Coffee and Groceries

Today, I caught up with my antenatal group over coffee and cake, and, after the Little Mister’s nap, I went to the supermarket. Or, looked at another way, I did this:

  • Built a fort. Yep, for the first time since I was very young, I built a fort in the living room. This entailed pulling the swabs off the sofa, ignoring the crumbs down the side that need hoovering (because the Little Mister is afraid of the hoover so it only comes out when he is away or asleep), and constructing the perfect climbing fortress for new adventures. My teeny crawling boy has figured out that climbing up things and pulling himself up to standing is super fun. So, for hours today, that’s what he got to do in our transformed little living room. It was a pretty awesome peek-a-boo venue.
  • Talked to him the entire way around the supermarket, despite people looking at me like I was crazy. The supermarket is one of the Little Mister’s favourite places. There are a whole load of kids he can smile at, a whole load of women who pull funny faces at him, and he gets pushed around while looking at all these exciting new things. I’m not crazy for talking to him, he loves it, and I reckons he gets what I’m saying. (Stuff like, wasn’t it so nice of that man to climb up on the ladder for us to get your formula because there was none left on the shelf.)
  • Paid work. Well, kind of. I didn’t actually do any work today, but it was nice to see some published here.
  • Scored a massive win by convincing the Little Mister to eat two tablespoons of fruit yoghurt mixed with rice cereal. (Even though he didn’t want/enjoy it.) And, although this would have in itself constituted a majorly successful day, I also got a teeny bit of chicken into him by mixing it with LOTS of banana. It made up for his total rejection of carrots and parsnips. So, he almost got all his food groups from solids today, for the first time ever.
  • Took the Little Mister to hang out with other babies his age. He’s getting a little scared by other babies sometimes, so it’s good for him to be around them. He didn’t hang out on the rug with all the toys and little ones much, and he kept crawling towards the front door when it opened, but hopefully there were some important social skills being learnt. We’re still working on being brave.
  • Made sure the little boy had two very longs naps and got to bed on time after a fun splash-a-mayhem bath and lots of books. Not only did he get to rest, recover, and process all the learning he’d done, but I got to bake, clean, work, and catch up on some real news (politics).

Not bad for a day where I went out for coffee and picked up some groceries.


Space. Been there, done that.

GRADUATION, tick. Well, that’s the first one done anyway. The Little Mister has graduated from the Space programme at Playcentre. It was three ten-week terms, which at the start sounded like a very long time. It’s flown.

He slept through the entire first two sessions. Wrapped in his swaddle, on his blanket with his name embroidered on it, he slept on the floor in the centre of the room. The class went on around him and us new mummies sat in a circle. We sang songs, we made toys from household objects, we lamented how difficult it was to settle them, to feed them, we shared how exhausted we were. He slept.

In the third week he woke, for a little while anyway. Then he slept some more. By term two, awake, he paid more attention to the songs. We mummies, getting better at figuring this out, still shared how exhausted we were. But by now we had tricks up our sleeves, for sleeping, for feeding, for settling. We shared these too. Over cakes, teas, nursery rhymes, we learnt more about each other, our babies, and ourselves.

At the end of term three, the Little Mister is not quite crawling. But he has been watching his friends with envy. To think, this little one, rocking backwards and forwards on his hands and knees, was not so long ago a tiny sleeping bundle hardly aware of the babies who have become his friends. Sometimes, this third term, sessions were still cut short because we needed to get home for a nap. But when we were there for the songs, he loved them, his big eyes managing to grow in awe while the five little monkeys jumped on the bouncing blue lycra. He loved painting, water play, being pushed on the swing, sitting on grass for the first time, the wooden blocks with a truck that he figured out how to spin the wheels on. He wasn’t so sure about the sand pit. And when another little one got too close, the corners of his mouth turned down and the big fat tears rolled down his cheeks. He’s still figuring out, I guess, that these are his friends.

But now it’s done. Graduation. We made it together.

I remember not wanting to go to my own graduations (of the university kind). In fact, I think I erased the first from my memory and never went to the second. The first one, which I did go to, was more for mum and dad. Now I understand why it was so important to them. Of course it mattered.

I was so extra delighted by the Little Mister yesterday. Dutifully, I showed off his certificate to Tony. He graduated, I said. I’ve never before felt so proud, I thought. 

First Came Playtime

SOFT play. Three months ago I didn’t know what it was. And if you’d have asked me to guess, I would have got it very wrong. Today, the Little Mister went on his first excursion to a soft play venue. He was tucked up in bed, shattered, sound asleep, at 5.30pm. That’s pretty much the definition of success.

Junglerama. The very word has filled me with dread for the last few months. Frankly, it sounded like hell. It sounded like lots of snotty toddlers running around screaming and then crying, spreading their bugs around and fighting. Milin loved it.

With our Monday morning coffee group, we decided to give a new, local, venue a try. Junglerama it was. As it turns out, the coffee was cheap ($3.50) and not undrinkable. But that came last. First came playtime.

This massive play zone built for kiddies is about a ten minute walk from our front door. Milin and I arrived just after a decent morning nap and I couldn’t believe how big the place was. We were a small group today, but the Little Mister and his buddy spent a good bit of time in the ‘four years old and under’ corner. The manky carpet was softer than our wooden floor for trying to crawl on, the brightly coloured balls went straight to his mouth, and there were lots of bigger kids to watch and babble to as they ran around. The Little Mister was happy.

He sat, initially looking rather shell shocked, for the first few minutes. And then he realised I wasn’t leaving him, the balls were quite fun, and he could try and climb on the soft animals. He started smiling.

The more mobile kids pretty much left us alone, which was nice. And on a weekday morning, it wasn’t too bad. On the next rainy day when the swings are ruled out, and the Little Mister gets bored of me at home, we might head back there. As long as it’s not after school’s out or it’s the weekend or the school holidays.

I did get my coffee, but that was the beginning of the end. The Little Mister didn’t like the high chair (perhaps he was too small for it, and perhaps me trying to feed him lunch didn’t go down well either), and probably he just wanted to keep on playing. He made his dissent clear when I tried to pack him into the buggy to leave. We had a disagreement about this, it took a bit of time, but I won – despite his best arched back attempt.

I’m glad we won’t be here once he is older to take a little more in. (Although I can imagine I’ll face worse problems in London.) In the cafe, junk food lined the counter. Brightly coloured bags of sweets for the kids were on offer if they didn’t want hot chips, just behind a sign saying no food from outside was allowed in. What a nightmare it must be for mums with older kids. I’m glad I won’t have to try and say, ‘No Milin, you can’t have anything to eat here, wait until we get outside and I’ll give you a pear’. Goodness.

But all up, I like soft play too. I freely admit I’m struggling with the mess a small person makes. I’m fighting the clutter. There are so many toys, meal times take mess to another level, and I know this will only get worse. At least at Junglerama the mess stays behind the door when you leave. I worry sometimes that I’ll be a rubbish play companion, but at Junglerama, they’ve made it a little easier.


Thank You Mummies

WHILE the Little Mister was almost beside himself, and I was closer than him to the precipice of holding it all together, I sought advice from baby club. The poor wee babe has had a trying week being sick, and come the weekend, I was feeling helpless.

So I asked for tips from my wonderful mummy friends. Not by phone, because phone calls can always be interrupted; not in person, because I didn’t want Milin to pass his bugs on; but via the wonder that is the interweb.

Come Saturday morning, at a loss, all I wanted was some new ideas – or even just a few mummies to say they’d been through this too. I emailed, I asked my various mummy groups on facebook, and I generally put the cyber feelers out there – help me, I asked.

And what a response. I was told that tui bee balm, pawpaw ointment and sudocreme are the wonder cures for nappy rash, combined with lots of air and sunshine. I tried it – it was true. I was given advice on water, soap, teething, tummy aches, baby being clingy, baby not feeding … the list went on. I tried almost everything, because if another mummy found it worked for their baby, it was worth trying for the Little Mister. And of course, lots of the tips worked.

So, thank you mummies. Not only for your advice and for sharing your secrets, but for sharing your stories. When the Little Mister was wailing, and I felt I’d done everything wrong, it was so good to know that I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. I wasn’t the first mummy to feel despair at not knowing how to help, and I know I won’t be the last. Your suggestions made the Little Mister better, which was the only thing I wanted this weekend.

There might not be a handbook that comes with motherhood, but the community that grows around you means you don’t need one.


A Spanner Like Flu

WHILE I spent most of the day laid up on the couch and under the weather, the Little Mister hung out with my mum. And I realised there’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate your mum.

I am rarely sick, and despite fighting it, I had no choice today but to curl up under the blanket and rest my sneezing, aching, coughing self. The Little Mister looked over at me with a confused stare from time to time as he wondered why I wasn’t playing. Most of the time though, he was having fun being distracted by mum. Which made me wonder how on earth mums without family to help them out when they are sick look after their babies. Not only did mum look after Milin all day, but she looked after me too 🙂

It also was one of those days which made me realise, we are of course doing the right thing by going back to London. Tony and I muddle on, we make do, and we figure things out most of the time. But throw a spanner like flu in the works and it gets too tough with just us.

I have spent much of the week since handing in my notice questioning whether we are making the right move. The enormity of it is dawning on me. What shall we do with the house? What if we don’t find jobs? How will I cope without my amazing new mummy friends? Isn’t London going to be tough with a baby? Will we miss too much our lifestyle here?

And yes, it probably will be really, really hard. But we’ve made our decision, and as I lay on the couch today I felt certain it was for the right reasons.

Happy Seven Months

WHEN I look at you today, Little Mister, I am in awe of how much you have changed in just seven months. Your father always says you arrived with wide eyes – looking alert and like you were taking it all in. That is how I see you now. Wanting to keep learning more and more about the world around you.

Today, we were busy. We saw the other babies from antenatal group. At our hostess’ house, you were transfixed by the television. You smiled at the presenters. You sat up so well, your new trick, and gnawed on your teething rings. You smiled at your little friends – they too fill me with awe. You were so happy, flashing your grin around the room, chuffed to be at such a social event.

It tired you out, you fell asleep when we left and slept in the car for an hour and a half. You woke up in time for the end of Space at Play Centre. The babies were playing with blocks, and you picked up the wooden train. All by yourself, you worked out how to spin its wheels – round and round. It was like magic, and you were spellbound.

You played with my mum in the afternoon. You know she’ll play silly games with you. You laughed so much. And when Tony came home, your face lit up like it was the best thing that could ever happen in the world. Your favourite person, he took you for a walk in the rain.

There were other bits in there too – you refused to eat, you drank your formula without complaining when there were no distractions, you laughed hard when I tickled you, you looked so grown up in your jeans – like a little boy now. You are a picture in your sleeping bag, you chewed on a yellow rubber ducky while Tony bathed you. We only got half way through Goodnight Moon.

I kissed you goodnight before Tony put you in your cot. You no longer complain at night time. After you are tucked in, you turn onto your side and close your eyes. With your bunny beside you, I believe you are having the sweetest dreams. My tired-out cherub, my beautiful boy who I never knew I could love like this, happy seven months.

London Calling

WE ARE taking the Little Mister to the other side of the world. After months of deliberating, we’ve decided to do it. We’re going back to London.

It began as an idea we both thought would fade. Never in seven years had I wanted to live again in London. We started thinking about it in those sleep-deprived blurry first few weeks of his life. It was so hard, we were so tired. And here we were, half a world away from the people who could help us most. They came to us, yes, but what would happen when they went? Home was calling me back.

Milin’s first half year has seen our lives become so much harder, but also so much richer. I have discovered an amazing network of mums, I have made wonderful new friends, and the Little Mister has had it pretty good too. His life here is superb. We walk in the sunshine most days, it’s easy to get around, people are good to us, we have so much fun in baby club, the ocean is close. Life is simple and good. But, it’s not enough.

London will be hard, we know. But it will also mean the Little Mister can be surrounded by family and grow up with cousins nearby, just as I did. He will miss his New Zealand family, but we will be back of course. He will have two homes. He too, one day, may grapple with this same geographic conundrum that we do.

When I handed in my notice on Friday, my little suggestion suddenly became a reality. I don’t know where we will start on this process of packing up our lives and starting them again on the other side of the world. I don’t know what we will do, whether we will find jobs, or whether London will spit us out and send us back to Godzone tired and beaten. But I do know that come the end of the year, our little family will embark on a new adventure. We will be leaving behind much-loved family and friends. We will be leaving behind our home, Milin’s first playmates, and a lifestyle that I have come to love. But we will be heading for the open arms of others who won’t miss any more of this beautiful little boy’s growing up journey.

Bob Dylan at Bed Time

TONIGHT, as the Little Mister fell asleep to the sounds of Tony playing him the guitar, I learnt that everyone has their own way of doing things. And just because I’m used to doing things a certain way with the little boy, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only way that’ll work.

I love putting the Little Mister to bed. The process starts way before I step in. A little before six, Tony baths him. This is their time. I potter around in the background, getting laundry sorted, tidying up, arranging things for dinner, finding clean pyjamas. And then Tony dresses him in front of the fire, giving him a massage along the way. Story books follow. Our current favourites are The very hungry caterpillar (still) and Goodnight moon. Then (a recent and highly successful development in terms of the sleep that follows), the Little Mister has a big bottle of formula which sends him half to sleep.

I bundle him up into his sleeping bag and take him into his room, which is already dark, with the radio tuned off station and humming static in the background. I might feed him some more if that’s what he wants, but either way, we’ll sit in my chair and have a delicious sleepy cuddle until he drops off. Quietly, I’ll put him down in his cot, make sure his bunny is within reach, and tip toe out – silently cursing the noisy door handle on my way.

But tonight, I watched Tony on the monitor, Hal, and what he did was very, very different. I even went in and offered to put Milin down myself. I was turned away. Tony and Milin have their own routine. They perfect it two nights a week, when I am at work.

Tony put Milin in his cot, wide awake. He picked up his guitar and started to sing to him. It turns out that Milin likes Bob Dylan. So much so that he listened quietly for a while, and then turned on his side, jutted his chin into the air, and assumed his sleeping pose. Tony stopped playing, the boy wanted to sleep. Tony left the room. The boy was asleep.

To me, there had been so many things wrong with this scenario. Milin didn’t finish the bottle – he will be hungry and not sleep – I thought. Except he’s already done a longer stretch than  normal at this time. Too much stimulation at bed time, I thought. Except that it put him to sleep. He needs a cuddle, I thought. Except, clearly, he had already had enough cuddles.

As Tony pointed out, he didn’t learn the trick from a ‘how to be a good parent’ book, he didn’t steal it from his baby club mates, and he didn’t pick up the advice from facebook. He did things his way, and did what he felt would work. It did. I already knew the books don’t have all the answers. But tonight, I figured, that between us, we’ll get things right by the Little Mister, just by going with our instinct. And sometimes, that might mean, singing a little Bob Dylan at bed time.


Tick tock

WHEN the Little Mister falls asleep in my arms, it’s time to make a choice. Do I leave him be and enjoy? Or do I go and put him down in his cot.

In the points for column under option one –

I should make the most of these sleepy baby cuddles before he gets too big.

In the points for column under option two –

I could get so much done if Milin was asleep in his cot.

The appeal of option one is obvious. Why wouldn’t I want lots of cuddles with my baby? But option two is all about time. Because with the Little Mister around, there simply isn’t the time to “get so much done”.

I think a lot about the things I no longer have time for. Doing my nails every week. Cleaning the bathroom every few days. Spending hours at the gym. Trying out complicated recipes. But tonight, when Milin fell asleep on my lap, I realised that thinking about the things I do have time for is a far better way to occupy my mind. It’s quite some list.

1. Going out for coffee: When you’re at home with a baby, going out for coffee is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. It’s a way of keeping in touch with old friends, and a way of meeting up with the new ones met through baby club. It’s an easy way to entertain the Little Mister, and it’s a way of getting a regular dose of adult conversation. But perhaps most importantly, it’s about getting a real shot of caffeine/sugar after getting up four times the night before.

2. Going for walks: Ok, so sometimes this isn’t a choice. Sometimes taking Milin out in the buggy and going for a decent walk is the only way to get him to sleep, or distract him from the fact that there’s no activities planned for today and he’s stuck at home with mama. But it’s still pretty lovely to be able to go for a walk whenever you want. Not only is it free exercise, but it’s a little relax and recharge time in the fresh air. Today, our walk took us around Oriental Parade and the Little Mister got to watch the ocean again. Yep, we’re rather lucky.

3. Staying in bed. I know this will change. But right now, Milin sleeps til 9am. Which means I do too. It’s amazing.

4. Reading books. Not books with lots of words in them, or books that make you think, or thick books with soft covers and a list of awards and serious reviews on the back – but books like The Hungry Caterpillar. Books that bring back being a kid. Books that make me remember what it was like to be read to. Books that are teaching Milin about the world, and that are causing his eyes to open wide (and his mouth, because really, he just wants to chew the pages).

5. Being silly. With Milin around, I get to be really silly all day long. In fact, the sillier the better. Which means tickling him, rolling round on the floor with him, holding him up in the air and playing airplanes, making cat noises, pulling silly faces and talking baby talk right back to him.

6. Having lots of cuddles. With my baby who loves me unconditionally. There’s probably no better way to spend my time.