Facing Facts – Change Hurts.

This post has been kicking around in my head for a while. Fuelled by my body getting used to it’s ‘new normal’ over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what change means in my life and how I’ve finally been able to change the channel and start to get some shit done. For me.

I’m not sure yet whether I can put this down to some epiphany that I may or may not have had around turning 40, I think the timing is coincidental, however, a lot of things definitely fell into place around the end of April this year;

  1. I turned 40
  2. Dave and I went Samoa – sans kids
  3. 6 months of successful keto and 10kg lost
  4. I joined F45

The decade that was my thirties, was tough. We were still adjusting to life in New Zealand, namely the incredible expense of living here, Dave was nearing the end of an apprenticeship, we had very little money, HUGE financial pressure, I endured a missed miscarried which really fucked with my head for a long time, my Dad, was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma and passed away 9 months later, we purchased our house with my Mum and began 8 years of living as an extended family (which was bloody amazing and I highly recommend it), and we welcomed Nixon to the family – along with his basket of medical complications.

I was a very tired birthday girl when 40 rolled around lol.

When my maternity leave was up after having Nixon I made the choice NOT to go back to working outside the home. This was the first big change in my life. The blog work was becoming more and more steady so I took a gamble and decided to go all-in (compared to now when I feel like I’m pretty much all-out lol). This paid off for around 3 years. I was able to generate a good income, work with some amazing partners and reap the benefits of working at home and being around for the boys. But, there’s always some sacrifice and for me that was my health – both mental and physical. I worked babes and I worked hard. My bum was literally glued to my office chair for 4 years straight, not a pretty sight, and I’d say, living and breathing that insta-life 24-7 had a massively detrimental effect on my already precipitous mental health. All my priorities were jacked up and backwards and I was making zero good decisions. August last year was also when I ripped every tendon in my right ankle and sheared two muscles as a bonus. What exercise? What healthy lifestyle Melissa? Where did these 15 bonus kilos come from?????

August 2018, 79kg. 2 months before starting keto

And so, in October 2018, after hating my body throughout an entire perfect family holiday in the Sunshine Coast (header image), I researched the keto diet and made the second BIG change in my life.

This is when I began to realise that change is some serious shit. And that the kind of change I was looking for was going to require a little more effort than simply going through the motions. I’m not just talking the old ‘lose some weight, physical transformation, #fitspo change, I’m talking ANY serious life change that may creep into your head and fly a flag every now and then. It could be a career change, quitting drinking, personal development, seeking medical attention – whatevs, but, the common denominator is that to successfully implement change, you’re going to have to work, and cry and then work again and again. Over and over.

Oh yeah, and it’s going to be REALLY, REALLY HARD.

I’d been kidding myself for years about my fitness. I could smash out a respectable 5km when needed, I was doing a reasonable amount of walking and I nodded my hat to some healthy food habits – some. But I was also totally full of shit. I knew that running a couple of 5kms each week had zero potential to shift the weight I needed to lose. Yes, it was better than nothing, but for me, it was essentially anaerobic exercise, with zero fat-burning potential. I know enough to read my Fitbit stats and shake my fist at the sky, but I was totally unable/unwilling to slow down and stretch those runs out to at least a 10km to get some fat burning in. To this day I’ve only ever run 10km ONCE.

This was all moot anyway as between August-January 2019 I was unable to exercise at all because of my ankle injury.

However, I was having some diet wins. Hard fought wins ’cause keto is no walk in the park. Putting what you eat under a spotlight and recognising that your ‘healthy’ breakfast and lunch is completely undone by the amount you consume over the 3pm witching hour, your portion size at dinner (of both wine and food!) and then the chocolate bedtime treat you hide in your nightstand is confronting! This is when you feel the hurt and the difficulty of change. It’s literally as simple as what you put in your mouth, duh WE KNOW, but succeeding at a lifestyle change requires changing habits (hard), changing your attitude towards food (hard), learning and educating yourself around your WHY and also HOW to implement these changes (hard and time-consuming), changing the way you feel about and deal with food in social situations (publicly hard) and then staying the course – hardest.

I had the best summer last year. I am the least body-positive person in the world and honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be on that bandwagon, but, I’d been working on those keto changes and what I did have for the first time in YEARS, was control. I felt in control of my eating, in control of how I looked and how I felt, and in control of future Melissa – I was on track, I knew where I wanted to be and I had a plan in place. God that felt good! Control and change saw me swimming at the beach more than I had in probably the past 10 years combined! It was liberating and fun and the mental load of such a massive change in diet was beginning to lessen as new habits solidified.

I found an amazing acupuncturist who, after a couple of months of intense work healed my ankle, so after Dave and I returned from Samoa it was go-time. Time to get to work with F45. For me, this was the hardest change of all. Keto was a mind game that I was ready and open to – it also helps that I love the food so I don’t feel deprived. Exercise, however, especially group exercise is where it hurt. I have joined so many gyms……….and quit. Purchased home exercise equipment………….and never used it, joined boot camps……….never to return, I was not at all convinced in my ability to keep showing up.

And guys, F45 is F*cKing HARD. It hurts. This is a change that physically HURTS. For weeks. The realisation that my muscles were working and functional after such a long period of neglect was great and it reminded me every second of every day how much I needed to keep going. BUT IT HURT SO BAD. It hurt during class when I would feel like throwing up and that my lungs were going to explode, it hurt when my arms hated myself so much for introducing this burpee nonsense to my life, it hurt when I discovered there is something worse than a burpee – the half burpee. But, after 6 weeks I started to feel the mental shift in my attitude towards classes. I wasn’t sitting in my car until the very last minute, I wasn’t hating every second, I wasn’t wondering every day if I’d be able to make myself go back again the next day. New habits were forming and it felt good!

I’m four months deep in this F45 Massey madness and the results blow me away every day, but for me, the biggest success is that I keep showing up. I literally high-five myself every morning for just getting through that door. That’s how hard this has been for me, and I’m still proud as hell for just getting my ass there lol.

I guess what I’m rambling on about is this; if change is what you want, how hard are you prepared to work for it either mentally or physically? Because I know now, that for me if it’s not hard as hell and if it’s not hurting me in the form of mental discipline or sacrifice or muscle fatigue, then quite simply, nothing is going to change – the proof is in the static life I had been living for the past decade.

It sounds ridiculously hardcore (it’s not really!) but put it in context; I’m not training for an IronMan here, I was just an overweight housewife who had been kidding herself for years about the effort she had dedicated to positive change and self-improvement.

And then I decided to do something about it.

And it hurt!

Buying Shares 101: This. Is It.

Big news ahead guys.  BIG news.

Before you get too deep in this blog, catch up on how our family has been getting started with Sharesies so far this year; Post 1 > My kids have a share portfolio, Post 2 > Set and Forget – Investing just got easier.

Homework done?  Righto New Zealand families, let’s level up our investing!

When I was at Auckland Uni 20 years ago, I worked for years at a small owner-operated burger bar in Ponsonby you may have heard of, Burger Fuel??? Yeah. It’s quite yum aye?  Anywho, as employees, we were offered preferential purchase of shares when they listed publicly for the first time.  I remember seriously considering the option to buy and then remembering the seriousness of my lack of disposable income as a Master’s student.  I don’t regret many things in my life but taking a chance on a company I knew and loved is something I wish I had prioritised. Hindsight, they say lol.

I didn’t know how to begin investing when I was a student, nor did I know how to begin investing last year when I was a 39-year-old married mother of two.  Oh, how times have changed! Learning the ropes and taking some baby steps through the Sharesies portal during the past few months has been an easy, common sense and seriously accessible way to diversify our family’s ongoing savings.

Our Sharesies portfolios have been growing (helped along by the auto-invest functionality) and just this month, a new investment opportunity has been launched by the Sharesies team.  Everyday Kiwis like you and me can now buy individual shares in publicly listed companies via our Sharesies accounts – just like big-time investors do!

We’ve got some bucket list trips we want to do with the boys (big, expensive trips i.e. South America) so I’m starting to get a savings plan in place.  I’ve got my brand new copy of The Barefoot Investor lined up in the nightstand reading pile, and I am going to kick-start our next trip fund by pulling some money out of our low-interest bank accounts and buying some individual shares – for the first time ever!

Once I started looking at which companies were listed on the NZX, I began to get a little excited.  Some immediately grabbed my attention as they are companies I’ve either worked for or am a customer of – and putting my money with a brand I have an existing relationship with feels right to me.  Other options just make me excited because of their growth potential, ergo, my savings growth potential lol.  Lucky for us novice investors, the historical info provided on Sharesies is presented in an easy to understand, very visual way on my dashboard. 

Ethan (year 10) is saving hard right now for a new computer and wants to time his purchase around his birthday at the end of the year. The ‘upward trending’ graphs of certain investments are proving attractive to him, as well as the fact that he can sell shares, or fractions of shares, whenever he decides is right for him i.e. when he finds the best deal on his computer!

Buying shares feels like one of those ‘grown-up’ situations that mark certain, weird little moments in my life.  I felt this way when we purchased our first brand new king size bed, a new oven to replace the existing one (like, WTH, did our family just ‘wear out’ an oven???), and oddly when we lost our much-loved family dog last week to old age and illness. 

But,  investing is a very positive, grown-up thing to do.  I think the reason buying individual shares via Sharesies feels so different from purchasing managed funds or ETFs as I’ve previously done on the platform, comes down to one word – control.  I can invest exactly where I want, in amounts that are exactly right for me and our goals as a family.

Love it!

Our initial  Sharesies investments in ETFs and managed funds were an awesome way to dip our toes in and get our heads around putting our money somewhere other than a savings account. But now that Sharesies is an NZX participant, I’m totally inspired to diversify our savings even further and I’m so stoked that the boys and I can do it via the easy platform we are already used to.

Buying Shares

I’m legit excited about what this means for other Kiwi Mums, Dads and kids. Access to investment opportunities like this has not been available in NZ before, which is why Sharesies (and I) are so excited about this.  My first official trade was a ‘green’ one which was cool!  I purchased just over 140 shares in NZ Windfarms and the Sharesies transaction fee was only $0.10 – other providers could have charged up to $30 per trade!

Sharesies is removing many of the barriers to investing with their unique platform, letting everyday Kiwis like me invest whatever they can afford.  Over time I’m convinced this will usher in a fresh perspective on how we all think about ‘money in the bank.’

Part 1: Making my mental health and wellbeing a priority

I was listening to a podcast about stress the other day whilst driving. As with other episodes I have listened to also published by the uber-empire that is Gwynnie Paltrow’s GOOP, I found myself waiting (wanting?) to hit that cringe-worthy moment, which would spell the end of GP in my ears for good. My own personal ‘vaginal steaming’ moment if you will.

But like all prior attempts to exorcise GOOP from my podcast subscriptions, it was not to be. The content is too good yo. The episode was a live discussion with author Emily Nagoski around the reason why women experience stress differently to men. There were so many takeaways for me from the podcast, but what spoke to me most, was the concept of our ‘Inner Madwomen’.

In a nutshell, Nagoski posits that there are three perceptions of self that any woman may experience simultaneously. The first is our ‘real’ self. In my case, the wife, mother, daughter, sister, chairwoman, friend, self-employed content creator who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, has two dogs and doesn’t eat carbs. This, ‘actual’ Melissa suffers from depression, anxiety is quite forgetful, needs more sleep, procrastinates, feels like she is constantly in the weeds and failing at a lot of things.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the fictional ‘Melissa’. She is perfect. Super organised, creative, spontaneous, fit, flawless, gorgeous, inspiring, a wonderful mother and the most amazing wife. She gets everything done and does it well. She is beyond capable, reliable and never feels overwhelmed or panicked by obligation.

In between, sits my ‘Inner Madwoman’. “She is crazy because her job is impossible” says Nagoski. Reconciling our current state of self with the artificial, aspirational self is a fool’s errand. I, Melissa, am a mortal human woman and will never achieve the lofty heights of Instagram-Perfection, every moment curated and crafted with intent, mindfulness and great passion. Mates, I’m sliding into bed (usually unmade) each night after a glass or two of wine and a sink of ignored dishes, an inbox of ignored emails next to a husband who I’m sure would like to feel a little ‘less’ ignored then he currently does.

And this is where the Mad Woman goes to town. All of those tiny little daily failings become weapons with which to berate ourselves internally, over and over again as we never seem to get any closer to that aspirational, zen goddess in our heads which we’ve been telling ourselves for years that we must keep striving to be! Another appointment forgotten ” You are so pathetic Melissa, how many diaries and calendars do you have?”, another date cancelled with friends, “It’s a wonder you get invited anywhere, you’re no fun and no-one can rely on you”, another night of yelling at bedtime, “that child deserves a better mother than you”……….trust me, my Inner Madwoman has quite the repertoire, she’s been going hard for a long time.

The point of all of this (I think!) is how a little bit of recognition and enlightenment when it comes to these three selves, can go along way towards some BIG internal changes.

Silencing the Inner Madwoman is not the goal – listening to her, using her insight and thanking her is what I’ve started doing and the benefits are compounding.

Here’s one example of how a little change is having a positive impact for me, every day.

For almost 2 years, since my last major depressive episode (brought about by an external stressor which I never acknowledged), I have been really struggling in the mornings. A real, irrefutable difficulty in getting out of bed and starting the day is very common amongst those who suffer from depression. For me, it became a nasty cycle of blaming it on being too tired, so I’d sleep in, letting Dave get the boys up, make breakfast, pack lunches, bring me coffee and more often than not, take Nixon to school. Sounds inherently lazy right? Cool, add that one to the Madwomen’s list of things to feel guilty about! Does it make it easier to understand if I describe the feeling of staying in bed as a basic desire for the day NOT to begin rather than the feeling of luxuriating in bed simply because one can?

It’s impossible to describe what depression feels like in one blog post so you’re just going to have to trust me. My problems begin to snowball when the guilt kicks in. Inner Madwoman would kick things off by telling me what a piece of shit I was for not being able to get up at 6 am like Dave, WTF is so hard about making perfect bento boxes for Nixon’s lunch as the other IG mums do hmmmm? Dave is such a better parent then you are Melissa, no-one would even notice if you weren’t around so you might as well just stay in bed and sleep. Go on, you’re so tired…..

So how on earth did I turn this awful cycle of mental flagellation around?

Well, it’s totally a work in progress and babes, I won’t be saying sayonara to my prescription anytime soon, but, I think I can pinpoint a couple of things that have really helped improve my day-to-day mental wellbeing.

The first is listening to and acknowledging what that inner critic is trying to communicate instead of running from it – or sleeping from it as the case may be! Though her methods are irrational (remember her job is impossible), I have realised that this is how my subconscious communicates with me, via my worst enemy who lives in my head!

Resetting my morning routine had been weighing on my mind for a long time, and was as important to my mental health as it was to my family in general. Identifying and acknowledging this has been key. Over the past month, I have set my alarm for 6.15am, I have responded to the alarm (also key lol), I have decided to maximise and RECLAIM those 2 hours before the boys begin school in a way that sets me up for a great/better/more productive day ahead.

And, it’s working.

And, it’s helped me realise that a HUGE amount of the stress I feel (resulting in anxiety and depressive episodes) stems from time management and procrastination.

But this blog post is already way too long so let’s save discussing that for Part Two.

PS. Just remember, I’m talking about my own experiences here. I just need to get this shit out of my head and I’m making no claims that any of this may be useful or helpful to anyone else xx

PPS. Thanks to Lisa for telling me to get writing again x

Set & Forget – Investing just got easier

Check out Part 1 of my investment series in collaboration with Sharesies here

Just like anything, instilling responsible financial habits in both ourselves and our kids takes both time, patience and practice. As I mentioned last month, we began contributing to the boys’ savings accounts as soon as they were born, setting up automatic payments of $10 per week and then essentially ignoring the accounts over the past 14 years. Obviously a very passive approach to saving but one that has easily become a fixture in the family budget.

Now that we are actively teaching the boys about investment diversity with the help of their Sharesies accounts, it’s time to level-up and get them thinking about their money, and where it’s going, on a more regular basis. If kids are earning pocket money, or if they receive money as a gift from friends and family, an easy way to foster a very intentional mindset towards saving is to introduce a spend/save/donate ratio which is in line with your family’s financial strategy. This is easy to implement from a super young age using low denomination coins and different envelopes, boxes or containers for spending, saving and donating.

Applying this practice of regular contributions to existing investments is also worthwhile implementing with our kids’ accounts. Many of us probably pay into our KiwiSaver accounts with uniform deposits via our pay schedules or, manually instigated automatic payments. As of last week, we can now do the same with our Sharesies investments – auto-invest is now live on the platform and it’s so easy to set up!

I’m all about automating as much of our family’s ‘Life Admin’ as possible – especially those voluntary tasks which can be easy to overlook like, savings and investment. I’ve had Christmas Club savings in place for over 10 years now at both a supermarket and The Warehouse and let me tell you, the value-add of decision free, locked-in saving each week results in a massive high five to yourself come Christmas time. Hooking up your Sharesies account with auto-invest is another one of those adult life hacks that you spend 5 minutes on now and end up patting yourself on the back for years to come.

Why use Auto-Invest

  • Sharesies auto-invest helps you stick to an investment strategy that’s right for you. For Dave and I, this means contributing small amounts regularly to each of the boys Sharesies portfolios.
  • Auto-invest helps you build on an investment when you don’t have a large, lump sum to begin with – which is what Sharesies is all about to be honest!
  • With Sharesies auto-invest you can choose between 3 pre-made orders (one of which is specifically for kids accounts) or you can build your own DIY Order.
  • Auto-invest is faster than setting up an AP via internet banking – I’m not exaggerating. I set up auto-invest on both boys Sharesies accounts in under 4 minutes total. The platform is so intuitive and easy I feel safe and confident with what I’m doing every time I log on.

I’m pretty excited about this new offering from Sharesies for a number of reasons, but probably top of the list is that from now on, the boys will be able to see the benefit and growth in their portfolios as a result of regular investing. Getting our ‘foot-in-the-door’ and being able to purchase shares in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is a game changer for families and individuals alike. Now with auto-invest, diversification of our savings investments is just as simple to automate and as free of fees as our Christmas Club at the supermarket (but maybe not quite so boring so I should be able to get the kids to pay attention at least once a month lol).

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.

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

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

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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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.

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

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.