They could be shopping in your supermarkets or walking in your parks, they're everywhere, living among us - the secret societies of women who get together every week and discuss mum things have been in operation since time immemorial.  And they're great!

Recently I've been attending the pregnancy/newborn group here in Manila, and it's been eye-opening to say the least.  You can read all the books in the world, but there's nothing so valuable as to ask your questions to a group of people in a similar position to you.  As the only male in the group (so far) it has been a bit daunting, but the ability to relate to others around my age is invaluable in keeping us sane.  Just to know that someone else out there is going through the same issues as we are is immensely relieving.  Of course there are internet forums these days, and they're often quite informative, but there's nothing like having a cup of coffee & relaxing while your kid plays on a mat with the other kids, and you can sit there & discuss the weird stuff your kid does/doesn't do in a non-judgmental environment.  It's doing wonders for my sanity!

In addition to providing a bit of socialisation for the babies, it's also great just to have a few other babies around just as a bit of a yardstick to measure your babies' achievements.  It's not a competition to see who's crawling first, or who's sprouting little teeth first (or who can put a crying baby to sleep fastest), but the group does give a good indication of the developmental stages that the kids should be going through.  

Of course it is a bit odd that I'm always the only man there, but it's never too awkward.  I'm pretty sure that the mothers accept that the times are changing for men of my generation and that soon men are going to play a much greater role in raising children all over the world.  My next goal is to form a secret dads club of my own!

It's been almost a month since our last post, and so much has happened! 

We survived our first Christmas & New Year with style and are now making the most of our start to 2014 with great big hopes for what it may bring. 

The year didn't get off to a great start though.  We had friends over for New Years' dinner, and unbeknownst to anyone, their little baby had carried a virus back from Australia.  So while we had a great time welcoming in the new year, a few days later we were paying for it.  Ava and her little best friend were horribly sick with roseola.  Thankfully we were able to establish what it was before taking her back to the hospital for more tests!  It meant four or so days of a shocking fever and severe irritability - nothing seemed to sooth her.  Which also meant four or so days of minimal sleep, coupled with intense frustration...  We did have the benefit of knowing what it was, though, which gave us some great peace-of-mind.  We knew it would be over soon and knew that it wouldn't do too much damage.  Ava is now back to her wonderful, smiling self again, but we're all incredibly thankful that it's over and she won't get it again.  

We were fortunate to have one of Megan's friends come to visit - the father of two great kids - who provided a lot of perspective on becoming a dad.  The input was especially pertinent given that Megan has returned to work, leaving me in charge during the days.  Whether that turns out to be a positive step or not is yet to be proven.  My role as the stay-at-home parent hasn't really happened as yet - there have been so many other things to do, but now we can look forward to having some real fun.  

Ava has also taught herself to stand up (with a bit - a lot - of help) and has started to grip things with unexpected strength.  I know that development is not a race, but right now I'm super impressed about how far my little girl has come, and am encouraging her as much as I can!  Plus, all that standing & grabbing makes her very tired, which provides some much appreciated down time for everyone else...  

Of course, Ava's recent leap into activity isn't without its issues.  It has meant that we have had to cut down the space that Bruce has to roam around, and the time that we're available to play with him.  Before Ava came along, he ruled the roost but now he's had to wait his turn, and hasn't been dealing with the transition very well.  His favourite new trick is to bark at EVERYTHING. Which, with a baby that you're trying to put to bed, is somewhat less than helpful...  However, with a bit more adjustment and some more patience, we're (somehow) finding time to take him for longer, more frequent walks which is working pretty well - it separates him from Ava for a while and gives us all a little bit of breathing space.

Now that Ava's getting bigger and better, and storming toward the 6 month mark, I can't wait to find out what sort of adventures we're going to have together!