Amelie at two

She is absolutely, definitely 100% a toddler now.

 It’s just milk, but she  loved  having it in a coffee cup.

It’s just milk, but she loved having it in a coffee cup.

I enjoy this kid so incredibly much! I mean, sure, she's totally out of control from time to time, but Amelie has also become incredibly hilarious. She has a great sense of humour and is super-cheeky; we often have to stop ourselves laughing when she’s being naughty – and that is hard. She likes to drop things on the floor then yell “oh no!” – and if we don’t respond to that she’ll shout it over and over until we do. Then she orders us to pick it up, and when we tell her that if she drops something, she has to pick it up, she looks off into the distance and says “noooooo” in this dreamy, highly casual way. No tantrums or anything, just noooooo…

The tantrums come when we do something that Amelie wanted to do (whether she’s told us or not). What does she want to do herself? Oh, just everything, all the time. We used to be able to convince her to ‘help’ us with things like getting dressed, but now she will push us away and try to get all her clothes on herself, with some interesting results. It’s really cute (and it’s also a really big time suck). Despite now living closer to her daycare, we almost always show up later in the mornings. Getting Amelie ready and out the door is no longer the work of just 30 minutes.

 Our little lion dressed up for Halloween.

Our little lion dressed up for Halloween.

We do face some monster tantrums. They are definitely one of the things I find hardest about parenting at this age. Usually there is no warning – it’s just 0-100 in three seconds flat. But once it’s over, she forgives and forgets immediately. Recently I had to drive for about 20 minutes with Amelie furiously screaming in the back because she wanted to get out of the car. There was nothing I could do – it was a winding open road, we had somewhere we had to be, and nothing I said was calming her down. As soon as I stopped the car – the very second I turned off the engine – she stopped screaming, and was instant sweetness and light. It is bizarre, but also probably a good lesson for all of us about not holding grudges?

One of my favourite things about having a two year old is the conversation. Amelie is a great conversationalist, and she’s always happy to chat – in fact, she talks constantly. She has a really amazing vocabulary and it’s so awesome to see her learning to express herself. Every morning she tells us about her dreams while we get her dressed. I’m still not sure she knows what dreams are, but at the very least she’s well and truly using her imagination – most recently she told us she dreamt that all of us, plus Cuper the cat, caught a bus to the Coromandel to go to the playground. This particular dream does contain some of her favourite things, so it could equally be wishful thinking. When do we develop a common shared understanding of what a dream is?

 Swimming is a favourite

Swimming is a favourite

If we all retained the ability to grasp and remember concepts as quickly as a two year old, we’d be a world of geniuses. Amelie is currently very big on buying and paying for stuff. It leads to some hilarious results – the time she told me to pay a busker springs to mind, as does the time she was shouting ‘PAY! PAY!’ as I left a shop where I wasn’t buying anything, while I loudly and ostentatiously explained to her that we didn’t have anything to pay for, praying that the people around me understood toddlers and knew I wasn’t shoplifting. It also leads to some slightly scary results, like the time I told her we didn’t have any of the crackers she wanted, and without missing a beat she commanded, ‘SHOP. BUY.’

 Riding her bike on the ‘pink path’.

Riding her bike on the ‘pink path’.

Finally, it’s so interesting to see her sense of time develop. It’s no longer just about the here and now – now she remembers things that happened months ago. She also is very big on telling us to do things ‘right now’. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s a little scary, and sometimes it’s just so sweet (when she’s feeling nervous, tired, or sad, she will often ask for ‘Opie right now’. That is also always a good time to get a sweet cuddle from her).

Oh the cuddles! She’s often too busy to give us proper cuddles. She is a very busy child. But she has also become absolutely fantastic at cuddling. Head down on the shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around you, absolute 100% love and trust and safety. They are amazing. She is the sweetest. It’s well into the evening right now and she has been asleep for hours, but I’m on the verge of going and waking her up for one of those cuddles. I won’t – I never do, and H1 and I discuss doing it every night – but seriously, what a kid. She’s a star. A sparky, bright, funny, opinionated star.

 Out for breakfast on her second birthday.

Out for breakfast on her second birthday.

The importance of reframing

So I just watched this Ted Talk and one of the speaker's four pillars is storytelling; e.g. how the story you tell yourself is the one you'll believe, and the one that will affect you. And that got me thinking, of all things, of our Fiji holiday...

Tokoriki Island.jpg

We went to Tokoriki Island at the end of June. Tokoriki is amazing! It was our second time there, and Amelie's first. We were so looking forward to seeing the friends we made there last time and introducing them to Amelie, to enjoying island fries and fruity cocktails by the pool, to getting out on the water, to laying around reading in the sun...

Have you seen where we went wrong yet?

As literally everyone in the world except us knows, apparently, holidays with a toddler are quite a different beast. As in, they're not really holidays in any true sense of the word.

Our first couple of days on Tokoriki were actually kind of rough (I know I sound like a jerk saying that about our holiday on a beautiful tropical island, but bear with me). Amelie's schedule was disrupted and she was very unwilling to partake in the activities we wanted to do, preferring instead to run as fast as she could towards certain danger and yell at us when we saved her. H1 and I both wanted to enjoy our holiday so got cranky – with Amelie, and with each other.

On night two we reframed it. Amelie was in bed, and we were sitting outside on the porch of our villa having a glass of wine and chatting. We were exhausted, but we decided that as our toddler was, in fact, a toddler, with all attendant toddler proclivities, we just had to go with it. We agreed that once a day one of us would be 'on' and the other one could relax, and then we would swap. The rest of the day would be spent on family activities – swimming, or playing on the beach, or eating (I will come back to the eating in another post. It could probably be two posts all on its own, to be honest).

Fiji pool.jpg

And the rest of the holiday was SO.MUCH.EASIER. I mean, it was still hard – toddler! – but it felt so much easier. Because we had realised the only thing we could change was our thinking.

This feels like a good thing to reflect on in this end-of-winter-not-quite-spring Auckland dreariness! And it's also a nice opportunity to revisit our lovely winter holiday. Did you get away? What about reframing – have you had opportunity or reason to focus on this recently? 

Amelie at eighteen months old

 Couldn't resist putting this one in even though it's blurry. That smile!

Couldn't resist putting this one in even though it's blurry. That smile!

Amelie turned eighteen months last week! A picture of her holding her six month sign came up in my Facebook memories and I just can't believe a whole year has gone by since then. Everyone says time flies, but to be honest that wasn't my experience at all when I was on maternity leave. Ever since I went back to work though time has indeed just somehow dissipated, and now somehow I am the mother to a full-blown toddler.

 Determined Amelie.

Determined Amelie.

 Making art at the art gallery.

Making art at the art gallery.

Amelie is possibly the most strong-willed person on the planet. She has very firm ideas about what she wants and doesn't want, and isn't afraid to yell at the top of her lungs if we get it wrong (or it's just something she's not allowed). The flip side of that is that she is just so thrilled with herself for communicating successfully if we do get it right. 

Being able to 'talk' to us is one of Amelie's biggest joys. She's incredibly verbal but we don't always understand, and I think this is a source of much frustration for her. She has a few words that are totally clear – Mama, Daddy, Cuper, bubble, ball, blower (as in leaf blower – she can see the street cleaners using it from her daycare windows and it's amazing to her); some that require us to interpret for her – Alex (one of her good friends), more, please, grandma, granddad; and some where we have no idea. Her catch-all is deedoo. We don't know what it means, but it gets used a lot, for a whole variety of things. It is to Amelie what prego is to Italians.

 Watching the lawnmower man at the country house.

Watching the lawnmower man at the country house.

Amelie's favourite things are her Duplo, her pull-along toys, her Opie, her bike helmet, and my handbag. Oh, and also everything she's not allowed, especially if it's incredibly dangerous. She's never still, unless she's in a new environment, which I'm pretty sure is only because she's planning how to cause the most destruction in the smallest amount of time. My standard warning to anyone else looking after her is that she can run faster, climb higher and move further than you'd think she should be able to. 

 Playing with the toys at the Volvo Ocean Race.

Playing with the toys at the Volvo Ocean Race.

Amelie loves to give us big hugs, which are so very lovely while they last (a couple of seconds usually). She gives us kisses as well, but much prefers us to kiss her. She cuddles into us to read books, and those are some of my favourite times (hers too I think). She gives us enormous smiles when we get her up in the morning and when we put her down to sleep, and no matter which one of us she's with she's asking about the other one. H1 and I really do split the parenting load 50/50 (and honestly, recently it's been more like 60/40 due to a crazy schedule for me these days). I think that comes through in how much she loves both of us. 

She is, obviously, the best child in the world and I'm so happy she is who she is. 

 Taking a break to have a snack.

Taking a break to have a snack.

The recipe for a perfect weekend (with children!) in Central Auckland

A few years back I declared that I had discovered the recipe for the perfect weekend, and you know what? It holds up! Even with the addition of children. Here's why the weekend just been was so good...and how you can do it for yourselves with some of the awesome activities Central Auckland has to offer.

 Amelie playing in the Art Gallery

Amelie playing in the Art Gallery

Saturday morning: Exercise

We started Saturday by cycling down to our club to play tennis and then enjoy a short spa. Amelie painted in the crèche. Even without a membership to a tennis club you can do this – Auckland has a number of free tennis courts, like Nicholson Park and Maungawhau. If your children are a bit older you could get them playing a game also, and if they're too small it might mean skipping straight to the water part and swimming at a public pool, such as Parnell Baths.

Saturday lunchtime: Read and relax

May Amelie keep napping for a loooong time yet. We embrace having to stay in for a few hours by putting our feet up on the patio and getting some reading in. I'm reading a good, but rather involved, book at the moment and am balancing that with magazines. I'm such a big magazine fan but can't handle the piles of paper they generate, so I only subscribe to my favourites and read others through RB Digital on my iPad (free for Auckland Libraries members!)

Saturday afternoon: Get some culture, and some chips

 H1 and Amelie doing their part to obliterate a room.

H1 and Amelie doing their part to obliterate a room.

We caught the bus into town and went to take part in The Obliteration Room at Auckland Art Gallery. Turns out Amelie is the perfect age to love this – she kept coming back to H1 to ask for 'mo' (more stickers) and was very careful and particular about where she was placing them. It's still on for a couple more weeks and I promise, it's worth it.

We followed it up with a drink at The Box, a lovely spot to sit outside and people watch in Aotea Square. My only complaint was they didn't do chips (and I really wanted some chips!), so we grabbed some from Double Dutch Fries in Elliott Street before heading home. This place is so good – very very close to the amazing chips in Amsterdam – but because it never seems okay to just randomly eat chips, I pretty much never have them. Elliott Street has a number of good food places along it, so no matter what you feel like you can't just randomly eat, it's likely to be there (bao! Dumplings! Hong Kong egg waffles and ice-cream!)

Saturday evening: Eat something yummy

We were relaxing at home and made falafel, but if I was heading out around Central Auckland for a casual Saturday night it would almost certainly be to Orphan's Kitchen, Pasta e Cuore, Venosa, Ortolana or Gemmayze Street. Can't go wrong with any of them, and while they're all lovely, they're also super-chill. 

Sunday morning: Food and fun

Amelie and I took ourselves off to the playground while H1 went cycling, but not before a stop at Grey Lynn Farmer's Market. We can walk to this one from our house, but another favourite in Central Auckland is La Cigale, in Parnell – or if you really want to stick in the city centre, there's a version at Britomart that's small but cute, and close to good playgrounds at Silo Park and Myers Park.

 Amelie helping me carry my farmer's market flowers.

Amelie helping me carry my farmer's market flowers.

Sunday lunchtime: Organise

I rearranged and tidied our bookshelves, which also involved moving some art, photos and plants around. Then I tidied a few more things and gave the place a vacuum, arranged the flowers I'd bought in the morning, and then I relaxed and enjoyed it. It makes such a difference to my happiness levels – and it's happiness that keeps on giving (I can see my bookshelves right now and sure enough – they are making me happy). I actually have a list of things I want to declutter, and any time I need to perk myself up or I'm feeling at a loose end I hit up that list. I don't want to tell you to use your precious downtime to organise and clean, but I can tell you it makes me feel good.

Sunday afternoon/evening: Picnic with friends in nature

Back to the park! We celebrated our friend's birthday with fish and chips and a couple of beers in the park. It would also be so lovely with some yummy snack foods (Farro is just around the corner!) Hanging out with friends is one of my favourite ways to end Sunday – it staves off those Sunday night blues nicely, and leaves me feeling like I've really soaked every drop of weekend up. And being outside while the weather is still nice enough is also a big win for the soul. 

What does your perfect weekend look like? What have I left off?

City escape

How to spend 17 hours in Auckland City

Over the weekend it was H1's birthday! We had a fantastic morning on Saturday, with a family walk over to one of favourites, Ripe Deli, for coffee, Spanish eggs and berry-coconut slice. We got it to go and ate it in Grey Lynn Park so Amelie could play on the playground. This playground is one of my favourites – it's easy to get to on foot, there are good coffee options close by (important) and it feels really safe and fun for a toddler Amelie's age – lots of playgrounds seem mostly designed for bigger kids, but this one is pretty relaxing (inasmuch as you can ever relax with a toddler).

 On the playground.

On the playground.

 Crossing the bridge – she walks everywhere else but this bridge is apparently a crawling situation.

Crossing the bridge – she walks everywhere else but this bridge is apparently a crawling situation.

 Hi!

Hi!

We got home just as my parents were arriving, and conveniently H1 took off for a ride just before Amelie's nap, so I could get everything ready. Because unbeknownst to H1, we were taking off that afternoon...

...to a hotel a ten minute drive away.

Hotel DeBrett is this totally gorgeous design-led boutique hotel in the centre of the city, and the perfect place to celebrate H1's birthday, as well as enjoy our first night ever away from Amelie. We arrived about 3.30pm, and after checking in we headed out to Pilkingtons, just up the road, for a drink and snack. We then went shopping around Britomart and High Street, before heading back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner.

 Kicking things off at Pilkingtons.

Kicking things off at Pilkingtons.

 Image:  Hotel DeBrett
 On our way to dinner.

On our way to dinner.

For dinner, we ate at Euro, which is a total Auckland institution. Neither of us had ever been there before, and it was a great experience. The food was delicious, the waiter was hilarious (not actually in a good way, but thankfully he was so ridiculous as to be farcical, and we enjoyed that rather) and it's a great spot to watch Aucklanders head out and about for the night (as I noted to H1, shorts are very short this season).

The next day, we slept in until an unprecedented 7.41am, then had a relaxing breakfast before heading home to a happy, tired Amelie and her happy, surprisingly un-tired grandparents.

I'm so pleased with how the weekend came together! H1 was surprised, just as I was hoping, and very happy (also just as I was hoping). Amelie coped absolutely fine with us being away, and we coped really well too – we didn't worry about her at all. And now that first is checked off! Having children seems to be a never-ending parade of firsts, and this particular one is kind of bittersweet but also awesome. It's so important to be more than parents some of the time.

 Hanging out on Sunday afternoon.

Hanging out on Sunday afternoon.

If you're looking for a fun birthday surprise I can thoroughly recommend planning a short surprise trip somewhere – even if it's only ten minutes down the road just doing something different is a brilliant way to mark an occasion. I might have to start looking into options for the next one...