Georgie’s 6 month update

Our little Georgie girl is now 7 months old… which means her “6 month update” is actually a month late. But I’d rather post her 6 month update a month late, than post her ‘7 month update,’ because I have a thing for even numbers and it just sounds really awkward. (This might help you to get to know me a little better… I’m really quite particular, but also a bit of a kook).

And I’m also completely besotted with my girl! It doesn’t feel like 2 minutes ago I was laying in a hospital bed, with this little pink bundle of perfection nestled in my arms – and now here we are: she crawls, sits on her own, has two bottom teeth, LOVES peaches, thinks her sweet big brother is just totally hilarious, and has the cheekiest twinkle in her eyes. She’s determined and sassy and such a sweetheart, and I love her more every single day.

Tonight she waved goodbye for the first time, as Nick was taking her downstairs to have a bath. Only I can’t mention that (and actually I shouldn’t have mentioned the crawling thing) because that happened at 7 months, not 6 months, and… oh who cares!

Our girl

It wasn’t the easiest getting Georgie – I had stopped (or rather, hadn’t resumed) ovulating after I had Beau. So there were many months of confusion and upset, before I went to see a fertility specialist. Long story short, pesky little ovarian cysts meant I needed hormone drugs in order to start ovulating again and then we could try to conceive. Gratefully I did, of course. And it was as she was pulled from my womb and placed on my tummy I overheard my wish (which I didn’t even realise I’d had) coming true. “She’s a girl,” Nick said. We had a daughter.

It was like someone had injected me with the greatest drug ever known: pure love. Such a high. A whole new world opened up.

In the 7 months Georgie has been in our lives, she has turned us from parents into a family and we simply feel complete. The four of us immediately fell into a new rhythm together, and – as they say – it was as though she had always been here.

Becoming a mother again

Beau’s acceptance, inclusion, and love for his little sister has made me prouder than ever. I consciously prepared him for this, of course, and so am entitled to be proud of him – but what I didn’t realise was just how much his own embracing of the transition would help me immeasurably… because it was me who lay awake in those early days, weeping for the little boy in the next room who is no longer my baby, weeping for this little girl in my arms who would never have me fully, and unsure of how I would ever manage all of this emotion.

Gradually, yet in almost no time at all, I didn’t need to worry anymore. Because, as any second-time parent would already understand – love multiplies. Of course you don’t love your second child as much as you love your first… because there is no measure for your love. There’s no comparison. You simply love them both, fully, completely, unconditionally. Your love for each of them is as unique as they are. Incomparable and immeasurable.

And of course Beau is no longer my baby… I soon realised I wouldn’t want him still to be. Because then he wouldn’t be my gorgeous three year old – bursting with thoughts and personality and so much to offer.

And of course Georgie gets me fully. I’m fully her mother, just as I am fully Beau’s mother. That undivided attention Beau had, which Georgie doesn’t, is more than made up for with our more experienced parenting and an older sibling to love her too. We’re not ‘figuring it out as we go’ quite so much, with Georgie. Obviously we don’t have it all figured out! But it feels as though the hardest yards are behind us, and the light’s starting to get a little brighter.

Babymoon

From the practical side of things, I knew what to expect a little more this time. I knew just how exhausting those long days and nights of breastfeeding would be, but I also knew just how quickly that consuming phase would pass. So I knew to surrender, to embrace it, and to enjoy it.

We had prepared well for a month long babymoon, getting ourselves nice and comfy! Nick made sure there was always someone to help me if he needed to work, and I made sure he/my help looked after Beau, whilst I simply snuggled in with Georgie.

Her night feeds were actually something I looked forward to. Knowing how all too soon she would stop needing them, and how I would long for her husky little cries to call out for me once more, to be the centre of her world again, just for a little longer… so, whilst I am, I’ve been breathing it all in. Her sweet vanilla breath, her fuzzy peachy head, those delicate little fingers clinging to me.

The Fourth Trimester

All too suddenly, Georgie was 6 weeks old and our cocoon began to open. Nick was back into the swing of business, and Beau and I both felt the need to get out and about again. So I would take the kids for a drive most mornings – Georgie would have her morning nap in the car – and we would end up somewhere like Cornwall Park. I’d roll out a picnic rug under the trees, and Beau would run around exploring, whilst Georgie and I sat in the shade and watched him, letting the breeze refresh us.

Beau would nap in the afternoons, and I would lay in bed with Georgie, feeding and snoozing for a good couple of hours. Then we’d find ourselves in the living room – watching TV, playing with blocks, talking and snuggling and waiting for Nick to get home… I’ve often wondered exactly how many times I’ve kissed my children. An infinite amount. Continuous kisses. So many days of just kissing them and not a lot else.

Once Nick got home I’d shower, whilst he cooked the dinner, and we’d all eat on laps in the living room, hanging out together until bedtime. Sometimes I’d be aglow from the day, other times totally frazzled and worn out, but always content.

Sleep eat repeat. Bliss.

Summer-time

With the end of the fourth trimester came the summer-time, and it felt as though Georgie ‘woke up’ at this point. She was no longer a sleepy newborn, suddenly she was 3 months old and much more active and alert.

By 4 months she was rolling herself from one side of the room to the other, determined to get to where she wanted to be. And our nights of going to bed at 10pm and sleeping til 5am abruptly ended… with the summer’s heat, and her increased activity, she needed regular feeds through the night again. It suddenly became quite exhausting – almost the opposite of Beau, as things started getting easier by this point. We’d had a cruisey newborn phase and it caught up with us!

We thoroughly enjoyed the summer, though, finding our feet as a family of four – enjoying long weekends and slow, relaxed days, surrendering when the exhaustion and heat (gosh it was a hot summer!) got too much.

By the end of the summer, as Georgie reached 6 months old, I started to get restless – eager to get out with the pram for long walks, for the head-space and to regain my fitness – but unable to do so with a three year old in tow, not to mention the intense heat and humidity. So I began to feel a little trapped and overwhelmed, as well as restless. And it was becoming increasingly apparent that Beau needed more now. He was ready for preschool.

And now…

So, with Autumn, came a welcome relief. Beau started preschool 3 days a week, the weather cooled down, and I gained some space – to go for walks, to reorganise the household, and to get some special time just with Georgie. Now, when Beau gets home from kindy, I have more energy to engage with him. To be more present with him again – rather than going through the motions.

I am slowly getting back into my Celebrant business, and am taking regular time to write, to practice yoga, and to do those things that fill my cup. Nick and I still have our monthly date nights – but we’re craving more quality time with each other. And we’re starting to feel the need for more one-on-one time with each of the kids too.

So a new rhythm in our family life is emerging. The next 5 months, until Georgie’s 1st birthday, will continue to be slow and deliberate, but with a new found energy and us starting to look a little further ahead…

We already feel quite sure that our sense of ‘completeness’ will remain… and we’re all but certain we don’t want to ‘go through all that again,’ despite having enjoyed it…. but how funny it is that, every now and then, I wish more than anything to be able to go back. To be pregnant again, just for a few moments. Or to experience childbirth again, just to relive the magic of it – the power, the wonder, the beauty of that new life.

I don’t think this means we want more babies… just that the whole experience of having our two has been so utterly amazing. And I have loved every single moment of it.

I am a writer

I set myself a personal goal this year – to write more.

I’ve always been a writer, from as young as seven years old… dragging my Dad’s old typewriter to the top bunk and writing short stories over the summer holidays.

I sat my English GCSEs a year early, completing a year’s worth of course work in two short weeks, and aced them. My English teacher put one of my stories on display outside her classroom and told me it was unique it its structure… told through snippets of time, like a time-lapse, versus traditional prose. It told a story, but also left a lot to the reader’s imagination.

Aged 16, I did work experience on a local newspaper and, I think, irritated my manager with my endless ideas and her limited time. She set me up in a room with the archives in the end, and I started a project ‘in print last century,’ writing stories from the papers’ archives 100 years prior.

I moved to New Zealand with my family shortly after this, and lost my ‘voice’ (along with my identity) for a while. But when I went travelling, aged 19, I wrote almost daily about my adventures. It was before social media unfortunately, so 18 months of writing remains unread, in a box of dusty journals under the stairs.

Back in New Zealand, with my voice found again, I studied Psychology at University, and double majored in English, with a particular focus on the expressive arts. I’ll be honest – it all but killed my love of writing… when it became something mechanical, and something to be critiqued and graded.

A University professor once openly critiqued a poem of mine, saying it ‘wasn’t enough’ of this or that, when I had written about my current experience of having a boyfriend on a life support machine. The words were abstract, and authentic, and real. It was a poem that had moved others, and still has the power to move me, despite my love for him being short-lived and long gone. Yet it wasn’t enough? It was the last thing I would write, beyond academic essay, for three years… until I moved to London and my writing of poetry saved me, bringing me back to the self that had been lost.

How can words, which have the power to save and heal, not be enough? Be given a meaningless letter of grading, by a person who didn’t feel or express them?

I’ve spent years, thirty three to be precise, not considering myself a writer – even though I write… denying a huge part of my identity… simply because I don’t have an audience. But enough of that! See… I don’t write for an audience. I just write. I write my heart’s truth, and it isn’t censored or targeted. It’s just my words. And if my words speak to others, well then my ‘audience’ will find me.

And they have… I’ve deeply and personally connected with some incredible souls, through my words. Kindred spirits. Lifelong friends. And through this small number of people, who have found my words and shared their own with me, I’ve been encouraged at the times when I’ve needed it the most.

These days I have several projects in various forms of completion – monologues, plays, coffee-table books, and children’s stories – and a bunch of poetry I haven’t gotten around to publishing or performing yet. And then there is this blog.

This blog serves three purposes for me… originally, and still, it is to be a memoir to my children. Snippets of their childhood, of our early family life, and a keepsake of my love to them as they entered this world.

Secondly, it is an attempt to connect with others who might become some kind of an online village for me. A place where we can feel a sense of mutual understanding and support.

And lastly, it is to keep me accountable… it is to keep me nudging my words out there, however awkwardly or muddled they may come.

Because I am a writer.

Easter Baskets

Usually we go away for Easter, taking full advantage of a long weekend to get away and enjoy the last blast of summer. But this year we have opted to stay home, due to friends’ birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and to have fun ‘egg hunting’ with cuzzies.

I’m really looking forward to it – we’ve got no less than five little holidays planned between now and August (the urge to travel has really hit me again this year) – but to have a long weekend at home feels quite exciting. It’ll be lovely to have sleep-ins in our own bed (Nick and I taking turns of course!), not having to pack anything at all, and to enjoy lots of quality time with family and friends… which is becoming fewer and far between now family life is getting fuller.

And so, with us staying at home, I thought it would be nice to start doing Easter baskets for the children. And I fully admit I’ve gotten a little carried away!

It all started one Saturday night last month… on Saturday nights we put a movie on for Beau and watch it together with popcorn, a tradition I loved from my own childhood… and this particular movie was ‘Hop,’ a story about the Easter bunny. Well, 4 weeks and about 20 viewings later… and we have one very excited little boy! I mean… the Easter bunny poops jellybeans!

I’ve never been that keen on Easter, especially since having children… all that sugary chocolate to avoid (there was one chocolate bunny incident in a caravan two years ago, which Nick and I have never gotten over…)… but I just couldn’t help myself. I’ve really gone overboard thanks to an excitable nature and internet shopping!… but it’s not just chocolate (for Beau – there’s none at all for Georgie, of course); there are books, and crafts, and new soft toys, and things to enjoy doing together during our long weekend.

As I was pulling all the items out of their hiding places and starting to put it all together in the basket… I suddenly felt self-conscious. Am I spoiling them? Is this too much? But in the end I realised there is nothing wrong with spoiling our beloved children, treating them, giving them gifts, instilling a sense of excitement and joy into their lives… it’s just how we do it, right? It’s being mindful of how often, in what ways, and why.

I’m not sure if I’m getting it completely right… parenthood in general… but I do know that I love the socks off those two little darlings and, sometimes, it’s ok to spoil them rotten for no other reason than exactly that. We’re incredibly blessed to be able to, right.

How are you spoiling your loved ones this Easter? I hope you take the long weekend to indulge yourself.

x

Easter basket contents – for Beau, aged 3.5 years.

The Caker chocolate cookie mix – for making together and gifting to our neighbours; Humpty Dumpty easter egg; a chocolate bunny; chocolate chicks; jellybeans; Baa Baa Smart Sheep, book by Mark and Rowan Sommerset; Fox cuddle toy; green Lego; craft set – make your own tree house; craft set – make your own paper plans; bunny ears; loot bag for egg hunt.

We’ll be sure to include a lot of running around this Easter, but the chocolates won’t be eaten all at once. I feel silly, really, as he actually prefers dark chocolate, such as Whittakers 72%… but the lure of a chocolate humpty dumpty to smash totally sucked me in. I’ll regret these sugary choices, I’m sure of it…

Easter basket contents – for Georgie, 6 months.

Peter Rabbit sippy cup; Hairy Maclary boardbook; The Hungry Catterpillar box set; Flopsy bunny cuddly toy; pink bunny pajamas, pink bunny bib; bunny ears.

I never imagined in my wildest dreams I would be a mother to go pink mad with my daughter… I don’t even like pink as a colour for myself, and I’m really conscious of not creating a ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ mentality with my children. … but it just looks so good on her. Pink/purple is totally her colour. So I see a lot more pink in my future and have no problems with that… I’ll just make sure to mix it up a bit too.

Have a happy Easter, everyone!

Finding rhythm: sleep patterns

These busy days of early motherhood really are a whirlwind. Intense, full on, consuming… some days it feels as though you are knocked from pillar to post and can’t find your feet, other days you are so exhausted you feel like a dead weight and can’t think in a straight line, let alone move.

I think for the first 6 months you really are just muddling through – getting to know your new baby, adjusting to a new person in your family, meeting your own basic needs in the slithers of time in between meeting theirs, and figuring out who you are now. Perspectives change, priorities are different.

Then after reaching that 6 month mark, the same thing happened for me with both of my babies, there was a very definitive shift… it was like a switch getting flicked, and suddenly those changeable days of muddling through fell into some kind of rhythm. Patterns started to emerge. Routines took shape…

Current sleep patterns

Georgie is now 6 months old, and she still wakes 2-3 times to feed in the night. We were blessed with a newborn who slept from 10pm-5am, solidly, from around 6-12 weeks old (I would wake up to eat, but not Georgie!) – trust me when I say I know how lucky we were! But as soon as she started getting more active she went back to needing the extra milk from those night feeds. Of which I have no problem with… I mean why would I? It’s tiring, of course it is, but she needs to eat and she fully depends on me. So we’ve fallen into a beautiful rhythm with her night-time feeding, which I’m really enjoying.

For some weeks now she’s been going to bed at 6.30/7pm, feeding around 10/11pm as we go to bed (she sleeps in a cot in our bedroom), then she’ll wake around 2am and 5am to feed again, before we start our day at 6.30/7am. I exclusively breastfeed, so feeding requires nothing more than for me to hold her.

Now that the weather is cooler, though, she seems to be sleeping a little longer (perhaps not needing as much fluid, now it isn’t so hot) – eg she’ll wake to feed when we come to bed, but then will only wake once more around 3/4am. Sometimes she won’t wake at all when we come to bed, but will want to feed around 1am instead… and then usually manages to get to 5/6am before wanting to feed again. The 2-3 night feeds are slowly becoming just 1-2.

I’m sensing/recognising the same pattern that occurred with Beau, and eventually she will stop needing to feed in the night-time. All too soon, really. And this time I know just how much I will miss it – so I’m soaking it up whilst she still needs me, for as long as it is that my milk will be enough.

I definitely know the difference between her waking to feed vs waking between her cycles, now – and have started to give her a little bit of time to find her sleep rather than jumping straight out of bed with my boobs. It usually involves me hearing a little clucking from her cot, murmuring something so she hears my voice, and then the next minute another hour or so has gone by because we’d both drifted back to sleep again. When she wakes to feed you sure do know it! Girl’s got lungs.

It’s really lovely seeing this progression with her, something I’m really able to appreciate being a second-time mum – because the first time around, when you have no point of comparison, it can sometimes feel as though this is never going to get any easier or improve. Those early months of broken sleep seem truly endless, until they are all too suddenly over. And then you grieve them and want them back. Before you dive straight back into your hormones and do it all over again… (not sure we’re going to do it again, again, though).

Our rhythm with the night-times, which has been the same ever since her birth (and was the same for Beau also), is that we fully share the load. Georgie wakes, which wakes me, and then I nudge Nick. He’ll get her, whilst I go to use the loo and then take my pillow to the sofa (I can’t feed her in bed as it has been giving me a lot of back/hip troubles, unfortunately). She takes around 20 minutes to feed, and half the time she falls asleep again and I put her back into her cot, but the other half of the time she needs Nick to cuddle her back to sleep, which also takes around 20 minutes. She needs Nick, because if she remains with me she will sometimes want to suckle (not feed) right until the sun rises again! She’s more than happy settling into his arms, without the lure of a milky orb in her face, and can then be put back into her cot – better sleep quality for everyone.

(Please note – I’m not at all implying that co-sleeping with your baby in your bed/letting them suckle on you all night isn’t ideal, because for many it is. I’m simply sharing what works/doesn’t work for us. My blog will never be anything other than an account of our own unique experience).

We have a salt lamp in our bedroom and also one in the living room, which helps us to see in the dark but doesn’t affect our melatonin – and I’ve really loved the rhythm of these nights, sharing the load and loving our babies as a team. It’s felt really cosy and lovely. And it feels like we’ve surrendered to the rhythm this time, rather than question it and fight against it. I could write a whole blog post on what I’ve learned (to let go!) from the first time round – I think all other mums who are second+ timers will be nodding in agreement!

We each make sure to go into Beau’s room before returning to bed, too, just to give him a kiss and include him. He still wears a nappy at night-times, so sometimes we need to change it, if it’s gotten too full. Or we’ll need to tuck his covers back in, or remove a toy he’s hidden under his pillow. Lately he’s been lifting his blinds to look at the sky when he falls asleep, as his bed is right underneath the window, so we’ll lower it again. Sometimes he stirs, often he doesn’t, but I’m pretty sure he knows we’re there – and I love how Nick and I have never discussed doing any of this, it just sort of happened as part of our rhythm and just keeps on happening.

These broken nights are tiring, for sure – and some weeks, when it’s been really hot and humid, or if the days have been really busy and we really need longer stretches of sleep, it can feel utterly exhausting – but these nights are also really special and lovely. And I truly know I will miss them once they have all too soon passed. So yeah, it’s tiring, but manageable – and we could totally go to bed earlier than 10/11pm, but it’s also nice to be adults for a couple of hours, to have a bit of time to relax and chat and to not be parenting. Amiright.

I’ve come to realise that rest is just as important as actual sleep. So for as long as she needs me in the night-time, I’ll just breathe, and rest in the stillness.

x

Welcome, Autumn

A new season, with new rhythms, and the need to be mindful…

I have to say, I think autumn might be my favourite season. As the intensity of the summer’s heat starts to subside, the mosquitoes go away and the cicadas start to quieten, the brilliance of the sun takes on a more golden hue and it feels like a season full of goodness.

Summer is usually a really busy, outdoorsy, and fun season – but autumn brings with it a sense of grounding, and settling, and much more a sense of peacefulness. And I love it! We’re still aglow from the summer and not quite ready to rest for the winter, more earthy produce is making it onto our plates, the blankets are slowly finding their way back onto our beds… it feels golden and nourishing. My husband, a die-hard summer lover, thinks I’m totally cuckoo – because even the threat of winter in the air doesn’t worry me. I love all the seasons, in all of their unique ways, but Autumn just feels so good.

This current changing of the season is particularly significant for our little family. Literally on the last day of summer, we had a call to say Beau’s awaited place at preschool has now become available. ‘He can start on Monday’… just like that! So, with the changing of the season, a new chapter in our family life is commencing, new routines will form, and it will certainly be a time to settle and ground ourselves once again.

Georgie turned 6 months old on the 3rd day of Autumn (where has one half of a year gone, seriously!), and to mark her half birthday – as well as summer’s end – we booked a cottage in Kuaotunu and spent a long weekend by the beach.

I thought it would be a marvelous weekend away – because we had gone to Kuaotunu, almost exactly 3 years ago, to celebrate Beau’s first half birthday… I loved this synchronicity and expected a warm nostalgia to flood me, to feel the connection of then to now, to acknowledge how far we’ve come and celebrate this milestone in our family’s journey etc… but in actual fact there was a tinge of sadness and a sense of anxiety within me the whole time.

That’s not to say it wasn’t still a wonderful holiday – in so many ways it was. It was simply lovely. And both Beau and Georgie thoroughly enjoyed their time at the beach house – all four of us did. It was calm and cheerful. But within me there was still this sense of sadness and anxiety… I lay awake at night a little bit, I needed to use the calm app to meditate a couple of times a day, I told Nick I needed to walk the beach alone for a little while each morning… and just before it was time to travel home again, I realised what it was. I wasn’t being present. I’d become caught up in my memories – albeit such special and cherished memories – that I’d been filled with a sadness of what is gone, what’s now over… and then there was a sense of anxiety towards the future, of what is unknown and out of my control.

Being mindful, being present isn’t something we can be all of the time – it’s necessary, and often enjoyable, to reflect and to anticipate – but it’s how we should be most of the time.

And so there it was… the antidote to Beau no longer being my baby, is to see my beautiful preschooler building mountains in the golden sand, joyfully expressing his love for being here at the beach today. It is to catch a glimpse of my six month old Georgie, who had been quietly watching me, bursting into smiles when my eyes meet hers. It’s being here, right here, right now… embracing a moment that fills me with pure love and joy, not a moment I need to ever become sad over. A moment to move us into the next one.

Everything changes, but everything will be just as it was, too.

So here we are, today – labeling Beau’s clothing for preschool; pureeing seasonal apples and pears and pumpkin and courgettes, as Georgie reaches for foods other than my milk; meeting my needs for space – to practice yoga, to write…; embracing this current season in our lives and being grateful for it all.

Prouder than ever

So last night Nick & I took Beau and Georgie to the Auckland Pride Parade 2018. As an NZ Celebrant I marched with my friends the Glitter Squad – a group of amazing people from all around New Zealand who are licensed to wed, and stand to #marryallthepeople. Because #loveislove.

The Glitter Squad were there to celebrate love, and did so by marrying a couple (Victoria and Sinead) right then and there DURING THE PARADE! An Australasian first – which I was beyond proud to be a part of. Laura Giddey was the one to officiate things (who, by the by, is also our very own Mary Poppins – having recently babysat Beau and Georgie so Nick and I could go see Robbie Williams, and succeeding in having them both sound asleep all night long! What a bloody legend all round!) – it was all such a pleasure to witness and so exciting to be there.

But I’m not going to lie to you – taking a 3 year old and a 5 month old to an inner city parade that starts at 7.30pm was NOT easy! In fact, right before the parade started and I realised Georgie was not going to sleep in her stroller (as I had so hopefully expected!), I was a split second away from asking Nick if we could turn around and go home… but then the Air Force Hercules did it’s fly-past to kick off the parade and I caught a glimpse of Beau’s face – so full of awe and excitement and joy – that I remembered why it was so important for me to be there, with them.

For Beau and Georgie, who were born after 2013, they will always have lived in a country with marriage equality. A place where love is love. They may not even recognise ‘same sex marriage’… because, to them, it has always been just marriage. This makes me prouder than ever.

So I forgot about my awkwardness, my tiredness, my unfitness, my too-fat-to-fit-my-clothes-ness – and instead was surrounded by all the love, the excitement, the fun… and the pride. Just as I had intended to be.

Poor old Georgie didn’t sleep until we got back to the car at 9.30pm… she was so beyond exhausted and we ended up having a restless night with her because of it. She hadn’t cried during the parade, else we would have found a way to get out and leave early, but she did lose it on the final block back to the car… with an aching body and sore feet, already past my own bedtime, I felt as though we probably did her wrong. But she had been held close, was warm and safe, I breastfed when she needed it, and during the parade she had been in as much awe as her brother – who had taken it all in his stride, including the hustle and bustle walking alllll the way back to our parked car.

Sometimes parenthood is about pushing our boundaries, stepping out of our comfort zones, and introducing our children to the bigger world around them.

And sometimes it’s about staying home and wearing PJs and napping a lot – wish is sure as heck what we’ll be doing for the next few days!

Peace, love, and pride.

x Hayley

That time we didn’t go camping

We were all packed ready to go! Everything had been checked off my list and neatly lined up in the garage, ready for the car; food items were in the fridge, ready for the chilly bin; phones and camera charging; little ones already sleeping… it was 11pm and finally we were crawling into bed ourselves.

We were feeling pretty tired, but so excited for the road-trip in the morning. I was looking forward to a few hours of music, chatting, scenery… followed by four days of living outdoors in the calming, soothing fresh air. Complete with forest walks, beach time, and sleeping under the stars…

… yeah. Come 2am we were up cleaning Georgie’s vomit from our bed for the second time. Nick was now making ominous groaning noises himself, and I had already thought to email the campground (in case they had a last minute enquiry in the morning – someone could take our spot).

Life with children. Plans often change!

Although, I have to say, this change in our plans wasn’t entirely unexpected. Beau had been vomiting earlier in the week, the weekend’s forecast was for stormy weather, and there was a sense of anxiety I couldn’t quite pin point. Perhaps I sensed the sickness looming, and worried about Nick and I being unwell in a tent, without a bathroom, three hours from home (grim). Perhaps we realised that the strong tide of the surf beach might not be the safest camping spot for us anymore, with an overly confident three year old who now likes to run straight into the water. Perhaps I’m simply too tired. Because the decision to stay home for the long weekend was not a difficult decision to make.

As much as I would love to be camping amongst the trees right now, running into the surf, and chatting into the dusk with friends – staying at home feels good. And I’m becoming much better at listening to that inner voice and separating what I want to do, with what I am able.

There will be so many other opportunities to go camping – and we’ll take them. But for now – here’s to a restful long weekend at home. And how many opportunities do we get to do that?

Maybe we’ll take a trip to a local beach; maybe we’ll take Beau on the long promised trip into the City to go up the Sky Tower; or maybe we’ll do nothing at all.

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward. Spanish Proverb.

Have a soulful long weekend, friends

x Hayley

5 reasons to go camping with kids

As the rain gently falls on my office window, I can hear the sounds of ‘bath-time’ coming from upstairs, and I appreciate this half hour I have to myself.

We’re going camping in just under two weeks time – so I’m going to make a start on our packing list, and am hoping that the sunshine we’ve been enjoying makes a return for when it’s time to go!

A few people have said to me ‘you’re brave going camping with a baby!’ Now, call me crazy, but I’m here to tell you that camping with young children is actually the most delightful thing to do! You just need to be organised and well prepared. (And there’ll be no talk of minimalism here – you’re going to want to take everything AND the kitchen sink!) There truly is nothing better than sleeping outdoors, waking up with the sun, and eating pancakes cooked on the camp BBQ. Days of walking through the forest to the beach, lounging around your campsite reading books or playing games, smelling the sausages sizzling come tea-time, and gazing at the stars once the little ones crash after all that fresh air.

The first time we went camping as a family was when Beau was a one year old – we went to the Prana New Year Festival and he absolutely loved every minute of it, as did we. He’s three now and we’ve been camping a further three times since, including to a site right next to a stream last summer. My expectation is that camping with a 5 month old baby (who doesn’t crawl yet) and a three year old (who is now more trust-worthy in terms of not running off, or randomly wanting to get into everything – aka other peoples’ tents!) will actually be even more enjoyable. I shall report back accordingly!

These are my top five reasons why camping with young children is a must do:

  1. It’s cheap! Our 3 night stay for the 4 of us, with a powered site, is costing $160. The campground has flushing toilets, hot showers, and a kitchen if you don’t want to take your own camping stove/bbq. You camp in a clearing by the forest, and walk through the trees to the most beautiful beach. It feels a lot further than a 2.5 hour drive from home and there is nothing else you could possibly need in order to have a lovely family holiday – trees, beach, campsite, you’re set. The only additional costs are your petrol getting there and the food you’ll eat. But you’d be eating if you were at home anyway, so… it’s a 4 day summer holiday for $160.
  2. It’s an adventure! Sleeping outdoors; setting up a cosy home in a tent; snuggling in sleeping bags; reading books until the light runs out; waking with the sun and getting to the beach as it’s still rising; collecting shells and pine cones and leaves and sticks and making artworks; hanging towels and togs on any piece of rope or tree branch that’s available – ready for them to dry and be used again; hearing the sound of the birds around you and becoming familiar with their rhythm; waking with the smell of the beach still on your sun kissed skin…
  3. It’s good for the soul. Being somewhere with limited cellphone coverage, and no need to do anything other than relax, is undoubtedly good for the soul. There’re no screens, no to do list, no schedule, no where to be by a certain time, no sense of time at all – beyond waking with the sun and going to bed when it sets… You’re more in tune with your own natural rhythms – more aware of when you need to sleep, or eat, or move, or rest. And the little ones are just the same. They are more relaxed, because you are more relaxed. Everyone is less grizzly and more settled – because we’re all together, and it feels deliciously calm and soothing. The rustles of the trees, the chirping of the birds, the distant lull of the oceans waves, a monarch butterfly bobbing by, the changing shapes of the clouds, the gradual shift of the trees shadow… it’s a slow and deliberate time together.
  4. It’s bonding. It’s really lovely all working together on the simplest of tasks – whether it’s pegging down the tent, or blowing up the air beds, or washing the dishes in a bucket, there’s a task for everyone and even the smallest of hands can help. Then there’s the family shower trip at the end of the day’s adventures, all meandering through the campgrounds with wash-bags and bath towels and returning to the tent clean and fresh, ready for PJs and sleeping bags and stories. There’s the closeness of sleep, with the comfort of each others proximity, and the shared breakfasts in the morning – complete with jumpers over PJs and no where else to be but together. It’s just a lovely time of togetherness.
  5. Because why wouldn’t you?! If you wait for the right time, the right age, the right weather… you’ll never go. Obviously if you don’t enjoy camping in the first place, then maybe don’t go with young children. But if you love camping and would love to take your children along, then my number one reason to go is exactly that.

Just be organised and go prepared – for rain or shine – and I promise you won’t regret it. (I’ll share our lengthy packing list, once it’s compiled!)

Do you go camping with your little ones? What are some of your top tips?

this place we call home

I’m not from this place. But it is the place which welcomed me in, called me one of its own, and now the place I call home.

Beautiful, pretty, Auckland City.

I feel fortunate to live here; when I think of Auckland I think of leafy Cornwall Park, of trendy inner city foodie stops, of Sunday farmers markets, of the glistening blue waters as you cruise to Waiheke, of the calm beaches as you head north, of flat whites and brunches, of the dense green bush as you head west, and the art that comes alive when the sun goes down.

For me there has been theatre, partying with friends, uni days, poetry nights, dancing in the city, and walking along beaches. I’ve swam in the ocean, climbed volcanoes, been to yoga and had brunch. I fell in love here. I had two babies.

Since 2014 I’ve been a Wedding Celebrant and not only have I met some of the most interesting and loveliest of people – I’ve been fortunate to spend time in some of the most stunning locations Auckland has to offer. From the beaches and vineyards of Waiheke Island; to the cocktail bars of the inner City; as far south as lush green Glenbrook; to the East at Musick Point, overlooking the boats in the blue bays; there’s been the rolling countryside to the north – from Riverhead, to Kumeu, onto Puhoi, and as far as Matakana; to the festival beachy vibe of Piha, out West; and into many a family home – always with an open door and open arms for me – smiling faces who invite me into their lives to officiate and celebrate their unions, surrounded by their families and friends.

I’m proud of this place I call home. On Sundays, my little family and I take the time to enjoy it. We drive and catch up with conversation whilst the little ones nap, or we’ll sing music with the windows down whilst they are both awake – driving over the Harbour Bridge, pointing out the sailing boats and the Sky Tower, protruding from the central city. We find ourselves at a beach or a park and we roll out the picnic rugs, pull out the picnic hamper, and lay down to gaze at the sky.

I’m on the other side of the earth from where I once called home, and I welcome future travels in my life, but right now there is no where else I’d rather be. Auckland. This place we call home.

new year musings

Nick went back to work yesterday, which means the rhythm of family life will resume and new routines will start to take shape. Georgie is now 4 months old, becoming stronger and more aware of the world around her by the day, and 3-year-old Beau is awaiting a place at our selected preschool. This new year really does represent the next phase in our family life, and I have some clear intentions for it…

Now, I have absolutely nothing against new year’s resolutions, or setting big personal goals each year… but at this current stage in my life, I prefer a more gentle approach – one that’s realistic in terms of where I am at (full-time mother of a preschooler and a baby who is breastfed on demand) and doesn’t hold me to ransom should things go off track. There are no targets to hit, no boxes to tick, just a focus to give me direction and a few plans to guide the way. Well-being is my ultimate goal. I just want to live a life that is mindful and present and connected.

These are my intentions for 2018:

  • Gently move towards a plant-based diet;
  • Ease back into daily walking;
  • Find a weekly restorative yoga class – maybe try Yin;
  • More books, less screens;
  • Nurture those friendships I value.

And I have a couple more:

  • Start taking Celebrant bookings again, mid-year onwards;
  • Write/blog on Sunday afternoons, as able.

And finally there are some family matters:

  • Continue our monthly date nights;
  • Celebrate Beau starting preschool;
  • Have a Naming Ceremony for Georgie;
  • Travel to Fiji in August for our friends’ wedding;
  • Plan our 2019 UK trip;
  • Start to think about our first home build.

And that’s it. Writing it out makes it seem like an awful lot, actually – but it really isn’t. Prioritise my well-being and cherish family-time could summarise it. Oh and avoid dickheads. Just avoid them.

We really have had the loveliest end of year holiday, to welcome in 2018. The last 3 months of 2017 were intense – naturally, after having had our second baby and recovering from another c-section – and they culminated with Nick needing a 5 day hospital stay (getting home at 5pm on Christmas Eve!) due to a back injury. We really did need that break.

So we had a relaxed Christmas at home, cancelled our New Year holiday, and enjoyed two whole weeks of being together, with no plans other than what we felt like doing.

We went to our favourite beach and swam in the ocean; we had a BBQ with friends; we woke up and watched the rain bucketing down outside, all snuggled in one bed; we cleaned the house; we went on a train ride from Glenbrook; we picked strawberries in the summer sun; we played games, read books, had naps, and slept in; we shopped in the sales, rode scooters in underground carparks, and ate burgers in the boot; we caught up with laundry, made homemade pizzas, watched a movie after the children went to bed, and ate all the leftover Christmas Stollen (I did, anyway).

And then, after the loveliest two week break – it was Sunday. It was the day before Nick must return to work… and I began to feel the relaxation of our holiday dissipate and anxiety creep in.

It knocked me off my feet a little, this anxiety. I couldn’t place where it was coming from, or what it was about… I just felt heavy and unmotivated, unable to focus, and the day seemed a bit awkward with indecisiveness around our plans. So, come 4pm, I’d had enough. I packed us a picnic dinner, bundled us all into the car, and we headed to our local beach. Long Bay. Bliss.

I found my clarity almost immediately. The breeze cleared my mind, and the sound of the ocean waves brought me back to the present moment: I was feeling anxious because I hadn’t done resting yet.

I simply wasn’t ready for the year to begin – for Nick to go back to work and me to return to full-time parenting… I didn’t want to answer my business enquiries, or set any measurable goals for my writing… I didn’t feel energised enough to start going for walks, or to make it to a yoga class, or to swap my easy cheese sandwiches for garden salads. I didn’t want to do anything and, anxiously, I felt as though I needed to.

Walking along the beach – the very same beach I walked when pregnant with Georgie; when trying to conceive her; when both pregnant and post-partum with my first born Beau; when I’ve lost loved ones; failed things and made mistakes; said goodbyes; welcomed new beginnings; and changed directions – I found my clarity, just as I had done a hundred times before about a hundred different things. And I realised – with the sand under my feet, breathing lungfuls of the fresh, salty air – I just need to bring it back to basics.

And I need to bring it back to basics for as long as it takes.

I can simply rest for longer. I can give myself the grace to rest for as long as I need to. All year, if that’s what it takes, or even longer than that. I will rest until my energy returns. I will nurture and nourish and nap.

I need a summer of long weekends, and a winter of early nights. I need a spring of walking amongst the trees and reading in the afternoon sun. I need music and poetry, to dance and sing, cuddle my babies, and laugh with my husband. I need to kiss him more. I need coffee dates and long chats with new girlfriends, and dinner parties with old friends. I need to stop and breath, to look at this tired and fat and scarred body in the mirror and to bask in her utter beauty. I will regain my strength, my shape, and I will regain my spirit.

I will rediscover that young girl I was, and meet the strong woman I now am. I will figure out what I want to do, and the kind of person I want to be.

But first, I need to rest.

I have two little people who need my hugs, and love, and milk. And I am everything to them. These days of them finding their own rest in my arms are few. So that will be our focus for 2018. And I think it will be the biggest one yet.

2018 will be a year of self care, and self love. It will be slow and gentle, but deliberate. A time to finally gather my senses and embrace only that what matters.

x