A play space for baby…

How quickly time passes! I have been keeping myself iPad free during the evenings (thanks to teething toddler who does not want to go to bed!) so I haven’t been keeping up with my blog posts and sadly have a huge list of unread blogs sitting in the Word Press reader to get through! Words just aren’t coming together at the moment. I’m giving it my best shot tonight with both babes in bed early!

When there was one baby in the house all play was geared towards her. The play items in our house were targeted for her age, the playroom was set up for a child of her development level and our everyday experiences were just for her. I have always made conscious decisions to keep independent play experiences free from frustration – naturally I have helped C learn how to play in new ways (“scaffolded” for those teacher buffs!) but generally the experiences presented to her are ones she can achieve success with. This poses a problem when there is a busy baby and a toddler sharing the same play space!

I have used the term ‘handbag’, endearingly, to describe L’s position in the family. Just as our outings revolve around making sure the toddler sleeps (because the world is a much better place if she does!), our home has grown with her and now reflect the needs of a 2 1/2 year old, rather than a baby. My energy and attention goes into playing with a C, activities and experiences geared to her development. Thankfully L goes with the flow and I have discovered the major advantage of baby #2 is that baby #1 takes away all the pressure of being the sole entertainer! As L is growing, she can always be found close to C, joining in in her infant way!

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The girls are really beginning to play ‘together’ and C is loving involving L in her games. It’s not roses all the time but L is robust enough to find a push and a wrestle a funny game which quickly diffuses C and they both end up giggling. C is also very good and getting L new toys if she takes something she is playing with!

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This week I decided the playroom needed an overhaul … Again! I wanted to create a space for L and spaces for C to play her games. I’m loving the new setup! I have minimized to an even greater degree the amount of things out each day. C is very dependent on me at the moment for play anyway so I can live without the clutter! Her play house (That play house is a lovely place for a morning cuppa! ) and kitchen are permanent fixtures and this week I added a little corner with some new books as she loves to play ‘crèche’ with her dolls. The little crates on the floor contain a few wooden food items, some wooden dolls, a couple of finger puppets and some wooden spinning tops my clever husband made this week! The other things out in the room is a box with teddies that are regularly used for pretend play by C and emptied out by L who is also using the box to pull herself up to her feet. We also have a pram, a toy shopping trolley and a ride on toy that I am not allowed to move!!!!

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For L, I set her up on one side of the room with a mirror ‘borrowed’ from our wall – this stemmed from recent reading I have been doing into the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. Mirrors play an important role in Reggio spaces and the placement of one mirror isn’t much to write home about but it’s a start! I plan to get to our local hardware giant soon’ish and purchase some mirror tiles to use in different ways.

For her play experience this week, I set her up with her own treasure basket, loosely inspired by this post. I sadly don’t have a home full of natural materials on hand so I went to the one drawer in the house guaranteed to entertain any baby – the Tupperware drawer! I gathered an assortment of lids and other circular play items we had – it may not follow the heuristic philosophy but it was items around my home and that was important to me! I added a set of little measuring spoons – a baby favourite! I loaded all the items into the lid of a Tuppperware dip platter – again not natural but decluttering me removed all spare baskets, boxes etc from the house! This platter has actually turned out to be a hit. It’s light enough to push back and forth, the objects make a great noise when moved around in it and, and this is the highlight, it’s big enough to empty and climb into!

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The blue circle is a universal plug – a long time favourite ‘toy’ of L’s. Do/ have your children had attachments to funny objects? With C it was a rubber phone cover my husband used to have on his phone until he gave up in and gave it to C as a permanent addition to one of her toy boxes!

L has really enjoyed playing with her ‘basket’. Each day I have added an object here and there and removed something that has passed its interest use-by date! She enjoyed looking at and feeling each object – putting each in her mouth naturally, seeing if they make a noise.

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The mirror was and continues to be, a huge hit! After initially attempting to climb through the mirror, L began to watch herself play, reaching to touch the baby staring back at her! Now she chats and giggles away to her new friend! It goes without saying that C is rather fond of looking at herself too! I, on the other hand, could do without the image of my tired scraggly reflection looking back at me when I sit and play with my children!!!

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Sleepy, sleepy!

Not even makeup can disguise my tiredness today!

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The little pocket rocket is keeping me up! During the day = perfect, settled, text book baby. 1 certain baby “experts” might base their drivel on. So happy and full of life is she that the days are manageable because she brings so much joy.

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But I’m tired! I still choose seeing my friends and getting out and about over resting because the company is so nice and helps the patience stay in tact where C is involved. I am however looking after ‘me’! The disposables are out the cupboard, the pantry is stocked with bought baby food and the husband is eating his fair share of toasted sandwiches!! As a result, in high demand times I am the perfect storyteller, doctors assistant, shopping assistant, dolly mumma, song singer, dancer and story teller – in quieter times I am motionless on the couch as the toddler flits and floats around in her wonderful, happy little world and the baby races around hunting the home for mischief!

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I’m not sure if that made any sense but as I said, I’m tired and a vent felt like the right thing to do after waking my brain up at a personal training session without remembering to wake the rest of my body up with it!

What do you do to help ‘you’ when you’re exhausted?

*a preview of photos shows they are blurry – I’m going to claim it’s an artistic way of showing you all how my world looks through my tired eyes!!!!!!

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Change is in the air…

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My mind has been a busy place the last couple of weeks, full of decision making banter: guilt, guilt, excitement, nerves, guilt, denial – you name it, I’ve been there!

At the end of last school term I made a sudden, spontaneous return to the workforce. I slipped back quietly, surprising my friends at work; surprising my friends at home even more! D is home on Monday’s so it wasn’t a difficult decision – my babies get a day with dad all on their own, I get to feed L on my breaks and I come home to a cooked meal and the fridge full from a grocery shop! We made the spontaneous decision as it seemed easier that way, rather than me having time to become anxious and stressed about it. Win, win!! I really enjoyed my time at work. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a choice I would choose to be home but, as a way of topping up the Easter bank balance, work was a lot of fun.

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That brings us to Term 2. Money running low and a need to work rather than it being a choice. Unfortunately there has been massive budget cuts at my work so it looks like the pool of available work is going to be quite small. I want need to work 5 days a month – I’m not sure my current work, my comfort zone, my home for nearly a decade is going to be the place for this anymore. Eeek! I am faced with the very real possibility of having to apply for new jobs. On one hand this terrifies me- I waltzed out of uni into my current school and have never needed to venture into the wide world! On the other hand this is a really exciting prospect! So this is change 1 – a change in my routine and possibly a new job.

Change 2 involves little L and her commencement at childcare. C has continued to go once a week throughout L’s life and thrives there. She loves it. L started her orientation process today. As predicted, she loved it and didn’t blink the time I was gone. It is nicer second time round as you know all the faces, they know you and most importantly they know L, so a lot of time is spent chatting about C, carers gasping that L is nearly 8 months already etc etc. It is also nice that in the short time I was gone, C had already been visiting L. There is less of a feeling of abandonment when you know they have each other! It’s been a hard choice because I don’t want her there so young if I’m not working and as work is an unknown at the moment, I have battled with whether to leave her or not. Hopefully work falls into place and I’m not left coffeeing alone, free from children having a marvelous time at the shops at home twiddling my thumbs, missing my babies terribly. I have gone from being excited for her – she is such a busy little bee that she will no doubt lap up the stimulation and new experiences- to the old classic mamma guilt and sadness. If the monkey would drink a bottle, life would be a little bit easier for us all!!

At moments like these you realize how much money totally sucks!!!! (how maturely written of me!!). We live a reasonably basic life disguised or rather crippled under a huge mortgage for a house we built with children in our minds. I like to buy my girls new things but am happy to sacrifice for myself to make that happen. Work for me is about covering the expenses, not living a lavish life – we made a decision that being home with one of us was more important than other life luxuries. We don’t skimp on food and I would hope the girls never feel that they miss out but we do it tight each month. So to maintain a lifestyle where C gets a new wardrobe with the change of season, we have a fridge full of food and petrol in the car, work for me is an unfortunate necessity.

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A lantern lighting her way

A mixed post – a bit of craft, a bit of mummy reflection! Forgive me if it doesn’t gel together well!

I’m posting this activity today not because it’s groundbreaking or even that it turned out to be anything spectacular, but because it represents a win with C. It’s both a trying and amazing time with her all rolled into one. She is putting on concerts for us, dictating when we clap and say goodbye to her, her pretend play continues to grow more elaborate and she’s enjoying finding new ways to play with her sister. On the other hand she is battling for independence and I’m finding it hard to let go and give it to her! As my first born she will always be my ‘baby’ that I try and keep that way forever! Before her we lost 2 pregnancies so the journey to get her was filled with anxiety – I’ll always worry about her that little bit more I think, particularly as she is so sensitive. Not to say I don’t worry about L- she’s just a different person!

C spent a lot of time pasting today as I was busily cutting and laminating some new activities to do with her. She usually uses paste with a brush but today, for the first time, used a glue stick. If ever there was proof that it’s the simple things in life that bring the most pleasure, it was this glue stick!!

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She was so proud of her effort that she asked me if she could ‘show daddy the stick sticks’ so we all piled in the car and took the pasting 20 mins up the road, in the rain to D’s work!

Later in the afternoon we were having some down time in front of Play School. Charlee’s absolute favourite presenter, Rhys, was making paper lanterns and through the windows we saw some other lanterns. C jumped up and grabbed some tissue paper from the pasting supplies and told me it was a lantern. She was holding it up to the TV and looking at the light through it. Following her interest, I grabbed a glass jar and showed her how to apply glue and tear tissue paper to stick on.

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She was very proud of her handiwork!

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Using what was lying around the house I shoved a lump of play dough in the bottom of the jar and a birthday candle into it. C thought that was fabulous and started to sing Happy Birthday! We lit it and were very pleased with the outcome!

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C enjoyed blowing the candle out over and over again and telling me to make wishes. I love that we transitioned to this activity following her interest and lead and that the end result was something new and interesting to her. It was nice to have a day of doing things together without me worrying about the house or preparing dinner or catching up with someone.

My goal over the next week is to curb the frustration and embrace my independent, amazing little girl more! The tantrums and tears aren’t deliberate attempts to sabotage my day (!) it must be just as hard for her to understand her new place in this world as is it for me to let go the little bit that I need to. I feel for her when she gets dressed and gets an arm stuck – it must be incredibly frustrating to want to do something so badly! We are different people in many ways, very similar in ways that we could do with being different in!!!!!! We love intensely, we fight just as intensely!

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

A quick drop in to wish everyone a happy Easter. I hope wherever you are in the world you spent the time with loved ones, laughing and being a little bit naughty in the chocolate department! Easter in my favourite holiday – its Christmas without the stress! Looking forward to getting back on the blog over the next week. Right now we are enjoying time to ourselves again as our little L is back to settled evenings – the time to myself almost makes up for the nightly visits to my bed from C and multiple feeds for L!

Right now this is the photo that warms my heart. A growing bond! It looks staged (and yes matchy-matchy is!) but they spend a lot of time holding hands! C uses this to drag L to wear she wants her when playing games but ignoring that, it’s really sweet!

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I love this one too – C is grabbing L as she makes a run for it (well a crawl- you know what I mean!) and was saying her frequently heard “oh! Lexie-Lou!”

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…And one more! This is us all! Sums us up to a tee – C wriggling and giggling as she’s tickled by daddy, L trying to dive somewhere more interesting, D and I laughing as we try to maintain some element of control over our crew!

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A journey into BLW

*Preface – I have had this post in draft format over the long weekend. I noticed this morning my good friend has posted about introducing food – I hope you don’t think I am poaching your ideas, great minds think alike!!! Mwah!! This is also another post about the BLW approach to introducing solids. The Internet is littered with them. This is not intended as information on BLW, I suggest here or here if you want that. This post is purely to share our journey so far because, quite frankly, I am a super proud mumma and very excited about it!!!

“Do NOTstart solids before 6 months” – the advice I give to any friend with a little bub. Not based on any strong belief other than that of mother sanity and how much easier life is when breastfeeding is the only feeding you are doing!!! Despite my well-meaning advice, I found myself steaming and mashing and spoon feeding L at 5 months on the dot. She had begun to feed 4-hourly round the clock again and I had some hope that it may help her sleep a longer stretch. A few days in, nothing had changed (and I wasn’t surprised) and I was sat in front of my bub wondering why I was going down this path again! So we stopped! The masher went away, the “weaning” spoons went away and I happily returned to being an exclusive breast feeder ….with a baby who woke 4-hourly!!!

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When weaning C I had been keen to “get food into her” as she was very little and I hoped solids would help fatten her up. I never puréed but I did mash. She was eating family meals from around 9/10 months but it was always filled with nerves and fear that she would choke. As a generally lazy house-keeper, I never packed food to go out, she always ate off my plate but again this was filled with nerves! I didn’t follow the wait-3 day rule nor did I follow any charts about what she should or should not eat at a particular age. If it felt right, she ate it. I had read about baby led weaning but was skeptical and did, what I now reflect back on, as a tentative combination of mashes and finger food with an 70% focus on the mash!

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The month between our false-solid-start and really commencing solids, I read up on BLW. Armed with bookmarked images and You Tube clips I discussed it with D and decided it was the way to go. The more I read, the more it made sense and seemed like a better fit for our family. Some reasons it seemed like a better fit:

*No special preparation on my behalf = save time, save stress
*Keeps my hands free to help either child as needed and to enjoy my food with the girls.
*L always feeling part of the family as she would join in family meals from Day 1, eat off our plates as she wanted and not having her own separate meal time to get spoon fed.
*Giving L choice over what and how much she ate seemed more aligned with how we parent and I hope this will lead to L making good food choices and having a healthy attitude towards food as she grows up. No self imposed rules about what she can and can’t have – just a balanced, moderated diet like the rest of the family enjoys.

From the moment L could sit in her little Bumbo seat, she joined us for meals. Both girls have always been around us whilst we prepare. C, hands right in there helping out, L happily sitting in her high chair observing and playing. L has been a long time fan of what I call ‘boobie-milk’ icy poles. And spent a lot of our meal times happily sucking away on a frozen cube of breastmilk.

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At a picnic with friends 5 days before her half birthday, L leaned forward, helped herself to a strawberry off the fruit platter and began to gum it. It was a very clear ‘I’m ready mum’ and the most natural transition to solid food I could ask for!

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks I have been amazed watching L take to solid food as if she has always eaten it! I have seen her coordination quickly improve and she is constantly practicing chewing. She loves mealtimes, makes an enormous mess and gets incredibly cranky if you suggest meals are over before she’s good and ready! It’s been easy from my end too. I make sure that whatever veggies we are having for tea, a portion are cut into wedges or fingers and cooked a bit longer than ours, fruit we all eat off a platter at morning tea time.

20130313-155933.jpgIn terms of how often she eats – basically whenever she is awake during our meal times. She is generally having 2 meals a day now. Sometimes she eats lots, other times she plays.Her favourites so far are zucchini (given to her skin on as a finger- she just sucks the ‘meat’ out), toast and watermelon.

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20130313-160204.jpg I have found use for mashes and purees in amongst this – I spread puréed fruit onto French toast and moistened Weet-Bix and have also on occasion given her a bowl with mashed veggies if I have forgotten to do her some wedges and she has enjoyed shoveling them to her mouth …. And then washing her hair, face, between her toes with them!!! It’s been a lot of fun!!!

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It’s been a psychological shift on my part to accept that until you find a soiled nappy, you really have little idea how much they are eating! I am being very brave and cheer little L as she works a piece of food forward in her mouth using her tongue if she is struggling with it! I asked D how he felt about this and he said “I love it. It just seems so natural” and that’s been the beauty of it. Our parenting has revolved around what feels natural and right for us. We don’t adhere to any strict lifestyle choices or align ourselves with any one parenting philosophy – if it feels right to us we go with it!! I’ll repeat the theme of this post over the next 6 months and fill you in on how we are going!

My one burning question is: When do you stop being amazed and stop taking photos everytime they eat?!! and my one big tip Get a dog! The mess is horrendous!!!.

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Half a year

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Some how, with the blinking of an eye, L turned 6 months last week. I blinked and half a year passed. There is no doubting that the parenting journey has been harder second time round with the needs of two to juggle but, as any parent would say, I couldn’t imagine our world without our happy girl.

L has come such a long way. We have treated and cured her torticollis and she has now graduated from the osteopath. I do get pangs of sadness when I look back at photos of her neck so tight and sore and think of the difficulty I used to have putting her in a pram or the car or dressing her. I actually deleted several videos off my phone yesterday of me talking to her on her ‘bad’ side and her not turning her face to look at me. She has grown from a tiny SGA baby into a nearly-average sized bub and it’s been lovely to avoid the nagging worry of slow weight gain that I had with C this time round. She is mobile now (in a strange commando-style crawling kind of way), sits up with strength and happily throws herself from sitting, back onto her stomach. She is very vocal and I’m sure she’s already teaching herself how to tell me off! She has started solids and we are taking a BLW approach with her (more on my excitement about this over the next couple of days).

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It amazes me each day that my two babies, built of the same DNA, can be so different! Our first born was so placid ..until she turned into a determined toddler. L is the opposite! She is a very active baby who just wants to see and do everything RIGHT NOW! This naturally presents challenges I didn’t encounter with C: she has trouble winding down to sleep, she wakes practicing mobility skills and ends up all in a knot, she overtires and frustrates herself quickly! She is more like me. She’s not a cuddly baby – she’s too busy to rest in someone’s arms but she is a mum’s girl which is nice in a way but makes things a bit more difficult given C would happily go to anyone.

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The next 12 months were my favourite age with C and I am really looking forward to going through this phase again with L. The new skills, the emerging personality, more settled ‘routine’ – it’s a lot of fun!

Happy half birthday beautiful girl!

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