Family Travel Japan: Day 2, Ikebukuro

In my fast and loose ‘Mind Itinerary’, I had pencilled in Monday for a trip to Sea Disney in Tokyo.  However, after one day on the ground, what we really wanted to do was simply see and experience more of Tokyo.

So, we ditched Disney and saved hundreds of dollars.  The kids did not care and Dave and I were infinitely happier!

We began everyday in Tokyo with a visit to the most amaze bakery about 20 paces from our front door.  I had NO idea that bakeries were a thing here, and my god, everything that comes out of Japanese ovens is fit for the gods I tell you!  The Arteria Bakery was divine, the best pastries, breads, curry buns, melonpam, blueberry and apple pies………we tried it all.  Yes.  We.  Did.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

Dave had to work, so the kids and I headed off on foot, navigating the 30-minute walk to Ikebukuro where the boys were super excited to experience J-World, an anime theme park featuring Dragon Ball Z – off course.  I find Google Maps a bit dodgy at home in NZ, but here the app works perfectly.  We were navigated through gorgeous, quiet wee residential streets and alleys, just as spic ‘n span as the rest of Tokyo, and made it to Sunshine City in Ikebukuro in no time.  I’ve realised on this trip the beauty of having no car!  Exploring on foot is such a pleasure here and gives a real sense of what life is actually like here in Tokyo.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

We had unwittingly stumbled upon a kids-go-free day at J-world so we were off to a great start.  Ethan loved this place, Nixon enjoyed it even with only a cursory knowledge of anime, however, give it a miss if you or the kids are not fans as it will all go right over your head as there is no English translation or context.  That said, the boys were happy so I was super happy!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

Sunshine City is a HUGE mall, it was a struggle to navigate but we found the restaurant level and I braved ordering food without Dave for the first time.  The kid’s option was easily identifiable by the Hello Kitty plate and was so perfect for Nix.  It came with a giant tempura shrimp, about 10 fries, a small hamburger patty and some rice, dessert and orange juice.  Literally ALL of Nixon’s favourite foods, neatly separated how he likes it.  The dessert was a strange custard that he wasn’t a fan of, but aside from that 10/10.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

I had a good look at the menu before ordering and noticed that there were two prices; one for the individual item and one for the ‘set’ which included rice and miso soup.  As Ethan is not a fan of miso and the rice servings are huge, we ordered one set and one individual item and saved around 200¥!

After a quick visit to the Pokemon shop (soooo cute!) we headed upstairs to the Sunshine City Aquarium located on the roof of the mall.  We absolutely LOVED this place.  Skip the sea lions and penguins and head for the aquarium tanks.  There were so many fish, reptiles and amphibians here that we had never seen before it was amazing for my animal-mad boys.  A leopard shark, huge sunfish, giant spider crabs, poisonous frogs and so much more.  It def got us pumped for the big aquarium visit to come in Osaka.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

Whilst in Ikebukuro we headed straight to the heart of this shopping mecca and soaked it all in.  There was a girl on the street with an owl advertising the ‘Owl Cafe’ nearby, there was an 8 story department store dedicated to DIY and basically, home and lifestyle called Tokyu Hands.  I could have spent hours in here but I was with 3 boys so time was limited lol.  Ethan was granted his final Dragon Ball Z shopping mission and found a figure he wanted in the giant Animate store.  He was happy and I was happy the search was over.

The neighbourhoods between Ikebukuro and our accommodation were so pleasant we opted to walk the 30 minutes home again and pick up some don bowls for dinner on the way home.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

I know no-one will believe this but, the only shopping I’ve done for myself is a $5 floppy felt hat on clearance from Uniqlo!!!  Shock horror I know.  Not even ANY sneakers!

There are 12 more days though.

Day 2 = AWESOME.

Fly Jetstar to Japan like we did > www.jetstar.co.nz

Family Travel Japan: Day 1, Tokyo

Lord.  Japan is far, far away from Auckland, New Zealand.  

And I mean far.

But that is what makes it so amazing.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

After two great Jetstar Flights (thanks Jason for the attention you gave the boys on the long Gold Coast – Narita leg!), we landed on Saturday night at 6.30pm at Narita Airport.  It felt heaps later of course as it was fully dark (mid-winter) and we’d been awake for like, days by that point lol.  This is where my planning came into full effect.  There are 3 terminals at Narita Airport and we flew into #3.  There is no train station there so we really enjoyed our walk to terminal 2.  I’m not joking either, despite how awesome the Jetstar crew were, after 8 hours on a full plane with a kid with Hirschsprung’s the fresh air and being able to stretch our legs was luxury.

The walk between terminal 3 and 2 is just over half a km, there is a shuttle bus you can take if you cbf walking.

I had pre-purchased our Japan Rail passes in Auckland from www.traveljapan.co.nz (who were totally awesome, I highly recommend dealing with them).  This was quite an investment, $1737 NZD for 3 adult passes (under 6’s ride free) but we are travelling extensively within Tokyo, using the Shinkansen (bullet train to Kyoto), day trips to Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, ferry to Miyajima, then north to Nagano and back to Tokyo via Shinkansen so it’s absolutely worth the money.  JR passes are exclusively for foreigners so you are issued with a voucher in NZ and have to exchange this for your actual JR pass upon arrival in Japan.  

The JR information centre is on the station level in Terminal 2 at Narita and located in a great spot right by a 7-11 for snacks, a Foreign Exchange kiosk and a Pocket WiFi rental shop.  I picked up our passes, Dave rented our WiFi gadget ($99 for 2 weeks, unlimited data and up to 10 devices!) and we settled down to a cold Asahi while we waited for the Narita Express into Tokyo.

Like Auckland Airport, Narita is a good haul out of the main city, almost an hour into Tokyo Station where the train split, literally.  The first 6 cars went on one line and the rest went through to Shibuya Station which is where we transferred to Ikebukuro.  This was probably the trickiest part of our commute as we had to use a local line to get to our AirBnB, which meant we had to buy tickets and generally figure things out as the line is owned by a company other than JR.  Super cheap though, $1.70 per ride and probably even cheaper if we buy multi-trip passes which we will over the next couple of days.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

Booking our accommodation was by far the most difficult part of planning our trip to Japan.  The cities are so huge, I had to figure out which parts were quiet and suitable for a family, what we could afford, where homes were in relation to the trains and our to-do list.  I would have spent at least 5 hours researching each of the 3 properties I ended up booking.   

Here’s where we are staying in Ikebukuro > https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/10222084 and it’s absolutely perfect, bigger than it looks, sparkling clean and about 50 steps from the train station.  We arrived at around 11.30pm on Saturday night, the neighbourhood was silent with no one around, despite a couple of sake bars on the street.  It felt so safe.  After picking up some pastries for breakfast from the bakery on the way to the train station this morning we were utterly convinced that this property and it’s location are an absolute win for us.  If you like a sleep in the trains might bother you as they start running from around 6am I think, but Nix is such an early riser this doesn’t bother us at all.

Day 1 – Tokyo

The most difficult part of trip planning is scheduling in your itinerary in my opinion.  So I really try not to do too much of that.  Speaking frankly, kids hate being rushed around from here to there, trying to meet trains/deadlines/expectations so, we just don’t travel like that.  I have ‘region goals’ I’d like to hit while we are in Japan, but little else cemented in.  You get a better feel for what you want to do more of, see, once you’re on the ground I reckon.

So today we rose early, headed out at 9am after some cuddles and showers, hit the local bakery for the MOST amazing croissants, apple pies and cream cheese and blueberry pastries and hopped on the Tobu Toju line back to Shibuya Station.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

We coffee’d at Starbucks and found the incredible Shibuya Crossing, probably quite quiet as it was Sunday morning lol but still totally awesome.  What we noticed immediately was that Japanese locals walk like they are driving ie they stay in their lane!  Big contrast to our family where the boys are constantly running, backtracking, stopping in the middle of the footpath………we are very conspicuously the square pegs here!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

So we did a little shopping, not much to be honest and just had a really great time wandering around.  At lunchtime, we charged a local eatery which, as it turns out specialized in pork Sta Don bowls.  Dave nailed the kiosk ordering system and we had a delicious meal of fried rice, gyoza and the pork/rice bowls.  I’m not a huge pork fan but the meat was shaved and thin it looked like bacon but was brown rather than pink.  We were quite proud of ourselves after that!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

Ethan had done some research and wanted to visit a store called Mandrake which was 4 floors underground in Shibuya.  Specializing in all things Japanese anime, this is a collectors paradise.  We saw one Pokemon card with a $1550 NZD price tag!  E is on the hunt for Dragon Ball Z merch while we are here so this was a perfect starting point.  

Always walking, we headed away from Shibuya and found ourselves gawking at the uber-trendy fashion hub that is Cat Street, Harajuku.  Our destination was actually Kiddyland which was just around the corner, a large toy store dedicated entirely to character toys.  Think Miffy, Hello Kitty, Star Wars, Marvel, Pokemon, Peanuts, Trolls………super fun, very cute, also very crowded and hot.

Everyone was slightly frazzled after Kiddyland so we stopped for a snack (and cocktail hour!) before diving into Takeshita Street which was seriously amazing.  A mix of huge international stores and small independent market-style shops, wandering along as night fell, stopping for crepes and enjoying people watching – this is Harajuku after all – was so, so fun.  The crowd is INTENSE, however, but Japanese people are so incredibly lovely, quiet, well mannered and patient, even with my nutty family, you never really felt affected by the masses of people.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

After that, we were well and truly done for the day so we hit the trains and headed back home.  We had realised throughout the day that Nix was not going to be able to hang with the amount of walking we’ll be doing on this trip, so Dave found a Babies ‘R Us and set off again to bring home an umbrella stroller and some dinner.  The footpaths here are clean as a whistle, super flat and perfectly maintained so pushing the stroller is no problem and everyone seems to be accommodating regarding leaving the stroller to enter stores and restaurants.

Day 1 was so awesome!  Everything has fallen into place and we are just in LOVE with Japan, so excited for what the rest of the trip will bring.

Summer like a Kiwi – What happens above 23°

January marks the second, ‘official’ month of New Zealand summer.  We Kiwi’s are comfortably settled into the annual, seasonal slow-down we look forward to every year.  The kids have chilled out after the excitement of Santa’s visit, Mum’s everywhere have celebrated ‘un-decking the halls’ and returning Christmas to the boxes in the garage and everyone sadly mourned the last slice of festive ham and wedge of Pavlova.

If you missed the mania of the Boxing Day sales, tragic New Year’s Eve jandal blow-outs were easily rectified by those crazy enough to brave the malls and give the beach a miss for at least a couple of hours, joining those shoppers equipping themselves with everything they need to smash their NY resolutions once and for all.

The Summer of 2018 is definitely shaping up as one to remember.  In true NZ style, the weather has given us highs and lows (!! lol !!).  The gaudy, golden sunshine and blistering temps of the week before New Years gave many campers revelling in #ThatTentLife a false sense of security, as evidenced by the appearance of many quintessential Kiwi behaviours, only exhibited when the mercury begins to rise;

What happens in New Zealand when the temps rise above 23°?

  • An unwritten law in NZ requires many to revisit the ‘Togs, togs, togs……undies rule’ each summer.  If you’re unsure or have forgotten the accepted rule of thumb for ‘how far is too far’ to wear a speedo from the water, then please watch the public service announcement in the link above.
  • Unlike togs, there is less regulation around jandals ie, you can wear them everywhere for the period December-March (Summer here in New Zealand), and then again from April-November.
  • Here in New Zealand, we punch above our weight 24-7 – but if you’re talking about the ozone layer……..yeah we have none.  Hot times put everyone at risk of Coconut Ice Sunburn.  This kiwi fave is only acceptable when talking fudge, NOT tan lines so slip, slop, slap constantly.
  • No-one is too old for a swim in a paddling pool.  No-one.
  • Chilly-Bin ownership is mandatory, as is taking your chilly-bin everywhere with you in Summer.
  • Similar to birds flying in formation, New Zealanders possess a synchronicity that sees us switch from ice cream to ice blocks as soon as the temperature hits 23°.  This proven phenomenon is backed up with retail stats and the age-old debate surrounding the Best Fruju Flavour of All Time.  Of course, the big talking point amongst those participating in Summer this year, is the irresistible mash-up of  Kiwi icons Fruju and L&P, firing up the Fruju-flavour-frenzy even more!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Tip Top Ice Cream Summer Fruju

How Our Frozen Summer Faves got even BETTER

Like most parents, Dave and I are becoming more and more aware of how the food we feed the boys affects their health, mood and wellbeing.  Nixies shortened GI tract following Hirschsprung’s surgery means food moves through his little system super fast and adverse effects on his mood and behaviour become apparent really quickly.  Avoiding those dreaded artificial food additives can seem daunting but is made infinitely easier when you know that one company has eliminated all the baddies from their entire range of yummy products!

Who?  Tip Top that’s who.

The commitment to only using natural flavours and colours is a big deal, especially when you do a tiny bit of research about the alternatives.  You can’t really talk ice cream without thinking about chocolate right?  Tip Top has replaced dodgy additive E155 – Brown HT (made from coal tar, a suspected carcinogen and mutagen that is banned in the US, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Belgium) and is now using simple, caramelized sugar to achieve that rich chocolate brown colour we all expect in our fave Trumpets.  There are super-cool, and surprising, alternatives in place throughout the Tip Top range that sees beetroot, spirulina, gardenia and turmeric extracts replace the synthetic dyes and coal or petroleum derived additives that other companies are still using today.

We Kiwis are the best at just about everything we do, so we want our awesome, NZ made products to reflect that.  Gone are the days of ‘numbers = colours and flavours’, we are discerning consumers with a growing consciousness towards what we put in our bodies.  As we make better choices we are expecting the producers of our favourite foods to do the same.  It’s pretty awesome to see Tip Top, a name synonymous with New Zealand, take the lead and make our summer treats #GoodtoShare for everyone.

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

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Tip Top Ice Cream Summer

Kids Parties: Garden Glamping + Movie Night

Ethan turned the BIG 13 at the end of November and though we celebrated at the time with a Breaker’s game and burgers with his friends, we really wanted to do something a little more special at home to mark the occasion.  The end of the school year is a super busy time for everyone with summer quickly approaching here in New Zealand and Christmas around the corner so, we waited a couple of weeks until Ethan’s two basketball leagues had finished and planned a wee surprise.

Ethan loves sleepovers but sleepovers do not love him back.  The child basically can’t deal with lack of sleep, plus his sport schedule is so ridic with rugby over the winter and basketball taking up six days per week recently, opportune weekend nights to have friends stay over are few and far between.  Saturday night was  w i d e  open however, and happened to coincide with a rare, vacant booking for the awesome husband and wife team at www.partyinabox.nz.  So, we locked it in, called it a Movie Night and I (secretly) gathered the troops.

I think when I (and Ethan) were younger, I wanted complete control over his birthday parties and spent days and weeks meticulously planning and agonizing over every detail.  One year I handmade fish-shaped chocolates to decorate his homemade cheesecake birthday cake after I had hand stamped the goody bags with a beautiful fish-shaped motif I carved from a freaking potato!

I honestly don’t even know who that person was lol.  Suffice to say, these days I’m all about outsourcing and simplifying birthday parties.  I say HELLO to $5 Pizza Hut pizzas (1 each!) and YES to a tub of Tip Top ice cream for dessert.  And, if the outsourcing results in the 5 teenaged boys (and his girl bestie) sleeping in the front yard, then a birthday blessing was just bestowed upon ME.

Party in a Box Glamping Packages

We decided on a Night Out Package for Ethan and 5 friends which included setup and overnight hire of a gorgeous bell tent, 6 x mattresses, bunting, fairy lights, rugs, floor cushions, tray tables, super cool decor items, popcorn, huge tv and DVD/BluRay player.  All delivered set-up and then packed away again the following day. 

It was spectacular, roomy and totally picture perfect.  Dave and I loved it so much we almost considered handing the house over to the 13-year-olds and treating ourselves to a night glamping in the garden!

 The best way to describe how utterly amazing the bell tent and set-up was on Saturday night is to let the pictures speak for themselves.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Glamping Party Bell Tent New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Glamping Party Bell Tent New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Glamping Party Bell Tent New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Glamping Party Bell Tent New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Glamping Party Bell Tent

The kids had a blast, we had a quiet (ish) night and a clean (ish) house thanks to the kids being in the tent lol and I know we celebrated Ethan’s very special birthday with an event to remember.

Get in touch with husband and wife team Christian and Wencke at Party in a Box to make a booking enquiry.  They have a range of options and themes available – if they can make a glamping experience work perfectly as a Movie Night for a 13-year-old boy and his mates, then trust me, you will be blown away by how stunning this experience is!

 

 

Parents, this is how you win at the internet – MindLabKids.com

Summer school holidays are almost upon us here in New Zealand and, as far as I can tell, there are two distinct methodologies parents use to tackle the school holidays;

  1. The Organized Planner: Days, playdates, excursions,  picnics are all planned with military precision – only to be completely at the mercy of the sometimes/usually unpredictable January weather (especially if you live in Auckland!)
  2. The She’ll be Right Parent:  No planning necessary – it’s the holidays after all!

Whether you identify as a #1 or a #2 or a happy mix of both, it’s inevitable that weather, exhaustion or, real-life necessity such as parents having to adult and go to work, will result in days spent at home.  If you find this heralds the ‘I’m bored’ chorus we all dread, well, I’m all for letting kids ride out their boredom (if you can stand it!).  Giving kids the space and independence to be bored allows them the creative freedom to ‘un-bore’ themselves in ways adults may never have imagined.

If that doesn’t work, or has run its course, some intentional time online may be just the ticket.  Screentime for the kids; they’re happy, combined with educational, productive activities; Mum and Dad are happy.

Everyone wins!  (So bookmark this website now before you forget >> www.mindlabkids.com

What is MindLabKids.com?

The Mind Lab by Unitec is an award-winning, specialist learning lab dedicated to increasing knowledge and understanding of modern technology via workshops, school visits, holiday programmes and teacher professional development.  Emerging from this cutting-edge combo of education and fresh ways to deliver it, comes MindLabKids.com.

The website itself is an engaging, exciting online destination where kids can discover science and technology at their own pace, through hands-on experiments, challenges, and safe collabs with other kids.  Three new challenges are released each week around kid-magnet topics such as; robotics, 3D design, animation, and stop-motion, movie making and more.

How we use MindLabKids.com

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.com

First points to note, rego is free, quick and easy.  Ethan was instructed NOT to use his own name as the username, plus, the only contact information requested was a parents email address – which I had to verify before the account was activated.

That was it!  Ethan was off, with Nix observing at elbow height, of course, intrigued by the fact that his big brother was stoked to be using the computer with Mum’s encouragement.

The home feed is a collation of challenges, fun facts, members responses to challenges, surveys, and cute memes – essentially everything kids want or more importantly NEED from an educational site that is kinda a cross-over with an age-appropriate social network.  You can respond to user-created content in a positive way via likes and even ‘favorite’ accounts that are uploading videos you love.

But obviously, the very BEST part, which the boys are loving, is getting their curious neurons firing and getting stuck into the online challenges.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.com

Nix and E both have a Mind Lab Kids Starter Pack (which got them so pumped to get cracking I gotta say!)  These are definitely not necessary to participate in the challenge responses, but Ethan found after looking at the kit inclusions such as a propeller, 3V motor, battery pack, pager motor, hovercraft plate (stuff we generally don’t have lying about the house), his mind was a little more open to the creative, problem solving process, knowing that he had some extra tools on hand.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.com

On that note,  seriously great Christmas gift right?!  Create your child’s login, write their username and password on a gift tag, wrap up the Mind Lab Kids Starter Pack and you’ve got the perfect parental gift trifecta; it’s educational, not a toy they don’t need and can be reused over and over again in different ways.

Boom.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.com

The first challenge the boys tried their hand at was Professor D’s Hovercraft Challenge – obvs Ethan and I helped Nix a lot with his, he was just down to go crazy with the glue gun to be honest, but that’s every 4 year old’s prerogative lol.

Check out our Hovercraft Challenge Response Video here on the MindLabKids.com website.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.comNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.com

Win a MindLabKids.com Starter Kit!

Get your kids excited about science and technology and they could win their own MindLabKids.com starter kit!

To enter;

  1. Join Mind Lab Kids, if your kids are already a member then they are good to go!
  2. Film and upload a challenge-response video to www.mindlabkids.com before 10am 10 December 2017.
  3. That’s it!

Full terms and conditions can be found here, otherwise, the main point to note is that you must be a NZ resident.

This post was made possible by www.MindLabKids.com.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mindlabkids.com

 

 

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.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids
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.

Mum-Life: A conversation between friends

Our touch rugby season kicked off on Thursday night, which is great, we love our module.  It’s social, fun and a great chance to spend time with our friends each week and have a run around together.  Preparation for touch has been somewhat lacking this season, I’m not particularly fit and winter has not been overly kind.  As I was squeezing into some tights on Thursday, getting ready to walk up to the fields I sent one of my girlfriends this text;

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Ok so let’s ignore the fabulous body-positivity message here, and monitor the irony of my profile pic.  I don’t even know how that got on my phone, I’m pretty sure I didn’t choose a pink doughnut as my avatar so obviously, the stars are perfectly aligned and the universe is sending me subliminal messages regarding carb-consumption – all.  day.  long.

Yesterday I was determined to attack my waistline so after running some errands with the boys I headed out for some fresh air, planning on an hour of fat-burning-walking.  About 30 minutes in, I came upon a friend who was chatting with her ‘pool guy’ in her driveway – sooooo Wisteria Lane, god I love where I live lol.

Anyway, we were making small talk, running through the mum-life state-of-play as the school holidays near their end.  As our convo progressed I had to literally, laugh out loud, only two mums (in their active wear no less) could discuss the variety of subjects we broached, entirely seriously and appreciate that they all happened within the prior 12 hours.

The hot topics de jour were as follows;

  • “What have I done this morning?  Been to the doctors to get warts frozen off one of the kids.  Why are they so gross?  Not warts, kids.  Why are kids so gross?”
  • “Why aren’t you at work?”
    “One of the kids has a rash, all over his junk.  We think it’s from rolling all over the rugby field last night”
    “Yeah, that’ll do it”
    “At least he’s put some shorts on today, might keep him from constantly itching himself.  God kids are gross”
    “Kids are really gross.”
  • “You know what else is gross?  Dogs.  I’ve just picked up all the bombs in the yard.”
    “I have to do that too.  It’s supposed to be Ethan’s job but I just can’t stand it when he leaves 90% of the poo on the grass and you think you’re safe, but next minute, there’s dog shit squishing between your toes.”
    “Dogs suck.  My dogs got stuck together this morning”
    “With glue?  Did the kids leave glue out?  Mine would do that, Mister Maker has a LOT to answer for.”
    “No, our girl’s on heat and the old boy had a go and they couldn’t separate”
    “Oh.  My.  God.”
    “I threw food at them thinking they’d both be so pumped to eat they’d pull apart.  Didn’t work”
     “Oh.  My.  God.”
    “Yeah.  So I went inside to Google how to separate them, turns out you throw water on them, but he’d shrunk down by then so problem solved.”
    “Phew, really dodged a bullet there”
  • “Do you know what I think the very worst part of school holidays is?”
    “No school?”
    “Huts.  Fucking huts everywhere.  My house was spotless this morning, now the linen cupboard is empty and it looks like a third world army is battling for territory in my living room.”
    “Not a fan of huts either”
  • “Ok then, better get back to this fitness thing I’ve got going on”
    “I’ll text you later about beer”
    “Righto”.
    “Shit I can’t.  I dropped and smashed my phone.  Something else I’m in trouble over, I also just curbed two of my mags right in front of hubby”
    “Oooooohhh.  Sucks to be you.  Do you still have a landline?”
    :::::::::crickets::::::::::::

Mum-life is the BEST THING EVER when you know some cool chicks to share it with.

 

 

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!

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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