The real reason parenting advice doesn’t work.

Navigating parenthood…. are we there yet?

Ok. I know this is supposed to be some enlightened parenting advise on how to have happy, healthy kids that will grow into happy, healthy well-balanced adults, but seriously, after reading article upon article and trying method upon method I’ve come to realise, the only parenting advise I really need are the advice I ask for. When you fall pregnant you get unsolicited advice from every corner. From the teller at your local café to the security guard at the mall. Your stomach becomes public property and suddenly it’s a free for all to ask personal questions. Us humans are so obsessed with making sure humanity keeps existing that we over involve ourselves at every opportunity with those busy growing another human being. If a pregnant woman dares light a cigarette or order a glass of wine she will be stared at and judged accordingly. The health of your baby is not just your own concern while in utero, but the general public around you has vested interest as well, even if they don’t know you personally. The waitress bringing your glass of wine will either stare at you in judgment, or might bluntly tell you how much she disapproves. If you happen to light a cigarette, someone will tell you how unhealthy and risky it is for you to inhale all that nicotine and expose your baby to it. And they’d be right. I am not promoting drinking and smoking while pregnant. I am very much against these bad habits, even when not pregnant. But I do find it fascinating that as a non-pregnant mother or person, not a single stranger will approach you to tell you how bad those things are for you. You will no doubt have family members alluding to the dangers and evil that lies at the bottom of a bottle or within the confines of that rolled Tabaco – but a stranger? Not likely. Once pregnant, you visibly open yourself up to unsolicited advice and it won’t stop once your baby is born. Once you are fully submerged into motherhood, the advice will freely flow from other mothers. The mommy wars will suck you in and make you doubt everything and anything you thought you knew or felt about being a mother. If you are on any social media platform you will inevitably follow parenting sites and be bombarded with even more ideas on parenting – the how to’s and how not to’s. How to raise confident but humble children…well, that’s an article I’d like to read. How to raise a strong-willed child without breaking them. How to enjoy that spirited toddler. How to stop breastfeeding at the appropriate time? (Whenever that is???) How to have a fun vacation with your children. How not to wish school holidays over? How to be the best mother you could be. So many options. So much you’re doing wrong…

Motherhood is based upon thousands and thousands of years of deception. Quite honestly, I doubt anyone would venture into parenthood if told the complete truth about parenting before considering the life changing adventure that is parenthood. Of course once you’re a parent you revel in the rewards… quite honestly I think most of us choose to live in denial of all the effort and hard work and worry parenting involves. You do realise that for quite a couple of years you are responsible, or at least held responsible, for the outcome of another human beings’ happiness, satisfaction, hunger or lack of hunger, fulfilment, creative achievement or lack of achievement, social interactions, mental wellbeing and more…. Sometimes you are held responsible for this far beyond their childhood years even, so boy, if you ever had a hunger for responsibility then parenthood should quench that. Sadly, some find the task too large to handle and shove it aside for more manageable conquests, and then they get blamed for all their kids fears of rejection or fears of commitment. But somewhere out there, there is a winning formula…millions of successful happy adults are the proof, right? Or are they successful and happy despite their parents?

Before I had children, I believed motherhood would be one clothing softener ad followed by another, pure bliss and kisses, giggles and sunshine. Yes, I had complete amnesia from my own mothers’ struggles as a parent, completely oblivious to my sisters’ years of motherhood. I only spend time with my nephew and niece occasionally and then it was always laughter and giggles, chasing them around the house and tickling them. Fun times. I longed to have my own little cherub arms around my neck, tugging at my pants hem to pick them up, cooing lovingly into my eyes as I dress them and feed them. A little chubby body to cuddle next to during our winter nights, watching movies and pointing out all the little curiosities they lay their eyes on. Nine years into motherhood I’ve had my eyes opened. Maybe a little bit earlier than nine years…more like seven years ago. With my first child, I still hung on to the delusion of carefree motherhood, living in denial for almost two years, until my second child was born. She left no room to deny the difficulties of parenthood. Prying little cherub arms off another sibling’s neck left me reeling in shock about the realities of parenting. Not only did I have to keep my kids alive and happy, I also had to ensure they don’t end up killing each other.

Realisation set in that some babies just did not want to be hugged and kissed and cuddled all the damn time. Some babies communicated through screaming, rather than cooing and giggling. Some toddlers really did not enjoy being tickled, or spun around by their arms, or thrown in the air, or hugged, or held, or put down, or cuddled, or anything you thought you knew about mothering a child. Some kids truly dislike jelly, and custard, and even cake (this was my third kid and a complete and utter surprise, until I realised that having a cake smash at one year’s old might be to blame) Apparently, some kids cannot tolerate eating anything but fruit and not all children will hide sweets in their underwear drawer to eat at their own choosing. Only one out of four in my house will do that. Also, only one in four will insist on eating broccoli at least once a week, only because I won’t allow her to eat it every night.

You suddenly realise, with a blinding clarity, that yes, all babies and kids are different. Even from birth. And they are born with their own unique personality, it doesn’t suddenly appear as they grow older. Character does yes, but personality seem to be there from day one. And yes, everyone will give you advise on what helped them through their early stages of parenting, or their later stages, or whatever stage you are currently in, but ultimately it will be completely your responsibility to figure out a way to calm your baby, ease your toddler, encourage your pre-schooler, communicate with your tween, trust your teenager and keep a relationship going with your adult children. You may try all the different methods and ways your friends and family suggest, or you may try none of them, but somehow you must figure it out – well if you care about your children anyway. And if you care about them, you will somehow magically tap into something called motherly (or fatherly) instincts and one day you will realise that you just ‘know’ how to stop your baby from wailing. You will just know what to do to ease all your toddler’s little pains, how to get your children to obey your instructions and do what’s needed to keep a relationship going with those stubborn teens. We all will feel like hitting our heads against a wall at some stage in this parenting journey, but if we truly care and truly pay attention to those little mini people we created, we will figure it out. The trick is to not give up or give in. To be vigilant about being a parent. To be obsessive in demonstrating your love. Your children have loads of friends, they don’t need you to be their friend. They need you to be their parent. And they need you to love them for who they are, not for who you wish them to be.

Parenthood never ends. Even when your children wish you would stop parenting, the responsibility does not end. One day your children will have their own children, your grandchildren, and then you’ll want to make sure they parent ‘right’. Suddenly you’ll have all the answers, you will want to drop pearls of parenting wisdom. But they will want nothing to do with it, until they are at their wits end and realise they have no clue and then they will beg you for it. Or they won’t. They might drop their children off for a night of babysitting, with a list as long as your arm with instructions on how to handle their precious baby, forgetting that you somehow manage to raise and keep alive your own well balanced, healthy, happy kids… Or maybe they feel damaged by your parenting and thus will be doing the complete opposite of everything you tell them to do. The thing about parenting is you won’t know whether you’re doing it right until it’s too late…until your adult children can turn around and blame you for every single thing wrong in their lives. And then, unfortunately my friend, no matter how much you believed you did right by them, if you didn’t show them you loved them, then they probably have reason to blame you.

Because ultimately that’s all that parenting really comes down to, right? I’ve heard it over and over again – as long as you love your children, they will be fine…but I tend to disagree a tiny bit. I can love my children, but if I don’t let that love spill over into my actions I can tell them I love them until I’m blue in the face and they will still blame me for not showing up for their dance recitals, stage productions, netball games or just spending a good ol’ Sunday together as a family. So yes, spew your parenting advise, tell those new parents that their new-born baby is stronger than he looks, or that they must handle her with care, that time flies by too fast, and to enjoy each and every moment, even the screaming you awake in the middle of the night ones. Tell them that walking rings are bad for baby’s balance or posture, or tell them that it encourages walking, say that breast is best or that bottle is convenient. Tell that tired looking mom to have a nap while baby is sleeping, or tell her to do some special activity just for herself while baby naps. Tell that father to be present with his children, or tell him to put in all his effort into providing for his family. In the end, the advice we give are only relevant to our own experiences and none of it will be clear cut, perfect fit, one solution to all your problems. Nobody has all the answers, there’s no one size fits all manual. Honestly, we’re all just winging it, going with our gut as to what works best for ourselves and our families.

So, read up, listen up and then test it out. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut, to listen to your instincts and to make it up as you go. On the other hand, do pay attention to health care advise…but only from professionals. At the risk of sounding completely bonkers though, I’ve only taken my kids to the Doctor in extreme emergencies – like a hard fall on the head, or a rusted nail stuck in a leg, or a break out of measles. Coughs and sniffles get monitored and treated at home. I’ve caught vomit in my hands, sucked snot out of noses, had 39C feverish babies sleeping naked on my chest, searched WebMD repeatedly for the same symptoms, had many sleepless nights, bought herbal and stronger medicines and kept all four my kids alive thus far. My five and seven-year-old got excited to go to the doctor for a check-up when immigrating because they would finally meet a real-life doctor. So even when it comes to your child’s health, don’t run away from your own instincts too quick. Parenting requires confidence, and if everyone keeps telling you that you are doing it wrong or you should try their method or they know what works better for your kids then it’s likely you’ll be doubting your ability. That’s my piece, use it or don’t – it’s all up to you anyway.

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Finances – learning to shop in a new country!

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Living abroad has it’s rewards and challenges. Getting used to a new culture, learning the geography of a new city, dealing with missing friends and family and getting to know where to spend your money to name just a few. As any traveler will tell you, if you go to a foreign country, whether on holiday or to live, it is best to find out where the locals go to shop. Especially in holiday kind of towns, it is best to stay clear of all the high volume, easy to get to, scenic shopping areas. In New Zealand there are not as big a variety of big Supermarkets as what we’re used to in South Africa, but then the income gap doesn’t seem to be as big either. Within South Africa you have Metro, Makro, OK, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths as the most popular supermarkets to purchase your monthly/weekly/daily groceries from. In New Zealand you have Pak n Save, Countdown and New World. There are probably some other lesser known brands that I’m not yet aware of, but you can get everything you need in terms of groceries from the three above stores. And just about every neighborhood has at least two if not all three of them. I find New World to be a bit more spread out and not quite in every area, whereas Countdown and Pak n Save is everywhere.

I’ve only shopped at New World once, and price wise they felt a bit more expensive than Pak n Save or Countdown, but that could be due to the specials they had on when I went shopping. With that I mean that the specials of the week wasn’t on any items I regularly buy, whereas Countdown and Pak n Save regularly have items I purchase on special. And that’s one thing I have learned from doing grocery shopping here – every week someone has a special on something. If it’s not $2 week at Pak n Save, it’s a buy 2 for the price of 1 at Countdown, or items marked down with a 20-30% discount. The thing with these specials are that they are not always on the same brands of products or the same products necessarily. For instance, you can rely on Pak n Save to have 1kg cheese on a $8 special, but it varies form brand to brand each week, and sometimes you might get a $7 special. Or if you happen to go through a cheese fridge at countdown and see their store brand cheese with a SPECIAL sticker on it, just happen upon a block or two that’s marked at 0,07c per kg…granted this has only happened to me once and I was extremely disappointed that there were only 2 of these blocks otherwise I would’ve stocked up on cheese for the rest of the year. And this was not an advertised special either…it could’ve been a typo, but the label said “mild cheese” and that’s what I paid for it…0,07c for a Kg of cheese…that’s cheap no matter what country you live in!!

When it comes to shopping for a family of 6, 2 adults and 4 kids aged from 1 – 9 yrs, it can get rather pricey. Cutting down on buying store bought baby food has helped with lowering our grocery bill, but the three older kids are eating bigger portions than before so meals need a bit more substance now. I’ve yet to figure out exactly where the best places to buy fruit and vegetables are as  there are lots of fresh fruit and veg stalls around, that does seem to be better than the Pak n Save and Countdown prices, but each of those stalls have different specials on as well. Grocery shopping is really one of the least enjoyable tasks to do for me, so ideally I don’t want to drive from shop to shop finding the best specials. So I’ve learned to kind of get around this by just buying whatever is on special at my local Pak n Save, Countdown and Fruit stop….I buy the daily necessities such as bread and milk and such from Countdown as they always have their $1 bread and $3 milk, but the big forth nightly shop I go to Pak n Save, as they have more bulk with more specials on more variety. And if they don’t have Chicken on special this week, then they’ll have mince, if not mince then pork…and as such our diet is always changing and varied. The local fruit spot also changes their weekly specials so the fruit and vegetable intake varies and the kids gets exposed to a bigger variety than what they used to because before I would just shop for the same stuff all the time….working on a budget but not on a pre-set list of foods makes for a more interesting and varied diet.

What I found helpful was that we had no preconceived ideas or reputations attached to any one brand or store when we got here, so it was easy to just buy the most affordable things. I do believe that certain brands have better quality products, and here most foods have a health star rating marked on them – anything between 1 and 5 stars, and a lot of the time the house brand items are cheaper and have a good health star rating, so you know you’re not buying something that’s of worse quality just because it’s cheaper. Because really that’s what food quality is about right? How healthy it is for consumption? That’s one thing I don’t really understand about the health food industry – the cost involved with so called health foods are ridiculous. It’s like they’re punishing the poor with obesity because only the rich can afford to buy such prices for necessities. I don’t understand how less processed, more raw, more organic foods can cost more to produce than the over processed, sprayed food we’re forced to consume. If the whole foods and health foods industry was so concerned with unhealthy people, shouldn’t they make a concerted effort to be more affordable to those who really need it? Anyway, that’s a rant for a whole other blog….

In New Zealand you have plenty of variety when it comes to different brands of foods – within the tinned food section you will find at least seven different brands and within a specific food such as tinned tomatoes you will find at least a half dozen different varieties of diced, pureed or cut tomatoes. There are international sections in every Countdown and Pak n Save I’ve been in to and there you will find a small section for each of the many nationalities that has a big immigration population within New Zealand. For South Africa you will find Ouma Rusks, Pro Vita’s, Nik Naks, Freshpak tea, Jelly tots, Chutney and a couple of other food items, but at much higher prices than what you would pay for them back in SA or similar products in the rest of the store. The only thing missing on that list is Biltong. There are however The South African Shop, they are not quite in every neighborhood, but easily enough available within Auckland. They sell Biltong, South African charcoal (not briquettes), Ina Paarman spices, Chutney…all things South African, once again at prices slightly higher than SA. Some things, like Biltong, are worth it though, right?

Auckland is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Housing is at least double as much as in SA. Dining out is ridiculously expensive – buying two beers cost $20, which is the equivalent of about R200…We’ve been out to lunch as a family once since we’ve been here, and it was a ‘kids eat free’ restaurant, with very tasty food, in rather small portions…we were all satisfied enough after sharing all the food out, but our usual ‘take home for dinner portions’ were non-existent. We paid $100. Remember, the kids food wasn’t charged for – it was two meals and 5 drinks and we paid the equivalent of R1000!! Back in South Africa if you go out to a ‘kids eat free’ lunch, you pay maybe R300 for food & drinks, and sometimes even dessert! So our dining out once a week has stopped rather abruptly. Eating fish and chips on the beach though only costs $20 – $30, so that’s an option for the warmer summer days coming up.

It took us a while, still struggle really, not to convert currencies in your head while shopping. You need to look at your income and your expenses in the currency you earn and spend and not in what the same items cost back in SA.

I window-shop online to get an idea of prices of items and what specials are on where before I go into the stores, and if I see something on special that I don’t generally purchase but that could replace something I normally purchase for a cheaper price then I would purchase that item. One thing that is true here, is that there is always a special or two on somewhere!!

A time for gifts drawing near

Moving to a new country is quite an experience, trying to find work in a new country is a whole different ball game….especially when you’re used to keeping your own hours and doing your own thing as a self-employed photographer. I am slowly trying to build up my photography again over here as the flexibility of a normal 9-5 job just wont suit with having a one year old baby at home as well. In the meantime I have to find other ways to earn an income and one way which has been helpful before is Society6. It’s a great place to sell online art as they turn all your pieces into usable art – clothes, decor, bedding, stickers, cards, tote bags and even shower curtains! If you get stuck with what to buy your loved ones for Christmas, try them out – they have some great artists on there, and even some of my work! Postage is affordable and they often have worldwide free shipping, and you can pay with card or PayPal! They really have some great items for easy gifting! Go check out some of my items here and here.

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Life abroad…how to get there

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It’s been four months since our move from South Africa to New Zealand, and we are settling into our new home quite well. There are so many people moving across the globe in today’s society and we’ve chatted to a couple of other expats and their experiences and I’ve realised that sometimes this move can seem so overwhelming but it’s really quite a simple process – as long as you just follow the steps and take it day by day. Our process seems to have been one of the quickest if I compare to some of the other expats we’ve chatted to, so I thought I’d write up a timeline and step by step process if anyone else needs to go through this – a guide to the what to and what not’s really. Our process started about a year before we actually moved, which all things considered is apparently relatively quick. And we decided to move to a country which we never visited before, so that’s also quite different from most other people’s stories. We were chasing a lifestyle though, not so much a specific country, and I think we would’ve been open to any country if the same opportunity would’ve arisen. We did know a couple of people who moved to New Zealand, so we had a bit of insider information and second hand accounts of what life is supposedly like here, which helped us to decide to go for it. If you are a family, or an individual, looking to immigrate to New Zealand, I can give you the following bits of advise/information.

  • It’s best to try and find a job before you move. If as part of a couple/family, I would recommend at least one of you find a job. This could be difficult if you’re in a different country, but it makes the whole immigration process so much easier and smoother. This also means that you don’t have to spend too much money on using immigration agents/advisers as they can cost a pretty penny and then some…We did every step and process ourselves. The NZ immigration website is incredibly informative and gives you everything you need to know about which visa to apply for and what documents you need. All it takes is a bit of time to read and do. You can find everything you need to know here.  Once you do have a job offer you need the company making the offer to send you a formal offer, with your salary stated. They’d also need to send proof of having advertised for the position within New Zealand and prove that you are the best candidate for the job.
  • Get all your documents in order before you apply for your visas. From South Africa there are certain documents you might be told you need that you don’t – like unabridged birth certificates for adults. We applied for ours but was never asked for them at any stage. We thought we’d get it anyway, just in case we need them at a later stage while in New Zealand, but it was an extra cost that we didn’t really had to worry about and added a bit of extra stress on as we waited for it to be requested. Getting unabridged birth certificates for children was completely necessary and we got them on the same day we applied for them. The only thing that took a couple of days were passports – we had to renew two of our kids passports and get a new one for the baby. We will have to renew one passport here before next year Oct as they wouldn’t renew a passport that was still valid for more than a year.
  • Police clearance certificates was not an issue and we got those sorted early on, just in case…before we spent all that money on everything else and got some sort of bad mark on our names we didn’t know about. We waited for about a twenty days or so for these to come through.
  • Medical certificates – this was probably the most expensive part of the process, besides the airline tickets. Once we got booked in for the medical it was a quick examination of each person, general check up, nothing fancy, and then we waited for the results. The kids medicals checked out no problem, the hubby had to have a review of his because he’s on chronic medication, but there was no issue and mine got sent back because for some reason they picked up blood in my urine. I had to go back about 4 times for a urine test, every time with the same results. They couldn’t let my medical be approved until we figured out why the blood kept showing up. Eventually they did a different kind of urine test and it came back clear and my medical got approved without any further issues. Once we had these we could continue with our visa applications.
  • My husband applied for his visa first, as he was the one with the job offer. With having his medical sent for further evaluation the approval came after 25 days, upon which we then sent in mine and the kids applications. We all had to go into the Visa center and apply in person, with all documentation. As we’re a family of six we had a folder for each person with all their relevant documentation inside. Because me and the kids were all relying on my husbands’ visa approval we had to have copies of his job offer with the salary on offer, as well as proof of his approved visa and a letter of sponsorship signed by him. Filling out the visa forms can be daunting, but you just need to really read them thoroughly before filling them out. The people at the visa center are not allowed to advise you what visa you should apply for or what you need to fill in as they’re not licensed agents and on the forms you must fill in if you’ve received any advise from family members or agents. These agents can cost you a lot of money and honestly as we’ve been through this process ourselves and succeeded I don’t really understand why their fees are so exorbitant. Maybe they target rich folk with loads of money and no time, but their fees don’t cover any of the visa/passport/police clearance/medical fees. And they can’t go to the medical center for you, or to police clearance offices, or to home affairs. So they charge a lot of money to just access your situation and advise you on what visa to apply for. And if you had a bit of time to read through the NZ immigration website you will find all of what they’re going to tell you on there. If you don’t have time to read a bit, and you have a lot of extra cash to throw around, then I guess it makes sense to use them, but if you’re just a family trying to take as much cash with you as possible to start a new life and you’ve got time to read, then just do it yourself. Even they can’t guarantee to get your visa approved, and their first piece of advise is to find a job. Once you have a job offer, it’s really easy.  After my and the kids visa applications got sent in we got approved within two days. We thought it was going to take 20 days, but seems because of how strong my husbands application was we got through really quickly.
  • Plane tickets – we bought my husbands ticket as soon as his visa got approved and so when ours got approved so quickly we decided to fly together as family instead of my husband first and us later. We had to find tickets on the same flight as my husband and were lucky enough to get seats on the same flight without any problem. We previously thought my husband would fly first, settle in to work and find a home and a school for the kids, and then myself and the four kids would follow afterwards. I’m really happy we decided against this plan as my anxiety levels were sky rocketing just thinking about having to deal with 3 young kids and a baby, flying for the first time internationally by myself. I flew before with a tour group and with a girl friend when I was younger, but this was a much more stressful situation. After some extra cash came through we were able to buy tickets for all of us to fly at the same time and I’m so relieved and happy we did that.
  • After all our visa’s got approved we decided to sell all our household belongings. To fill a container with furniture is rather pricey and we decided we’d just refurnish on this side as we need. We got a small container to ship some sentimental and useful things across, but it hasn’t arrived yet. So be prepared to not have anything familiar around for the first three to four months, at least. Apparently our container is due to arrive within the next ten to fifteen days, and we are all very excited to see what we’ve managed to ship across. A couple of things I wish we’d thrown in but didn’t: Extra linen. Some kitchen supplies (especially baking dishes and oven dishes) Power tools. Towels. What we did pack was loads of artwork, photographs, books and toys. Which is really all I need – photographs, painting and books….the rest are all replaceable. We advertised all our furniture online – Facebook and such, and happily got one guy who bought most of the big furniture items and was willing to pay upfront and collect the stuff the day we flew out. In retrospect I wish we’d let him collect a day or two earlier and moved into some of our family’s homes for a day or two, just to have been less chaotic. Because of the rush we forgot some things in the house that we meant to bring along – such as some baby things – bottles/formula/medicines/shampoo, my husbands dressing gown and a bath seat for the baby. Tying up loose ends a couple of days before leaving would’ve been less stressful, so I’d recommend trying to do that.
  • Once on the plane it felt quite surreal sitting there with my husband and kids. Our flight was quite late at night (10 pm) so the kids were exhausted after getting to the airport and having dinner with a good friends and family before we had to board. We got there relatively early, checked in our luggage (luckily we weren’t over weight overall, just one bag was, but we had enough space in another bag to just move things around). After sorting our luggage we could have a nice relaxing dinner with friends and family and the kids were all too excited during that time to nod off to sleep. Once we got onto the plane they were still too excited because of it being their first time flying, but they got onto those screens watching movies so quickly. I was exhausted, but still breastfeeding the baby and she was a bit fussy, having to be tied to me with her baby seat-belt, so we didn’t really get to sleep until after midnight. Luckily the baby still fitted into the on-board crib well enough that she managed to sleep in that for a couple of hours until we hit some turbulence and I had to take her out the crib to hold on my lap, strapped in. I think because our flight was so late it actually helped the kids with jet-lag as they dozed off during the daytime of the trip because they stayed up so late during the night. We had to change planes in Dubai and again in Sydney and they kids were really so well behaved, although I was exhausted by the time we got to Sydney and promptly passed out on a row of airport seats while the husband and kids walked around a bit. Our four hour flight from Sydney passed in a blur as we all passed out on that leg of the trip. I definitely recommend Emirates if you’re travelling with kids – they’re super kid friendly and two of my girls got to take loads of Polaroids with the hostesses and even got taken up to peep through the first class cabin – apparently some rock star was travelling on board, for the life of me can’t remember who – but they spotted her (they had no idea who she was though as they’re a bit young to be following celebrity news) but they were quite excited to know some famous person was on board the same flight as them. They got given plenty of things to keep them well entertained and received blankets and toys at each departure. Their food was acceptable to my food connoiseur children and they finished just about every meal that was put in front of them. They went for walks through the plane when they got tired of sitting and the air crew were incredibly patient with showing them things about the plane when they weren’t busy serving.
  • As we landed in Auckland just after lunch time we were all rather tired from travelling and wanted to head out to our Airbnb as soon as we could. A friend of my husbands’ collected him from the airport to take to the office just to show face and meet and greet the guys he’d be working for, and me and the kids got put into a shuttle to take us to the house we’d be staying in. By the time we got all our bags, checked through customs and security and all the necessary things, it was quite late. It was winter time so the sun was setting quite early still and as we got to the AirBnB at about half past five it was already dark. We managed to secure the Airbnb from home for about a week and ended up staying in Airbnb’s for about three weeks before we found a house to rent. This was one of the reasons we were quite happy to be able to all fly together as it made it easier to find a home, as it would’ve been quite a process if my husband had to work during the day and house hunt at night. We used Trade Me and various realtor apps to look at houses and ironically after looking at about five houses signed a lease for the first house we looked at. Rent is paid weekly and within Auckland rent is ridiculously high. Very few houses have two bathrooms, which is one of the main reasons we decided to take the house we’re in now. The area we are in is good, but not close enough to a beach to just walk to the beach. We do have a forest as our back garden though. It’s a very “towny” neighborhood and I don’t feel like I’m in a big city most of the time. At times I do feel like maybe we are a bit too secluded as the house is down a cul de sac and we’re right at the end of it. Our neighbors really aren’t that friendly or welcoming and we were hoping for a bit more of a community feel, so we might be looking at moving once this lease is up – probably still within the same general neighborhood though.
  • A week after finding a home we got the kids into a school and they’re extremely happy in this school, which makes possibly moving to another neighborhood a bit difficult…schooling is also free, although they do ask for a donation every now and then. The schooling system is really aimed to make sure kids get to school and gets learning. Most government schools have a breakfast club for kids that can’t eat at home, as well as food for lunch for the kids who can’t bring lunch from home. Apparently a lot of parents are too embarrassed to send their kids to school because they can’t send food with, so they just keep them at home. With the food in schools programs they have enabled those kids to now be able to get to school and be fed. There’s absolutely no stigma to going to get some food and if you can’t afford certain things there are no pressure from the school for funds. The schools here work on a decile system, depending on the income averages of the parents. Decile 1 schools are low income areas and Decile 10 schools are higher income schools. The deciles are used to see how much government funding is needed at the schools, so schools with a 1 will receive a lot more government funding than a decile 10. The level of teaching and learning is not affected by the decile and we’ve met quite a couple of families who’ve moved their kids from a high decile school to a lower decile school and have had better results with their kids’ learning in the lower decile school.
  • Joined a local library. With the kids going to school they are learning to read and really enjoying being able to choose and exchange books. The library also has loads of free activities for the kids during school holidays, and even during term at times.
  • Enrolled at a local Dr. office. Medical services are free for kids, and if you’re enrolled as an adult the fees are substantially lower. As the Drs. get funds from the government, they need you to be enrolled to be counted for funds received from government. Once you’ve enrolled it takes about four months for the funding to come through, so if you need to see the Dr before then you’re going to pay the same fee as if you’re not enrolled, but after that it’s relatively affordable. Dentistry is not funded by the government, so is quite pricey. Some places to free examinations and some kids dentistry is free.

We are only four months into this adventure, and it has been winter for most of those months, so although we try and go explore most weekends, we have also had a couple of just stay at home and chill weekends. I think it’s very important for the kids to settle in as quick as possible, and part of that I believe is to not be pressured into feeling like we have to do something or go somewhere every single weekend. We are quite used to not having my husband at home over weekends, which is the major reason we did this move – to have him home more often. Usually because he’s not at home over weekends we would just be at home and try and pack as much as possible to do during times when he’d be at home. Getting used to having him home more means getting used to also staying at home when he’s here and not necessarily doing stuff. We are looking forward to summer though and being able to do more outdoorsy things. I haven’t yet made any solid kiwi friendships, but hopefully we’ll get there with having more social times in the warmer months. My main advice is to just go for it and not let the fear of change hold you back. Good luck, and feel free to pop me a specific question if you have any!

A little less Rock and a little more Roll

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It’s the start of school holidays, which is probably one of those times that really just tear me in two…I’m super excited not to have to worry about getting up to drive kids to school, worry about packed lunches and hopefully getting to do fun stuff with the kids (I really hope the weather improves!) like hanging out on the beach (let’s hope the rain and wind stops for a day or two) go to some museums and galleries and libraries and explore our city.

On the other hand I am dreading the chaos that will be ensuing with those three extra little bodies being at home for most of the hours in a day. Having recently moved to a new country is starting to take a bit of a toll on me – realizing that unless you join some kind of club/coffee group/gym/church/social club or go to school, it’s harder than you think to make friends and meet people you can really connect with. Most of my friends back in SA were made kind of instantaneously…or so it seemed because of the effortlessness of those friendships. And well here, it’s been three months and the couple of people I have met and hung out with has been good and great but no real ‘bonds’ have had time to form – which I understand take time, but really as parents how much time do we have to form bonds. I look at how effortless it is for children to make friends with strangers on a playground and I wish I had less hangups and more energy to really just go for it. I find myself withdrawing from other parents more and more because I really just don’t connect with most other mommies for some reason. Maybe it’s my very strict but laid-back approach to parenting and life. Holidays are one of those times that I really need to check myself…being laid back about certain things while relaxing the reigns on others can be confusing not just for my children, but the husband and myself as well. So, on this note, here is a rough guide to what holidays mean for me with three school aged girls and one baby in the house:

  • Later mornings – not necessarily sleeping in, as baby doesn’t quite get the vibe of staying asleep for longer than usual, but we definitely hang out in bed a bit longer – or rather I do. I get to maybe read a chapter or two or get a bit of journaling done before I have to get into a shower. Luckily my kids are rather well trained in sorting out cereal and milk for themselves and if I’m lucky the eldest will not complain about having to make and bring baby’s breakfast to the room.
  • No formal lunches – I don’t generally make myself lunch when the kids are at school, I just sort of snack through the day. This means the kids don’t get their normal lunch box as they do for school (which is why I get to stay in bed a bit later) but they get loads of snacky things to keep those jaws moving, and if they’re terribly hungry they all know how to make a PB&J sandwich, or Nutella…or if I’m not busy sorting a baby related diaper emergency out I will slam some ham and cheese on bread and call it lunch.
  • Morning and afternoon screen time – during school times my kids get to watch about an hour of TV in the afternoon while I get dinner sorted. Having them at home all day can get in the way of me getting some things done, especially if I have to come up with ideas to entertain them, so we are a bit more relaxed with screen time. They’re allowed to watch some morning cartoons in their pj’s while I slowly emerge from the room and in the afternoon when I need to get some writing and cooking done they’re allowed to watch a couple more shows. If the weather is really sucky and calls for cuddles under blankets then we’ll be watching movies and eating popcorn. No TV after dinner or just before bedtime…well no cartoons anyway, but we might be watching a documentary or nature show.
  • Alternating stay at home and going out days – I know some parents plan every single day of school holidays and take their kids out of the house to fun parks, malls and holiday activities everyday, but honestly, as an introvert I just can’t bear it. I decided to do alternate days with one day at home and the next out and about. There are some great local, free activities at the libraries and museums, so we’ll be visiting those on alternate days. It also helps to get things done at home that would otherwise get completely left by the wayside and it helps with the kids not getting cabin fever.
  • Bedtime routines move a bit later – with extra daylight during Spring and Summer we’ve moved bedtime up with half an hour as well. I’m quite strict with bedtime though as this is really the only time me and the husband have alone and I’m quite protective over this time, even if we sometimes spend it not even talking, I feel it’s important for us to just be with each other and wind down our days together. I enjoy being able to talk to him without interruptions or to watch a show we both enjoy without the kids running around. As he is not on holiday he doesn’t quite have the same benefit of staying in bed late so we still head of to bed pretty much the same time as normal.
  • I plan on doing a little bit of baking and crafts with the kids during the off days at home, but that’s entirely dependent on the amount of chaos in the home. I’ve long learnt not to guilt myself into doing things I wanted to do but didn’t have the energy to do.

In between the days out and screen time and crafts the girls are generally playing with their dolls, using their imaginations or drawing. They’re all really good at finding things to keep themselves busy and I try my hardest not to micro manage, although, inevitably I do. There’s a couple of disagreements during the days, a couple of whines or nags for attention, but in general I just let them be and when I have done what’s needed to be done I sit with them, talk with them or watch a show with them. My kids are independent for most of the things happening at home and I don’t have to watch them just be kids. I think their boundaries are pretty obvious and when they overstep those there are generally real consequences, not just threats. This brings me back to why I probably struggle with making mommy-friends. I either seem to relaxed or too regimented, depending on where and when they find us…if my kids are well behaved they might think I’m way too chilled and not involved enough and if my kids are not well behaved they might think I’m way too strict and micro-managing too much…if they got to spend more time with me they’d realise I’m both…and even then that might be a bit confusing. Anyway, I find it hard joining a gym/coffee club/mother’s group as I’m just not that into scheduling my own time with other people. I’m much more a phone you up and see you in ten minutes kind of person, because given too much time I might change my mind and think up some excuse not to have to face another human being. I love hanging out with good friends who know me well, I just don’t know how to get to know new people or how to let them know me without freaking them out with my complexities and hang-ups first. Making friends are almost like dating, and I haven’t dated in many many years, so I’m a bit rusty as to what’s acceptable and what’s not, what is coming on too strong and what is not coming on strong enough…so any ideas/recommendations on how to meet people with the same ‘vibes’ as yourself, without having to rely on social media, or without taking your kids along, or without making yourself seem like a stalker, or without having to necessarily get out of your pj’s or without having to arrange a meeting days in advance…oh hell. I’ll just have to be friends with my kids and be happy with watching Phineas and Ferb reruns, play Uno and eat cupcakes for breakfast…I’m sure I can survive for a couple more years 😉

 

Rough week

The past couple of weeks have been a bit rough with Talia as she’s been ill with flu and running a fever for most of last week. The last bits of a runny nose and cough seems to be finally starting to clear up now. We really don’t like running to a doctor with every little thing so we just kept her at home and gave her some paracetamol as and when needed. Poor baby seemed to have headaches and sore muscles all week and after day three of running fevers she was quite listless at times. Luckily her fever never went over 39C. She was such a champ though and whenever the fever would subside she still wanted to play and eat. Towards the end of the week she started vomiting though whenever she had some food, but because she’s still on the breast we managed to keep liquids going in as she wasn’t interested in the bottle during this time. At one stage she was permanently attached to my breast and wouldn’t stay asleep unless latched. It’s always so hard when a baby is sick but I always try and follow my motherly instincts in those situations. That something inside us that we just know and not what we think. Of course having four kids just makes that instinct stronger…

One thing that really did help me through it though was being able to do my own research online and checking symptons and reading up on possible causes for the fevers. After the fevers subsided we woke up one morning and her one ear was filled with loads of dried ear wax. I guess she picked up an ear infection with the flu as well. Luckily I remembered from years ago with my nephew that the best thing to do with that is to try and just leave it alone and it usually clears up in three to four days. It didn’t seem to worry her at all and I just kept cleaning the gunk out of her outer ear and within four days it was cleared up on the right and the same thing started happening on the left. Yesterday morning the left ear was also clear and now it’s just the flem and a bit of a runny nose that has to clear. She is back to her usual silly self and I’m glad we didn’t have to take her to a doctor. There seems to be a bit of a problem with prescribing antibiotics too quickly these days and then the kids natural immune systems don’t get a chance to build up. I’ve noticed it in my other three kids. The two that didn’t have antibiotics at a young age might get sick but it’s over much quicker than the one who had antibiotics as a baby. When she gets sick it hangs around for weeks whereas the others recover within days. Antibiotics certainly has its place but it shouldn’t be used as a first resort and should be avoided when possible. 

Two days from now she’ll be turning one and I’ll be glad to say she was only sick once during her first year and haven’t needed a doctor yet. 

Piha beach

We’ve been in Auckland for just over a month, and thus far we’ve been managing to squeeze a day at the beach in at least once a week/weekend – come rain or shine! This past weekend we made our way to Piha beach and boy are we glad we did. The weather was sunny yet cool when we woke in the morning and so we decided to head on out and find a beach to explore for a couple of hours. A couple of people have recommended Piha beach previously and it being only a 20 minute drive from where we stay we decided to give it a go. With snacks and drinks packed we took the route to Piha beach, driving through Henderson, Sunnyvale and finally enjoying the scenery on the Piha road. When we got there there were plenty of cars parked along the roads but not that many people on the beach we ended up on. Apparently we actually sat on the wrong side of the rock as we were watching people walk up and down the beach, some with other people, some with dogs…but we were sitting nice and protected from the wind and were quite happy to sit where we could people watch. The beach is divided into sections for dogs on leashes, dogs without leashes, swimming and surfing….The kids enjoyed playing in the sand and the water with sticks and shells (no beach toys) and I enjoyed just watching people be people. Part of what I really enjoyed about this beach is the wildness of it. There’s no vendors or street cafes or anything commercial about this place. It’s a beach. Sand and water and space. There’s a hill you could go climb if you had the right gear and the view from up there must be well worth the climb. If you’re ever in Auckland and have a sunny day on your hands, head out to Piha and enjoy the beauty!

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