Ready, set, ride

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If you look closely, you’ll see that Milin’s feet are on the pedals. Both feet, that is. Both pedals.

We took his beautiful Radio Flyer out of its winter hibernation spot in the shed last week. When the weather got all wintery on us at the end of last year, Milin still couldn’t reach the pedals so the trike was put away while we waited for him to grow. Milin’s daddy had bought it when our little boy was just 18 months old. We knew he was too little for it then, but we wanted to get him something special when Jasmin was born.

And then, just this week, he climbed onto the seat and put his feet on the pedals. He must have grown a fair bit over the winter and spring, because he could suddenly reach far enough to keep both feet on both pedals while pushing them round. And he somehow knew exactly how to do it.

His daddy held on to the handle at the back of the trike while Milin experimented with it on the deck. I don’t think he’s quite ready for the pavement or the park just yet, but he’s close. He’s got the hang of steering – which he needs to be able to do as we have no control via the handle – and he’s just got the pedalling action too.

Watching Milin learn that he needs to keep both feet on the pedals, and that he must push down with one leg while he pulls back with the other, made me think about learning to ride a bike. I can still remember the first time I made it through the park without stabilisers. Mum was at one end of the path, dad was at the other – and with my breath held, I made it. I can still feel the sense of achievement, the awe, and the wonder at what I’d done. It was a big deal to me then. It meant I was somehow ‘big’ and not just a very little girl anymore I thought.

While Milin learnt to keep his feet on the pedals this week, I had a vision of him some years from now, on a bike in the park, learning to ride without stabilisers. I saw him in my mind, so proud of himself for getting the hang of it – just as he was so proud of figuring out the trike. In my little daydream, I saw Jasmin out there too. She was on a smaller bike, not yet ready to take off her training wheels, and I saw me and Tony, encouraging them both as they wobbled a bit along the path.

It’s funny, because I don’t wish away a second of the here and now – but seeing Milin on his trike suddenly made me excited about all that is ahead of our little family. We have a lifetime before us of doing things like learning to ride bikes. Our children will grow, and we will take them on our first family bike ride. We will take them to their first Saturday morning football practice. We will take them to the park to fly kites for the first time. We have so much ahead of us that is new, that will be exciting, that will be the stuff of memories.

My little boy, with his two feet on two pedals, also this week reminded me to appreciate the small things as well as the big. One day, he’ll ride a bike for the first time, but before that, he’ll learn to steer, to pedal, to be confident and brave. We have so much as a family to look forward to, and I’m determined to appreciate it all. Milin will one day be too big for his Radio Flyer and he’ll whizz past me on a bike without stabilisers. I want to hold in my mind every step of the journey that gets him there.

Moments alone with my children

There is so much about having two very young children that is so hard. One of the biggest challenges for me has been finding ways to share my time evenly between both Milin and Jasmin. When Jasmin was born I felt like I missed MIlin. I missed the alone time we had previously had. Many of my hours were now spent breastfeeding Jasmin and holding her in my arms. It was a big change.

As Jasmin has grown older, I have found ways to share my time out better. Now that she is nearly nine months old, I love spending alone time with her, and I also love spending it alone with Milin. It’s not easy, of course, but I think they both love getting a bit of their own time with mummy. Spending time with the two of them together is also precious – but there is something about the times I get with just one of them by themselves that is special in its own way. To be able to give them my full attention, to concentrate just on them, to hold just them – I love it and they love it too.

When Milin was at nursery one morning last last week, I decided to forget about the errands, the laundry and the other stuff I really should have done. I decided not to cart Jasmin around the shops with me or make her simply watch the things I needed to do around her. Instead, we went out for a walk together. It was just through the fields and along the brook behind our house, an area we regularly explore, but usually as a threesome.

We both loved our morning. Jasmin chatted away to me about what she saw. The sun was out, birds sang to us along the way, and I kept up a bit of a commentary about the grasses, the flowers, the brook, the clouds – anything we encountered really.

I wanted some kind of picture showing Jasmin and I out together. It was just us, and it was wonderful. I walked this path many times with Milin before Jasmin was born so it already holds many happy memories. Now it holds more.

I wanted to capture our walk, and stretched out my arms for a quick iPhone selfie. Jasmin turned to look at me as I did. I love the picture I got.

photo-648I think I’ll always see this photo as a reminder of how precious the moments are when we are really ‘with’ our children. On this walk, the only distractions were the things around us we chose to look at. As with Jasmin, I love my alone time with Milin. It’s been some time since we did this walk as just the two of us. Maybe it’s something I’ll try and do with just him again soon.

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JJ Cole metra unisex changing bag review

The first changing bag I ever used was covered with a beautiful pink vintage floral pattern. It was a gift sent to me while I was pregnant, and although I loved it, my husband Tony had other ideas about it. At first, he refused to use it. But a few weeks into being a dad, he realised that bag was always stocked with everything we needed. The quickest way to get out of the house was just to pick it up and forget about the pattern.

Tony was pretty pleased however when we received the new JJ Cole metra unisex changing bag to review. Although it is described as blue, we both thought it was more grey in colour. It featured a bit of red piping detail too on the seams but there was not a flower, heart or butterfly in sight.

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Between that first vintage floral and this newest JJ Cole bag, I’ve been through a few changing bags. You could say, I suppose, that I’m a bit fussy about them. With a baby and a toddler though, I need to be. And with all of this in mind, the JJ Cole bag passes the test.

I really liked, first off, that the bag was plain. Perhaps I’m over the cutesy patterns and prints that seem to cover a lot of new parent paraphernalia. Whatever the reason, this plain bag was a breath of fresh air. Tony also liked it and said it resembled a laptop bag. This, in his view, is huge points for.

The bag is nice and roomy too. I could easily fit four nappies, wipes, cream, a bottle, a pouch, a muslin, a change of baby clothes, a small toy…. the list goes on. Essentially, there was plenty of space for me to take out everything I needed for me and the two kids. Compartments on the front of the purse made it easy for me to keep my wallet, keys, lipgloss and phone separate too – I hate rummaging around baby clothes and muslins for these.  Internal compartments also make it easy to keep everything organised inside. There are insulated bottle compartments on the outside of both sides of the bag and a handy coin purse.

An easily detachable, wipeable changing mat is a great feature. It folds up neatly and has its own little strap so it’s good to take with you when you’re walking to a change station and don’t need the whole bag. It also features its own pocket for nappies and wipes. (Think walking four carriages on a train to the one baby-change toilet. You don’t need too carry the kitchen sink with you.) Two clever buggy straps also come with the bag and I love how these work. You can use them to attach the bag anywhere, or attach anything to the buggy.

This isn’t a compact bag – so it’s not something I’m using everyday. However, for days out or travel, it is perfect. Both Tony and I love the colour, the style and the look of it. Above all though, it’s incredibly practical with lots of room for the trillion objects you just might need when you go  out with your kids.

*We were sent the JJ Cole bag to review. All opinions and images are my own.

Anniversary

Three years ago today, on a rickety deck over a sparkling sea, I made the most important promises of my life. I married my best friend. Under a brilliant cloudless sky on the other side of the world, we began the rest of our lives.

I’ve been thinking about our anniversary all week. Three years isn’t such a long time, but we have squeezed so much living into it. We honeymooned at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Family from around the world had travelled to our favourite place on earth – and they, along with our closest friends, spent a glorious week as we did – happy, relaxed, feeling the sand beneath our toes and the fresh air in our lungs and ready to start something new.

We returned as newly-weds to the home we had recently bought. The 100-year-old villa in a trendy sun-drenched corner of Wellington was Tony’s project, our doer-upper. Our honeymoon baby was born at the end of that year, his bedroom not yet painted. His first year was spent blissfully and I loved being a mummy.

Just after Milin turned one, everything changed. We turned the key in the lock for the last time. In the darkness before dawn, the three of us and my little bump piled our lives into a taxi and went to the airport carrying one-way tickets to London.

For nearly eight years, New Zealand had been our home. We left friends, family, jobs, security – we left behind our lives as we knew them and said goodbye to what should have been our forever home. I left the newspaper where I had returned to work part time as acting head of news. It was a job I loved. I still miss the buzz of nailing a front page lead, of presenting a brilliant newslist, of seeing the paper in the morning and knowing the many miracles that happened to get it out on time.

Our lives are still in some in between place here in London. We have been married three years. Our children are two and eight months. We still don’t know where we will settle down. Our lives are still full of questions. We no longer have our own home and I am yet to find a job I love again. But it’s all part of the journey we began under that big blue sky in Nelson.

In three years we have fitted in what could have taken a lifetime. Doing up a house and selling it. Having two children. Completing post graduate study and hanging careers (Tony, not me). Moving across the world.

I have no idea what the next three years will bring. Our babies will grow up, I will hopefully find another job I love, we will hopefully figure out a bit more about what we want. I’d like life to slow down a little too, just so I can keep up with it all.

It’s our anniversary today. Over a rare lunch out together, we will clink glasses. I will nervously check my phone for updates about the children. We’ll celebrate getting here, and we’ll look to a future hopefully filled with more adventures and more joy.

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*Anniversary is my word of the week on April 18, 2014.

 

The Reading Residence
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