Mother’s Day 2013

I don’t feel like I’m honest enough about how hard being a parent to a toddler is on a day-to-day basis. I post pretty pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and tweet cute or funny things that Eloise says or does. The reality is I love my baby girl with every ounce of my being – but some days are just. so. incredibly. hard. Physically exhausting. Mentally draining. Emotionally destroying. The good days and bad days mix with no rhyme or reason, and just when you think you’ve got everything under control and you’re in the clear, whammo, another bad day floors you to your knees.

I’m prefacing my post with this because Mother’s Day was one of those days. Alec went above and beyond to organise the perfect weekend for me. A cupcake from my favourite bakery. A surprise massage. Home-cooked lunch, and a surprise dinner at a vegan restaurant I’ve been dying to try. And then Eloise’s two-year molars started to come in – at least, that’s what we’re guessing is going on. Now we’re back to a whingy, not-sleeping, screaming bundle of toddler.

My Mother’s Day was filled with the humbling reminder that my enjoyment of life is – for the moment at least – highly dependant on the happiness of my child. Sad baby = no-one enjoys the day.

We still tried to make the most out of it. Got out in the sun, went to a few parks, had a wonderful dinner together after Eloise went to bed. It was not the Mother’s Day I would have wanted, but, then again, that’s not the toddler I was given.

So here are my carefully edited photos that tell a different story about my Mother’s Day.

20 takes later, this was the best shot. Notice she’s trying to escape?

Bounce up and down like an idiot, and eventually you’ll get a cranky toddler to smile

The other way to get an angry toddler to smile – let them do what they want. “Walk, walk walk!” You got it, baby!

Raising a Little Aussie

Something I think about frequently is identity, specifically through nationality. The full identity issue is a much larger discussion and blog post than I’m tackling here. My national identity is pretty simple – I’m a Australian – at least fourth generation if not further. No matter how long we live abroad, I will always think of myself as an Australian. My parents are 100% Australian, as was my childhood home and education.

So where does that leave Eloise? Is she American or Australian? Will she feel American because she lives here? If we move back to Australian in a few years, then what will that make her? Technically she’s an Australian born in the US, with dual citizenship. I often wonder what she will feel like as she grows up. As she starts school she will pick up an American accent (nooooo!!!) and identify with her friends more than with us. Whereas Alec and I yearn for things like Cadbury chocolate and Gippsland yoghurt, will she prefer (god forbid) Hersheys and Chobani?.

How do we help Eloise embrace her Australian heritage and nationality so it forms part of her identity? Read her Playing Beatie Bow, serve her Vegemite, make her watch The Man From Snowy River? Will she even care?

The point is we do care, even if she won’t for what will probably be a long time. I hope that by constantly going back home to visit and by surrounding her with global experiences that she will embrace an identity of being more than just an American.

Sydney, December 2011

In Defence of Toddlers

I feel like toddlers get a pretty bad rap for being out of control maniacs. And there is definitely some truth to this – most days Eloise spins through my life like mad squirrel, leaving total destruction behind her. Even though some parts of this stage can be trying (mind-numbing exhaustion at the end of each day!), it’s actually my favourite stage yet. Here’s why:

1. Hugs and kisses. I get them ALL THE TIME. Open mouth French slobbers, little pecks on the mouth, and little hands that grab me from behind and nestle in for a snuggle. Ahhhhh this is the best thing of all.
2. Words! Finally, she is communicating! True, it’s still hard to understand what she’s saying a lot of the time, but hearing this little baby-child wrap her lips and tongue around words like bath, dog, duck, flower just fill me with awe at seeing tiny changes happening every minute of every day.
3. Pretend play. Eloise holds up any phone-sized object to her ear and conducts a deep conversation with it, complete with the correct intonations. Kill me now, I’m dying from the cuteness of it all.
4. Dance moves. The little girl has her own groove going on. Put on music and she’s swaying and tapping her feet out of natural instinct.
5. She can feed herself. Here’s the food, off you go, baby.
6. She’s not that screaming, refluxy infant anymore who made me doubt my ability to do this parenting job. Compared to the first ten months of her life, toddlerhood is a breeze so far.

January Blues

Gratuitous Cheese shot.

I won’t lie, January was hard. Bitterly cold, jet lagged baby, sick family over and over again, plus a case of the blues that just wouldn’t budge. I’ve been struggling to find room for myself again now that Eloise is getting older and doesn’t need me quite so much. I’ve been feeling time slipping by me in all directions. In Eloise’s little face as it slims and grows, in my friends’ careers as they get promoted and start their own businesses. I’ve been feeling torn in a way I never thought possible between choosing myself or choosing to spend my time with Eloise.

It’s a fine line to walk. I love hearing every word for the first time, seeing every new trick she throws out daily. I also feel like I’ve been living my life entirely for someone else, and that I’ve completely lost myself.

So what’s the answer? I’m trying hard to get some freelance and part-time work going that I can do with some short babysitting stints for Eloise, and during her naps. So far it’s going well, but it’s also hard! Hard to focus, hard to spend all my free time working rather than resting up for the next tornado Eloise. It’s better than the alternative though, and I still get to spend most of the week with my crazy, wilful, adorable toddler.

Snow day!

Blizzard Nemo (ha!) hit New York yesterday. It was pretty crazy being out in it – like icicles prickling my face. Today the blizzard had passed and the city was covered in a glorious foot of snow. Yay! We head over to Fort Greene park to give Eloise her first real taste of snow. She really loved it – she couldn’t get enough of sitting on the ground and trying to grab it in her little mits.

Snow baby!

Go, baby, go!

Snow dog!

With Daddy.

Family!

Beautiful.

Snow baby.

Happy husband.

Loving the snow.

So pretty.

Love!

Stroller did NOT work well in snow.

Christmas in Hawaii

We decided to fly to Hawaii for Christmas and meet my family there instead of flying back to Australia. I booked us a three-bedroom suite at a resort in Ko Olina, right on the waterfront.

The flight was brutal – 10 hours straight. Eloise napped just once and then was awake for 12 hours straight.

It’s a miracle, she’s asleep!

The resort and beach were so beautiful. Ko Olina was a little piece of paradise. We spent most days walking around the beaches, swimming in the ocean and pools.

Checking out the beach for the first time since she was four months old in Sydney.

Pure joy.

Ocean!

Walking by the beach with Daddy.

Beach with my Cheese.

Decided she loves the beach.

Hey beach baby!

We also did the toddler dolphin experience at Dolphin Quest. It was wonderful to meet dolphins with Eloise. It totally blew her mind. She was fascinated by them, and has been saying “dolph!” and pointing to pictures of them since.

Dolphins!

View from the balcony.

Sunset.

One thing I really wanted to do was the Disney character breakfast at Aulani. It was so much fun! A decent buffet breakfast with a great omelet station, Minnie Mouse and Goofy wandering around to the tables for meet and greets and photo ops. Every so often, “Auntie” would strike up music and sing cute Hawaiian-y songs, handing out instruments and leading the kids in a parade around the restaurant. Eloise was in absolute heaven.

Disney breakfast at Aulani resort.

Alec and I had a few hours to ourselves one day so went for a drive to Mokule’ia Beach, where Lost was filmed. It was stunning – a pure white sand beach with almost no one in site for miles.

Mokule’ia Beach, Oahu

We also went on an easy hike one day with Tim and Michele up to Diamond Head. It had an amazing view of Honolulu.

View from Diamond Head.

I also got up super early one morning to see Pearl Harbour with Michele. It was a sobering experience to be there and see the sunken Arizona ship.

Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour.

Even though I get really sea sick pretty much just by looking at boats, I thought it would be a fun idea to get on a boat and go snorkelling and whale watching. True to form, I felt ill the entire time, but we did see about 10 Humpback whales.

Humpback whales spotting.

We went for a stroll through Waimea Valley. It was really beautiful – a little too manicured, but some amazing plants.

Crazy antics.

Waimea Valley.

We also went on the Ranch and Movie tour at Kualoa Ranch, where a lot of movies and TV shows have been filmed. I loved the tour – especially seeing where Jurassic Park was filmed for the famous scene with the log below.

Jurassic Park filming location, Kualoa Ranch.

It was really strange being somewhere other than in Warwick Farm for Christmas morning. It was really lovely, but also really strange! My first Christmas not in Warwick Farm in my life so far. We had breakfast at the neighbouring Marriott resort, followed by present opening and relaxing.

Christmas morning with my baby.

Christmas palm tree.

Family shot, Christmas Day.

What a wonderful trip! It was so great to see my family all together. Hawaii is paradise – can’t wait to go back again.

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!

Wow, what a year. It started out much as 2011 ended – with a hard, fussy, non-sleeping baby dominating our lives. Thankfully, by the time summer rolled around, everything improved by about 100%. We had a baby who slept! We slept! We had a wonderful summer and really enjoyed ourselves and getting to know a new, happier Eloise. I felt like a new person, not just hanging in there for dear life every day, but finally enjoying life again. It was wonderful to finally be able to really enjoy our baby and our lives together. We went out a lot, had playdates, went to galleries. What an an amazing life!

2012 was definitely the year for working out how we and Eloise could co-exist successfully as a family. I’m excited about 2013 – hopefully the year where Alec and I can start to focus again on what we want to achieve career-wise. For Alec, this involves quitting his job at Twitter to start his own business. For me, this means hoping to launch a freelance writing career to make some extra money as well as focusing on getting my own site/blog Brunch With My Baby off the ground.

As Eloise leaves her babyhood behind and turns into a toddler, we are loving getting to see her adorable personality developing. The little girl who is a daredevil, climbing and tumbling and throwing herself off stairs. The tiny person who adores music and dancing, and who loves to play jokes with us and laugh at everything.

2013 is looking to be quite an adventure again – I can’t wait to see what happens.

Such Is Life

I don’t blog as much as I should about the amazing things I get to do living in New York. Here are a few fun things I’ve been up to recently.

Seeing the world premiere of Les Miserables with Beck, followed by a Q&A with the cast, including Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.

Cast from Les Miserables

Christmas decorations are up! Loving this beautiful tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eloise also loved the museum – she has reached an age where she notices everything around her and is so curious about everything she sees.

Met Christmas Tree

Saw the NYC ballet perform the Nutcracker with my friend Alexis at the Lincoln Center.

Ballet poses!

Hanging out with a special visitor! It was wonderful to see Beverly after almost three years, and meet Hunter and Carter.

It’s us! With kids!

Eloise’s first time in snow!

It’s colddddddd!

Had a wonderful time at the So You Think You Can Dance live tour with Dan and Sue.

Yes, I think I can dance!

Watched the US Olympic gymnastics team perform live in a showcase at the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn.

The ladies on the rings.

Lived through Hurricane Sandy.

Damage near our home.

And managed to celebrate Halloween straight afterwards.

Ballet butterfly!

Had great adventures with Grandma!

Three generations of Knight ladies.

Thanksgiving 2012

This year I am especially thankful for my wonderful husband, my amazing, beautiful daughter, my loving parents, and both old and new friends. I’m thankful for mine, Alec’s and Eloise’s good health, and for our situation in life that enables us to live in New York, in a lovely apartment, and for me to take care of Eloise full-time while she’s so small.

It’s hard to focus on the big picture when the day-to-day gripes set in. I’m taking a moment today to really feel thankful for how lucky I truly am.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!