Around the Home

Due to the fact that my broken toe has now developed its very own bacterial infection (let’s move right along from that!) I have been spending a lot of time at home. Cancelled dinners, cancelled playdates, cancelled tutoring sessions. Luckily in Hong Kong we have the advantage of having help, so my helper has been on overdrive doing things with the kids while I beg this silly appendage to heal (because despite calling it silly I do quite like it and can’t imagine life without it. Don’t leave me!).

With all this time at home I am going a bit stir crazy but am very thankful that the apartment is almost where I want it to be in terms of decoration and design. I’ve talked before about how when we arrived the apartment was a lot bigger than we remembered, and it has taken a full six months to “fill” it. It was important to me that in this crazy city we create a calm and comfortable home that can provide a sanctuary from the outside chaos, and I think we have achieved that. It’s a nice place to be.

What I love about our apartment is that it manages to be modern without being “trendy” – we’ve managed to maintain a classic style while still being a bit quirky and “us”, which I think is what has been missing from previous homes we’ve had. It’s all been a bit thrown together. It helps having a bit more budget to play with – we’re not 22 and living in Bondi anymore (sadly!).

There’s still a bit to do – Heike’s room is a bit of a nightmare (the bed is still broken from the bed vs toe incident and the room rearrangement was just dumb), we need a desk space for our printer and computers, Walt’s room could use a little more character. I always think there’s space for new plants. But overall I am enjoying being here, and lots of little things make me happy as I hobble through the place.

*for someone who is terrified of birds, I seem to be fine with hanging them all over my walls?!

I’m such a big believer in creating a beautiful home, which must be the Cancerian crab in me. I am definitely a natural born homebody and would always describe my perfect night as a night in with friends, candles burning and excellent food and wine. Sounds like I will slot right in to our upcoming winter Christmas!

What about your home are you loving? Anything new?

 

20 Whole Months

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Walter, 2 days old
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Walter, 20 months old

Yesterday my little boy turned 20 months old. 20 whole months! I can’t quite believe it. But at the same time, it feels like he has always been with us. I feel like I always knew I would have him, the little boy who looks just like I imagined, who came to me in a dream the week before he was born.

Having him in our lives has really made us a family. When we had Heike we were so young and so clueless, and in some ways very unprepared, and so we went from two people to two people with a baby. We tried to carry on as we had before, to go to cafes and pubs and parties. None of our friends had kids, they didn’t get it. J was working so hard, and we didn’t see much of him through the week.

But when Walty came into the world he transformed us all – Heike became a big sister, and we now realised how precious these early moments were. We cherished them. We stayed home, we lounged around. We put him in bed with us if he was inconsolable, because what does it really matter? Things had eased up for J at work, he was home for bed time, home for breakfast. He was up at night because our little boy has a unique ability to tug on the heart strings.

Now our Wushka is a toddler and he still melts our hearts, he is our golden boy. “I love my brother so much,” says Heike, “I never want anything to happen to him.” He is big (so big – biggest 20 month old in Asia?), he is strong, he is determined. You would not want to get on the wrong side of him! But he is also calm, and he listens, and he is rule following. His name means “Army Ruler” and you can see an element of that in him – a boy who is big and tough but also has a quiet, stoic side.

He plays by himself for hours, very content with his cars and trucks, often silent apart from the odd “Ooh car!” or “TRUCK!” or “Oh wow”. If he needs you he will come and grab your hand (“Go? Go!”) and show you what he wants. He learns more words every day (Pen-gin! Di-saw! DIGGER!) although he will never quite match his sister in the chatterbox status.

At 20 months old he does throw the occasional tantrum, but I feel like it takes quite a lot to ruffle my feathers these days! One thing that does stress me out is when he refuses to walk, sometimes planting himself on the ground with all his weight (a lot!) and screeching, and it’s really difficult for me to carry him because he is so strong. And you’re bound to get a lot of stares from passers by, because of course Asian children don’t throw tantrums (!!).

Overall though he is a ray of sunshine, loved by everyone he meets. A natural peace maker and a possible WWF wrestler. He is such a joy to us, our Woo-man. We love you Walty!

 

 

Flying with Kids: Tricks of the trade

Oh my goodness, where has the week gone?! I swear I literally just got back and dropped a bed on my toe and it’s already Friday. We’ve been straight back into it this week – school and mandarin and gymnastics and ballet and even IKEA?! With a broken toe?! Don’t ask me why I do the things I do. I often wonder why my kids are so full on, then take a good hard look at myself and think, well…

I thought given that we’ve just gotten off our sixth international flight with two kids this year, and probably our 20th or so ever, it was time for my to share my top tips for flying with you all. I figure that after 250+ hours flying time with kids (I do not jest) I am officially expert at this? Which is exciting because at almost 30 I’ve yet to be an expert at anything in life.

My first, biggest, number one tip for flying before I even get started is: chill out. People seem to build flights up in their head so much (even two hour flights which in my opinion just don’t even count!) and get so stressed out before they’ve even started, it’s bound to be an ordeal, and it doesn’t have to be. I mean, freak out about jet lag. Freak out about being somewhere where no one speaks English and realising you don’t have any formula. But the flight? Not the hardest part of travelling, at all. Relax. You’ll be fine.

Tip #1 – Easy fold umbrella stroller/Babyzen Yoyo

We’ve always travelled with a little Maclaren stroller that we take through security and check at the gate. This is perfect because you can use it in the airport, and again when you land at the other side depending on the airline. It is completely necessary if you have kids who need sleeps, or runners – and also just handy to chuck all your stuff in if no one’s using it. More recently we invested in the Babyzen Yoyo stroller which can actually be folded up and put in the overhead locker: game changer. If you haven’t got a small stroller for travelling, definitely invest in one of these! You won’t know yourself.

Tip #2 – Snacks

My kids often don’t eat a lot of the food on the plane so I will pack sandwiches, fruit, crackers, cheese, squeeze pouches, water and of course a few treats like lollipops. You can’t overpack snacks as they will often get you out of a tight spot.

Tip #3 – Sleep is everything

If your kids will sleep on the plane, half the battle is over. Both of mine are great sleepers and sleep well on the plane, but I need to be prepared – I bring favourite cuddle toys, dummies (all the dummies!), small pillows and even toothbrushes and pyjamas. I also pack a sling for Walter in case he needs to be forcibly rocked to sleep (yes, that was me with a screaming toddler on the plane to Sydney)! I will do the whole goodnight routine on the plane and sacrifice my own comfort if need be to make sure the kids sleep. It makes life soon much easier! Be sure to always ask for a bassinet seat or an extra seat if you have an infant. Ask very nicely while looking very tired and overwhelmed!

Tip #4 – Cut the crap

I so often read about bringing new toys and books and craft onto the plane for your kids, even to the point of wrapping them up like presents! Do not do this! You will go to all the trouble and lug around all that rubbish just for five minutes of peace. When you get on the plane, all your kids will want to do is watch movies, eat and pester you. I would suggest bringing one favourite toy or book per child (for Walter I would take a car and for Heike colouring) and counting on spending a lot of time just goofing around and entertaining them.

Tip #5 – Manage your expectations

This will not be a relaxing 6/14/20 hours for you. It will be tiring and at times stressful and overall uncomfortable. But it’s just 6/14/20 hours and it is so worth it for the awesome holiday you are going to have! Just don’t plan to have lots of wine and watch a few movies (although wine can help!).

It really is that easy! Just don’t overthink it. Leave yourself plenty of time for everything, as nothing will stress you out more than tired/complaining/slow kids and time constraints. Be friendly to others – they will sympathise with you. Smile at airport staff – they might offer you a lift to customs in their buggy.

Before any flight J and I will always look at each other and laugh – “How exciting! 8 hours of family bonding time!”. It’s a bit of a joke but it actually works. A positive attitude is everything and it’s not often we all spend so long together in a confined space, we might as well make the most of it!

We are off to Berlin in just over a month! The 14 hours from HK actually seems okay compared to the usual 22 hours from Australia, but after a week of Walter waking up at 3am I’m not looking forward to the jet lag!!

Happy flying – any tips you have to add? I’d love to hear them.

Return to Hong Kong

Hello there – we’re back! We have just returned from our whirlwind three week journey to Australia, and I think it will take me at least six weeks to recover. It was busy and it was tiring and we didn’t have the best weather, but it was also fun filled and love filled and really, really hard to leave.

I think returning home for such a stint only five months after leaving is probably not the best thing for homesickness and getting settled. I was finally starting to feel like I had my stuff together here when we left, yet as soon as we got home I fell right back into Australian life again and really, really struggled to leave! That said, it was AMAZING to get out of Hong Kong – I really didn’t know how much I needed that little break until I got it. Everyone says to live in Hong Kong you need to leave every few months and I would have to agree. I am appreciating its fabulousness so much more now that I’m back.

One great side effects of leaving is that I’m feeling really motivated to get back into Hong Kong life. Dinners, drinks, signing the kids up for loads of activities, getting into a netball team myself – all have been added to the huge list of things I want to organise this week.

Of course, the first thing I just HAD to do, even before unpacking, was to rearrange Heike’s room. This makes complete sense, right? It was absolutely necessary that I do it first thing this morning, while J had taken the kids out for a walk, just to see what it would look like.

Well.

This adventure ended in me breaking a) the bed and b) possibly my toe. I somehow ended up dropping a broken part of the bed directly onto my big toe and screamed pretty much the loudest I have ever screamed. The pain!! The toe went blue straight away and I almost threw up so I knew I’d hurt it pretty badly. It’s manageable now if extremely swollen and blue. The injury has sadly put a stop to my netball/running/shopping aspirations for at least the next week. I’m kind of devastated but mostly about the bed (and the fact that the room actually doesn’t look very good!) and it really does add nicely to the list of “Stupid things Zoe has done”.

Anyway. Live and learn, or so I am telling myself.

We did so many great things on our trip it’s hard to pick our favourites, but here’s a little highlight reel.

  1. Seeing two of our dearest friends get married. Not to mention in the most beautiful location, with the sun shining on them despite storms 30 minutes prior to the ceremony!
  2. Eating amazing, reasonably priced meat and fresh, fresh fruit and vegetables every day.
  3. Shopping in cheap stores like K-Mart and Target (makes a change from Harvey Nics!).
  4. Meeting my friend’s baby girl and getting to rock her off to her longest ever sleep.
  5. Seeing someone I love, outside of our immediate little family, every single day!

I am going to miss my family and friends SO much, but in many ways seeing them all gave HK a little more perspective – they are all still there, and will always be there, and confirming that might just make me able to let go and enjoy this adventure all the more.

Stay tuned tomorrow for details and tips on flights with kids!

Z x