- Bookmarking: Auckland café & restaurant review sites
- Buying: a stand-up paddle board! Crikey!
- Considering: buying some skis
- Cooking: with a full complement of utensils and appliances once again, thank goodness!
- Drinking: beer in the spa…. Probably not great for the waistline!
- Enjoying: exploring new places on the weekends, like Hunua Falls.
- Feeling: a whole load of different things from day to day.
- Getting: to know my way around. Slowly.
- Giggling: at Modern Family. We watched Season 2 while waiting for our TV to be hooked up.
- Hoping: to make some friends.
- Liking: my new job.
- Looking: for some stools for the cubby house.
- Loving: how the beaches here are so dog-friendly.
- Making: baby number 3. Hopefully.
- Marvelling: that I squeezed into a size 10 wetsuit!
- Playing: on the trampoline with Master L (when it’s dry and Miss L’s asleep).
- Pondering: things to do with each set of grandparents, the first arrive next week.
- Needing: to register the dog with the council, I just found out!
- Reading: the world’s worst novel on my eReader. Still.
- Smelling: another slow-cooker meal- let’s hope it tastes alright!
- Thinking: about my Grandma and her celebration service tomorrow.
- Waiting: for Miss L to start walking- still!
- Wanting: so inspiration for Mr L’s birthday present!
- Watching: the days slowly getting longer.
- Wearing: my skinny jeans and ankle boots to death.
- Wondering: how I’ll go at my SUP lesson tomorrow!
And so, we have moved.
The change has happened, the page has turned, it’s done. It was fluttering in the breeze for weeks, if not months, before we left. Yet I could somehow delude myself it was reversible until the removalists arrived, took our stuff and suddenly… our house no longer felt like home…. Or didn’t it?
Strangely, the most emotional I felt leaving our house was walking around it empty, the morning after the furniture had gone, checking all the rooms, picking up the rake lying on the back lawn, looking back at the cubby house, the empty chicken coop, walking up the steps that Mr L built last year so Master L could toddle up and down the back garden more easily. His preschool teacher had suggested we say goodbye by lighting a candle and going through each room, recounting a memory we had from that room. This was a ridiculously impractical suggestion, apart from the fact that at age 2, Master L has little concept of time as well as a limited number of memories, it would have been incredibly time-consuming and I would have essentially been talking to myself and thus felt stupid. And light a candle with a toddler??? Are you serious?? Just as well it was a stupid idea, I don’t think my fragile emotional state could have withstood such an indulgence of sentiment. It was bad enough watching Mr L tear down the jungle sticker frieze from Master L’s wall that we’d carefully chosen and mounted in the months before his birth.
And so we camped out in limbo for a few weeks, sleeping on an inflatable bed in the rented house that had seemed so fabulous with a full complement of (another family’s) furniture. It’s hard to feel at home sitting in a camping chair and eating out of plastic takeaway containers in an empty, echoey dining room, but I consoled myself with the fact that if I thought I felt strange in this (lovely) empty house, how downright awful it would have been in any of the less lovely (ie totally grim) houses we looked at.
And when our belongings and furniture arrived, I thought “Hooray, now it will feel like home!!” Unwrapping our plates and cups, our bedding, our pictures, our DVDs and books, the familiarity and comfort rating soared…
So is it “stuff” that makes a house a home? Before we left I would have said no, it wouldn’t matter if our house burnt down (I mean it would, but not that much) because our stuff is just stuff and we are more than that. So when all this “stuff” arrived and I felt the excitement that came with it I thought maybe I’d been wrong, maybe home is where your belongings are, after all, not for what they are, so much as what they represent and the memories they hold with them.
But less than a week later, all (well ok almost all) unpacked and our stuff squeezed into our lovely rental house, this place does not feel like home. I have felt more homesick this last week than ever, yet when I try and figure out what it is I miss, all I can come up with it the very thing that motivated me to come on this adventure in the first place- the familiarity. The old cliché says familiarity breeds contempt and I didn’t want to end up feeling that. But there’s a lot to be said for routine, familiarity, comfort. The big things like work & friends, I never expected leaving them to be easy, and even the silly little things, like which supermarket you decide to go to depending on what else you need (you want a coffee as well? Go to supermarket [a]. Need a bakery? Supermarket [b]. Side-trip to the playground? [c]), I wondered if familiarity with details like this made a place feel like home. Well, I have sampled approximately 10 supermarkets in the last month and still it doesn’t feel like home.
Some languages have a word for a feeling that’s kind of like fond, happy memories of home or times gone by. In English we don’t really have a single word that I’m aware of that translates… I think nostalgia is probably the closest. I knew as we made the decision to leave that we were closing the chapter on several happy years and saying goodbye to our home. And so, as we try and establish ourselves in this new place and turn an adventure into a lifestyle, I know that we will gradually start writing our new chapter and filling it with fond memories. Eventually, it will be less about homesickness and more about that foreign concept approximated by nostalgia.
I am not one of those entitled mother-types who expects cafes in general to cater for children. I also have a particular dislike for the popular concept of what constitutes “child-friendly” (play gyms, play grounds, “kids eat free before 6” deals etc). In fact I believe that, as a general rule, children should be café-friendly rather than the other way round. I do not expect other people to enjoy eating in close proximity to my children and I, in turn, cringe pretty much every time I have to sit within sight or earshot of any OPCs in a café of my choosing, especially when I’m sans enfants myself.
However, realistically, human beings usually reproduce, meaning that, as a cafe owner, a large proportion of your clientele will have children. Those with adult children are heading towards the “old” category and belong in quiet old-people cafes, so I’m not talking about them. Those who are too young to have children generally belong in student cafes or nightclubs, so we don’t care about them either. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume, though, that many of your customers between the ages of 25 and 45 will have young children, so you’re losing out on business if you make your café completely soul-destroying for parents to bring their kids to. (NB I’m not referring to fine dining, fully licensed restaurants here, I’m talking about cafes.)
We recently had a short break to the South Island of NZ and stayed in Arrowtown. While we were there we were unlucky enough to eat at two completely child-unfriendly cafes. We were also lucky/brave enough to venture into the coolest, hippest-looking café in town and it actually turned out to be the most child-friendly, funnily enough.
Whether the Chop Shop had observed the other two in action and taken a lesson in what not to do, I’m not sure. But if they did, they appeared to have learned the following:
- Serve children quickly. No one likes a restless child, let along its own parents. Especially not parents who are trying to eat their own meals simultaneously with their child. It is a fabulous idea to get the food, and even better, the kids’ food, out there early. The sooner they eat, the sooner they leave-everyone’s a winner.
- Have a noisy café. Background music, of any sort, is great for hiding child-related noise (yes this is mostly crying, but also shouting, banging cutlery, dropping cups and shrieking at random). Parents will also feel soothed and refreshed knowing there is more to popular music than The Wiggles and Nursery Rhymes for the Criminally Insane.
- Have clean toys, and just a few. We don’t need a whole basket of grimy, chewed, chipped, peeling, arm-less dolls, cars and the like. Just a few simple plastic or wooden toys which don’t look like they were rejected from a jumble sale or deliberately left behind by their owners’ parents. And ideally, non-sound-emitting ones are best.
- High chairs are handy, there’s no doubt about it. But I don’t routinely expect cafes to carry them, in fact our favourite breakfast café on the mainland didn’t have any. (The owner of the café commented on this to us once, and we assured him that highchairs would surely just attract more people with children so best not encourage them by getting any). But if you do equip your café with a highchair or 3, just get the basic $50 ones from IKEA [actually, having just inserted that link, I see they are only $20. Even better]. They stack. They are plastic. They don’t have loads of clips and straps and nooks and crannies, which get chewed, broken and clogged up with kiddy gunk. You can wipe them down in a flash.
- Kids’ menu. I can take or leave the kids’ menu. If I take it, though, it’s because it has real food on it. If I leave it, it’s because it has some awful set-menu of nuggets and chips or fish and chips or vegemite sandwiches and fruit juice poppers, which annoys me and patronises my children, who actually don’t really like chips all that much. The best thing (IMHO) is to have something that’s cheap and easy (like toast) that you can add extras to (upon leaving Sydney, Master L at 2 ½ years old was up to sausage, avocado, mushrooms AND eggs as his “extras”).
- Declutter the tables. Seriously, the sugar canisters, the vases, the menu tabards in plastic cases, the candles, even the salt and pepper. We don’t need the distraction and we do need the space, so get rid of this crap please!
Chop Shop, we will definitely be back. You made us feel welcome even (especially?) with our children. You ticked all the boxes. What’s more, you had lots of yummy menu items we want to try over a proper, adult, 10am breakfast. Who knows, we might even leave the kids at home next time, but if we can’t, at least you make us feel like it’s no big deal to bring them with us.