Farm Animals, Aussie Animals and A Wild One Too!

ipswich nature centre, wombat, montessori, homeschool

We now live right around the corner from a nature centre. We have already taken advantage of this and visited twice since the move. Cameron is fascinated by the animals and loves learning more about them.

australian animals, matching, montessori

This matching activity is very easy for Cameron but the challenge now is learning the names of some of the animals he does not know well (i.e. bilby, echidna, tasmanian devil). We work on starting sounds of the animals he is very familiar with (‘w’ wombat, ‘d’ dingo, ‘k’ kangaroo/koala/kookaburra). Many of the matching and sorting activities I have made for Cameron are easy to develop into something more challenging and interesting for him.

play dough, diy, recipe, montessori, farm animals, schleich

For Easter I bought Cameron and Lucy some Schleich farm animals (they got plenty of other traditionally Easter related gifts from us and others too) which have been a regular play thing. Yes, Lucy is nomming a gumnut in the photo above. These figures have really helped Cameron learn the different names for female, male and juvenile farm animals.

schleich, farm animals, montessori

After a lot of play with the dough and animals, we decided they needed a bath.

qld, ipswich, snake

We had our first wild snake visit our yard! So scary, considering Cameron was downstairs playing and saw it first and screamed out to me. Our new place backs onto vacant land and a river so I sort of expected snakes. It was a good wake up call to teach Cameron about wildlife. Thankfully he is naturally cautious and respectful of animals and insects.

coin activity, diy, montessori, toddler

Lucy has started more activities. Above are some photos I snapped of her first coin activity. She didn’t even notice I was taking pictures, she was so engaged. Ring stackers are a big hit with her at the moment too. She isn’t sorting by colour or size but she loves removing and replacing the rings of her stackers:

stackers, toys, montessori, home

I have been organising a few activities for both Lucy and Cameron. We went to a baby farm animal petting zoo which Cameron (& I!) loved so decided to expand on the farm animals we know and their young in a fun way. I made up this bingo game! I’m yet to print it out and play but I will share when we do!

montessori, printable, free, farm

Would anyone be interested in this Farm Animal Bingo as a printable? If I get interest I will create a file to share with subscribers :)

Toy recommendations for a 9-12 month old

I always love seeing what toys and materials other families recommend, so I thought I would share the toys that Lucy tends to favour. As a Montessori-inspired household, she of course has access to all of her toys on low shelves. She also has access to some of Cameron’s toys as well as general toys like blocks, musical instruments, our play farm and various animals and cars, etc.

montessori, toys, infant, toddler

Her absolute favourite toys that get played with daily are:

- a wooden postbox toy from the Early Learning Centre
– this ball tracker which I was lucky enough to find 2nd hand (apparently called a ‘GoGo Toys Clogging Track’)
– her DIY Montessori object permanence box
– this music box by ‘U Wood Wooden Toys’ that I got from ebay

montessori, toys, infant, toddlerSome more toys that get regular play and I would recommend are the peg stacker, advanced ball return (she’s only just started to work on this at 11 months), pop-up toy, increasing circle puzzle and the windmill stacker (which mostly just gets pulled apart at this stage but she will consistently choose it).

1st birthday, montessori, toys, gift ideas, toddlerLucy’s birthday is this month and aside from some clothes and books, she will be getting the above from us. The cabbage patch baby doll is a soft toy. The wheely bug, colour sorting stacker and lock box are all from Classic Baby.

Most of what she plays with are more open-ended toys and ‘un-toys’ and she spends a lot of time crawling through our play tunnel, following Cameron and I, playing peekaboo & climbing everything.

What would you recommend for a 9-12 month old? What would you suggest for a gift for a one year old’s birthday?

Some of what we have been up to

Sending off packages for the cultural exchange:Image
Mike made a Montessori object permanence box for Lucy:Image

She loves it. She concentrates so hard!Image

Lucy has been exploring a variety of treasure baskets with all kinds of goodies. Pants optional :PImage

Cam’s shelves at the moment:Image

Cameron started a Montessori-inspired kindy once a week and is loving it:Image

Mike also made a pull up bar for Lucy. She is pulling up to stand on everything but this is just a tad too high at the moment:Image

We have been doing endless activities. Cameron is at the point now where his attention span is really growing and he asks for activities often. He is loving everything Christmas related. Here he is sorting pom poms by size. Image

He is loving puzzles at the moment and is constantly repeating them. We have definitely found the learning sweet spot!Image

Matching alphabet bean bags to sandpaper letters. The letters here are the only ones he knows by name (some by phoneme) consistently. He isn’t very interested in letters at this point. Image

These 10-piece number puzzles (from 3 Dinosaurs printables & 2 Teaching Mommies printables – we are using some of the Christmas ones at the moment) are a massive hit at the moment. They are done several times a day.
Image

All in all we are keeping busy and doing well. Cameron is 3 at the end of the month and Lucy is now 8 months old.

Lucy is clapping and vocalising a lot. She loves music and bops along to everything. She still has no teeth (Cam had teeth at 5.5 months! – he was working on his 7th and 8th teeth by now :P) but boy can she eat!

Cameron has adjusted so well to kindy. Next year he will be doing two 5 hour days in the preschool room.

I hope to update after Christmas with my birthday plans for Cam.

Head over to Kylie’s blog How We Montessori (my all time favourite blog – a must read for Montessori mamas and non-Monte mums alike) for my review of the eco-friendly Glob paint kit.

Lucy Snapshot (6.5 months old)

Lucy is a delightful baby and is growing up too fast!
She is a real mover. She sits herself up with ease and strength. She shuffles to get wherever/to whatever she wants. She rolled early and was rocking on all fours super early; so I should have known.
Lulu has started vocalising a lot more. She is often babbling away, a favourite being “dadadadad” just like Cammy at her age.
She is content to do whatever is offered and is not fussy. She adores her brother and really likes being around her cousins too. You can see how badly she just wants to be doing what they are doing.
She can get a little attitude about some things. Primarily food. She will also yell at you if you take a toy/item from her or leave the room without letting her know.
Her fine motor skills have come a long way in the past few weeks. She is keen to feed herself and she really loves and gets engaged with treasure baskets that I make up for her.
Her favourite toys are her Skwish, Cam’s playsilks & rainbow taggie. Other toys she will sometimes pay an interest too are her Haba trix toy, little wooden cars and her puzzle ball.
Mike is in the process of making a Montessori object permanence box and a pull up bar similar to these:
I will share photos once they are complete :) I have bought her a Montessori advanced ball return for Christmas. I’ve asked Mike to make some other materials too.
I will hopefully do a “Cameron Snapshot” soon :)

More Space Updates, Activities and Developments

Cameron is very very involved with practical life activities at the moment. I don’t really have to create any specific ‘activities’ because he wants to do everything and help with everything.

He is now pretty much toilet trained and I’d say 70% night-trained. He is getting better at brushing his own teeth, washing his hands thoroughly, washing himself (I have bought mini bottles to hold his shampoo and bodywash, which has helped). He likes to help with changing Lucy and is getting more successful with dressing himself (he can undress himself completely and put on hats, socks, underwear, some pants and shoes).

At 2. 5 years, these are the practical ‘chores’ he typically partakes in daily (I don’t expect it or ask him to, he really wants to):
– feed our cat
– help unpack & pack dishwasher
– help round up washing, put in powder & push button on machine
– help sort washing
– help put out the rubbish
– collect the mail
– help prepare meals
– get own snacks/drinks
– helps to sweep

The only thing that I ask him to do is tidy up his toys with me, otherwise everything else is just natural and usually he is the one asking.

Cam’s love for ‘writing’ and ‘lists’ hasn’t stopped and I will always encourage this sort of thing so I have set up a mini desk next to his Daddy’s one with pens, pencils, coloured pencils, alphabet stickers & stamps, envelopes, lined and unlined paper, coloured paper and a personalised return address stamp (all inspired by Playful Learning Spaces – I own and thoroughly recommend the book!). I’m hoping to set up a stamp & address system inspired by Sew Liberated – except smaller, with a business card holder (I will update once I have done this).

This space has been the inspiration for many spontaneous art/pre-writing adventures already. I’m sure it will evolve and grow as Cameron gets older.

Lucy is almost 4 months old and growing up way too fast. She is a master roller, has found her feet, loves grasping toys and is very strong (doing bubby push-ups and trying to get up on her knees already). Lulu is a very sweet natured baby. She is almost always happy and a very good breastfeeder.

Cameron adores her and she adores him right back. It’s so beautiful to see them together.

Also, I have added a pinterest button over to the right on my blog –>

Unfortunately I have been struggling mentally again lately. Hence the lack of updates again. Thank you to my new subscribers and readers, I truly appreciate it.

Our Evolving Spaces

We were going to be moving but Mike’s job wasn’t the right fit for our family; which was so disappointing. And as a result I really felt like I was stuck in a rut with this house. We have rented this house for over three and a half years now and have accumulated too much stuff. Everything felt cluttered and disorganised.

So, I have been simplifying and re-organising every room (still have much to go!) and trying to create more Montessori-inspired spaces.

We switched the play and living rooms so that the play areas are on tiles. This has freed up lots of space because I also pushed our dining table against the wall where the 6ft fish tank was (it’s now in the living room).

The space above has had a few changes and more to come. I finally found some appropriate sized glasses for Cam (he had grown out of the espresso one’s that I purchased after he grew out of shot glasses) and bought some proper smaller bowls and plates for him (up until now he has had plastic ones). Cam now sorts his cutlery and puts away his own dishes from the dishwasher. He loves sorting our cutlery too now and puts them all away while I put away the rest. We also purchased another step for him (Ikea 2 step stool) so that one can be out here and the other in the bathroom.

These smaller shelves now hold our instruments and Lucy’s toys are on the bottom shelves. The black box at the top is full of her other toys. The light table is to the right for now and (not pictured) I have bought a coffee table with a shelf under it to hold his sensory tub (which is currently space themed with mini rockets, rocks, homemade moonsand and various scoops/cups/tweezers/etc).

Here are Cam’s shelves. The top four are storage (mostly art supplies and practical life activity items). His 12 shelves hold his dough & materials, collage/gluing/stickers box, cutting practice tray, nature basket, puzzles, more puzzles, Montessori cylinders and sandpaper letters, a blank spot which will house his nesting boxes which are on their way, his farm & animals, some duplo, play silks and play foods.

Cam is just about ready, I think, to start using regular kids scissors. He has truly mastered these beginner ones.

This box gets a lot of use. Not all of the art supplies fit in the boxes up the top of these shelves; I’m only storing the things we use regularly (different types of paints/mark makers/stamps/papers/contact paper/etc). The rest is now neatly stored in a chest of drawers in our spare room.

I’ve added more helpful things for Cam as his abilities & interests have evolved (i.e. a laundry hamper, writing materials, appropriately sized soap to wash himself before I thoroughly clean him, etc)

Cam asked to do all four mini-cylinders at once. It was a bit too challenging & asked for help after finishing a little over half the pieces, but he put them back on their shelf without prompting. I am going to need to purchase a smaller work mat for him, he can’t roll this one independently & I’m going to try to get him using one now. Up until now I have only used it with him a handful of times.

Lucy is loving batting at toys and likes this handmade organic crocheted rattle (from etsy) for grasping practice.

Stay tuned for more. Please feel free to ask questions and/or make suggestions!!

Happy Mother’s Day!

I got smiles and cuddles for Mother’s Day. I’m so blessed!

My gorgeous rosebud has been giving me cute little smiles.

& I found a whole heap of hilariously cute pics like this one on my iPad, courtesy of our cheeky Camburger.

I hope you are feeling as happy as I am and that you are having a lovely weekend!

Life As a Mama of Two

Life is settling back into a new norm. For a while there, I’ll admit, the days felt pretty much full with the basics (nappies/feeding/settling/etc).

I always thought Cameron was an easy baby (my sister used to laugh because he really wasn’t, I just didn’t know any better) but now I know what it’s really like to have an easy bub. Lucy is beautiful and very relaxed. I think it’s mostly temperament but also partly how my mothering has changed.

Cameron still woke for a feed at one year old, whereas Lucy (from 3 weeks, she is now 6.5 weeks) is already – usually – only waking for one feed between 11pm and 5:30-6:00am (when Cam gets up and Mike goes to work). I know, I’m so lucky!

She’s also a good sleeper in the day and is only fussy when it comes to wind and she does get whingy if you don’t feed her right.that.second. She doesn’t bring up air well and is a strong feeder who gulps air a fair bit. But that is literally the only thing she struggles with, she is a natural breastfeeder (attached herself right after birth!) and is gaining weight perfectly.

She also likes the car (Cam used to scream so loud and high pitched and made it so hard to go anywhere!) She will sleep through noise too and is happy to be passed around for cuddles. She is such a little sweetheart and I just can’t wait to get to know her.

Lulu is already growing so fast! She smiled for the first time a couple of days ago and she is starting to focus her eyes and attention so much more. She is vocalising more too. She is very strong and has amazing neck control (has since birth, just like Cameron) but Lucy is less keen on tummy time (Cam loved it, whereas Lucy is either indifferent or mildly annoyed by it! hah).

Cameron is 28 months old and he is really thriving as a big brother. Sure, we have our moments, but all-in-all he is doing great. He loves to help with Lucy and he is at that awesome age where he is gaining independence in all areas and is keen to learn about everything.

Prior to having Lucy I really feared how it could impact mine and Cameron’s bond and relationship. But really, nothing has changed. Lucy has fitted almost effortlessly into our lives and makes it even better, even more. I’m so thankful for my babies and the bond that I have with them both.

Cam is really growing within himself. I see his confidence and independence developing. He is eating better and has finished teething. He is very chatty and his pronounciation is slowly improving. He comes out with the funniest things and is very inquisitive. He amazes me with how great he is at so many things and how he really is just a little person with such a unique and formed personality.

He is still very keen on art, reading, all sorts of matching/sorting activities and practical life activities. We are still doing tot school activities. I need to start taking more pics of our tot school-esque adventures because I really enjoy it but haven’t been ‘recording’ it. I’m observing Cameron more just in the past few days and hoping to get back into the swing of things in ways that I know will benefit him.

One thing that I’m stumped with is toilet learning. Cameron has been ready to use the toilet in every way (other than emotionally, it seems) for a long time. But there has always been something delaying it (teething, sickness, me being heavily pregnant, a newborn, etc etc) but now I feel like I’ve missed it with timing and it’s going to be hard. Cam knows when he needs to go, will go to the toilet and sit on it but flat out refuses to actually go, despite many ‘tactics’. He loves to use toilet paper, flush and wash his hands but he tells me he would rather poo and wee in his nappy. He also doesn’t seem discouraged by wetting underwear or the floor, he just helps me clean it up and moves on. Any advice?

When I was struggling with mental health, I found it so hard to accept that children do what they do when and how they want to (with respect to eating, learning, social interaction, etc etc). It’s not that I didn’t realise that was the case, or wanted him to be perfect or anything.. but it was an inward battle where I didn’t want Cammy to find things hard. But now I see that you can provide all the opportunities; but it’s up to the child as to how they respond. & why would you want you child to find everything easy? What’s life without failures and mistakes?

Anyway, just a small update. I am hoping to type up my birth story (a video blog version can be found on my Youtube channel). Thank you for your lovely comments/emails/subscriptions. It means so much to me. Hopefully I will get more into blogging and vlogging now that things are settled and we are all doing well. Let me know if you have any questions! <3

Mental Health

For the first time in my life I have the proper treatment for my mental health. It is utterly amazing what medication, and the right help from professionals can do. I have been medicated in the past and/or seen a psychologist and done tests, etc., but never have I felt [consistently] like this.

[side note: one of my pet peeves is when people ask me what happened to make me depressed or anxious… or tell me to be thankful for what I have… I know that sometimes, depression and/or anxiety are triggered by external events but in my case, it was/is primarily a chemical imbalance coupled with my reaction to situations, because of my nature. I know it is just ignorance but I wish that mental illness wasn’t so taboo so the general public could be more educated. SO MANY people deal with a mental illness of some kind in their lifetime. It would be so awesome if they didn’t feel wrong or alone while suffering]

Part of me can’t help but feel ripped off for the past however long of my life where I’ve struggled and struggled with depression and anxiety. It’s like a veil has been lifted from my face and I’m shocked into the realisation that this is how most other people feel all the time. Sure, I’ve had periods of my life without depressive episodes or major anxiety… but in the past month (since my psychiatric evaluation, mental health plan and consequent med dose increase) it as though I’m finally seeing in colour. Everything is clearer.

But you know what? Aside from happiness, contentment and feeling so damn greatful… the strongest emotion I’m feeling is PRIDE. Because now I can see that I coped so freaking well with that heavy veil of negativity clouding my thoughts. I am phenomenally strong. Depression, especially, is like walking through life in heavy layers of cold, soaking wet clothing with rain belting down on you – but everyone else sees a dry, warm version of you.

Depression robs you of basic motivation. Not in a ‘oh, I can’t be bothered right now’ kind of way… but in a deep-set, heavy, burdensome way that hits you out of no where. Often I would wake up with no will to do anything, I felt utterly hopeless – but I DID. Even though nothing seemed worth it. I kept going. I was a fucking brilliant mama considering the inner struggle I fought most days.

Anxiety weakens you. So alongside all of the above, I found myself doubting every action that I did make. At it’s worst I felt immobilised by fear. Anxiety attacks sure can be traumatic. Despite being mental illnesses, I went so much physically. The scariest part of anxiety attacks and suicidal ideation for me was that I partially dissociated anytime that things got too heavy.

My mind was so cruel to me. I was my own worst enemy. Every doubt and fear was fleshed out in my mind and I turned it in on myself. There was so much self-loathing.. so much pressure and expectations from myself. I think to those who had no idea, I came across as negative and self-centered. However, these thoughts are uncontrollable. Without help, it’s simply a downward spiral.

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday when I was talking about the future with Mike. I said to him “It’s so strange, since Lucy’s birth I have this overwhelming desire to make our dreams a reality.” I have always been determined, even when depressed, so it didn’t even occur to me that my drive was altered. But here I am with what feels like an injection of ambition and strength. & again, that makes me proud, to think that despite all the chemicals in my brain robbing me of my motivation and ability to positively look forward to the future; I sure fought through it.

It is funny adjusting to not dealing with the symptoms of severe depression or generalised anxiety disorder. Who knows what the future holds, but hopefully this will be my new normal. Depression and anxiety are so familiar to me. Particularly in the past 4 years. I’m still working through some of my internal dialogue and those automatic thoughts that have been my ‘go to’ when things get hard in my life. I feel like I have got to get to fully know this ‘new’ Rachel.

I don’t like what it took for me to truly actively seek help and help myself (I may talk about it in the future). But I’m so proud that I did. I’m so proud and thankful for the people in my life who have helped me through this (especially my husband and sister). Nothing I could do could repay them.

Anyway, I’m writing this quickly to share where I am at… and hopefully to inspire others to actively seek help if they are in that dark place. Things CAN be better. Believe me, I never thought so until proven otherwise. I always said that ‘it’ (depression and/or anxiety) was “just how I am”. & you are so much stronger than you think.

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OH, & I’m 24 today! Happy birthday to me :) Waking up to little Lucy and Cammy cuddles was the best birthday pressie ever!

Lucy Violet is here!

Lucy Violet entered the world at 6:25am on the 25th of March after a 17 hour labour. She weighed a petite 6 pound 8, was 51 cm long and had a head circ of 34cm. I pushed her out in one push!

We are all in awe and in love with her! She is just beautiful and such a dream baby. Aside from a post-dural-puncture ‘headache’ (so not a headache, as those in the know would know!) & the consequent visit to theatre for an epidural blood patch, we have been doing beautifully. I am so blessed and this is such a different experience to last time!