My kids have a share portfolio – why and, HOW?!

I’m partnering with Sharesies over the next couple of months to share our family’s experiences as we dip our toes into investing on the share market for the very first time.

I’ve long lamented how painful it is trying to discuss financial ‘anything’ as a Kiwi. If you’re talking money with anyone but your partner, cue the involuntary squirm and averted eyes in 5, 4, 3, 2………1.
But, it’s 2019 and we’ve come a long way baby.

As middle-class consumer spending and debt seem at peak levels here in New Zealand (“just chuck it on the house, she’ll be right”), there is a growing undercurrent of people and families that have said ‘ENOUGH’. The Declutterers, the No-Brand-New, the Mortgage-Free Masters – alternative spending lifestyles and habits are gaining traction and attention. To balance the equation, there is a complementary curiosity developing around alternative ways to save and invest the money previously spent on a more-is-more lifestyle. I can only imagine that by the time my kids are in the workforce, our views on the growth and protection of our financial futures will be even further removed from those grounded in the brick and mortar, quarter-acre dream of yesteryear.

To be totally cliché, the boy’s financial future starts now. Well, it actually started 14 years ago, which is when I opened Ethan’s savings account. Dave and I have been contributing $10 per week to each of the kids’ savings accounts, and that’s starting to add up to a couple of decent chunks of money. I’m also that parent, who has always banked any birthday/Christmas cheques and foreign currency from Dave’s family overseas into their accounts rather than let them blow it on more plastic toys. Instilling a pattern and expectation of saving from a young age is something I strongly believe in.

But, there’s definitely more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and I’m all about NOT putting all of my eggs in one basket (and using as many colloquial phrases in one sentence as possible!).

As such, I’ve broadened my horizons and created an investment portfolio as of late last year with online investment platform Sharesies. Frustrated by low-interest rates being offered by traditional financial institutions i.e. banks, dabbling in the share market had been on my radar for years. But, like many Kiwis I’m sure, the problem was I had zero idea about how to begin. The launch of Sharesies Kids Accounts was the impetus I needed to register and create investment accounts for myself and both of the boys.

I’m a child of ¼ acre boomers who certainly never dabbled in shares and investments, so the financial acumen of risk and return is something I was never taught. Only around 20% of Kiwis own shares so, educating myself by using the Sharesies platform and passing on that confidence to diversify to Ethan and Nixon, will expand financial literacy in our family for years to come.

How Sharesies Kids Accounts Work

  • Anyone can open an account for kids under the age of 16, you don’t have to be a parent, but the account does need to be linked to an adult’s Sharesies account.
  • Kids subscriptions are half the price of adult subscriptions (adults range from FREE for a portfolio of $50 or less to $3 per month if the investment value exceeds $3000, or a $30 annual subscription).
  • Adding to anyone’s Sharesies wallet with GIFTS from $5 is easy – perfect for those astute friends and family who get the fact that there is a finite number of Hot Wheels that any small boy actually needs.

Working with the boys on setting up their Sharesies investments has been a really interesting process, creating an ongoing, real-world curiosity around some of their funds. One of Ethan’s chosen investments is Pathfinder Global Water, a managed fund (up 6.58% since 13/2/19) which invests in socially responsible companies around the world involved in the water industry. This is such an important social issue right now, the gravity of which is not lost on a young teen, so a vested monetary interest has seen him prick his ears up more often and take note of what’s happening around the world within the industry.

Nixon is pretty keen on the Australian Resources Fund (up 7.08% since 13/2/19), he’s always been obsessed with precious metals, mining, and gems so the pit mine in the thumbnail really spoke to him lol.

Anywho, I feel like I’m ticking something off my Life List so-to-speak by monitoring and growing these investments with the kids. The share market has always been a dark mysterious cosmos, even as an upwardly mobile, uni-educated woman with all the white-privilege one might expect growing up on Auckland’s North Shore (ha!). Using Sharesies has removed that inaccessible stigma and opened the door for some really great learning and increased financial literacy for both the boys and Dave and me.

I’ll be following up next month with another insight into how we are tracking with our Sharesies experience.

Milestones: 13.

I’m in a real ‘adulting’ mindset at the moment.  I’ve had a meeting with an insurance broker, we are getting Dave’s citizenship underway, our mortgage is up for renewal so I’m in full planning mode around refinancing and I’m really consciously trying to make our house and home work for our family without falling into the trap of obsessing about ‘MORE’.

Always in parallel alongside all of that very boring grown-up, life admin, is the most important job of all – parenting.

With the 8.5 year age-gap between Ethan and Nixon, the past 4.5 years of child milestones feel like they’ve belonged somewhat solely to Nix.  The heady baby days of rolling over, sitting up, his first steps, first word, first day of kindy……….they’ve been freshly imprinted in our family memory banks as they should!  However,  Ethan has moved from single digits into a legit teenager, now 13 and in his first year at high school.  That’s a massive fucking milestone that has crept up on me and literally slapped me in the face at the year 9 parents evening I attended last week.

I was sitting in an auditorium at my old high school, (thank god for kids of Old Girls getting bumped up the ballot!), next to some friends from out west.  I had just downloaded the school app (!!!), which is the most incredible thing ever, personalized with Ethan’s 6-day timetable, the contact info for all of his teachers, an absentee portal +  pretty much everything Dave and I NEED to know about Ethan’s day-to-day school life, when, I looked over at my friends and said; “can you even believe we are here????”

And by believe, I meant, how is it that we have somehow bumbled/guided our collective sons for 13 years to arrive at that point where we were sitting en masse in the largest high school in the country listening to the head of mathematics describe how he planned to teach our kids some really, really complicated shit?

I’ve got no idea how Dave and I did it, raised our son to be the awesome little teen he is today. But, the fact of the matter is, he’s taken Year 9 in his stride and has settled into High School like it’s NO BIG THING.

It’s actually a huge thing and a very worthy milestone to ‘quietly’ recognize.  You won’t be allowed to make a song and dance – because teenagers – so don’t even bother.  But once you’ve sat down with all the other bewildered parents at an orientation evening and listened to the expectations and deliverables required of a Year 9 student, your Mum Brain will be fried, emotional and reaching for the wine crutch.

No?

Just me then.  And I’m totally ok with that.

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Why is high school such a BIG step?

So, so many reasons, but these are the ones that resonate with our family;

  • There’s a legit choice, a sometimes agonizing one, around which college to send your kid to.  When you are making decisions that can potentially affect the educational future of your kid, the process of deciding on the in-zone school or out of zone applications, ballots, interviews, puts the decision front and centre in your kid’s mind as well as yours.  They probably weren’t so invested in the choice of primary school or intermediate but as an active participant in the interview process, Ethan was aware of what was at stake and where he hoped the ballot would fall.
  • Public transport may come into play.  Though Ethan rode a bus to intermediate, his trip to high school is a different route.  Every kid in the neighborhood lined up on the wrong side of the street on the first day of term last month!  Getting home again is just as tricky, there is a large bus bay at his school, but Ethan’s bus leaves from a stop outside the gates – of his massive, massive school.  If his last class of the day is on the far side of the school you bet he’s running to make sure he boards the bus so Mum or Dad won’t be forced into a last minute, hour-long round-trip retrieval!
  • Managing a 6-day timetable.  This has been a super hard transition for E, but we are getting there.  This is where Dave and I have to step in a double check he’s ready for the day ahead before he leaves the house.
  • Learning to move around the school each period and acclimate to a different teacher and classroom for each subject.
  • Homework vs sport vs family expectations vs the god awful game console.  Work in progress for us to be honest, but compared to 3 weeks ago things are on the up and Ethan is settling into a good after-school routine.
  • Social change.  Making new friends and switching up the kids he hangs with has been nothing but beneficial for E, but that’s to be expected.  He’s pretty mellow in the friends’ department and just enjoys spending time with whomever he has a common interest with.  His daily is heading to the gym each lunchtime and shooting hoops with whoever shows up.  I can imagine that this really important time in a teenagers life can be pretty rough waters for some kids as they begin high school and have to navigate new friends and social roles.

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So yeah.  Ethan is Year 9, his first year of high school and simply going about his days like primary and intermediate were simply some distant dream state from which he’s just now emerged.  He’s amazing, capable and confident and I’m just so proud of him.

Hoping your kids have started off the school year in their best possible way also, and if not, be their advocate, be persistent and don’t settle for nods and grunts and non-communication.  Getting your kids talking and keeping them talking through the tween years is sooooo important and will help all of the Big Kid transitions and milestones still to come.

There are many by the way, don’t forget to celebrate them…………….quietly lol.

 

 

Recipe for Summer – Fruit and Ice Cream

Waitangi Day is the line in the sand when it comes to New Zealand summer I reckon.  The big stuff all happens ‘Pre-Waitangi’; the massive 6 week school holiday kicks off for the kids, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, road trips, tropical cyclones………….

Come Feb and the return to school – ‘Post-Waitangi’ summer kicks in.

It’s just my opinion but this is where the best summering happens as we all begin to savour every last sunshine-y Sunday, every after school beach-dash and every balmy BBQ dinner.  Shaking every last grain of sand out of summer in New Zealand is our duty as Kiwis.  Much like our ‘no man left behind’ attitude to summer stonefruit or our ‘eat ALL the berries’ culinary philosophy, making the most of these golden days is in our blood and helps me survive the extreme hardships of winter……in Auckland :::::::shudder::::::

Forget your kiwifruit or Navel Oranges, or any other fruit growing without a stone, bramble or vine.  I’m a summer fruit girl from way back.  As such, a snatched glimpse of a laden Christmas Plum or Golden Queen tree has always been a bit of a trigger for me (I’m sure many of you can relate right?).  I can remember a very blurry summer holiday when I was around 12 and had the good fortune to be invited away with my besties family.  The bach we were staying at had a marvelously overgrown and steep backyard that wound its way uphill towards the neighbouring fence line.  Exploring in the shade of the afternoons once we returned from the beach yielded a marvelous discovery – a Golden Queen peach tree, surely as ancient as the Kauri, (I mean, it was definitely as BIG as a Kauri wink wink, I was 12 remember!) literally groaning under the burden of its fruit.  The dilapidated fence separating us from our golden prize was merely a challenge, and not of the moral kind, unfortunately.  The lack of houses in any direction simply reinforced the fact that this ripe token of summer was ours for the taking, and besides, pilfered fruit always seemed to taste a wee bit better when you were 12!

Fast forward more than 20 years and some of the first things I purchased when we bought our house were fruit trees.  One Golden Queen peach tree, one heritage black plum and one nectarine tree.  To be honest, my mini-orchard was on the back-foot from day one with its care in my decidedly less-than-green hands so we are struggling, but, I’m picking the 2019 harvest will be a beauty, ie we might get some fruit we can eat!  My lack of peach-prowess could, of course, be due to the fact that we do not live in the Hawkes Bay.  They’ve got that peach growing on lockdown there which is why another kiwi fave of mine, Tip Top, keeps it local and uses real fruit grown by real NZ farmers in their Peaches & Cream Ice cream – no dodgy fence jumping going on here either, tsk tsk 12yo Melissa lol.  When we’re growing so much amazing produce right here in NZ we should absolutely expect that our local suppliers are sourcing FRESH ingredients from those growing it locally.  Combining one of our most beloved summer fruits with the goodness of New Zealand milk and cream is a taste of summer I hope my boys will remember as synonymous with growing up in New Zealand.

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The iconic Boysenberry is another kiwi fave that takes me back to pinching fruit from the vine on my Nana’s farm. Its incarnation into the multiple award-winning Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top has made boysenberries a generational obsession in our family.  If there was a momentous stop for a scoop of ice cream when I was a kid,  I don’t remember my Mum ever (ever, EVER) selecting any flavour other than Boysenberry.  Habit or heritage, whimsy or some other romantic hankering for the past, the fruit and flavours of New Zealand are freaking awesome and play a huge role in how I remember the 38 summers of my life.

Nelson farmers have taken up the reins and for years have been supplying Tip Top with enough kiwi boysenberries to keep that famous ripple in the freezer year round – but I reckon ice cream always tastes better in summer, yeah?

Keeping it real and, real kiwi is a big deal to Tip Top, one of the bit-players in each of my summers.  Recognizing the importance of legacy ingredients in our lives, it’s rad to see that using REAL fruit grown right here is just as important to the big guys as it is to would-be-backyard-mum-orchardists who might one day grow enough peaches for each of us to have one simultaneously.

This post was made possible by the good peeps at Tip Top!

PS Find our waffle recipe here

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Ethan and one of his best friends planned a Waitangi Day Waffle cook-off and nailed them! They were pretty stoked when I whipped some surprise toppings out of the freezer – Peaches and Cream and Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top.

Raising Kiwi boys – the good, the bad and the muddy

Karicare Toddler is about as Kiwi as the kids that are we are raising here in New Zealand. As a Mum to a couple of Kiwi boys, Karicare Toddler asked me to have a think about what it means to me to be a Kiwi mum.  Made right here in New Zealand, Karicare Toddler have been committed to using the goodness of New Zealand cows’ milk from Kiwi cows on Kiwi farms. How awesome is it that our kids can enjoy the benefits of amazing NZ dairy from their earliest years?!

13 years ago when I thought kids were (maybe?) a distant possibility in my future, I could only imagine parenting boys. The thought of raising a mini-Melissa terrified me – and rightly so if you ask my mother!

So imagine my ‘surprise’ when Dave and I fell pregnant whilst in the very early stages of planning our wedding. “Boys it is!” I assured Dave, only to be told at every single scan that we were expecting a girl.

The pink presents began rolling in. Despite living in Southern California at the time, baby girl had more pink blankets then she would ever be able to use and Mum had Pumpkin Patch on speed dial ready to snap up every cute girls outfit released that season.

Luckily most shops these days have a fantastic return policy.  Baby girl was indeed, an Ethan. And then 8.5 years later, another bouncing, 10.4lb bundle of joy – Nixon – arrived.

Those are my qualifications for writing about Kiwi boys. I know nothing I can assure you, and what I and other mothers of boys do know is learned (or earned) through the school of hard knocks, lost socks and empty pantries.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi KidsTwo children deep, hindsight has proven what an absolute angel our first child was. It’s almost unfair that we didn’t realise how easy those first 8.5 years of parenting actually were. Because the bomb sure dropped when Nixon arrived.

The large age gap seemed like a dream initially. Ethan was completely smitten with his little brother, he’d waited for him a long time after being present at the sonographers appointment where we found out I’d miscarried during my previous pregnancy.  He was/is a proud and protective (exasperated, tormented) big brother.

Nixon is ::: dramatic pause:::, the exception to every rule I thought I knew about parenting.  He is, without doubt, the loudest person in the universe, the most full-on, stubborn, energizer bunny, tackle everything in his path then poke his finger in your eye just for kicks kid I have ever encountered.  He is also, unerringly cuddly, affectionate, verbose and crazy smart.  

We completely redecorated the house in 2011/12 and post-toddler-Nixon we will have to completely redecorate again.  Rimu windowsills, painstakingly stripped and refinished are now scarred, scratched, chipped and dented.  Walls, all re-plastered and painted have met the same fate.  Cushions vs marker pens, couch vs ballpoint, carpet vs play dough/dirt/dinner, brand new kitchen flooring vs laundry basket zoomed across it at top speed.  If you scoff and say “well, that’s just life with kids”, well perhaps.  Toddler destruction totally caught me by surprise as Ethan in his 13 years on this earth, has never, ever damaged our home or furnishings.

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Nix must have known I needed a great shot of him for the blog today so he obliged by mixing dirt for his vege planters………in his bedroom!

So, despite looking very, very similar our boys are as different as chalk and cheese and are also probably as different as night and day to the other million or so little boys that are growing up around New Zealand at the same time.  That’s really the beauty of our little country in these modern times, differences are (for the most part) tolerated and celebrated.  We are all raising our children in different family configurations, different housing arrangements, with different cultural influences and religious beliefs, more diets than you can shake a stick at but we are at peace amongst an alarming and ever-increasing rate of intolerance in the world around us.

The joy of both being a Kiwi kid and having the immense privilege to raise one – or 2 or 10 or however many you want – is an awesome journey to be on.  Of course, it’s made infinitely easier when there are fab products such as Karicare Toddler that are made in New Zealand and help us give our kids a great start in life.

This post is brought to you by Karicare Toddler.

Win with The Best Nest!

I’ve got three $50 Gift Cards to the Warehouse to give away.  To enter, just comment below with one thing you love about raising kiwi kids or one thing you love about living in New Zealand!  

Competition closes Dec 10 2018. NZ residents only.

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Parenting – Bright Ideas for Young Minds

A couple of weeks ago I attended an event that was a little bit different from those I normally go to each week.  It wasn’t a cosmetic/foodie/makeup event, it wasn’t a glamorous, heels and frock, dress-to-the-nines occasion (thank god!).  It was a book launch.  A beautiful thought-provoking, inspiring book launch that gave me all the feels and left me with an innate desire to be a better mother.

Cripes that’s pretty heavy!

Bright Ideas for Young Minds is a book that screams for your attention as soon as you lay eyes on it.  It’s big, robust and beautifully designed, printed and bound, with fun and exciting content to match.  But what is it?  It’s an activity book brought to life by New Zealand’s largest early learning provider, BestStart and written by kiwi educators with contributions from Plunket, Heart Foundation NZ and Jumping Beans.

In short, it’s amazing.

As well as providing parents and caregivers with a resource chocka-block full of 70 step-by-step activities that cost little or nothing, what Bright Ideas for Young Minds does so well (for me at least!) is remind me how easy it is to bring great joy to my kids.  Showing love through mindful, yet incredibly simple play is the very best education every child deserves.  The great part is, creating positive interactions such as those included in the book, are play options accessible to every New Zealand caregiver.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration, a gentle reminder that the currency most cherished by children is our time.

Bright Ideas for Young Minds (Mary Egan Publishers $39.95) is an amazing resource for anyone caring for kiwi kids age 0-6 years and is available now from all leading bookstores.

Win a copy of Bright Ideas for Young Minds!

Tell me how you’d benefit from this beautiful book, or, who you’d gift it to in the comments below.  I’ll draw the winner drawn 11/12/17, NZ residents only.

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9 Things NZ Mums Should Forget when raising Kiwi Kids

Sometimes when you’re a parent (actually quite often – like, daily), you have to make a decision, one that will determine which of two paths your day is likely to take.

You have to decide whether you are going to laugh or cry at whatever lunatic situation you find yourself in as the mother or father of a Kiwi child.  Laugh and you’ll more than likely pick yourself up, clean the poo off the walls and soldier on with the extremely positive outlook of ‘well, it couldn’t get any worse right?’.  Cry and you’ll limp through the rest of the day, somewhat comforted by the knowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light goes by the name of COFFEE & CHOCOLATE – two of my very best friends btw, great peeps.

So in conjunction with Karicare Toddler (a heritage NZ brand who’ve been helping mums care for Kiwi kids for over 90 years now!),  I’ve been writing about what it means to me to be a Kiwi mum.  In this post, I’ve done some brainstorming and come up with a list of 9 things that I think we can all file away in that box that lives in the garage that you never, ever open.

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Things New Zealand Mums should forget about when raising Kiwi Kids

  1. Sleep. Look, set your sleep expectation level low and then subtract another hour off that and you won’t become disillusioned. It’s all about managing expectations with reality.  Find a caffeinated beverage that you like and work on establishing a long and meaningful relationship. Your days of pillow time will come back……..eventually. In the meantime, buy a great under-eye concealer.
  2. Shoes and long pants.  Forget about them, particularly if your kids are of the boy variety.  I could be generalising here as I do suspect that my boy’s aversion to footwear is in direct correlation with the distance we live from the CBD, the further away we get, the longer a pair of shoes will last. Which is not necessarily a bad thing!
  3. Being Perfect. Despite what Instagram will have you believe, none of us knows what the hell we’re doing, pretty pictures are just modern day smokescreens.  Let it go, do your thing and leave the vacuuming for another day.
  4. Bikinis < this needs no explanation right?
  5. Trying to fix everything. So your kid doesn’t like broccoli or quinoa, he’s not toilet trained yet, he’s scared of flowers…………. kids are weird. Trying to ‘fix’ or train them out of every little quirk or rushing them to meet every milestone before Little Johnny next door will only demoralize both of you and remove joy from your parenting.  Let your kids be weird in their own kind of ‘different’, they’ll grow up to be big weirdos soon enough so just embrace their cute while you can.
  6. Leaving the house in Spring/Summer without a selection of hats and 12 types of sunscreen. Hello living in New Zealand!
  7. Anything you had decided you would or absolutely ‘Would Not Do!’ before you had kids.  Seriously, you need to let go of those ideals right now. Life with kids is about survival, not berating yourself for failing to live up to your pregnancy Stepford Wife mandates!
  8. Sand-free towels at the beach.  Next time you’re at the beach do this;  sit on the sand, lay down and just roll over – YOU WILL NOT DIE!  Make friends with the sand and this will become one less thing to be anal about each summer.
  9. Not getting to know the other kindy/school/sports club mums and dads.  These fellow soldiers are your Brothers-in-Arms, ignore them at your peril!  I wish I’d realised this 5 years ago but thankfully I’m building my tribe, one Mum at a time. Being a parent can be lonely and isolating, forget looking for friends that seem to fit the same cookie-cutter mould you fancy you came from.  Just talk to anyone who makes eye contact with the pleading, desperate look you’ve seen in your own eyes at 4.41 am in the morning – “Help me!!!  I’m a parent, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing but I need a coffee and a tropical holiday, which one can you help me with?!”.

Take heart, it’s all worth it.  Wipe your little darling’s snotty noses, send them off to school and kindy today and count your blessings as you are one of us. A parent of an amazing Kiwi kid.

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This post is brought to you by Karicare Toddler.

Win with The Best Nest!

The joy of both being a Kiwi kid and having the immense privilege to raise one – or 2 or 10 or however many you want – is an awesome journey to be on. Of course, it’s made infinitely easier when there are fab products such as Karicare Toddler that are made in New Zealand.

I’ve got three $50 Gift Cards to the Warehouse to give away.  To enter, just comment below with one thing you love about raising kiwi kids or one thing you love about living in New Zealand!  

Competition closes 10/12/17, NZ residents only.

8 Ways to Nail That Family Road Trip

How good are the school holidays guys?! Slow starts, maybe a sleep-in (not in my house but a girl can dream), no lunchboxes, no homework dramas and maybe a road-trip thrown in for good measure………

The easiest way to kick your school holiday mojo into gear is to take a second to remember just how much you lived for the holidays when you were a kid. Those magical two weeks seemed to stretch out forever with unlimited possibilities. Thankfully (?) for us as parents, holidays don’t last forever, so a little planning can go a long way towards making these holidays one to remember for both parents and kids alike. With a bit of luck, even the Annual Family Roadie will be a total breeze, glorious family memories will be made, photo albums will be filled and the kids won’t fight a bit.

That is the power of positive thinking.

But here’s how you really get it done.

8 Ways to Nail That Family Road Trip

    1. Create Family Traditions
      It could be as simple as stopping at the same dairy for jumbo ice cream scoops or a family in-joke, but traditions are important and tie people together. A running joke on our family roadies is “I only beep for sheep” – not going to go into details here but deserted country roads and sheep in paddocks must be present before this one gets busted out! Dave also has a lovely woollen travelling vest that accompanies us on our tiki-tours, so looking for suitable photo opps is always entertaining and keeps the kids appreciating the scenery as we speed past.
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    2. Travel on KID Time
      Remember, the name of the game when confining your entire family to a vehicle for hours on end is not just to arrive, but to arrive with your sanity intact. Putting the groms in the car during peak hyper-time is not going to end well. Schedule departure time for around an hour before naptime or after they’ve had some full-on playtime at home. If you’re determined to get on the road early, pull into a local playground before leaving town and let them charge it for 30 minutes or so before you hit the highway.
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    3. Eliminate Stress
      Check (and double check) that everyone, including Mum and Dad, has everything they need within reach. Water, wipes, coffee, tissues, favourite pillows or cuddly toys, phone chargers etc. The last thing you need is to be distracted whilst driving. That goes for your vehicle as well! Always give your car a quick once over, checking water, oil and tyres before you head off. Quality tyres (much like these tips!) can also help reduce the noise of a family road trip. Goodyear’s new EfficientGrip Performance SUV tyre comes with advanced noise dampening tread design – the result? A superior quiet ride. Trust me I’ve driven for an hour on these bad boys and they’re as quiet as a Mum sneaking out of a sleeping child’s room – Stealth! You can check out the fun I had that day at loudenough.goodyear.com.au
    4. Be a Fun Mum (or Dad)
      The boys seriously flipped their lids on our drive from Christchurch to Methven 2 weeks ago when I pulled off the road (rather suddenly!) and into the parking lot of the Cookie Time Cookie factory! Admittedly my kids are a tad biscuit-deprived but never in their wildest dreams did they imagine getting to pick out a kilogram bag of cookies! Keep your eyes peeled, or plan ‘surprise’ stops in advance to break up the boredom of the road.
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    5. Kid Life Revolves Around Food – NEVER FORGET
      If ever there’s an occasion to relax the whole ‘no eating in the car’ rule, then a long road trip could be the right time. My kids can literally eat on the hour every hour and hell hath no fury like a hungry Jack boy – so it’s best to play it safe and travel with copious amounts of food, lest you get lost and god forbid there are no golden arches in sight. Is that even possible???? Car food doesn’t always have to be messy. Pre-cut apple slices, yoghurt suckies, dried fruit, filled wraps instead of rolls…….these are all crumb-minimisers and should buy you some time in between mince savouries!
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    6. Share the Navigating
      Plot your course using Google maps and hand the phone over to one of your little co-pilots. This helped us immeasurably whilst navigating the Mt Hutt region. Ethan really enjoys this responsibility it and it stops quarrels between Dave and I over map-reading fails!
    7. Pump up the Jams (or download the shows)
      The older your kids get, the less they are going to like hanging out with you or listening to your music. This is FACT. Spread the suffering and take turns picking the driving tunes. Yes, as unfathomable as it seems, my 13 and 4-year-old sons don’t love my indie-rock playlists (weirdos), but they do LOVE music. Everyone’s happy sharing DJ duties. If peace and quiet are in order, don’t leave home without downloading episodes of the kid’s fave shows from Netflix. In all seriousness, that is my number one travel tip and honestly, kids are usually just so pumped to be out and about in the world you will find you only have to resort to screen time when those hard-out meltdowns start threatening.
      Don’t forget, a set of headphones for each older kid = instant quiet time!
    8. Use your Crystal Ball like your Review Mirror
      Be proactive and stay alert for potential disturbances in the force. On our last snowboarding trip, our rental station wagon was struggling to squeeze in 3 snowboards (+ 2.3 tonnes of kid snow paraphernalia) so we folded down half of the split back seat for the gear, meaning Nix and Ethan would be sitting in very close proximity. RED ALERT.
      Dave took one for the team and we moved Ethan to the front passenger seat for the 30-minute drive time back and forth up the mountain. Peace ensued. If you can wrangle it, be flexible in seating arrangements – keeping kids out of each other’s ‘smack-you-in-the-face’ range is always a bonus.

Most of all, relax and enjoy the ride! Sometimes it’s easier said than done but roadies are one of those special, weird things that kids remember and hold on to forever – at least that’s how I feel about the trips in my childhood. Relax the itinerary and roll with the many (many!) pit stops.

Drive safe these holidays!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family survive roadtrip road trip
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family survive roadtrip road trip

Thanks to Goodyear Tyres for making this post possible!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family survive roadtrip road trip

“You are NEVER ready” – Get Financially Dialled in for Baby

Thanks to BNZ for partnering to help make this post possible.

It’s true, “you are never ready” is more often than not my response when friends and I discuss the age-old question of now, or, later, especially when it comes to having a baby.

My feeling is that you can plan the heck out of the process – make all the lists, read all the books, take all the classes, listen to all the experts (actually, this is probably unrealistic as every person you meet is an expert on raising other people’s children!) but nothing will ever, ever prepare you for the life-changing, maniacal experience of welcoming a baby into the world.

That being said, prospective parents DO have nine months to at least attempt to get their ducks in a row.  I feel like I’ve said this 1000 times but, when Dave and I found out we were expecting Ethan, we had NOTHING.  Like actually, nothing.  I’d been drifting around America for 3 years, surfing and having fun, and Dave had been drifting around for 28 years in a similar state.

We didn’t even have a car and no family in the state of California to lean on.  Shit got real, really fast. So, we simply knuckled down and implemented our own simplistic but totally doable envelope based budgeting plan.

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Baby Ethan, California

As Dave and I were both being paid in cash, it made sense to save in ‘cash’ too.  I fully credit the tactile tangibility of the simple envelope system with keeping us on the path to financial responsibility and helping us save for our imminent life on a single income.  How does it work?  Easy.  Work out your monthly budget and create an envelope for each outgoing expense; rent, power, food, petrol, insurance, internet, phone etc. as well as one for saving and one for FUN.  On the front of each envelope, make a note of the total monthly amount due, as well as the amount you need to save per week for that expense.  Divide your income up weekly between envelopes and voila – complete financial control is yours.

Of course, digital technology and the way we use the internet has changed a lot in the past decade.  You can probably ditch the envelopes and use online tools to get your finances whipped into a family-friendly state.  

Check out the Baby Calculator, an awesome collab between BNZ, Plunket and Massey University that’s based upon the spending of NZ parents.  Since 2010, BNZ has been Plunket’s principal sponsor. As this special relationship builds each year, so does BNZ’s understanding about what families will experience with newborn and young children. If you want an idea of the expenses that will be coming at you – along with sleepless nights, stinky diapers, adoring baby gazes and the best snuggles you’ve ever had in your life – then spend some time online with this invaluable tool.

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(GIANT) Baby Nixon, Auckland

12.5 years later, Dave and I have two wonderful boys and to be honest, the way we view our finances hasn’t changed a whole lot. We are very debt adverse, we have savings plans in place, we watch our spending and we make a lot of cool stuff happen for our family on the cheap. When we began discussing baby #2 we were in a completely different place both physically (New Zealand vs USA) and financially. We had just purchased our first home and had (somehow) managed to negotiate the crazy-speak of fixed/variable/table/reducing/blah blah mortgage speak. Negotiating buying a house and its subsequent reno was the third-most grown-up thing I’ve ever done (the first was birthing a baby and the second was purchasing a BRAND NEW BED! That’s some adulting right there).
We didn’t use our envelope system to pay for our house, though it definitely helped us on our way. Make sure you take advantage of every helping hand that’s available to you, starting with your bank. Buying a house is a really big deal. Historical loyalties to a bank you’ve been with since you were 5 should go out the window if they’re not prepared to take care of you when the time comes to borrow a LOT of money from them.

Pro-Tip: Look for deals and packages specially designed for people like YOU. A comprehensive option is the Baby Bundle from BNZ which offers a range of advantages;
• Fixed home loans – 0.25% discount on the advertised fixed home loan interest rate for the length of your fixed term.
• Variable home loans – 0.25% discount off standard home loan variate rate, including Rapid Repay
• Legal / valuation costs – Receive up to $1,000 towards legal/valuation costs when buying a new home or refinancing with BNZ.
• Credit cards – $0 account fee for the first 12 months on new credit cards.
• Transaction account – $0 account fee for the first 12 months when you open a YouMoney transaction account.
• Personal loan – $0 loan facility fee and discounted rate on a personal loan.

I started this piece by saying that you can never be truly ready for the impact a baby is going to have on your life. This is fact.
But, you can be smart, you can be prepared and you can be informed.

Visit www.bnz.co.nz/plunket for more information

Save your money and love those babies people!

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Bali 2017

Parenting Must-Do: Get your kids eyes tested for free!

When I think about sight and eye health, the sum total of knowledge accrued in my near-38 years is limited to;

  • I like colours
  • Carrots (may?) help us to see in the dark?
  • Sharp objects and eyes don’t mix

I realise I’m pretty much an expert already HA, but as there are two little men and their four, fairly virginal eyeballs under my care I dispatched them to the professionals at Specsavers last week for comprehensive eye exams.

I’m going to put this in bold because it’s important and I will probably remind you again ok?

Kids under 16 receive FREE eye exams at Specsavers.

Yes, yes YES!  Free!

The thought of taking both of the boys to any type of appointment together fills me with dread so I made them individual appointments on separate days and this worked perfectly for us.  It allowed me to give both Ethan and Nixon and their respective optometrists my full attention and eliminated the stress of trying to keep Nix under control during Ethan’s exam.

Initially, I assumed the check-ups were going to be all about this;

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I feel as a mother that the latest hot-topic and source of parenting guilt is undoubtedly that which revolves around screen-time.  How much and how often and the detrimental effect of screens on the body, mind and of course, developing eyes.

I was sooo relieved that Jason at the Specsavers North West store took an entirely holistic approach with Ethan.  Instead of grilling us on the amount of time Ethan spends online, he began by asking E what his hobbies are, what sports he plays, what activities he likes to do outside?  At first, I was not following this line of questioning at all but as the eye exam progressed, everything fell into place.

I’m going to sum this up for you in #mumspeak; instead of trying to understand the complicated little gadgets that eyes really are, it’s easier for me to think of them as a muscle.  If kids (and adults) are constantly asking their eyes to do the same workout ie look at screens within close proximity OR enjoying close reading, eyes never get a chance to ‘stretch’ and extend themselves just like our muscles need to do through exercise.  This is increasingly important as one in five New Zealand children spend the equivalent of a full-time job (up to 35 hours) per week staring at screens!  Screentime itself is not bad for your eyes, it’s the time spent viewing screens in close proximity, the lack of variation in ocular activity that results from device usage and the associated social and physical implications that result from digital isolation which do have negative effects.

Jason’s suggestion for managing screen time made a lot of sense and seemed reasonable to both Ethan and I; 20 minutes on, then take a break – outside if possible.  The beauty and value of outside play for both kids and adults is irrefutable but particularly for eye health, the range of distance that’s available for our eyes to gauge provides a great ‘workout’ and is in direct contrast to the close work done inside on devices or whilst reading books.

Just remember to wear your sunnies!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Free Eye Test Specsavers

Nixie’s exam also went really well.  The tests were perfectly age adjusted for little guys like him and he was pretty intrigued with the ‘robots’ that wanted to look in his eyes (Digital Retinal Photography is included free in all eye exams at Specsavers) as well as the funny glasses he got to wear.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Free Eye Test Specsavers

We survived!  And the boy’s eyes are in tip-top shape thank goodness.

If you’re worried about your kids’ eyesight, get them tested people!  Long term eye issues have a higher chance of being cured if they are detected and treated before a child turns eight.  And their eye tests are FREE at Specsavers until they’re 16, you got that right?  

Both adults and children should have their eyes tested once every two years so shake off that procrastination and book your kids in for free exams now > www.specsavers.co.nz/

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Free Eye Test Specsavers

10 warning signs that there might be something wrong with a child’s eyesight:

  • Straining their eyes or tilting their head to see better
  • Frequent eye rubbing
  • Losing their place while reading, or using a finger to guide their eyes
  • Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing
  • Falling behind in school
  • Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  • Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Avoiding activities which require near vision, such as reading or homework; or
    distance vision, such as participating in sports or other recreational activities
  • Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
  • Avoiding using a computer or tablet because it ‘hurts their eyes’
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Free Eye Test Specsavers
Caption: Nix was obsessed with these Finding Dory frames! So many cute options for littles.

Auckland’s Christmas Tradition – Farmers Santa Parade 2016

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Kiwi’s are a funny old bunch when it comes to traditions aren’t we?  Here in New Zealand we don’t have too many hard and fast holiday routines when compared to other countries but we sure love those traditions that have stood the test of time – none more so than the spectacular Farmers Santa Parade which is set to kick off the Christmas season on Sunday 27 November (rain date 4 December) for the 83rd year!

My childhood can pretty easily be delineated by the annual pelting of one’s small body with a barrage of Mackintosh’s toffees, Milkshakes and Minties during the parade, the awe inspiring thrum of the bagpipes as they moved up Queen St and the frantic last minute dash to claim Dad’s shoulders and get a good wave in before Santa passed by for another year.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

I loved it in the eighties and I love it even more now that I get to share this special event with my own kids!

Making the Farmers Santa Parade Easy

Don’t put the parade in the too hard basket guys!  This is definitely a day that’s a childhood rite of passage and the kids need YOUR help to get there!  We took four kids last year, had no trouble finding a carpark, found a perfect, uncrowded, front row spot and didn’t get stuck in traffic on the way home – it can be done and the kids (and you) will have a blast! 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

  • Leave early – rushing = stress.  The Farmers Santa Parade 2016 is on Sunday 27 November (rain date 4 December) at the earlier time of 1pm.
  • Plan ahead – Know where you’re going ahead of time.  Plan your public transport here or figure out where you’re going to park before you get to the city.  Enjoy free parking at both Downtown and Victoria St carparks for all vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm on parade day!
  • Know the new route – The Parade Route starts at the corner of Cook Street and Mayoral Drive, turns left into Queen Street, travels down Queen Street and right into Customs Street East, ending at the corner of Britomart Place.  More info here
  • Get ready and get in the Christmas spirit!  Think backpacks full of water,  a picnic blanket and a packed lunch or treat yourself to some yummy eats whilst in town.  Either way, you’re going to have a great afternoon!

This year a new charity partner has been announced with funds collected at the 2016 parade going to The Salvation Army to provide much needed support for families during the challenging Christmas period.  Last year we had Elmo (Nixon’s favourite!), this year parade highlights include three Angry Birds helium inflatables from Canada, Disney’s Mickey and Minnie inflatables, an Olympics float, LEGO character Clay from Nexo Knights, Austin Powers and a Cinderella float – it’s going to be amazing!

The party doesn’t stop there, if you’re keen for more festive fun, swing by Aotea Square for Santa’s after party starting at 2:30 pm and featuring a continuous stage show as well as rides, celebrities, face painting and a spectacular LEGO Christmas Tree. Santa will be on hand too for those that just need more of the Jolly old Soul!

We’ll be there with bells on – probably literally!

Merry Christmas!

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa ParadeNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade