It’s OK to be who you are

OK

At the beginning of my motherhood journey, with a babe in-utero, I remember believing I needed to be this certain type of mama in order to be ‘good’. You know the one. The one with the pinterest-worthy home, the Martha Stewart cooking and decor, the knitting/sewing/handmade mama, the one who knows all the answers, the one with a seemingly endless supply of fun, enriching activities for her children.

pregnancy

Thankfully that changed once I was actually faced with the reality of children. Not only is that impossible, but I want my children to see me as the complex, flawed, funny human being I am.

Painted Lulu

I want them to be themselves, so I be myself. I want them to know it’s OK to make mistakes, so I let them see me make mistakes. I let them see me apologise genuinely, so that they will learn to apologise genuinely.

I want them to feel heard, valued and appreciated purely because they are them, not due to some idealised person they expect themselves to be.

My shy boy

I want them to question things and challenge the norm. I want them to celebrate being different and thinking differently. I want them to know that it is OK to be who they are. Because I’m still working on that for myself, and I figure I’ll give them a head start..

the little things

Inspired by Meagan at This Whole Family, I thought I would share some of our ‘little things’..

A weekly meme capturing the hidden beauty and grace found in the little things that remind us of just how blessed we are :

reggio, blocks, play, toys
climbing tree
toddler, sleep

1. listening to Cam’s elaborate stories involving his little buildings and people

2. taking a second to look up at the perfect climbing tree

3. nothing says ‘slow down mama’ like a snuggly snoozing toddler

littlethings, this moment, waldorf, montessori

What little moments did your week bring?

Behaviour

I was asked to write about behaviour and sibling issues. The difficult thing is that anything pertaining to these topics is so individual.

They talk about siblings being like chalk and cheese. My two certainly fit this description when it comes to personality and behaviour. I see one of my roles as a mother as accepting my children for who they are – both for their talents and their flaws.

montessori, siblings, rivalry, behaviour

I believe an important part of my ‘job’ is to nourish my children, encourage them and help them reach their best potential. Not just academically but within their relationships, their emotional intelligence, their motivation, their ethic, etc etc.. the list goes on and on. I don’t think this is truly possible without them having self confidence and self awareness.

Cameron is a sensitive boy. He is intelligent and cautious. He has always been selective but curious. He always wants to help and is gentle and caring. Cam craves guidance and is full of questions. Even as a young toddler he was forever asking “what’s that?”

Almost any sense of danger, anger or upset (including even gentle discipline such as simply talking through an issue) is met with sensitivity or tears. This is one of my biggest hurdles as Cameron’s Mum. He is introverted and quick to fold into himself emotionally in order to deal with anything confronting. He is perceptive and clever so not much goes over his head.

montessori, pouring, toddler, home

As a sibling, for the vast majority, he is a beautiful role model and big brother. His sensitivity and gentleness is the perfect contrast to Lucy’s fiery passion and determined but happy nature. Cameron is brilliant with Lucy so long as he has the ability to help me take care of her and he is heard. Lucy is only 13 months old so her Lucy-centric behaviours are expected and understandable. She loves her big brother so wholeheartedly and just wants to do everything that he does. This can mean lots of tantrums, messes and general upset – from all parties!

Lucy is a happy girl with a passionate personality. She is fearless and defiant. Her determination is incredible. How headstrong she is, is the main reason I struggle moreso with her than Cameron with behaviour – even as a baby! She loves fiercely and you will hardly ever hear her cry (growling or throwing a tantrum, however, is a regularly occurrence). She is inquisitive but would much rather learn and master things on her own than have any help or guidance.

montessori, toddler, postbox, home

Every single one of the many traits of each of my children is completely accepted by me. I can see the positives and potential in every mannerism and characteristic. Of course, I struggle; particularly when the attribute is something that reminds me of myself (Cameron’s anxiety and difficulty socially.. Lucy’s fearlessness and determination) but that’s the beauty of parenthood. I’m forever learning.

Some resources that I have drawn upon when I feel like whatever I am doing is not working (perhaps it isn’t age appropriate or it isn’t dealing with the root of the problem) are Elevating Childcare and Aid to Life.

pattern blocks, montessori, preschooler, behaviour

With respect to dividing my time between my children, we do mostly everything together. Cameron is content the majority of the time so long as he is involved and heard. Lucy is happy just to watch sometimes and they get along really well. There are times where Lucy requires my full attention but most of the time Cameron is either helping, doing an activity or independently playing. Cameron, being an affectionate child, does get jealous sometimes of all the cuddles that are involved with the care of an infant/young toddler. But a cuddle is all he needs to be off again playing or to resume an activity.

Random Cuteness

Today has been one of those days. It has been raining, Cameron is teething (still, he is so unlucky with teeth!), and I’m out of money for going anywhere or doing anything.

But I have been forcing myself to see the sweet, cute, clever and funny things that Cameron has been doing to get myself out of this funk. I love…

– seeing his pride as he does something new (in this case, swinging on the big boy swing)
– hearing how he pronounces some things… like “spep” (step) and “dancee” (dancing)
– watching him put away all his train tracks and trains piece-by-piece without me asking
– looking down to see this:


– hearing him say “oh no” with concern when he hears the sirens of an ambulance or fire engine
– Cam’s enthusiasm for feeding my fish every morning
– watching his brain gears turning as I ask him to point to different shapes (he now knows star, crescent (moon), circle, triangle and square… and sometimes rectangle and diamond.
– listening and watching intently as Cameron reads a book back to me after I have finished it, pointing out the things that I did and nodding.
– hearing him complain about the stickers being “stitee” (sticky) when I set up this quick, cheap colour sorting activity (simply drawing circles with crayon in corresponding colours to the stickers & pointing out how they matched – he did the rest)

Tomorrow we have Montessori playgroup in the morning and Saturday is my Dad’s wedding so hopefully my next post will be full of lovely photos and things to share 🙂

my son…

my son:

{loves to spin around and around}

{calls me Mummy 50% of the time now – rather than Rachel}

{makes monkey noises if I ask him “are you a cheeky monkey?”}

{believes that a nudie-rudie run after every bath is compulsory}

{sorts by colour now}

{knows ‘up’ and ‘down’ & points in the direction when asked}

{knows where his hair, eyes, nose, ears, chin, teeth, tongue, hands, feet, belly button, bottom and privates are}

{isn’t that fussed with his new – to us – outdoor play kitchen} – we will do this up, pics soon

{points out things that are circular in shape and knows what a circle is}

{tries to paint/draw in circles and says “round and round” in tot-speak}

{drank out of a vase at Montessori instead of putting the flower in it}

{hears airplanes well before I do & gets this beautiful look in his eyes when he spots one}

{loves koalas (“coo-wah-wah!”) and frogs (“ri-bih!”) at the moment}

{adores this book – he asks to read it over and over}

{is interested in phonics – he already can say & identify m, a, and b}

{said thank you several times to his Daddy for his newly painted rocking chair, and outdoor chairs}

{says his own name now}

{asks to call his Grandma several times a day}

{is getting a longer and longer attention span. He will happily sit through stories and work on something interesting}

this set up meant I could clean the kitchen

{has dropped down to one breastfeed a day most days now}

{asks boobah, please? nigh nigh? when he gets hurt or overwhelmed as he knows that nigh nigh time means mama milk}

{is just adorable}

Nature and My Tot

Our herbs are going well. Our garlic has shoots and the other herbs have grown a lot. We have lavender in the middle of the big pot, surrounded by thyme, coriander, oregano and chives and there is mint in the seperate pot (it tends to take over if planted with other herbs). Cameron enjoys watering the plants with me. He likes catching the dripping water from the strawberry plant that hangs above them.

Cameron and I love going to The Daisy Hill Koala Centre and the native park that is joined to it. It’s such a lovely area with tonnes of wildlife and little walks that are the perfect length for toddler-paced adventures.

Cameron laughs when the koalas scratch themselves and he says “shh” complete with little finger-to-the-mouth action when they sleep (most of the time). We were lucky to see a kookaburra up very close who was hanging out with the koalas.

Cameron spent a lot of the time pointing at the sky spotting aeroplanes and yelling “pane!” rather than caring about the interesting wildlife. I swear he was more fussed by the dog (“wow puppyyyy!”) than the wallabies on our walks.

He does, however, say wallaby and koala now and was excited to answer his Daddy’s question about what he saw today with his attempt at “wallaby baby” (wowaby bay-bee).

Do you see it???

Mostly, I love watching him collect leaves, sticks, stones and leaves along the way, and point out ferns, vines, bark and wildlife. He loves to sit down randomly in the grass.

Tomorrow we have a less-lovely day with a doctor visit and his 18 month immunisations. Wish us luck!

Rhythm, More Montessori and Current Projects

One of the main things that I love about the Waldorf (Steiner) method is the emphasis on rhythm. Children thrive off of a predictable, repetitive daily/weekly rhythm. The focus is not on scheduling or routine but rather a natural progression of daily activities. For example, lunch isn’t at a certain time, but rather after morning outdoor play and before nap time.

The sense of rhythm isn’t limited to day-to-day living either but also weekly (i.e. Tuesday is Art Day or Sunday is Family Day) and seasonal (including festivals). The rhythm is not something set-in-stone but is an flexible, ever-adapting ‘to-do list’.

I feel I’m getting to a stage of ‘perfecting’ our daily and weekly rhythm for this point in our lives. For me, the mere fact that I am really thinking about what we do on a day-to-day basis (and how and why) help to make me more purposeful and I’m growing as a mother and a woman because I’m broadening my skill-set.

Random cute photo of Cam & Charli The Kitten

If you are interested in our weekly rhythm at the moment, it is generally:
Monday – Baking
Tuesday – Art
Wednesday – Nature
Thursday – Organisation
Friday – Playgroup
Saturday – Out & About
Sunday – Family

Obviously, we do each of these things on other days too, but these are the focus for those days.

What I love is that it is making me try new things (and try again and again) such as baking on a regular basis (hence my search for the best go-to bread recipe! any suggestions welcome!), reading (Montessori mainly, but also books on mindful parenting and nature play) and different projects myself. I think that is important, not just for me but because I want Cameron to see me being creative in many ways too.

However, I’m now (hopefully) changing Thursday to what I call “Senses Day” (a new Racheous-invention) where we will make a concerted effort to experience new things for each sense [i.e. listen to some new music (sound) on our way to a new place (sight) and try a new food (taste) and focus on a new scent (smell) & try a new sensory activity (touch)].

Our daily rhythm has changed considerably as I’ve simplified and adjusted according to Cameron’s new abilities. I’m hoping to start on more Tot School-esque activities because Cameron is really getting interested in learning different things (e.g. his favourite activities at the moment involve big/small, counting, transportation, shapes and in/out) . I’ll follow what he is interested in and expand on his knowledge and help him develop in all different areas.

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Working on pouring at Montessori Playgroup

We (meaning Mike and I) are Montessori mad at the moment and I have been reading a tonne of Montessori books and online information. We have decided that Montessori is definitely the method of education we want for our children. The biggest set-back for us is the fact that there is only one Montessori school in Brisbane (a couple are over an hour away but impractical) and it is expensive. I think, however, that education (moreover, a life-long love of learning and helpful life-skills) is worth it.

His new sweeping circular painting technique. He was very focussed.

I checked out the Children’s House that is attached to Cameron’s Infants House (playgroup) and fell in love. I could go on and on (and on, seriously) about what I observed in such a short timeframe and how it inspired me as a parent… and in what I hope to do beyond parenting. So I’m going to put Cammy on the waiting list! Again, it is more expensive than our other options but you can’t put a price on this kind of thing.

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Some recent projects:

Hand- and foot-print keepsakes – as seen at The Imagination Tree (sooo easy & cheap – it’s a must-do for mamas!). I am going to paint them white.

DIY (freezer paper & fabric paint) stencilling – as seen at Soulemama (and in her book!).

ETA finished product:

I think it turned out great. I’m fairly certain a little choo-choo-obsessed somebody will be thrilled to wear this tomorrow. However, I am now obsessed with DIY stencilling!!!

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Congratulations for making it through an epic post. Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Montessori and Natural Parenting

As a mama who is passionate about natural parenting (‘attachment’ parenting, ‘extended’ breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, etc) and increasingly incorporating Montessori (and Waldorf, more on that soon) methods into my home; I was stoked to see the article Montessori and Attachment Parenting at At Home with Montessori.

It is such a lovely post and clearly shows how both of the parenting philosophies can work together.

Another great article on the subject was written earlier this year at the Natural Parenting Network: Montessori and Natural Parenting.

I truly think that there is no one way to parent and that mothering changes and adapts with each child and with time. However, I think there should always be an emphasis on respecting the child.

Teeth & Montessori

Sorry for the lack of posts.

Cameron has had four (yes, four) teeth cut through at the same time and he has been waking very frequently throughout the night as well as nursing really frequently.

It goes without saying that I’m drained… Just pure drained.

I don’t know how Mum’s of bad-sleeping-babies and with many children do it. You’re all freaking amazing.

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Cam & I went to a trial session at a local Montessori school where they have infant/toddler classes. I went mainly to get ideas and to see whether it was worth the money for our situation.

It was beautiful. All the children throughout the school were so courteous and gentle. The infant/toddler section of the school was gorgeous… tiny equipment and materials all simply prepared.

It was lovely to see toddler washing windows and quietly playing.

I find Cameron suits Montessorian learning because he is naturally detail orientated and focussed. He loved it.

I couldn’t justify the cost ($27 for two hour session) especially as I do some of the things at home* and Cameron already does swimming, baby rhyme time at the library, kindergym & playgroups.

*The Montessori-inspired things that I already did were:
– Cam has a toddler broom and ‘helps’ me sweep and cleans his mirrors/tables/high chair with me
– Cam’s toys and books are all accessible to him
– He helps with brushing his teeth, washing his face, dressing, etc
– He can get in and out of his cot (Set up like toddler bed against our bed now that he can get off the bed safely. Until now he had a floor bed)
– Several of his toys are Montessori-ish (wooden puzzles, shape sorters, stackers as well as his water table outside and sandpit)
– We have a reading corner set up in his room
– I tend to choose books that have real pictures instead of cartoony ones
– He has some art at his eye level in his playroom and room
– He has mirrors at his level as well
– He helps to feed the cat and fish
– Cam has started to use utencils in the past month

I agree with a fair amount of the benefits of Montessorian practices but a few of the things aren’t to my liking or I don’t find practical. I like to use bits and pieces of different parenting/learning techniques and adjusting to Cameron at the time and Montessori just happens to help that process.

The main thing that I took away from the session was that I needed to simplify Camerons room and playroom… so we’ve done a major re-organise and shuffle. Now that his cot is in our room I’ve moved his bookcase into his room and I rotate books daily as we read throughout the day.

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Cameron is really loving imitation lately. From daily chores to ‘talking’ on the phone. He also tries to imitate some words when I’m talking to him about things lately. Usually he just imitates the melody of the words (i.e. sounds like he’s asking a question in his baby talk or something funny) and it’s so freaking cute to see him being so serious.

He is walking so well now and practically runs sometimes. He loves carrying and pushing things around. He brings me odd things 😛

We did our first stART project (see here for details) the other day. I wasn’t sure on how long Cameron would concentrate for but he surprised me and I made sure he had fun and it wasn’t forced. I’ll do a post about it with pictures tonight.

I hope you’re having a lovely weekend!!!

Breastfeeding Beyond One Year Is Disgusting

The title is ridiculous, I know, but some people believe this.

Disclaimer(s): I’m about to talk about ‘extended’ breastfeeding (beyond one year). I know that this ‘debate’ is a sensitive one and I really do not want people to feel judged.

For me, it is not about what is ‘best’ but what is best for you, your child/ren and your situation.

I truly believe that there are countless ‘right’ ways to raise a child.

This post has been brought about because of the amount of ignorant and frankly hurtful comments that I have had regarding breastfeeding – both in real life and online and the comments I’ve read online on vlogs (all you have to do is youtube ‘breastfeeding toddler’ to get bombarded by hateful comments, trust me).

Anyway, I just want to empower mothers and hope that you learn even one thing from this post. Feel free to debate it and tell me what you think.

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Breastfeeding your toddler can provide:
31% of his daily energy needs,
38% of protein requirements,
45% of Vitamin A requirements, and
95% of Vitamin C needs.

Source: WHO/CDR/93.4

I nurse my 13.5 month old son.

I work on the ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ policy.

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Why do I do it? There are so many reasons.

It is not just about the milk. I’m sure you are already aware that breastmilk is a living fluid. The exact composition of breast milk varies from day to day, depending on your food consumption and environment.

Breastmilk even changes during a feed. Initially foremilk is produced (the milk released at the beginning of a feed, is watery, low in fat and high in carbohydrates) and as the feed progresses creamier hindmilk is released which is filling. The breast can never be truly “emptied” since milk production is a continuous biological process.

“In addition to the appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat, breast milk also provides vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes and hormones – all of the things that a growing infant will require. Breast milk also contains antibodies and lymphocytes from the mother that help the baby resist infections. The immune function of breastmilk is individualized, as the mother, through her touching and taking care of the baby, comes into contact with pathogens that colonize the baby and consequently her body makes the appropriate antibodies and immune cells.”

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Aside from the nutritional benefits (which I certainly don’t underestimate – I take comfort in the fact that he gets some of his nutrients from me) there are things that aren’t talked about as often.

Like how it is easy. Breastfeeding is convenient. There is no washing of bottles/sippy cups, carrying around milk or formula and worrying about temperature (if your tot is fussy).

It is an instant calmer. If Cameron bites his tongue or falls over or is sick it is like magic.

Not to mention the health benefits to me, the calories used which can help with weightloss and how it can help with allergies and speech development in children.

Nursing is a great way of touching base while Cameron busily explores his world. People have a misconception that breastfeeding for any length of time creates clingy and emotionally dependent kids. But many studies show that providing your little one with this loving and secure base actually helps him to become independent. Breastfeeding truly provides a sense of stability during a time of rapid growth and development.

It sucks that breastfeeding beyond a year is considered ‘extended’ breastfeeding in western society. It sucks that conditioning, generalisations and outdated information seems to be the driving factor in some mothers’ decision making.

It sucks that nursing a toddler is considered by some to be wrong, gross, perverted, abusive, sick or disgusting.

It sucks that breastfeeding in public is even something that is debated!

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It must be said that a lot of these beliefs stem from the sexualisation of breasts in our culture.

“Bonding” is a big factor. It’s a kind of vague concept. Many mothers say it.. “breastfeeding creates such a beautiful bond, I love it” and what not. But what do we mean?

For me, it is all those little blissful moments. I think prior to breastfeeding I really didn’t understand the concept – it was so abstract.. But now I get it and it’s hard to figure out how to share it without offending someone. But hopefully you will understand where I am coming from.

Nursing a child is truly one of the most intimate things I’ve ever experienced. Not intimate in a sexual sesnse but intimate in that it is so innocent and sweet and unique to you and your nursling. It can really force you to slow down and revel in the simple beauty of it.

My first experiences with nursing can make me get emotional even now. How he would stare up at me and suckle furiously. How he would hold my finger and do little shifty eyes. I still marvel at it now and all the moments that we share because of breastfeeding.

I’m by no means saying that Mum’s who don’t breastfeed do not bond to their children or anything like that. I wasn’t breastfed and I think my Mum is amazing and you certainly don’t need nursing to establish a beautiful mother-child bond.

But it is multi-faceted and the relationship is different and unique.

The bond is all about the closeness. The little moments that are the norm in the flow of your day.

The snuffling to find the comfort. Those precious times that he falls asleep at the breast and he is so peaceful, content, flushed and full.

It is the anticipatory noises, the grunts while feeding and sighs that follow. & the way that he will smile up at me and that gaze that melt my heart and makes me feel like I’m the centre of his world in that moment. Those big blue eyes staring up at me while I share those moments.

Or how his body has grown and adapted to feeding positions. How he now tucks his legs in when he feeds laying down or how he can even stand and feed now.

& the magical times where he giggles while nursing. When I make a funny noise when he is poking at my face or when I play peek-a-boo. Those precious funny moments where he lets out his chuckle between sucks.

It’s all the heart warming, touching, can’t-believe-you-are-mine moments. It’s all those things and so much more that make me so eternally grateful that I relactated back when he was so young and got another year (and counting) of this magic.

It’s all those things that make me want to encourage other mothers to have this experience too, if they can and want to.

& it is all of those reasons why I wish that breastfeeding beyond one year was seen as normal and as the beautiful thing that it is.

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P.S. If you want to know more info or where I got my info, just email me at racheous@live.com.au 🙂