Weddings, parties, anything – it sure ain’t what it used to be

There was a time not so long ago when I’d be booing the DJ as he announced he was playing his last track.

I won’t mention names but it’s a wonder some of my colleagues and I remember one work Christmas function where the leftover bottles of wine on the dinner tables were fair game.

Then there were the numerous lavish wedding receptions where afterwards I’d track down the nearest bar. For. More. Drinks.

I was a guest at my cousin Christopher’s wedding on Saturday at The Briars, a beautiful historic homestead and farm in Mt Martha. I was stone cold sober. I didn’t set foot on the dance floor. And I was heading home at 11pm.

What has happened to me? It’s simple. It is the chubby pink bundle of joy staring back at me from her pram. What has happened has a name: Millie.

20140310-114554.jpg
Millie and I on Saturday at The Briars for my cousin’s wedding

Now just about every event I attend I have a plus one-and-a-half.

We stood behind the hay bales set up to watch the wedding on the weekend, pram positioned to make a quick push away in case of grizzles. It turns out Millie didn’t make a peep, only a couple of quiet giggles when somebody said hello to her.

The happy couple had a ‘no children’ policy, but said their rule referred to older kids who were able to run around and weren’t relying on their mums for a feed. Millie, the three littlies belonging to the groom’s sister (two of whom were in the bridal party) and another newborn baby boy were the only tiny guests.

20140310-131430.jpg
The groom’s niece and nephew Leif and Ellia lead their new Aunty Cara down the aisle

I must say it was nice that Millie was able to be part of the day. Apart from my own wedding, this was only the second of the nieces and nephews on dad’s side of the family to get married, so it will be nice to tell her she was there.

The reception is the tricky part. It’s when mum and dad want to enjoy their meal but it’s baby’s bed time. Again, we need not have worried. Millie Moo sat in her pram at the end of our long table and cooed, shook her rattle and ate a whole jar of Heinz Organic puréed baby mush. Happy as Larry.

Set inside a chandelier-lit barn, the reception space offered plenty for Millie to look at. She was so busy sticky-beaking I think she forgot she was supposed to be tired and hungry.

I came prepared with a supply of rusks too, although messy they kept Miss M distracted and offered her gums some relief (I suspect she’s teething, but haven’t seen toothy pegs yet).

Not wanting to sacrifice my wedding style because of my breastfeeding status, I wore a dress but sat in the car to discreetly feed Millie after dinner.

I popped her back in the pram, gave her a jiggle just outside the barn so I could still hear the speeches and she was asleep by the bridal waltz.

We stayed overnight in the nearby ArtiZen cottage with family. It was ideal not to have to drive all the way back to Melbourne afterwards and also meant we were all refreshed upon arrival at the wedding, rather than grumpy and tired after an hour in the car.

It was all relatively easy with baby in tow. There’s just a lot more to remember now. It used to be all I had to remember was the wedding present and a lippy. I did feel so grown up and responsible, especially watching other guests tottering around in sky-high heels, drinks in hand.

20140310-123534.jpg
Millie gets a kiss from my brother Matt at the reception

Just like the bubbly would help introduce you to fellow guests, you build a rapport with fellow pram-pushers at a wedding. Sympathetic glances and baby wipes were exchanged.

It was a lovely day. All the more so I was able to share it with my little family and wake up Sunday morning hangover-free.

A farm among the gum trees

There’s a hidden gem tucked away off Plenty Rd.

The 180 hectare Bundoora Park, with its wide open spaces and huge trees, it’s a world from the hustle of the Melbourne CBD just 30 minutes up the road.

I visited with Millie for a friend’s daughter’s 3rd birthday and was surprised to discover there was so much there for children to do.

There’s sheltered picnic areas with BBQs, big playgrounds (and an 18 hole public golf course) but the urban farm at Cooper’s Settlement was a hit with young and old.

20140306-230920.jpg
Layla the birthday girl (right) with her little friends

Kids can handle and help bottle feed a variety of farm animals as well as watch the daily happenings. While we were there a cow was being milked and plenty of food was available to give to hungry animal babies.

There were chooks, goats, sheep, pigs, cows, horses, guinea pigs – lots to keep inquisitve little tackers amused.

Millie, at 7 months, is too young to understand what I was trying to show her, but did watch intently when an animal made a move past her line of sight. The farm was fine for prams too, a friend and I managed to manouvre our babies around quite easily, despite much of the paths being gravel.

20140306-232008.jpg
Tilly and Millie prove Coopers Settlement is pramable

The settlement has a heritage village for families to experience life in the days of the pioneers and a $3 hay ride on the back of a tractor will take you into the adjoining wildlife reserve to see the roaming emus, kangaroos and wallabies.

Bundoora Park is open from sunrise to sunset, at 1069 Plenty Rd, Bundoora. Cooper’s Settlement is open 10am-4pm. Farm admission is $9 for adults and $6 for children or $24 for a family of two adults and two children.

I’m not a stage mum (but really want my baby to win)

I’m not a stage mum.

So why then have I entered my dear little Millie into the Bonds Baby Search?

Even as a girl I’d cringe watching pushy mothers insist their girls were centre front during dance concerts.

Always tall, I was usually up the back so I didn’t block out the view to anyone behind me. Whatever. I was never going to be a prima ballerina or even good enough to have a go auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. I blame the long legs. But I was just happy to dance.

It seems that once you have a baby all reason, common sense and declarations that you’ll never enter your child in a baby contest flies out the window. In flies pride, envy and the expectation that everybody else agrees that your bub is the cutest there is.

20140304-103223.jpg
My happy Millie (in her Bonds coverall, no less)

Yep, I think Millie is the cutest bub there is. But she’s mine. I’m biased. I was in love even when I saw her little shadowy face on the ultrasound.

I think she’s beautiful. Why then do I need the assurance that others agree?

Voting opened for the Bonds Baby Search today. I can’t even get on the website to see Millie’s entry. That many mums and dads must be voting for their beautiful baby that the site has crashed. It’s cray cray.

I think it’s the fear of missing out (or FOMO for the young and trendies out there). What if Millie can win? What if she was to get the most votes? What if the judges also think she’s cute? What if it starts a lucrative baby modelling career? I’d never know unless I upload her smiling face to the Bonds site and see. Can’t hurt. She’ll never be this little again.

But I’m a walking contradiction. I wouldn’t pop a bow on her head and stick her in a shopping centre baby comp or buy her tap shoes so I can enter her in pageants. But I was happy to enter this. I have no idea why.

If you manage to get onto the Bonds website and scan past the tempting 40% off offer (gotta hand it to you, Bonds, sales would be booming and social media is abuzz with pleas to ‘vote for my Bonds baby’), you’ll find 59,285 lovely little babies have been entered.

In Millie’s category, female 0-9 months, she is one of 10,743. She is one of 54 Millies. Unless your baby is named Honey Boo Boo, I think you’ll find that ‘original and different’ name you chose for your child is not so original after all.

How the judges will be able to filter through that many adorable chubby faces is beyond me. Some bubs will get through by receiving the most votes. Sadly many baby comps have become more of a popularity contest and success hinges on how many ‘friends’ mum and dad have on Facebook.

But when all is said and done, 59,285 babies have parents who love and adore them enough to think they are the cutest bubbas in the country.

Win or lose, these babies are lucky to have parents who think the world of them.

PS: If I haven’t put you off voting and you agree with Millie’s mummy that Millie’s pretty cute, you can vote for her by clicking here. Thanks!

Tales of strength and Hope

A feature wall of beautifully illustrated fairytale prints hover above my sleeping baby in her nursery. It’s a constant reminder of how lucky I am.

20140303-122908.jpg
Millie in her fairytale nursery

The prints are from the Fairytales for Hope project, raising much-needed awareness and money for Stillbirth Foundation Australia.

Hope Angel Heppleston, the first child of my friend Sally and her husband Simon, was stillborn – at 40 weeks, 5 days – on August 19, 2008.

There was no rhyme or reason as to why Hope died. The tragedy broke the hearts of her excited parents and all of us who shared in Sally’s joy as we watched her belly grow and waited for news of the birth of a happy, healthy baby.

It was a shock. I was well aware of the occurrence of stillbirths, but probably not aware of just how often it happens. And for it to happen to someone I knew meant it really hit home.

The couple, especially Sally, have become tireless campaigners for the cause. The Stillbirth Foundation has benefited from calls by Sally for donations in Hope’s honour, fun-run donations and by her spreading the word about the important research the foundation does every day.

Sally’s friend Tonia Composto, a Melbourne artist, illustrated her interpretation of a fairytale for each day of August, Hope’s birth month.

Being read a fairytale was one of life’s many pleasures baby Hope was denied.

The illustrations Tonia created have been printed and are just beautiful. I bought some long before I was pregnant but gave some as presents for new babies and kept some aside for myself. While decking out the nursery last year, five of my favourite prints were the first to go in my baby’s room.

20140303-125810.jpg
Thumbelina, one of the 31 prints that can be purchased to raise money for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia

All the money raised from the sale of the prints goes to Stillbirth Foundation Australia. With the paper and printing costs generously donated, Sally told me this week that the project has so far raised close to $40,000. Incredible.

The pictures come in 25cm x 25cm ($20 each) or 15cm x 15cm ($10) sizes.

I can vouch for the fantastic quality of these prints. They are an inexpensive way to decorate a child’s room and have been admired by all who have seen Millie’s nursery.

“They are all over the world, so I’m so touched,” Sally said.

The simple Ribba frame from Ikea is perfect for the larger size prints and complements them so well. They are $9.99 and the illustrations can be set at the front or the back of the frame, shadow box style.

Prints can be ordered through the Stillbirth Foundation website.
For more information about Fairytales for Hope, click here.

Baby got bargains

Winter clothing is starting to drop into stores. But rather than get sad about the gloomy weather to come, I rejoice.

The change of season means all the delightful summer baby outfits are discounted. Run, don’t walk. Grab that baby jogger and get shopping.

“But the warm weather is as good as over!” I hear you say. I know – I’m advising you to get savvy.

Millie will be 18 months old next summer. So I hunted down size 1 and 2 clothing so she will be ready and raring to go at the first hint of sunshine.

It’s an outlay at first – and you have to find somewhere to store it – but it’s a very economical way to dress baby in great gear for a fraction of the original price.

I just bought Millie an adorable Fox & Finch top and tights set, that full price would have cost me $60. I paid $28 at Myer.

20140227-200820.jpg
This little Fox & Finch Baby outfit cost less than $30

Myer at the moment has 30% off the marked price of much of its summer childrenswear. I have seen some items marked down by 75% of the marked price.

20140227-155429.jpg
Signs like this can make my day

Scour the racks and you are sure to find something that takes your fancy…you just have to do a little age calculation first.

I’ll be on the lookout for clothing that will be Millie’s size mid next year when it’s time for the end of winter clothing clearout sales.

I’m not the only one who shops like this. My friend Bel just bought some Bonds goodies on sale for her daughter to wear in about 10 months’ time. My cousin Jen does the same for her three children.

Bonds often has 40% off, Purebaby has a great end of season sale (at the moment most summer stock is 30% off the marked price if you buy 3 or more items) and at Cotton On, Pumpkin Patch and Seed you can find very cute threads for next to nix.

20140227-200902.jpg
Originally $49.95, I bought Millie this size 2 beach kaftan dress for $23 during a Purebaby sale

Not to be forgotten, online shopping can be a winner when it comes to big discounts. Online retailers want to clear out for the new season too, so offer amazing sales, some with further discounts with a coupon code.

Sign up to store newsletters and emails to be notified of sales first (you don’t want to miss out on your child’s size!) and look for Instagram or Facebook accounts linked to your favourite shops. Often flash sales, free shipping offers and VIP discounts are advertised here first.

Some of my favourite Aussie children’s online retailers (which all have great sale sections or regular sales) include:
Baby Dino
Baby Donkie
Odds and Evie
Harley and Soo
Bella & Lace
Broken Tricycle
Snowflakes for Charli
Oishi-m
Baobab
Oobi
Wilson and Frenchy
Fabrik
Tiny People

Happy shopping! I’d love to know if you pick up some bargains or find another great sale, so leave me a message below.

 

Time for a change

My love of shopping hasn’t waned since having a baby. In fact, now with more ‘free’ time, I think I’m more in love than ever.

I blame the baby. Everything teeny tiny is so darn CUTE.

But ducking off to the shops and swanning around the racks of new season threads just ain’t what it used to be.

Spending time at the shops means I am forced to spend quite a bit of time in parents’ rooms. Changing and feeding does not magically stop once you are in the fairytale land that is The Fashion Capital.

So, which ones are good? Bad? Best avoided?

I’ll begin at Chaddy. Chadstone Shopping Centre‘s baby change rooms are pretty swish. The curved changing tables make it hard for bub to twist and flip. There are private feeding rooms for those not keen to expose the boobarinos to hapless shoppers, a fenced play area with The Wiggles on loop for older kiddies, a toilet big enough to wheel in a big pram and couches for feeders or patient dads/grandparents.

20140225-145849.jpg
Millie appreciates the robot wallpaper at one of Chaddy’s baby change areas

They are always clean and automatic air freshener puffs out every so often to disguise the vague dirty nappy smell.

Myer and David Jones at Chaddy both have feeding and changing areas too.

I’m partial to the one at Myer. While dated (the space in David Jones has been done up more recently, but is pretty small) it’s big and clean and not as busy as the ones in the centre. Often I have the room all to myself. The noise from constant passing foot traffic outside the room and squeaky doors (there are staff rooms and more toilets down the corridor) can be a hassle for easily distracted little feeders though.

20140225-142301.jpg
It’s not as new as some baby change rooms, but Myer at Chadstone offers plenty of space for parents and their children

If you’re on a mission to Ikea in Richmond, there are good feeding areas at Victoria Gardens. These were clean and colourful, and Millie was quite taken by the ladybird light fittings.

Westfield has revamped their change rooms so Southland and Doncaster’s areas are modern. Southland’s seemed particularly cramped, but fine.

The parents’ rooms at Myer Southland and Doncaster and the one at David Jones at Southland are ordinary. They are old and tired, not always clean, and have no atmosphere. Best to bring your phone to while away the time, because there’s not much to look at. I think Myer and DJs probably didn’t think it was worth fixing up their baby facilities because the ones in the shopping centres themselves are amazing by comparison. Best to stick to the ones in the centres then…but hungry babies might not give you the option to hot-foot it out of the shop you’re in. Bad luck, mummy.

The facilities in Myer in the CBD are great. Modern, clean, lots of space, easy to access. The room is better than the one in the DJs city store. Both are completely fine though and provide all you need.

The baby change room (or ‘parents’ retreat’) at Melbourne Central is very popular. It’s the newest out of the ones I’ve used and has all you need. Microwaves, play equipment, lots of change areas and is light, clean and airy. It’s a little tricky to find, however, so that could be frustrating if baby is squawking. It’s on level 2, down an alley.

The parents’ room at Malvern Central is brand new (to coincide with the new David Jones that has opened there) and very clean and functional.

On the other hand, the changing/feeding facilities at DFO Moorabbin are primitive. There’s a couch and a curtain for privacy, a change table you can pull down from the wall and some play equipment for older kiddies. But it’s a small room with a tiled floor and not one I’d like to visit if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

I’ll add more reviews of baby facilities as I visit them…stay tuned.

Shake your booties

Like most mums-to-be, I went a little crazy with the shopping for my impending arrival.

Bub’s sex was unknown to us, so I bought beautiful little items in white and grey to make sure this baby had a little outfit for any occasion, in any temperature.

20140222-115052.jpg
Brand new Millie wore a lot of white and grey in her first days on the outside

Knotted hats, nighties, Bonds Wondersuits and newbie coveralls, Marquise singlets and a scrumptiously soft organic cotton Purebaby blanket were all used, washed and then used again and again. If I had my time again, I’d buy all the same pieces.

The only thing I struggled to find were booties or socks THAT STAYED ON BUB’S FEET. I had all types and all brands. They slipped off. They were kicked off. They fell off. They were useless.

Millie was a preemie, so I may have had a bigger problem than most trying to find something to stay on her mini doll feet.

All was not lost. Browsing at the devine Muku Organical Baby shop in Ripponlea, I spotted snuggly organic lambswool booties.

I bought brown to go with anything but they had dusty pink, cream, dark chocolate brown, mustard yellow and black.

20140222-120030.jpg
The amazing stay-on Nature Baby booties

Cosy, soft and irresistibly cute, they have been worn regularly by Millie. Her tootsies stay warm and importantly, she hasn’t been able to kick them off. Elastic around the opening is tight enough to keep them on but encased in a folded over part of the wool and won’t irritate your baby’s foot or leave elastic marks.

20140222-120536.jpg
Organic lambswool keeps Millie’s feet cosy

The booties are made in New Zealand by the Auckland-based family company Nature Baby.

Heads & shoulders, knees & toes

I’ve been reading to Millie since before she was born.

Not sure if she could hear me or if it’s the reason she now loves it when I read her a book.

I found the little book Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go! which is a book designed to be read in utero.

It’s adapted from the Oh, the Places You’ll Go! story by Dr Seuss (and coincidentally, that was the book we used as a reading at our wedding) and it’s said that learning starts while bub is still in mum’s womb.

20140220-133651.jpg
Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go!, adapted by Tish Rabe from the works of Dr Seuss

Once she arrived, I bought Millie a board book called Mesmerised, a black and white book of pics to help her see.

High-contrast images are much easier for babies to see when they are little. I’d prop it up beside her and soon discovered the title was apt…she would stare at the pics for ages.

20140220-134201.jpg
Mesmerised, by Katey Love

Now I read her a nightly story – I’ve found she responds well to books with repetition – and we’re regulars at our local library’s fabulous Baby Rhyme Time sessions.

Held every couple of weeks, the free 20 minute sessions are designed introduce your child to language, literature, singing and the library.

Millie loves it. I wasn’t sure she would sit and listen but she is entranced by the singing librarian and often turns to look at me and giggles, as if to say she approves.

Humpty Dumpty, Five Little Ducks, Heads and Shoulders…they are all read or performed, often with puppets or dolls.

20140220-135049.jpg
Enjoying Baby Rhyme Time at Brighton Library
20140220-135106.jpg
Brighton Library

There’s toddler and preschool storytime at our local branch too, so I can keep taking Millie along until she goes to school.

Hopefully it will introduce her to a lifelong love of reading.

Blockbuster baby

My house is pretty small. I’m ok with that.

Millie doesn’t need much space yet, but when she does we have a huge park (complete with play equipment, cricket fields and a lake with ducks) just up the road as well as the beach at the very end of our street. She’s a lucky baby.

The size of our home, however, meant I was super keen to leave the confines of our four walls and get out and about soon after bringing Millie home from hospital.

During a daily stroll I found my local cinema ran ‘bubs’ sessions, where mums can bring their new little bundles while checking out the latest flick.

It’s been fantastic. Searing heat? The cinema is air-conditioned. Freezing cold? You’re in a comfy cinema, out of the house but still out of the elements.

It doesn’t matter if your baby cries. No-one cares. I think you are only actually disturbed by your own baby’s grizzle. I didn’t notice when the babies around me sooked.

20140219-092526.jpg
Millie slept through her first visit to the movies

I took Millie for the first time when she was only about four weeks old. My sleeping baby was snuggled in my arms, I had a latte in the cup holder beside me and didn’t even have to share the popcorn. Bliss!

Feeding is encouraged, the sound is lowered and the lights are left dim.

We’ve witnessed Cate Blanchett in what is tipped to be her second Oscar-winning performance, we’ve watched rom-coms, arthouse gems and the latest Hunger Games installment.

20140219-093718.jpg
Millie testing seat comfort at our local theatre, the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick

Even if the movie of the week is not my cup of tea, I cherish the couple of hours where I can sit and just cuddle my baby – and not be distracted by the dishes in the sink, the washing that needs to be hung or crappy daytime television.

Spit The Dummy Sessions run every Wednesday morning at the Classic Cinema, Elsternwick. Tickets are $11, babies under 3 are free.
Village and Hoyts also host mums and bubs screenings.

The Nappy Collective

Millie and I have just come back from a morning stroll where on the way we donated some leftover disposable nappies to The Nappy Collective.

The new charity redistributes donated nappies to organisations that support disadvantaged mums and families.

We only had about 10 nappies to donate (how is it that Millie can fit into a nappy one day, but it be way too tight the next? Is she really growing that quickly?) but every nappy counts.

The volunteer mums who started the collective late last year have already helped distribute more than 1500 nappies to those in need.

There are 19 collection points in a Melbourne and Sydney that will accept unused nappies for two weeks from today. There will be more collections in June and October.

Click here for collection points near you, or to find out more.

20140217-094240.jpg
Millie helped to collect the nappies she’d grown out of