starts with a tunnel and replica train to run through, and then lots of different animals, shapes, textures, sounds and spaces to explore. It is kind of like a souped up daycare centre, minus the people paid to look after your children.

Andy and I have free "teacher membership" to the museum, and it's less than a 15 minute drive from home, so a visit to the Children's Gallery is a great low-cost, toddler-friendly activity for us. Wednesday was a rainy day, so the gallery was packed when we arrived just after opening at 10:30am. As soon as we got there, Ella started asking for "yummy-yummy", which is Ella-speak for "I'm hungry". Girl loves her food. There is a small café at the entrance to the Children's Gallery, so we got a sandwich for Ella and coffee for the grown-ups, enjoying them in the outdoor seating area. Sandwich demolished and tummy full, Ella wandered off to explore the outside section of the gallery. She managed to quickly find her favourite activity, a little water feature that is guaranteed to get her soaking wet. We've learned from experience that we always need a change of clothes when we visit the museum now.

Once we changed Ella into some dry clothes she played inside a bit, but as mentioned above it was pretty busy so we ended up leaving the Children's Gallery and exploring some other parts of the museum, which was very quiet and calm. We walked through the Forest Gallery which is partly outside, with tall eucalyptus trees, ponds and waterfalls. Ella loves the part of the path which leads underground, allowing her a view into underwater pond life.

After that we visited the Top Designs exhibition, which showcases the top VCE design projects from across the state. I'm always so impressed by the quality of work produced by the Year 12s. By this time Ella was a bit tired and was lying down on the floors and benches, so we thought we'd better take her home!

On Thursday both Andy and I had to work, so Dave and Bunny ventured out to the zoo with Ella for the morning. I think Andy was worried that his parents would not be able to "handle" Ella for a whole day on their own. She definitely keeps you on your toes, but I had faith in them! Dave kept me updated with pictures and videos throughout the morning, and they all had a wonderful time, watching a seal show and enjoying the elephants. Ella fell asleep in her pram on the way home, and Dave even managed to pull off the elusive "cot transfer" without waking her. Very impressive grandparenting skills.

Dave and Bunny got a "day off" on Friday, as Ella went into daycare as normal. They spent the day exploring the city; Dave going up the Eureka Tower and Bunny venturing off to Bourke Street to check out the shops. Tall towers with views over the city are like Dave's favourite thing, but I totally would have gone with Bunny to the shops instead!

On Saturday morning we all headed out to Brunswick Baths for Ella's swimming lesson. Bunny and I did some laps in the outdoor pool while Dave watched Ella's lesson with Andy. When I finished my swim I got out and Bunny was nowhere to be found. Little did I know she had sneaked off to the hot tub!! (Side note - you are supposed to pay extra to use the hot tub/sauna area so I never go in there. Bunny unknowingly went into this part of the pool without paying. She is such a rebel.) We had some brunch at Birdie Num Nums after swimming, where Ella enjoyed a babycino. Dave and Bunny were impressed with the child friendly sandpit and toys in the café's garden.

Once we finished lunch Dave and Andy took Ella home for her nap, and Bunny and I visited some of the op-shops along Nicholson Street. It's so nice to have someone to go to the shops with! I got a few toys for Ella that have been absolute hits, and spent only $3.50 total on them! Who says kids have to have new, expensive toys to have fun?! (No one says this really. Used kids stuff is awesome.)

Late Saturday afternoon we headed out to Baby Bunting to get a few supplies for our upcoming trip to Bali (this pool floaty that Chris and Ness had when we were in Mornington which was awesome, and mosquito net for Ella's cot). We then had a couple of hours to kill before dinner so we headed to the nearby Heide Sculpture Park. We wandered around checking out art that looked cool but none of us really understood. We should really get a guide next time! The park is lovely, set along the Yarra River, and free to walk around (there is a modern art museum that you can go in as well, which does have an admission cost). Lots of people were having picnics on the grounds and there is a really calm and peaceful atmosphere, well except for the occasional shrieks from a flock of cockatoos. Ella had a great time running around, exploring the different works of art.

And now it is Sunday - Andy and Dave have gone to the Grand Prix, and Bunny and I are waiting for Ella to wake from her nap so we can take her swimming. It's been a pretty busy first week for Dave and Bunny, and we are really enjoying having them here to spend time with us and Ella.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Labour Day weekend in Rye

Last weekend was Labour Day weekend here in Victoria, which meant we had the Monday off work. We had been trying to play a little trip away with our friends Charlotte, Adam, Chris and Ness (and their baby Noah) for ages. However two babies and everyone being expats, (meaning many trips abroad for all of us), meant that this was our first chance to all get together since we spent Melbourne Cup in Lakes Entrance over a year ago. Back then, Ella was four months old, Andy and I were totally sleep deprived, and I was still in that new mother state where you feel like your baby is literally attached to you and you wonder if you will ever get the chance to be alone again. This time around was totally different - Ella is now 20 months old, walking and talking and just getting more fun by the day. She also had a little playmate in Noah, who is 11 months old.

Noah and Ella
We headed down the Mornington Peninsula to a house we rented in Rye on Friday after work. Traffic getting out of the city was predictably horrible, so it took us nearly two hours to get there. We stopped at a rest station about 40 minutes from Rye to break up the journey and get some dinner for Ella. Normally, I hate eating at rest stations like this, where your choices are mainly KFC and McDonald's. However at this particular rest station we discovered Oliver's, an organic, real food/fast food chain. It was awesome! Their extensive menu was full of healthy choices, such as pita pockets with veggies, rice and quality meat instead of burgers, smoothies and fresh juices instead of soda, steamed green or edamame beans instead of fries. We saw a sign advertising Oliver's IPO that is planned for 2017, and I've registered for a prospectus, as I'd love to invest in a company like this.

This rest station also had a quality play area for kids, so we let Ella run around for a while in there, which she loved. That is, until she fell over and slammed her forehead into some steel bars (the yellow ones pictured below). Until then we'd been having a pretty good trip! Poor Ella now has a huge bump and bruise in the middle of her forehead, added to the many bruises and scrapes she already has. She actually seems to fall down a lot lately - tripping frequently when she runs and basically just not looking where she is going at all. I'm starting to wonder how normal this is, or if there is something wrong that is causing this clumsiness.

Anyway, Ella was not happy about getting back into the car and we had a pretty painful remainder of the drive, fixed only by streaming The Wiggles on my phone. Thank goodness for The Wiggles! We arrived in Rye to our amazing house around 7pm and instantly felt happy and relaxed, ready for a nice break from work and the city. Ella was super excited to get to be in a new place, so we didn't end up getting her to bed until around 9pm! One would think that maybe she would then sleep in later, but we learnt a long time ago that babies don't work that way... she was of course up and ready to play by 7am the next morning.

Ella with her new best friend, Adam

We had a lazy Saturday morning and then headed to the beach in Rye for the afternoon. The weather was cooler than we've been having lately which was a bit of a relief. There was rain predicted but luckily that didn't happen until the night, well after we had all gone to bed. Ella loved the beach and had to be dragged away from the water more than once! She also had fun knocking down sandcastles that Charlotte made.

We had a chilled out evening (once the kids finally went to bed), enjoying a BBQ outside by the pool and playing board games. Charlotte killed us all at the game of Life. On her life journey she won the lottery and found a buried treasure, so I'm not sure how life-like the game is? Seems like you just need luck to win at life... hmmmm.... maybe it is very life-like! Every evening Andy, Ness and I headed off to bed by 11pm (which feels SO late to me. I love a 9pm bedtime), leaving our party animal friends up to do whatever it is people do late at night. Drink? Talk? Watch TV? I don't even know.

Prior to our trip Ness, Charlotte and I planned to have a girls' morning at a spa somewhere. The obvious choice was to go to the Peninsula Hot Springs, which we have all visited multiple times. The hot springs are great, and I highly recommend going if you are in that area, but we decided to look for something different this time. After some extensive Internet research, Charlotte stumbled across The Wellness Manor, located in Mornington. The website was beautiful and totally sucked us all in, so we booked massages complete with pre-treatment bathing session for Sunday morning. What a find this place was! We arrived an hour before our treatments to soak in the "experience pools": spa baths set at different temperatures surrounded by beautiful gardens. We were served herbal teas and ice cold waters by the spa, and for the most part were the only people there enjoying them at that time. After that it was time for our massage, which started with a foot bath while the therapist discussed the type of massage you would like. My massage was therapeutic, with fairly firm pressure, but also SO relaxing at the same time. I felt like I was melting into the massage table. It was probably the first time that I've had a massage where I nearly fell asleep. After the massage we all met again in the relaxation area, and all agreed that it was one of the top massages we've ever had. We were served a choice of drink (of course, we all went for the champagne, even though there were some very tasty sounding juices on offer) and some nibbles while we blissed out on the lounge chairs, listening to the babble of water from a fountain and enjoying the beautiful weather and gardens. I must say, a spa day is my idea of perfect luxury!

Ness and I outside The Wellness Manor

Experience pools

Relaxing after our massages

We spent a bit longer at The Wellness Manor than expected, so sent a text to the boys to see how they were getting on, and to see what they wanted for lunch. The reply back was that they were fine, had already sorted out lunch for them and the babies, and we should just go for lunch and enjoy ourselves. Nice! Across from the spa was a D.O.C., an Italian place that has a few locations in Melbourne and is one of Charlotte's favourites. There we continued to relax and enjoy the sunshine, sipping wine and eating authentic Italian pizza, prosciutto, and salad. On the way back we made sure to pick up some beers and ice cream for the boys!

Yummy Italian at D.O.C.
That afternoon and evening we spent a lot of time in the pool, the boys playing volleyball and Ella laughing and jumping in over and over. It was hard to get her out of there! Once the kids went to bed we got some take-away fish and chips for dinner, played a round of Articulate, and then had an early night as everyone was feeling pretty shattered.

Monday morning was check-out day, so we had a lazy brunch followed by packing up - it always takes much longer than I expect to pack up a house after a weekend away! Chris and Ness headed straight back to Melbourne with Noah, while we planned to meet Charlotte and Adam at a nearby beach, St. Andrew's, for a walk. Unfortunately on the way there Ella fell asleep in the car, so rather than wake her, Andy and I headed off to Flinders, about half an hour away (on the way back to Melbourne) and drove around while Ella slept. Charlotte and Adam met us there a bit later, and we headed to a park for a play and then to Flinders Bakehouse Café for lunch. Flinders is a cute village, along the ocean side of the Mornington Peninsula. There was a pretty epic golf course along the coast that I think Andy would have loved to play at.

Ice cream at St. Andrew's Beach

After lunch we headed back to Melbourne, feeling tired but happy from our long weekend. Ella was great the whole time, and I was glad that I had the next day off work to spend with her again. Little did Andy and I know, our poor girl had contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth disease from daycare (we think), which is a virus that results in mouth and throat ulcers, along with little blisters around ones hands, feet and mouth (hence the name). Tuesday evening we ended up taking her to the Royal Children's Hospital and were there until 3am. This is the worst illness Ella has had to date, I think the ulcers are really painful for her and at times she just screams uncontrollably for up to an hour at a time. It has been horrible to see her going through this, as there is little we can do to help her. Needless to say, we've had a very sleep deprived week, and a lot of time off work. She is on the mend now though, so I think the worst of it is over. Luckily we have Andy's parents arriving on Tuesday so we are looking forward to the extra two pairs of hands in the house and of course having Ella spend some quality time with her grandparents.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Currently... February

I'm currently sitting in the airport in the Gold Coast. It's Sunday afternoon, I've been here since Thursday night at a work conference. It has been great, but I am itching to get back to my family. I've had lots of FaceTime with Ella but I miss her like crazy. I won't get home tonight until after she is asleep, which is rubbish. If she happens to wake up in the night it will definitely be me getting up to comfort her!

Reading: The Nix by Nathan Hill. I'm about a third of the way through and recommend it so far.

Watching: The Crown when I am on my own, and The Americans Season 3 with Andy. Both are excellent! I also regularly look out for clips of Saturday Night Live and American late night talk shows regarding US politics. It's the only bright side of a rather bleak situation.

Cooking/eating: Lots of smoothies, which Ella calls "moothsies". We are loving the simple combination of spinach, coconut water, yogurt, banana and frozen pineapple at the moment. Also this Cauliflower/kale/chickpea curry and this slow-cooker Moroccan Chicken have both been hits.

Wearing: When I'm not at work, summer dresses. Aside from a couple of winter-like days a few weeks ago, the weather has been consistently hot, hot, hot. Also, this jumpsuit in Navy from Uniqlo, which is an unusually daring choice for me. I love, love, love it. It's so comfortable and flattering. I've never worn a jumpsuit before, but have clearly been missing out.

Considering: Channelling my inner craftyness and pimping up Ella's kitchen from IKEA. These pics are my inspiration. This is one of those things that I would love to do but have no idea where to start. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Looking forward to: At lot at the moment. We have a long weekend on the Mornington Penisula coming up with Charlotte, Adam, Chris, Ness and baby Noah. We also have three months of grandparents soon, starting with Andy's parent's arrival in three weeks. Yay! And then at the start of April we have ten days in Bali with both sets of grandparents plus my brother and his girlfriend. 

Planning: The logistics for a possible UK trip in June/July. I was pretty adamant that we would have no long distance travel this year (after Bali), but this weekend my Principal has asked if I would like to lead a workshop in London in June. I've passed on a few international work trips over the past year so I'd really like to take up this opportunity. It's a week before my school holidays so it could possibly lead into a nice, long four weeks in the UK (during our winter and their summer, which is always good timing). The problem is that Andy's school holidays actually start two weeks later, and getting leave for that amount of time would be unlikely. I might go with Ella on my own for the first two weeks and Andy could join us later. That is assuming that his parents are happy to help me with childcare for at least a few days. (Hi, Bunny and Dave!)

Enjoying: My day off every week with Ella. Her afternoon nap is now usually around 12-1pm, which gives us lots of time for an activity in the morning. Swimming, the park, and the Children's Gallery at the Melbourne Museum are current favourites.

Feeling: A bit guilty that Andy has been on his own with Ella for the past few days. Especially as my conference ended earlier than expected, so I spent part of the day reading by the hotel pool. (Shhhh...)

Grateful for: Andy, who has really stepped up this month as we have gotten used to our new routine, and me working four days a week. 

Pic of the Month:
I love this picture of Ella - she's watching a video of herself as a baby. So funny!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Beers, wine and cheese

Last Saturday ended up being an unintentionally jam-packed day for us. After a family breakfast, we rode our bikes to Brunswick Baths for Ella's swimming lessons. Lately we have been arriving half an hour early for the lesson, so that Andy can get in some laps in the outdoor 50m pool while I get Ella changed into her swimsuit and then play with her in the shallow kiddy pool, or if is is warm enough, the outdoor splash pad. Then Andy takes Ella for her lesson while I swim laps. It's the perfect way for both of us to get in some exercise, while also spending time with Ella in the pool.

Splash pad at Brunswick Baths
Enjoying the splash pad with daddy

On the way home we stopped at what I thought looked like a cute café called Ray's on Victoria Street in Brunswick. I don't think I could have picked a less child-friendly place! No high chairs, children's menu, or room for a pram. On top of that, their glass display case at the front was full of delicious looking desserts and sandwiches, along with some fresh green apples. As soon as Ella spotted them she kept pointing at them saying "ap-ple! ap-ple! ap-ple!" I asked our waitress if we could buy one but she said no. Harsh! So we took turns taking Ella for a walk outside to distract her while we waited for our food, then ate quickly and headed back home. If we didn't have a child I am sure we would have found the Ray's absolutely fine, but we do, so I don't think we will be back there any time soon!

When we got home we thought Ella would be tired and ready for her nap. However Ella had other plans, and we spent the next two hours trying to get her to sleep with no luck. Defeated, we decided to take her for a walk in the pram, and headed out to my friend Kristin's brother's new brewery, Tallboy and Moose, in Preston. It was a 50 minute walk from our house, so we thought Ella would fall asleep for sure. We were right, about five minutes into the walk she was out like a light. It's strange, she normally goes to sleep very easily, both at nap time and at night, but every once in a while she just decides she doesn't want to. She resists putting on her sleeping bag, she cries as soon as you walk towards her bedroom, and if you actually make it to the rocking chair in her room she just cries and points at the door. And of course the harder and longer you try, the worse it gets. In hindsight, we probably should have given up fighting her and gone on the walk much sooner than we did. Live and learn, I guess.

Ella was obviously very tired by the time she fell asleep, as she was out for the entire walk to the brewery and stayed asleep for another hour after that. That was very nice of her, as we were able to relax with some beers and catch up with Kristin's brother, Steven, without having to run around after her. You might be wondering why we thought a brewery would be a good place to bring a toddler. Tallboy and Moose (Steven, as a Canadian, is the "Moose" in the partnership) is in a long, converted warehouse with a super relaxed and family friendly vibe, complete with table tennis and play area at the back. In the afternoons there are quite a few families in the back area, although the place is big enough that if you want to avoid children (which, if you haven't brought any with you, is fair enough) you can sit near the front or even at the tables and bean bags outside. They don't make food there (yet) but there are Food Trucks outside with snacks and small meals. 

Tasting beers at Tallboy and Moose

Enjoying some beers with a sleeping baby in the pram
Ella slept most of the time we were there so she didn't have much of an opportunity to explore the play area, but I'm sure we will be back another time with her. 

We had to rush home after that as we had dinner plans with our friends Chris and Ness. They have a 10-month-old son, so it is rare that we can both get baby-sitters at the same time (Chris's parents are visiting from England, and we used one of our Nannies that watches Ella during the week). We headed to Milk the Cow in Carlton for a dinner of cheese, cheese, and more cheese. We started out with a cheese flight: four different cheeses matched to four different wines for Ness and I, and four beers for Chris and Andy. We were advised that the proper way to taste was to take a sip of the wine (or beer), then take a bite of the matched cheese, and then sip more wine with the cheese still in your mouth. I was sceptical about this method, but having the two in your mouth at the same time really did make both the cheese and wine taste amazing. After our flights we had some extra cheesy dishes - Saganaki (a salty Greek fried cheese), fondue, and truffled mac and cheese. This is definitely a place that I will be taking my mom when she comes to visit - she is a big fan of cheese and wine (mostly wine). We had a great evening, the four of us very appreciative of the fact that we could have a few hours of conversation together without any small children demanding our attention.

Cheese Flight menu at Milk the Cow

Wine and cheese flight
Chris and Andy with their beer and cheese

Mmmmmm look at all that cheese!
All in all it was a great Saturday, though between the beers in the afternoon and the wine at night, it was more alcohol than I am used to having, and I did feel it the next morning! Luckily we didn't have much planned for Sunday, and Andy's soccer game was cancelled, so we were able to have a pretty low-key end to the weekend.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Ella Update - 19 Months

Well I am happy to report that or second week back at work was much better than our first. Ella was over her sickness by Sunday night and back to her old, smiley self. My day off was Wednesday, and needless to say it was the the highlight of my week. Now that I am working four days, the one day that I have to spend with Ella is just so, so precious. 

We had a busy day planned. First up was a trip to the Collingwood Senior's Centre for Ella's 18-month immunisations. Every month there are places set up around each council where you can get any immunisations done for free. The senior's centre was where we always went when we lived in Abbotsford as it was a 10 minute walk from our house and never very busy. None of the dates in our new council really suited us, hence going back to Abbotsford, but I am happy to find any excuse to visit our old neighbourhood. (Have I mentioned how much I miss it there? Oh yes, I talk about it all the time! I need to get over it! I am actually starting to like Brunswick more and more as I get to know it.) We arrived nice and early so I took Ella for a walk along the Yarra river, past Collingwood Children's Farm, stopping for coffee and a croissant at One Fine Day café:

Breakfast and coffee with mummy. I don't think she liked me interrupting her eating to take a photo!

Beautiful morning views over the Yarra River 

Gotta love a café with toys!
Ella handled her immunisations like a champ, actually watching the needle go in to each arm (ew!) before screaming her head off for a few minutes. However she was quickly distracted by bubbles (thank you nurses!) and by the time we got back to the car she was absolutely fine. After that we went to check out a daycare centre that is close to our new house. I have been doing daily checks on the website Care for Kids to see if any local daycares were advertising vacancies. Suddenly this one came up, so I quickly called them and booked in a tour. I did not have high expectations and expected to walk in and hate it... I mean, why would they have vacancies unless it was sub-par? But I was pleasantly surprised by the centre. It was really nice, and all of the children and educators seemed calm and happy when we visited. On top of that, it is located 1.5km from our house and is $21 per day cheaper than our current centre in Abbotsford. Winning! So I signed Ella up then and there, she starts at the end of the month. I am SO happy we will not have to commute back and forth to Abbotsford for daycare in a few weeks, it will save either Andy or me over an hour of commuting time!

After that busy morning we headed back home for Ella's nap. Currently she sleeps from about 12pm-2pm every day. I spent nap time time cooking a child-friendly chicken curry from my One Handed Cooks cookbook. This is my favourite resource for finding food to cook that is both healthy and yummy. Ella likes pretty much everything I have tried from this book so far. There are sections for purées and baby led weaning for infants, toddler friendly dishes, healthy snacks, and dinner for the whole family. It's great.

Once Ella woke up she had some of the curry for lunch (loved it). We then headed off to visit the Maternal Child Health Nurse for her 18-month check up. (Yes, she is 19 months. Yes, we were behind on both her check-up and immunisations... I blame our busy Christmas holidays!) Ella walked into the nurses office excitedly pointing at pictures and saying all of the words she knows: "Apple! Monkey! Baby! Ball! Flower!" The nurse wrote in her book that she has "an expansive vocabulary" and said her demeanour is more like a two year old. Even though I know it doesn't mean much, and all babies develop at different rates, I was a very proud mummy! The nurse also weighed and measured Ella. Her height and head size are nearly in the 75th percentile, so it is looking like she may take after Andy in the height department. She weighs 10.3kg, which was less than I was expecting, but the nurse said their weight gain starts to taper off once they reach 18 months. I think her weight is around the 50-60th percentile.

It was a super hot day on Wednesday, about 35 degrees and full sunshine, so we finished up the afternoon at Brunswick Baths, our local pool and where we take Ella for swimming lessons. We have spent a lot of time there over the past few weeks, trying to cool off in the heat. Ella loves the little children's pool and the outdoor splash pad, and has the biggest smile on her face as she runs around checking out all of the different features. Finally, around 5pm, we headed home to see Andy and get the dinner/bath/book/bed routine on the go. It was a busy, but satisfying day!

Splash pad at Brunswick Baths
Here are some other updates about Ella and her development so far:

  • Food. I swear she would eat non-stop if given the choice. Current favourite foods are: pasta and veg sauce, chicken curry, cherry tomatoes, raisins, apples, pears, frozen berries and yogurt, cheese, toast and peanut butter, bircher museli.
  • Bunny. She basically carries bunny around with her everywhere now. We have given up  on making her keep it in bed.
  • Her dummy. We are trying to wean her off this following the Christmas holidays when it was a dummy free-for-all. I don't mind her having it for bed, or even if she is really upset. But I hate her having it in when she is just happily playing. We've had a few little tantrums this weekend when we refused to give it to her but I think she is starting to get the idea. 
  • Her new toy kitchen and her little couch. I think she loves that they are the right size for her!
  • When you put on a funny voice and pretend bunny is talking to her.
  • Dancing around to The Wiggles.
  • Playing with balls. She basically plays fetch with herself. 
  • Swimming, playing in water. 
  • Bubbles. Though she now wants to control the bubble wand herself, which doesn't go well.
  • Books. We have had to limit her to four books before bed, which she picks out herself. Otherwise she wants us to read an unlimited number of books. 
  • Dogs. She loves petting them and when they get all up in her face with their wet noses. This is where Ella and I differ.
  • Putting on clothes. Normally one pant leg over her pants, or a leg through the arm of a shirt. She also loves putting on her shoes, I think she knows this means we are going out. Children are a bit like dogs in this way.
  • Different/new foods. It takes some coaxing to get her to try new things sometimes. My current plan with dinner is I give her a few different foods, mostly things I know she likes with maybe one new item that I hope she'll at least try.
  • Bath time. Well she doesn't exactly dislike baths, she just isn't as excited about them as she used to be. We went through a period where she refused to sit down in the bath, so you had to simultaneously hold her and bathe her at the same time. I'm glad that phase is over! Now I just think she realises that after her bath it is bed time, so if she is not ready for that she is more resistant to the bath. She does love "naked cuddles" which is when we get her undressed for her bath and then she runs back and forth between Andy and me giving us a big hug. We all need a few naked cuddles in our lives!
  • When she wants to do something herself and you try and help her. 
  • When you pretend to steal some of her food. This is mostly an Andy move, and he gets a death stare from Ella. She does share her food occasionally, but it has to be on her terms. She is very happy to share any vegetables!

Things Ella does:
  • Pretends to feed bunny or other stuffed animals. 
  • Takes the toy dummy off her Cabbage Patch baby doll and puts it in her own mouth. When she does that I pretend the baby is crying until she gets her dummy back. Ella does not see the irony in this.
  • Talks and repeats words a lot. We now have to watch what we say around her. She is also starting to say two words together. Most recently "daddy where's mummy" and "mummy's coffee". Clever girl.
  • When she hears a new sound she puts her hand to her ear and makes a surprised face. She never misses the sound of a plane flying overhead!
  • Waves at trams and trains. 
  • Digs through her nappy bag looking for snacks and food.
  • Blows on her food when it is too hot to eat. 
  • Falls over. A lot. When will she work out that it is useful to actually look where you are going?
  • Has started to say "poo poo" and doing the sign for "change" when she's had a number two. 
  • Gives you her plate when she is finished eating. You need to get it quickly or else all the leftover food ends up dumped out. 
  • Knows baby sign language for: more, please, thank you, all done, milk and water. I love baby sign language and will definitely try and teach it to our next child.
What's that sound?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

It's been a long week.

We have just barely survived our first full week back at work. What a week it has been! A sick toddler, bike calamities and sleepless nights have resulted in two very exhausted parents this weekend. But let me start from the beginning...

We have a somewhat complicated schedule this year. Andy is working full time, and I am working four days a week. However as my school operates on a ten day timetable, I don't have the same days off each week. One week I'm of on Tuesday, the next I'm off on Wednesday. This makes childcare a bit tricky, as daycares certainly do not operate on a ten day timetable. They do the normal five, as you'd expect. Added to that, we are still on waiting lists to get Ella into a local daycare, so we are still driving back to Abbotsford for that. This adds nearly an extra hour on to our daily commute, and to poor Ella's already long day in care.

To try and manage this situation and alleviate some of the commuting time, we decided to put Ella in daycare two days a week (Mondays and Thursdays), and have a Nanny the other two days. We already had a girl, we'll call her Nanny J, who has done some babysitting for us previously and was available to watch Ella on Fridays. Perfect. However, she has another job working in a café, so is unavailable for the Tuesday/Wednesday alternating days that we also need a Nanny for. Enter Nanny C, who is a nursing student, and has been super flexible with her time and agreed to watch Ella on the Tuesday/Wednesday. So, although not an ideal situation, it has worked out pretty well so far. Once the end of March hits, we have grandparents visiting for about three months, so we won't need to continue with the Nannies until July. By this time I'm hoping we will have got into a local daycare.

Anyway, in an effort to be organised on the Friday before school started, Andy and I sat down and looked at our week ahead. We worked out things like:
  • Who would drive and who would cycle to work each day (we are a one car family, and with driving comes the long commute on daycare days. If I had a choice, I would always cycle!)
  • When we each had meetings and would have to stay late at school
  • A meal plan for the week
  • When we could each fit in some time for exercise/yoga
I felt pretty happy over the weekend that we'd have a great start to the school year. I should have known better. Here's how it actually panned out...

Daycare day. Wendy driving, Andy cycling. 5:30am alarm. This is probably a bit earlier than needed, but we like to be out the door by 7am to avoid the heaviest traffic times. Ella seemed to get the memo that we had an early morning, and helpfully woke on her own at 6:20am (unusual, I normally have to wake her at this time). We are super prepared and out the door by 6:40am. I get to daycare when they open, at 7am on the dot. Ella is the first child there, which I feel a bit guilty about. Even more so when she curls into me and cries as I try to say good-bye. I try not to cry myself, as I hand her over to an educator and leave her there sobbing. Toddler separation anxiety sucks.
I have a super full on day of meetings and workshops that are not scheduled to end until 5pm. It's a "professional learning day", meaning no students are in. We would normally get a bit of individual planning time during these days before the students arrive so you could sit with your teams and prepare some lessons. However, we had some "disappointing" Year 12 results last year, resulting in lots of extra meetings and thinking about what went wrong, so that it doesn't happen again next year. It's a tough start to the year! At 4:10, I get a phone call from the daycare. Ella has a fever. I need to go and pick her up. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit relieved to leaving the very full on workshop I was in - I'm pretty exhausted by this point. I pick up Ella and get home around 5:30pm. Andy arrives soon after, and we work together to get dinner ready and then do the bath/book/bed routine with Ella. We have a rough night with Ella, she wakes every few hours and is still feverish. We give lots of Panadol and ibuprofen (well, the recommended doses) and this helps her calm down and sleep.

My day off. Andy cycles to work so that I can use the car to run some errands that day. My original plan to wake up early with Andy so that I can get myself ready before Ella wakes up goes out the window due to lack of sleep the night before. I stay in bed until Ella wakes up. She seems better. We have a lovely lazy morning together, eating breakfast and getting ready, and then I take her grocery shopping with me. She is the perfect child. We get home, have a bit of play time, and then she goes down for her nap. I spend some time writing my last blog post, and then start some food prep for the week. I feel super productive and start to rethink this whole "working mom" thing. I totally rule at stay-at-home-mom life. I hear Ella wake from her nap and think, no problem, I'll just give her some lunch while I finish up the rest of the food prep I intended on doing. Easy. HAHAHA. This is when it all goes pear-shaped. Ella literally screams for an hour while I try everything I know to distract her. She doesn't want to play with my iPhone, watch The Wiggles, or eat any of her favourite foods (not even raisins), so I know something must be wrong. I'm beside myself. I finally give her a dose of baby painkiller and she calms down when it kicks in. Whew. Thank goodness. In the meantime, Andy lets me know that on his way to work, part of his bike tire blew up. He's getting public transport home which takes ages from his school, and this starts to mess up some of our plans for the week. Most importantly, I don't get to go to my scheduled in yoga class that evening. When Andy finally gets home, he and Ella cuddle up on the couch while I make dinner, which is cute, but unlike her. She has another feverish night, but it's being managed by the Panadol and she is still eating and drinking so I'm not super worried that anything is wrong yet.

Nanny C day. The original plan was I would drive, however with Andy's busted bike tire we have to swap. Nanny C is due to arrive at 8am, which means it is cutting it close for me to get to work on time on my bike, but luckily I don't teach first period so I have a bit of wiggle room. Before Nanny C arrives I make sure we don't have anything embarrassing lying around the house, and try to tidy so that we don't look like slobs. Andy is complaining about how complicated our routine is. I snap that it's not that hard, we are just tired. Sleepless nights are not great on a marriage. Luckily we are both able to mostly ignore each other's behaviour when we know keep down it's due to tiredness. I am somewhat nervous about leaving a sick Ella with Nanny C on her first day. (She has babysat Ella previously for a few hours, but this is her first whole day). But she is in her last year of nursing so is probably much more knowledgable illness than me. Plus, Ella is her usual self once the Panadol kicks in, so I'm not sure she is even that sick. I explain the situation to Nanny C when she arrives, telling her to call me if Ella gets worse and I will come home. Nanny C seems much less anxious about the whole thing than I am. My work day goes well - it's my first day of teaching since I went on maternity leave in June 2015, and it is great to be back in the classroom. Throughout the day Nanny C sends me text message to assure me that Ella is fine, although her fever returns after her nap. I start to wonder how long we should let a fever go on before going to the doctor. Andy googles this - the answer is 48 hours. He promptly makes a doctor's appointment for 4:30pm, almost exactly 48 hours after we got a call from daycare regarding the fever on Monday. Andy leaves work early to take Ella to the doctor. Surprise, surprise, it's a virus. We are to continue treating with Panadol unless she gets worse. It is nearly always useless taking a sick child to the doctor's. However you don't want to risk not going, just in case it is the one time that something is actually wrong.  We have a slightly better night's sleep, and Ella wakes without a fever, yay!

Daycare day. Wendy cycles, Andy drives. Andy drops Ella off without any tears for the first time since we returned from our Christmas holidays. Another yay! Daycare lets us know Ella has a good morning. But then, around 3pm... the dreaded daycare pick up call. She's got a rash. Rashes and daycare DO NOT go together. Andy picks her up. I have a meeting after school which seems to go on forever. I'm pretty tired by the time I leave, but make myself go to yoga, as planned. As always, I feel much better after my class. By the time I get home Ella has just gone to sleep, which makes me a bit sad. But Andy says she seems ok, despite the rash. She has been like this before, we think it is roseola infantum. Basically, the rash is harmless and signals the end of the virus, but we won't be able to go back to daycare until it has disappeared.

Nanny J day. Wendy cycles, Andy drives. Before Nanny J arrives I'm in a good mood. On Nanny days I don't leave for work until 7:45ish, and the morning feels endless. Why have I wasted so much of my life going to work so early? Having a leisurely morning is divine. I even have two coffees! Nanny J arrives just as Ella is waking. Her rash doesn't look too bad, and Nanny J is not concerned at all that she has been unwell. Ella doesn't seem to mind me leaving her with Nanny J, and I leave happily on my bike. It's a glorious morning and I'm feeling great... until I hear something hit the wheel of my tire. There is a clanging noise, as if something is stuck in the spokes of the tires. I pull over and check out my bike. My heart starts to sink as I hear the hissing sound of air escaping from the tire. It sinks even further as I spot the huge nail sticking out of it. The clanging sound was the nail hitting my mudguards as it went round and round. The faint silver lining of all this is that I am not actually that far from home. I walk back and take out my phone to call Nanny J to let me in the garage (she has my set of keys). As I look at my phone I notice a text message from a colleague/friend. She's asking if I can cover a class period 1. Noooo! There is no way I will make it to school on time to cover that class. I hate letting people down. I frantically try and contact someone at school to make sure they know I won't be there, while also googling the quickest route via public transport. In the end I'm only 15 minutes late for school, which isn't bad, all things considered. I just can't believe that both Andy and I have ruined our bike tires in the same week! I get to school and it is mostly fine. But at lunch I find out that I'm expected to go on Year 7 camp, which is three weeks from now! And for a whole week. I'm a bit annoyed that I haven't been told sooner, and stressed at what Andy's reaction will be. After a bit of back and forth, it looks like I will be able to switch to Year 8 camp instead, which is in Term 2 and when my mom will be here, so at least Andy will have her around to help out with Ella. But the whole thing makes me feel anxious... I hate feeling like I'm not able to totally commit to things at work. I don't want to be seen as a slacker, or get any special treatment. It's not like I'm the only person with a young child on staff! But it just feels that much harder as we don't have any family to depend on here. It makes me want to go back to Canada sooner rather than later. But perhaps I should leave the major life decisions to a week where I've had a bit more sleep. Anyway, I leave work as soon as I can. A lovely colleague gives me a lift and stays for a glass of wine, which is a nice end to a long week. Ella seems ok when I get home and Nanny J says she's been eating and drinking well all day. But her rash has gotten worse. Ella is pretty hard work that evening, crying at every little thing, and Andy is coaching soccer so I'm on my own. When I finally get her to bed I collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine and watch The Crown. We order pizza when Andy gets home and go to bed soon after. We are woken at midnight to the sound of Ella vomiting in bed. It's scary as it sounds like she is choking. We cuddle her and calm her down while changing the sheets in her cot and cleaning it all up. We all finally get back into bed but now every time she coughs I jump out of bed to make sure she is ok. She vomits a second time at 3am, and we change her sheets again. Andy makes another doctor's appointment for the morning. This time I take her in to sleep with me and Andy goes to sleep on the couch. Thankfully, we all sleep pretty soundly after that.

Today. Everyone is tired. We wake up later than usual and rush out the door to the doctor. Again, we are told it's a virus, but the vomiting was probably due to a different one than the fever/rash. We just need to watch her to see if she gets worse. On the way home we get two new tires for our bikes. Ella is pretty tired all day, but starts to perk up around 6pm and has a healthy dinner. We have a fun playtime after that and she goes down to bed easily. I pour myself a wine and settle on to the balcony to write this post. I can hear a large group of people singing along to a DJ, there is some sort of music festival going on at Ceres today. It reminds me of another lifetime. It sounds like fun.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Currently... January

Currently I am sitting outside on our balcony, drinking a coffee and enjoying the peace and quiet as Ella has just gone down for her nap. It's my day off, and I've designated my day off "food prep day" in an attempt to get organised now that we've gone back to work. I took Ella grocery shopping this morning (at Woolworths, always Woolworths, as they have free fruit for kids which makes the trip infinitely easier) and now I have a list of dinner things to prep and snack items to make before she wakes. But first a little rest and "me time" while I finish off this post.

Reading: Yes Please! by Amy Poehler. I started this book while in California. It belongs to my brother's girlfriend, who we were staying with. I only got halfway through before we left and had to leave it there, but I would like to finish it. I didn't love it at first, but it grew on me as I read it. Parts of it where she writes about people from Saturday Night Live and certain sketches (in particular Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin during the 2008 election) have made me go back and look up old episodes on YouTube. On motherhood, she has a motto that I love and want to apply to my life: "Good for you, Not for me". She also has a chapter entitled "Every Mother Needs a Wife". Amen! I'm looking forward to reading the second half at some point. I also read The Girls by Emma Cline for book club. I liked, but didn't love, this book. It's set in 1969, told from the point of view of a teenager that ends up getting involved with a cult. I found out later that it is a fictional telling of the Charles Manson murders, which I knew next to nothing about before reading this book. So that made it more interesting. I kind of wish I had known the context before reading it though.

Watching: The tennis! I love the Australian Open. We didn't go this year, because... Ella. But we watched a lot on TV. The Federer/Nadal final was intense. I'm not going to lie, I went to bed before the end as it was a Sunday night and we had to get up for work the next day (ugh). Either would have been a deserving winner, but I was pleased to wake up Monday morning to see Federer win. He is such a legend.

Drinking: My copycat 'cacophony' coffee from Barefoot Coffee in San Jose. I was obsessed with this when we were in California over Christmas and tried out my own recipe the day after we got back to Melbourne. I think I got the proportions ok: 1 tsp of cacao, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper added to my Linizio Lungo Nespresso pod, topped with steamed milk. I've made up a big batch of the mixture and both Andy and I add it to our coffees every morning.

Realizing: That I actually don't like shopping anymore. Before our trip to California, I was really looking forward to shopping in America. I thought I'd find some great deals after Christmas. But it turns out shopping really wasn't all that exciting - it is certainly an activity I have come to enjoy less and less lately. Maybe it is just because I am missing my best shopping partner - my mom! But frankly our budget would be out of control if I shopped as much as I did when I was in my 20s!

Enjoying: All of Ella's words! I swear she learns a new word everyday. It's amazing. I'm loving how much she can communicate, although I'm not going to lie, she learned the word "apple" last week and now she constantly asks for apples, which can get on your nerves. But mostly its hilarious and great.

Wanting: Our house to be in order. We are very nearly there. I just want everything to have a place. My big pet peeve is a constant pile of papers on the kitchen table. You know, bills, mail, and things that you have to do something about so you leave them out to remind yourself, but that pile is just a constant, annoying reminder of some sort of boring life admin you should be doing. I long for a constantly cleared kitchen table!

I also want (Andy) to build this "Learning Tower" for Ella. It's so that she can safely stand up to the kitchen counter and learn more about food and cooking.  

Considering: What my "rhythms" should be. I've been reading Allie Casazza's blog on purposeful living. One article talks about working out your rhythms. These are basically your habits that you do automatically in your day, that help make things run more smoothly. So some things I'm trying to build into my daily routine are:

  • Meditating first thing in the morning (see more on that in my last blog post). I've done this nearly every day since we got back from holidays.
  • Before leaving for work, making sure the kitchen counter and sink are clean and free of dishes. I normally do the cooking in our house while Andy plays with/distracts Ella. I really hate having to clean up dishes from breakfast or the previous night, before starting to cook. It just seems to make the whole process take a lot longer. So I've decided that taking an extra few minutes in the morning and being a few minutes later to work is totally worth it.
  • Packing bags the night before. We were inconsistent with this last year, but both realise that the morning is so much easier if clothes are picked out and bags are packed the night before rather than the morning of. 

Loving: Lots of things lately! My new yoga studio, Australian Yoga Academy in Northcote. It's a beautiful studio and I love all of the teachers. After trying out two other studios in the area I'm happy to find one I love as much as Kindred Movement to continue my practice. I'm also loving our new balcony furniture and plants which have made the space much more inviting - sitting outside on our warm summer nights with a glass of wine reading a good book is the perfect end to a day for me. 

Hating: Trump. Nuff said.

Wearing: Lots of cotton summer dresses and flip flops (or thongs as they are called here in Oz). This last week I've had to start wearing work clothes again which is a bummer.

Planning: A weekend away in March, for Labour Day. We are leaning towards Bright, which is about three hours north-east of Melbourne. Two days into the school year and I'm already looking forward to the first long weekend!

Pic of the Month: This pic of Ella playing with her new kitchen. She absolutely loves it. She looks so grown-up in this picture, I can't even believe it!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

A New, Simpler Year

So, this comes a bit late as a "New Year's Resolution" type post, as we are already nearly into the second month of 2017. But with the craziness of our holidays I haven't really had the time or space to write down all my thoughts on how I'd like this year to go. I love the start of a new year: looking back on the past 12 months and thinking about how to improve myself over the next 12 months. I know that statistically pretty much no one sticks to their New Year's resolutions, and it's not like something magical happens on January 1st that changes people into the person they've always wanted to be. But even still, I love the sense of a fresh start that you get on 1st January every year.

This year, instead of setting goals such as "I want to run a marathon" or "I want to eat better" as I've done in the past, I'm taking advice from this podcast on purposeful living. The idea is to think of a word or a phrase that acts as a theme for the year. Hopefully this word will be reflected in my daily actions, and can help me to clarify my priorities. The word I've thought that should define 2017 for me is something I've been working on over the past year, but I would like to give it my full focus this year. The word I've chosen to help define my goals and actions in 2017 is SIMPLIFY.

In a nutshell, I want to focus on living more simply and purposefully, through continuing to cultivate a practice of mindfulness. Our lives these days seem ridiculously busy, but I firmly believe that we have more control over this than we think, and we choose how busy we are. I really enjoyed this TED Talk by Laura Vanderkam on gaining control of your free time. One of her points I totally agree with is that when you say you don't have time for something, what you are really saying is that it is not a priority for you. People always find a way to make time for the things that are truly priorities. Living a more simple life, with less "stuff" (both material items and "things to do" in the schedule) means that you have more time to give to your priorities. 

One other piece of advice Vanderkam gives in her talk is to think about the start of next year. What would you like to say your year was like? (Or at work, what would your performance review say about you next year?) This is an excellent way to really define what is important to you, so that you can choose how to spend your time. I don't think that next year, when I look back at my year, I'll be happy if my biggest accomplishments are how many posts I put on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat or that I watched all of the hot new TV shows on Netflix. So maybe I need to re-evaluate how much time I give to these activities, seeing as I wouldn't like to think of them as my top priorities!

My biggest motivation for wanting to simplify my life is Ella. I don't want to feel like my life is too "busy" that I can't enjoy just sitting on the floor and playing with her. She is already 18 months old and changes so much every day. I want to make sure that the time I am spending with Ella is quality time, where I am living in the present, and free of thoughts like "I need to get x, y and z done". Because surely whatever x, y and z are, they are not more important than spending time with my child.

So living simply, for me, is firstly about choosing to be less busy, and making an effort to ensure I am spending my time doing things that are important to me. It is also about trying to consume less. Last year I  read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo, and it inspired me to examine my possessions in a new light. Kondo claims that if you use her method of tidying, the "KonMari" method, you will forever live in a place surrounded by things that bring you joy and you will never have to tidy again. Sounds like bliss. However, the KonMari method is pretty brutal, and basically you have to examine every item that you own, and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If the answer is no, or if you even hesitate to say yes, then it means you have to get rid of it. I did a pretty ruthless job of KonMari-ing my clothes after reading her book, though I know there are still items in my wardrobe that don't really bring me joy, but I still have an inexplicable attachment to. We also did a good job of getting rid of a lot of our "stuff" before we moved a few months ago. It's all a work in progress. And I still have to work on not making impulse purchases, especially when it comes to things for Ella! 

I think that practicing meditation and mindfulness can help with both of these aspects of living simply. When we are being mindful we are better at making decisions and that is at the heart transitioning towards a more simple life. In the spirit of simplifying my meditation practice, I've been doing a very short meditation every morning as soon as I wake up. I recently read this book by Leo Babauta on developing habits, and he talks a lot about mindfulness as a way to get over the resistance we have to developing new, good habits. Some of the advice that really resonated with me was to start out with a really simple (theme!) habit, and that consistency is key. So, to develop a habit of meditating daily, it is better to spend just a few minutes every day meditating, rather than doing a half hour meditation once a month or something. I started by doing just two minutes, because there was just no way I could tell myself that I didn't have time to meditate for two minutes in the morning! I've been gradually building on this time, but Babauta advises not to add on more time until the habit you are developing has actually become just that, a habit. Something you do automatically without really thinking about. If you try to do too much too quickly, it is easy to find excuses as to why you don't have time for your habit, and failure in creating the habit will be highly likely. 

And so, there you have it, my theme for 2017. I'm looking forward to trying to put this into practice in all aspects of my life, especially as the summer holidays come and I we start back into the routine of working for another school year. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Back in Melbourne for the past two weeks

We've been back in Melbourne from our Christmas/family holiday for nearly two weeks now. Although I miss constantly having family around, I have enjoyed getting back into the routine of our lives here. I have especially enjoyed returning to the southern hemisphere for the summer, and leaving winter behind! Luckily as teachers we don't go back to work until the end of January, and so have still been on holidays these past two weeks.

Ella seems happy to be back in the familiar surroundings of our house. As soon as got back home from the airport she promptly walked over to her little sofa and sat down, grinning from ear to ear. She has spent a lot of time on that little sofa, reading books to herself and playing with all her little toy animals on her own. She is starting to role play more now, she does things like pretend her animals are talking to each other, or tries to give them her bottle, or dummy, or some of her food. It's very cute. Her main Christmas gift from my parents is a toy kitchen, this one from IKEA:

We haven't built it yet - it needs to be fastened to the wall for safety, so we just have to double check with the landlord that we can drill into the wall. It's times like this that I long to stop renting and own our own house!

We have been having typical Melbourne weather since being back. That basically means that it varies wildly from day to day. Some days it is so hot you can barely be outside, some days are a lovely perfect temperature with a mix of sun and clouds, and some days we get a cool change and it feels like autumn is already here. Mostly it has been good though. We've been enjoying lazy summer mornings, keeping our pyjamas on and playing with Ella in the house, or taking her to the park and swimming at our local pool, Brunswick Baths. I've been trying get ahead by cooking and freezing food for Ella, in preparation for the busyness that will no doubt descend on us as we get back into our work routine. I am going to be working four days a week this year, which I will admit I am not looking forward to at all! 

Last weekend we were pretty busy, catching up with lots of friends. On Saturday we checked out Brickvention, a Lego Expo held at the Royal Exhibition Centre in Carlton. The main hall was filled with some very impressive Lego models, including replica cities and very elaborate train sets. This isn't normally my thing, but I'll admit the creations were very impressive.

On Sunday we had an early morning catch-up with my mother's group at the park near Collingwood station. This is where we used to meet every Tuesday afternoon when our toddlers were just little babies. Oh, the memories! We used to just sit on picnic blankets while the babies stayed in one place, happy to just gaze at the trees or play with a little toy. (I'm purposely not remembering the times when a baby would be crying inconsolably, and that mother would have to take it on a walk around the park to calm it down. That happened at least once an afternoon!) They are not so easily amused now, and were running around, playing with cricket bats and balls and climbing all over the playground equipment. Being back there made me really sad that I can't catch up with these ladies and their little ones on a regular basis anymore.

Andy, Ella and I then went for brunch at our old local, Mavis the Grocer. We shared the zucchini and haloumi fritters, and Ella enjoyed a green smoothie:

After lunch we headed to Little Creatures Brewery in Geelong. It was just over an hour drive, and Ella slept pretty much the whole way. It's always a major win when her nap times fall into place with driving times on a packed day out! Little Creatures is super kid friendly, with lots of outdoor seating and a sand pit for kids. There were lots of children running around so Ella fit in perfectly. Our friends with an 8-month-old were also there, and Ella was fascinated with him. She kept pointing to him, saying "baby" which was cute. We spent a good few hours there trying different beers, eating good food, and enjoying the sunshine before heading home.

After a very busy weekend it was nice to have Ella in daycare on Monday so that Andy and I could get a few house jobs done. I'm not going to lie, we also enjoyed brunch in peace at the fabulous Kitty Burns, conveniently located near the daycare. I've been virtuously ordering the "Kitty Greens" (pic below) which still seems indulgent despite being solely made up of green veggies. I've also been sampling cold brew coffee from different locations. Cold brew is coffee brewed in cold water for 24 (or so) hours, and then served over ice. It can be slightly bitter, I guess based on the beans or length of brewing time. I've found it to be smoothest, not to mention presented the best, at Kitty Burns.

Daycare drop offs have been a bit harder since arriving back. Ella gets very tearful when we try and leave, which she never was before. She is obviously used to having us around all the time and is not happy to leave us. Apparently she is okay again a few minutes after we leave, but that still doesn't stop me wanting to cry as well when we say good-bye. Hopefully after a few weeks she will be back into routine.

During our free days we have been working on our citizenship application, which I just finalised this morning. We had to list all of the countries we have visited in the last 10 years, so it took some time to get all those straight! Now we just wait for our application to be processed before we are given a date for our citizenship test. The current waiting time is 80 days.  I also wanted to get some furniture for our balcony so that I can enjoy the lovely summer weather while it lasts. That required a trip to IKEA, which is never a simple or quick task. Andy and I managed to complete this still married and talking to each other, so although long, it was a successful IKEA visit in the end. Furniture bought, we now need to build it, a project I'm hoping to complete this weekend!