A Letter To My Former Self
7th July, 2018
You’re about to embark on a journey like no other. It’s not about you anymore, and it’s not about you and your partner anymore. You’re about to make the ultimate life sacrifice of giving up yourself, your identity as such, as to care for someone so much more. Your selfish and reckless days are no more. Your life will become more quiet, you will find yourself doing less but you will gain so much more than you can’t even imagine.
Slow it all down. The newborn bubble is a real thing, so embrace it and soak in each and every moment. Celebrate the small wins and feel free to cry about the hard times. Those cuddles don’t last forever, so let the jobs wait while you spend this special time with your new baby and your new little family.
You’ll have plenty of guests that want to come and visit, but make sure you leave time for you and baby too. It’s nice to share the love, but you need to soak it up for yourself too. It’s easy to get caught up in the help offered and whilst the help is good, don’t let it get in the way of your own time and your new life. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’.
Communicate endlessly with Dalt. You’ll have to put in extra effort, effort you have never had to do before. This is new for him too and he doesn’t know what you’re thinking or needing him to do. Communicate everything with kind and gentle words even when you’re tired and overwhelmed. Let him know how you feel about the bub, what is happening with bub and it will help him figure out this new life too. You’re a team, in this together.
You’ll get advice from everyone and I mean everyone! Family, friends and even strangers. Nod, smile and politely listen, but trust your instincts and do what you feel is right. Mama is always right and Mama knows best. Every baby is different and you know your bub the best so listen to your intuition and back yourself.
It will take more time and effort to maintain friendships with friends who do not have babies or children. But, that is okay and if they are true friends it will be worth it and they will be there for you. You may notice some friendships fade, and that is okay too. Life has changed dramatically for you and you’ll soon see your friendship circle change too, in good and bad ways. This is natural. Embrace the mother’s groups and mums with bubs circles. You share a similar interest now and you need these friends to talk about sleepless nights, little wins and poo explosions!
Most importantly, wake each day knowing you and your incredibly body have created a tiny little human that has changed yours and Dalt’s life forever, for the better. I repeat, take in every moment because they will not last forever.
19 months later, pregnant again and excited for the newest addition to join the family.
Evie’s Big Girl Room Transition
6th July, 2018
Transitioning Evie into a big girl room was something Dalton and I had talked about for some time. We moved house a few months ago and with a spare room it seemed more doable. We didn’t want the pressure of trying to do it closer to my due date in case we ran into some transitional problems, so we gave ourselves a good six months before I was due with baby number two.
As soon as I started buying things for the new big girl room, I closed the door off to Evie. I wanted to cause some hype around the room and make it a big deal for her that she was now a “big girl” and moving into a new and special room. It took me a good 2-3 months to put it together, so in this time I talked about it a lot with Evie. “Mummy is making you a special room because you’re a big girl now. Soon you’ll be moving into a big girl room with a big girl bed, where you will sleep all by yourself.” We really emphasised the excitement of moving into a big girl room, hoping she would really take it in her stride to want to sleep in the new bed. We kept reinforcing to her that this was a happy and a positive change for her.
On the day of the reveal, she was so excited to finally see what was behind the closed door that we had been talking about for months. Evie now has a new big girl bed with gorgeous floral pink sheets and of course a new baby dolly with a mini bed and matching sheets. We didn’t put Evie to sleep in the room the first day, we just showed her around and gave her the opportunity to get used to the new surroundings. She spent a lot of time playing and reading in the room, that the next day she was so excited to sleep in there. I wanted Dalt to put her down for her first night in there so we had to wait the extra day as he was working late and missed bed time.
When she went down for her day nap, I emphasised that it was her last sleep ever in her cot. So, together we said goodbye to the cot one last time before sleeping in the big girl bed. She actually hesitated and protested when I put her in the cot for her last day sleep, as she wanted so badly to sleep in the new bed we had already shown her. Night time rolled around, and when Dalt put her down to sleep she was excited and ready. We repeatedly said to her, big girls stay in their own bed, big girls don’t get out of their beds and this is a big responsibility now you’re in your own big girl bed. Evie slept through as normal without getting out of the new bed.
We didn’t put up a toddler rail or pool noodles under the sheet, so I was really worried about her falling out. I was checking the monitor all night. In the morning, I heard her stir and we immediately got her out of bed before she had time to get up and figure out she could play up. I thought the day nap would be more challenging and whilst there was about 15 minutes of protesting, she didn’t get out of the bed. Last night was her third successful night in her big girl bed and I’m very proud of how she’s taking it. She’s extremely chuffed about the move, showing any new visitors the room. I think causing the hype around the room and the surprise reveal really helped her take it in her stride. She also loved her new books and toys and has taken an extreme liking to the new baby doll and tucking baby doll into her own bed. Let’s hope for many more successful nights.
I am Mama, but I am also Me
3rd may, 2018
A few weeks ago, Dalt and I went out for our date night. We dined at a beautiful Italian restaurant and decided to really treat ourselves to the degustation menu with accompanying wines. A few courses in and a few wines later, I went to the bathroom. As I walked in and saw myself in the mirror, I felt a surge of happiness come over me which was quickly shadowed by the feeling of guilt. I’d experienced these rushes of emotions ever since returning back to work. I'd found myself in moments of intense happiness like this sometimes at work having a great conversation with a crew member, on an overnight enjoying breakfast out, taking a walk around a different city or like this particular moment, enjoying a nice dinner out. It made me happy that some of my old life was back. My pre-baby life of working, socialising, enjoying my own time or having a romantic date night out with Dalt.
What continually crushed these happy moments, was the wave of guilt that came over me when I thought that I was happy without Evie. She had spent 9 months inside me and then 14 months by my side, before I went back to work. That's almost two years of never being alone. Two years of never being apart from each other for long periods of time. Sharing each other's ups and downs and always having her there with me.
In my return to work, I focused entirely on the transition for Evie. Making sure we picked the right daycare and that she settled in perfectly. Constantly checking in on her while we were apart. It took weeks for her to settle in to daycare, so at the times we were apart, I worried solely on how she was doing. As the months went on and she finally settled in, I stopped worrying about her. The constant text messages to family members and calls to her daycare slowed down as I knew she was in good hands. This is when I gave myself a chance to finally feel happy.
As the sad times of being apart started to be outweighed by happy moments, I felt guilty for feeling this way. Guilty for going back to work and putting her in daycare. Guilty for going out with Dalt while grandparents babysat her. Guilty for having a life that I enjoyed without her. Her personality was rapidly changing and she started learning new things daily that when I came back from long stretches apart I started to feel a certain disconnect. I used to know her every breath, her every facial and sound. I was her mother and I felt that I should be there for all these moments. All her firsts and all her highs, the milestones and the falls.
It took me a long time to overcome this and to reach the point of realisation that I was her Mama but I was also me. A woman that loved her work, enjoyed time with her friends, the intimacy with her partner and simply a quiet moment on her own. Looking after myself and my own happiness has not been a deter to Evie's upbringing. It's helped her become a strong independent little girl with strong bonds to her close and extended family. The closeness between her and her grandparents now and even with her Daddy is something truly special. I don't feel guilty now for experiencing happiness without Evie. I like to think that when we are apart she's sharing the happiness she brought me daily with whoever's company she is in. She is the light of my life but also of so many others. I don't feel guilty anymore for sharing this joy.
If you're experiencing mum guilt in one way or another, this is completely normal. There is no right or wrong way on raising a child so forget about the judgement or the guilt. We're all just doing the best that we can, not only for our children but for ourselves and family too.
Follow your heart, Mama always knows best xx
Daily Rotation Toys
2nd may, 2018
In our household, we have daily rotation toys for Evie. We set these up for her quite a while ago, but to see how effective they still are after all these months, I feel I MUST write about them.
At our previous house, Dalt and I set up a play area for Evie in the lounge room which we liked to call "The Day Care Centre." We had foam mats laid out with the busy board and all of her toys set out ready for her to play with every day. For the first few weeks she would be occupied for hours playing with all of the different toys. This interest rapidly slowed down as she became more familiar with the same toys each day. It got to the point where I would bring her down to the play area each morning and she would simply look at all of the toys then look at me like, ‘Seriously Mum same shit different day’.
Cabin fever started to kick in as I felt her less and less interested with the things we had on offer for her to do at home. I thought maybe she had outgrown all of her toys and it was time for a clean out and a fresh start. After a browse on Pinterest and a talk with my mother in law, the idea of packing all the toys away and bringing out only a certain amount each day came to light. I went shopping at our local cheap shop and found a 5 drawer trolley, perfect for Monday to Friday. I divided all of her toys into the drawers and kept out the bigger items out for her. Monday rolled around and when I pulled out the first drawer, the excitement Evie had resembled opening presents on Christmas Day. Her favourite book, Tom the Cat, the puzzle with the different animal sounds. All of the toys she had forgotten about had brought her joy all over again.
We've since moved house and now that we have more storage available, I have put all of her bigger toys away to rotate and bring out one drawer and a couple of bigger toys each day. Who knows how long babies memories stretch to, but a week between drawers gives Evie a nice break from each drawer. I quickly find out what she has definitely grown out of as I watch her give the toy a look, chew and flick over the shoulder. I replace what I've thrown out with things that resemble household items that she has shown an interest too. This is usually rubbish! An old deodorant bottle that she likes taking the lid on and off. Water bottles with pegs inside that she can shake and make noise with. Plastics cups or bowls she likes to put inside of each other. Instead of buying more toys, I take note of what household objects grab her interest and add these into her drawers.
If you're finding your little one bored at home with the toys they have, I highly recommend setting up some kind of daily rotation. It might just buy you that little bit of extra time to unpack the dishwasher or prepare a meal without a toddler pulling at your leg.
ALL ABOUT CHILDCARE
20th March, 2018
Our hunt for the right childcare...
Dalt and I always knew that Evie would one day go to childcare, we just weren’t sure of when that would be. Brisbane has countless options, some even including waitlists! Even though we weren’t sure of when her start date would be, we started looking at childcare’s from very early on. July last year, when Evie was only 8 months old, we looked at 9 different childcares’ in our surrounding area. I wanted to have a thorough comparison of what was out there, so that when we made our decision we knew we would be comfortable with it. We sat down and wrote down our absolute necessities.
We decided that the place we chose, had to have all meals included! For us working full time or having family help with drop offs, we knew that packing lunch boxes and food for Evie was not an ideal option and had to be taken care of at the childcare. Every single childcare we saw had different options in regards to food. Some were all inclusive, others had main meals only and you needed to provide snacks and some had absolutely nothing at all. An all food and meals inclusive childcare was our main priority.
Once we got a feel for the general way childcares work, the inclusions we thought were important started to roll in! It all boiled down to nappies, wipes, sunscreen, hats and water bottles. We wanted to keep Evie’s daycare days as stress free as possible, so we decided a childcare with everything included was ideal.
We looked at the costs and the childcares with all inclusions came at a higher price than others, but we thought it would be worth it. Once we established that food and basic necessities such as nappies, wipes etc. were important to us, our search begun.
Majority of childcares in Brisbane are broken down into specific age group rooms. For example nursery (0-15 months), toddler (16-36months), pre-kindy (3-4 years old) and kindy (4-5 years old). Each room holds anywhere from 6-10 children with 2-3 educators. The childcare that we chose is in the 10% category of difference available to families. Our childcare is based around an open play area with only two age categories: 0-2 year olds and 2-5 year olds. Inspired by the ‘Reggio Emilia Approach,’ the childcare is split into 2 floors. The bottom floor for the nursery and toddlers and the top floor for the older toddlers and kids.
This is completely a personal preference, but the thought of Evie having the freedom to play and roam in an entire space that is hers for the day with so many different play areas, was what I felt confident with. If she wasn’t going to be home with me or in relative’s care, I needed the peace of mind that she was somewhere that I was completely happy with. It wasn’t just a room and it wasn’t a set age group, it was a mixture of ages within reason for her to interact with.
At first I thought how is a 2-year-old going to go playing with a 4 or 5-year-old but when I observed them playing, it was like an older sibling relationship. You learn so much from your older siblings and Evie being exposed to this and having that bond with a range of different ages was something I wanted her to have. We may or may not have any more kids so that interaction either with younger or older children was important to us. The younger ones can learn from the older ones and the older ones can show empathy and care for the younger children. We were happy with our childcare so we put an end to the search and sat on our decision until we decided when Evie would start attending.
Six months later, in a very rushed decision, I decided I was going back to work. With only a few weeks to prepare ourselves and Evie, luckily, we had done the hard yards in searching for the right childcare. We just needed to get her a spot and enrolled. We decided consecutive days would be easier to manage and starting off with two days was ideal, with the possibility of adding a third if we needed too. The centre provided an orientation day for each week day she was to attend, but on top of this, we enrolled her a week before I was due back to work so that we could try and have a decent handover.
Orientation (stay and play) days went well. It was important to me to get an insight into the day to day running of the childcare so we went for one morning and for one afternoon orientation session. Both days went well, only staying for a couple of hours each day.
The first week was a breeze. Drop offs went remarkably well, with no tears and a happy wave goodbye and the feedback throughout the day was all positive. The great thing about this childcare is that they send you regular pictures and communication which puts any parents mind at ease. When I picked her up at the end of each full day, she was excited to see me, showing me her new toys and friends.
The next week I felt comfortable starting back at work, as I knew she was in good hands and she felt safe. My plan was to drop her off on the way to work. ‘Hand on my heart’, I can honestly say, I was not ready for what was to come when we got there. The novelty had obviously worn off and Evie had realised that daycare was part of her new reality. We then endured full blown hysterics and heartbreaking tears was how we said goodbye before my first day back at work. I walked away from Evie and to the car in tears absolutely questioning whether going back to work was the right decision. Not only was I going back to work, but I was going to be away for two nights so I really struggled leaving her in such an upsetting way.
This continued for the new few weeks to come. The advice we got from the educators was that quick goodbyes were easier than staying and dragging it out. I needed to see this for myself and so tried the “stay and play method” rather than dropping and going. I can definitely say now that this was a hundred times worse!! Evie knew what was eventually coming so she was just waiting for the inevitable and any attempt I made to entertain her or get her interested in something enough so that I could leave her, were all a waste of time. She would cling to me for dear life waiting for the moment that I put her down and left.
So instead, I gained the trust of one of the educators she seemed to have a bond with and each drop off I handed her directly to him. There were still tears but when I walked away but I knew she was with someone that would comfort her that she was comfortable with. I called the childcare 30 minutes after every drop off and she had always settled once I had left. The tears were her way of making me feel guilty for leaving her behind, so I knew I needed to toughen up.
This was obviously easier said than done. It took us both weeks to settle into the daycare routine. The tears at drop off would rattle me for the day and when I would pick her up she would tear up again so I wondered whether this was how she had spent her day. Even though everything was included in the daycare, we packed Evie with some comforts from home. A swaddle, comforter and photo album of family members and photos of her doing various activities. She often had all three items with her every time we picked her up and the educators said the photos helped comfort her when she would get unsettled.
A few weeks in, she caught a virus which followed by a cold. We knew this was part of starting daycare and the doctor said expect a constant runny nose for 6-12 months while she builds her immunity.
At about week 8 I started to see a turning point. She stopped crying at pick-ups and would wave her educators goodbye when I collected her. The male educator that she had initially grew a bond with, had gained her trust and started handing her to other educators for her to start establishing a bond with. This became evident as the weeks went on as I saw her more comfortable with more and more of the girls. He was excellent in explaining to me that once he had built that bond he extended that to the other educators and eventually they’ll start putting her down to play with the other children so she gains that trust with them too.
We are now at the 10-week mark and there has yet again been another fabulous turning point. No more tears at drop off, a happy wave goodbye and a smile on her face! In the last couple of weeks Evie has definitely found her feet at daycare. She’s more confident in her surroundings and knows that we will always come back at the end of the day to get her.
Last week Dalton and I picked her up together and we were able to sneak in and watch her play before she saw us. She was happy and content, cruising around playing with different things and interacting with the other children. In the middle of the return to work and all those drop off tears, we almost considered pulling her out. I didn’t know how much longer I was able to handle the tears but in that moment of watching her play, seeing the confident little girl she had become in the few months, had been the clarity I needed.
I’m so glad we persevered. The benefits of daycare far outweigh the negatives and I think she will continually grow and develop from her daycare days.
My Top 5 Tips
1. Do your research!
2. Choose a childcare with inclusions: food, nappies, wipes etc
3. Get to know the educators. Its beneficial to find one or two people your child connects with immediately.
4. Pack comforts from home. Swaddles, comforters, favourite toy or photo album of family pictures.
5. Be patient, relax and trust the process.
A Letter To My Daughter On Her 1st Birthday
24th november, 2017
To my beautiful Evie,
Today you turn one and I can honestly say, that the last 12 months have been some of the best of my life.
When I met your father, I knew instantly that he was the one I wanted to share my life with. It wasn’t long after that day, we found out we were pregnant with you and it’s been our greatest surprise yet.
When I first saw you on the screen at our 8-week scan, I felt something I had never felt before. I wasn’t alone anymore, unsure of where my life was headed as I saw you, just a tiny peanut and I knew my life had just been waiting for you.
As the pregnancy went on my body was not prepared for you. I was sick and in hospital a lot, but you were always fine and growing well. Whilst I physically wasn’t handling the journey, I knew mentally it would all be worth it because I was making you.
The day we found out that you were a little girl, my world felt complete. I was soon to have a daughter that I would call a best friend for a lifetime. From that moment, your father held my belly differently. I was carrying his little girl and every night he would read to you, massage my belly and tell you how much he loved you. You were a big part of our little family already and you hadn’t even arrived yet.
I didn’t get much better from there though and my body got sicker and sicker. When the day came, the doctors decided they would need to cut you out but that was ok because it meant I just got to hold you sooner.
Thursday the 24th of November, you arrived into our lives. From the moment you let out your first cry your father and I were in tears. I had dreamt about you my entire life and you were finally here. When they first placed you in my arms, you were everything I had ever wished for.
I was quite sick during our hospital stay and wasn’t able to delivery you naturally, this meant that when we came home I felt somewhat disconnected. You had been in my belly for 9 months and then suddenly you were in my arms. I had been so sick during the pregnancy, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a good mother and it all happened so fast that I didn’t feel like I was yours.
The weeks went on and motherhood came to me more and more each day. Your father had 7 weeks off work, so we both found our own little groove with you. By the time he went back to work and it was just you and me, I felt like I was meeting you for the first time all over again.
We would spend endless mornings in bed together. Breastfeeding then sleeping all curled up in my arms. At last I started to feel the bond with you, that you were my daughter and I was your mother.
This last year, you have hit so many milestones that have filled my heart with joy each time. I have been so proud of you in so many different ways and you amaze me every day.
Your personality is a perfect mix of your daddy and mine, but you’re still your own little person. You’re cheeky, determined and independent at times. You know the things you’re not allowed to do and will always cheekily look to see if we are watching when you try to do the wrong thing. You commando crawled for so long and your swimming instructors said you could move up a class when you could crawl across the mat. The next lesson, you were up on your knees, crawling across that mat making you the youngest baby in the toddler class at 9 months old. You like to have showers alone and crawl out when you’re done, making your way all the way to your bedroom and standing up to your change table. You’re clever and bold and you’re all ours, every single bit.
You and your father share a special bond that is different to yours and mine. You are his little girl, that little peanut he held so tight in his arms while you were in my belly. I never knew I could love your daddy this much until I saw him love you and he loves you more and more every day.
You were the missing piece to my life Eve Chara and you complete your dad and I.
Happy 1st Birthday,
my 12 tips for breastfeeding
1. Whilst you’re staying in hospital after birth, utilise the midwives as much as possible. Ask them for help every chance you get!! It’s very overwhelming (and painful) in those first few days so gaining the reassurance that you are latching correctly and on the right track can make the process somewhat easier in the long run.
2. Here comes an honesty bomb…it will hurt! Those first few days the pain is like having sandpaper rubbed across your nipples. Lanolin cream is your best friend and if you lather up with this and push through the initial pain, it will pass and your nipples with toughen. Cracked, bleeding nipples may occur and you can get nipple shields to use until they have healed. Continue using lanolin to push through the pain.
3. A good quality double express pump will save you so much valuable time when expressing. If you have the help available, expressing and bottle feeding your newborn will allow your body to rest. Feeding every two hours especially through the night, can be extremely sleep depriving so utilise any help you can get.
4. Maternity bras, crops and tops. Stock up as these will be your staple pieces for as long as you choose to breastfeed. Any clothing you choose to wear from now on will need to have easy access for your little bub. Whether it be a strapless top you can access from the top or a loose tee that you can access from underneath, anything you wear from now on will have to be accommodate feeding.
5. The tingling let-down feeling once your milk starts to flow is normal and can sometimes be painful. It will quickly pass. I suggest wearing nipple pads, as once you feed on one side, the other side may start to flow.
6. Always have a water bottle handy before you start your feed.
7. Be prepared to eat like a man. You’re producing food for another human so add those extra calories to your diet. Make sure you’re having balanced and nutritious meals to accommodate for the both of you.
8. It may seem hard in the beginning but once you get the hang of it, you become meals on wheels. Whenever you leave the house together, you’ll always have on you what your bub needs and wants.
9. Feeding in public may take getting used to. I went from feeding privately in the car, to parent’s rooms, to in public under a feeding wrap. All were inconvenient, lonely and made the feed a lot harder than it had to be. Once I stopped caring what people thought, I started feeding more freely in public. After all, it’s a natural thing, it’s my baby having her lunch or dinner so why should we have to hide that.
10. You will get advice and criticized for any and everything that you are doing and for things that you’re not doing. The breastfeeding journey is yours and your babies and no one else’s, so at the end of the day, do what is comfortable for you both.
11. Master the art of feeding lying down!!! As bub grows and gets heavier and heavier this can take its toll on your arms, back and neck. Feeding lying down takes the weight off and the intimacy you share is like no other. Great for morning feeds and cuddles.
12. And lastly, your boobs are now feeding machines. Those nice and perky boobs you may have once had, will most likely be saggy udders, never to be the same again.
Breastfeeding has been one of the most unique and magical experiences I’ve ever had. As busy as Evie can get, as hectic as the days may be, we have these moments which slow it all down, when it’s just me and her and no one else around us.
DO IT YOURSELF - BUSY BOARDS
15 August, 2017
When I thought of kid’s busy boards, I pictured a board with padlocks, switches and door knobs. I searched on Pinterest and thousands of images came up with exactly what I was thinking. I put the idea to Dalton and his mum (the tradie dad and the crafty granny) and they both shut me down. A board containing all the things we teach kids not to touch or play with was not what we should be creating. With locks and chains, they'll become safe crackers or Houdini's by the age of two. Instead we spoke about what things Evie was most interested in for her age. Touching things, feeling their texture, sensory objects, things that made noise, bright colourful things with balls that can be moved around, all came to our minds. We wanted to create a board that would allow her to explore these interests.
I got another friend on board (pardon the pun) and we set a date. We set ourselves one month to collect items and come up with creative ideas for our kid’s busy boards. By both of us getting involved together, we could share materials and tools.
We wanted to keep the cost down so we looked at what we already had around the house and went to Kmart and discount stores for everything else.
Wipe lids were used to contain different textures underneath. A steel dishwashing sponge, glitter paper, silicon mat, foam sponge, bubble wrap and a non-slip mat were cut and glued underneath the wipe lids. All these items we already had at home, we just had to collect the wipe lids.
Kmart sells an alphabet wooden puzzle for $8 and a wooden clock puzzle for $5. We cut bits of magnet and glued them to the back of each letter so that they would stay on once the busy board was lifted upright. Magnet sheets can be bought from any cheap store. We got ours from Choice Discount Store for $2. We also found little tins from the same shop, which we superglued different textures inside of. Dalton drilled a small hole into the tin itself and the lid and then tied these together with string so the lids could be placed on and off without completely falling off.
I went through Evie's current toy collection and found small toys that rustled or made a noise, that could be easily super glued to the board. I cut off a couple of pieces from one of her spiral pram toys that became good board fillers at the end.
A couple of cheap hairbrushes that she could stroke the bristles on with one containing a small mirror.
Kmart sells a pack of 20 wooden magnet animals for $5 and a baking tray became the perfect magnet board for these.
A squeaking dog toy was a favourite for Evie to play with while we were assembling the board which came from Kmart for $5.
The most expensive item for the board was the Abacus from IKEA for $20.
Silicon patty cases, hard back books, a loofah, sponges and rings were other small items that we either had at home or bought from Kmart.
The board itself was a 2400x 1200 sheet 9mm thick ply - cut in half for the two boards. The edges were rounded with a jigsaw and items on the board were secured with the following: screws, liquid nails, sika flex, hot glue gun and zip ties These items can all be purchased from Bunnings.
We also got a piece of pipe from Bunnings which she could use to drop a golf ball down and into a bucket (bought from Kmart $2).
Dalton's mum had a variety of paints on hand which she used to create an ombré colour effect for the board. For my friend’s busy board, she used alphabet sponges bought from Riot to paint his name on the board.
Although it took a month to collect items and ideas and a full Sunday morning to put the board together, it was a fairly cheap project. At the moment, Evie can only sit up, so at her eye level she can play with the wipe lids, exploring the different textures and feel her way across the bottom of the board. As she gets older and can stand, she'll be able to play with the things higher up, placing the magnets on and off, putting the ball down the pipe and into the bucket.
We zip tied the board to a fixed structure to ensure we never had to worry about it falling onto Evie.
If you make your own busy board be sure to tag me in your photos, I can't wait to see all your creations.
Finger food fun
25 July, 2017
What a month, a messy month!
Transitioning from pureed spoon fed foods to finger foods has definitely tested my patience, and my OCD. When Evie turned 6 months old, I occasionally gave her some foods, that she had already tried, as small finger foods. Placing the foods on her tray table, she thought it was a game. All mothers and fathers out there would be familiar with this game… pick the food up and throw it on the floor. And then repeat, and repeat again and maybe one more time. She wouldn’t even entertain the idea of putting them in her mouth, which was quite frustrating as she puts everything in her mouth, just not finger foods. I tried banana pieces, avocado strips, steamed vegetables, cucumber sticks, slices of meat, but somehow, they all got picked up, looked at with utter disgust and thrown on the floor.
I tried to be consistent and place some sort of finger food on her tray table for every meal but they ended up on the floor every time. I tried serving them before her spoon fed foods and after, but this didn’t work either. I couldn’t understand how some parents don’t start with spoon feeding their babies and do the baby led weaning method but I thought was it because I spoon fed Evie that she wasn’t picking the foods up to try herself? Regardless, I had already done months of spoon feeding so it was too late to wonder ‘what if’.
I kept offering finger foods every day hoping one day she would pick something up and put it her month. We reached 7 months and it was still yet to happen.
When Evie turned 7 months, I decided to drop the finger foods and focus on different textures for her spoon fed meals. So far, she had been having predominately pureed food with some mashed foods. I stopped blitzing her minced meat, oats and rice. I made risottos, pastas, quiches and mashed potatoes with grated vegetables. Evie was having to chew and breakdown foods that I was serving on her spoon. I was scared of her choking or gagging on the chunkier foods like pastas and berries but we just took each mouthful slowly and I watched her carefully.
After a couple of weeks of different textures and Evie having to work harder for each mouthful, I reintroduced finger foods. Unlike the previous months, Evie picked the foods up and tried to eat them. A lot of them still only got sucked on, but the desire to try was finally there. I bought a messy mat (Kmart $6) and just let her go nuts. The more I tried to sit there and control the situation, the more she resisted so I just had to let go of the clean freak factor and let her go for it. The more I relaxed, the more comfortable she was.
At this age, I also wanted to introduce nuts and eggs. I purchased a 100% nut peanut butter and mixed a spoonful in with mashed banana for her to try. We had no allergic reactions, so I’ve used the peanut butter in her oats for breakfast and on toast.
Some breakfast ideas:
Oats with banana and peanut butter.
Oats with blueberries and banana.
I’ve stopped blitzing the oats and fruits so now we cook the oats and stir through the fruits or mash in the banana. She also loves scrambled eggs, peanut butter and mashed banana on toast and vegemite on toast.
Breakfast Quiche Recipe:
- In a large bowl; 3 grated carrots, 3 grated zucchinis, 1 cup grated cheese, 1 cup diced bacon, 1 cup flour, dash olive oil, 6 eggs, chopped parsley and pepper.
- Spread into a large, baking paper lined, baking dish, top with grated cheese and cook for approximately 1 hour at 160 degrees.
This makes enough for both of our breakfasts for the week! I’ve found that when I serve it to her, I spoon feed her the main portion and she chews on the topping of grilled cheese at the end as finger food.
Savoury Meal Options:
Oven Baked Salmon
Chicken and Pumpkin Risotto
Tuna, Lentils and Pumpkin.
Don’t be afraid to be creative!
Baby Bolognese Recipe:
- In a large pot; olive oil, beef mince, grated carrots, zucchini and finely diced celery.
- Cook well and add 2 tins of diced tomatoes. Simmer. Add cooked elbow pasta, stir well and lightly blitz in blender, NutriBullet or stick blender.
Chicken and Pumpkin Risotto:
In a slow cooker (could use a large dish in the oven), put in 2 cups of Arborio rice, 4 cups vegetable stock, chicken mince and diced pumpkin. Stir well. Cook until liquid has absorbed and pumpkin has softened.
Evie and her finger foods is still as messy as when we first introduced them, but at least the foods are now half chewed and dribbled on before they are thrown on the floor. Make sure you just relax and let your baby make a mess as it is how they become familiar and comfortable with new foods and textures. Let the fun continue!
our solids journey
26 June, 2017
4 Months Old
At 4 months old, I felt that we were on top of Evie's sleeping and feeding routines. When she started to follow my spoon, and watch us eat, I felt confident that she was ready to try solids. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what age to start your child on solids and the more I researched, the more confused I got. Some say to start at 6 months and some say you can start as early as 4 months. We were already following the sleeping and feeding schedule from the Save Our Sleep book, so we continued following their solids guide as well. It is recommended to start with a baby cereal, so I made a baby porridge using organic brown rice.
Brown Rice Baby Porridge Recipe:
You will need:
1/2 cup brown rice - I used the Macro Organic Brown Rice with 2 cups of water.
1. Using a food processor or blender grind the brown rice until it is in a powder form - I used a NutriBullet with a milling blade.
2. Bring the water to the boil, then turn to lowest setting and slowly add the powdered brown rice.
3. Let it simmer for 8-12 mins, stirring frequently until it looks like porridge consistency.
Note: The first batch of porridge that I made, I cooked the brown rice in my expressed breastmilk instead of water. I later realized, that by boiling the milk, I was cooking off all of the good nutrients. So, I changed back to just using water.
Storing the Porridge:
I bought a pack of ice trays from the supermarket and used this to store and freeze the porridge. The plan was to serve one meal a day, at midday, and introduce a new food every three days. I decided to give her porridge at midday, after her morning milk feed, so milk was still her main food source. Introducing a different food every three days, allowed time for any intolerances or allergic reactions to flare up. Her first taste of solids was an absolute mess! The porridge was runny, the action was foreign and so it was an experience for the both of us. I served one cube per meal and I pre-heated it roughly for 30-60 seconds. The first few days was simply getting her used to spoon feeding. I then progressed and made apple, pear, carrot, pumpkin, zucchini and potato purées, serving each food individually every 3 days. Once she had tried all of these different foods that were recommended for 4 month olds, I then started mixing up the combinations. Brown rice and apple porridge, pumpkin and zucchini, sweet potato and potato, potato and carrot and apple and pear. We played around with different flavour combinations, always serving two courses, savoury then sweet. For the first week, I was only defrosting one cube of food but by the second week she was eating 2-3 cubes for each course. By the end of the month, I stopped using the ice cube trays and bought small food containers.
To make the purées, I simply peeled the fruit or vegetable, steamed until soft, then blended them. I used a NutriBullet, but you could use a normal blender or stick blender. Once she had tried each food, I stopped peeling and steamed them with the skin on, except for the pumpkin and sweet potato which I still peeled.
We served one meal a day for the first two weeks. This was lunch at midday, two courses, savoury then sweet. After this had settled into her routine, we then added in a second meal, dinner at 5:15pm after her last nap, which was followed by a bath then milk feed before bed. We stuck to the two meals a day while she was 4 months old.
5 Months Old
Not much had changed when Evie turned 5 months old, except for introducing the third meal for the day, breakfast. I still served the same 8 foods; brown rice, apple, pear, carrot, pumpkin, zucchini, sweet potato and potato. Breakfast was only served as one course, a brown rice porridge with either apple or pear.
To make the apple or pear porridge, I made the brown rice porridge as above and steamed the fruit separately. Once the fruit was steamed and blended, I then stirred it through the cooked brown rice and portioned the porridge into containers.
Lunch and dinner were both two courses, savoury and sweet. I found it easier to spend 1-2 hours in the kitchen at the beginning of the week, prepping all of the meals and freezing them so we were organised and ready to go. Come meal time, I just had to take the meal out and defrost it in the microwave and I could serve it immediately, instead of having to cook as I go.
Evie's weekly groceries list:
1 bag of Marco Organic Brown Rice - one bag lasted 3 months.
4 large zucchini
2 sweet potato
I cooked the porridge, steamed all the fruits and veg and then mixed up the combinations, freezing them all up in containers straight away. One thing that I can recommend is being organised! I cannot stress how easy life was having all of her meals ready to go. I just had to heat them up and her meal was ready.
6 Months Old
Evie's 6-month checkup was booked right on her milestone and I left the doctors in a mad panic. Our doctor had told us that now that she was 6 months old, it was time to "get on with it" in regards to solids. I was to introduce everything except for onions, salt and cow’s milk. This literally included EVERYTHING. Meats, seafood, cheese, yoghurt, all fruit and vegetables. Save Our Sleep solids plan was out the window and I just had to go for it. I came home from the doctors and I had anxiety. I'm already a perfectionist as it is and I like things to be structured and planned, so this left me very anxious. I didn't know where to start and I didn't know what to cook. I wanted to stick to home cooking all of Evie's food, but I felt extremely overwhelmed. I spent the day on Pinterest and the internet looking up recipes and writing plans and lists of what to make. I already had Sophie Guidolin's - Baby's First Recipe Book, so I started jotting down recipes from that. The next day, I went straight to the grocery shop and did a shop just for Evie. I came home that day and spent the whole day in the kitchen. This was not sustainable. Not only did I spend a lot of money on her groceries alone, but I was not enjoying myself in the kitchen anymore. I found myself thinking, ‘so this is why people opt to buy baby food’. I was so consumed by the doctor’s words of giving her everything to try, that I was trying so hard to make sure that she got everything. I needed to change the way I looked at this, so I thought instead, Evie can have anything. The following week I did our grocery shop as I normally would, and bought the fruits and vegetables that I eat. I made sure the fridge was filled with fresh produce and I simple steamed and blended what we had. In the freezer, I had her containers split into three sections; breakfast, savoury and sweet. Come breakfast, I simply defrosted a breakfast container and for lunch and dinner I defrosted one savoury and one sweet. Food prep was now easy. I found protein and vegetables and steamed and blended them for her savoury meal. Dessert was similar, but I just added a fruit component for her sweet meal. I added in oats and quinoa as a grain option for her breakfast and cooked these on their own, then stirred through the cooked fruit purée to make a variety of breakfasts for her. Nothing was measured, I just used what we had in the fridge, making large quantities and freezing the leftovers into portions for her next meals.
Dalton's grandma came over for dinner one night and brought silverside and vegetables for us. She had all the vegetables in those Décor Microsafe containers and simply steamed them in the microwave. It was quick and so much easier than having the pot and steamer out and the clean-up was minimal. I argued that by microwaving the vegetables, you would lose the nutrients from them but again this would be minimal. I then switched to steaming all of Evie's fruits and vegetables in the microwave and life became even easier!
Below are some meal combinations I have come up with to help you if you’re stuck for ideas. We generally just fill our steamer up with a mixture of vegetables we have in the fridge and voila... your meal is served!
Oats with blueberries - microwave 1 cup of rolled oats with 3 cups of water for 4-6 mins or until it is of porridge consistency. I've made this twice; once using two punnets of fresh blueberries and the next time just using two cups of frozen blueberries. Stir through the berries and blitz everything in the blender. Once you have made your oats, you can really add any fruit. I have tried berries, banana and kiwi fruit, which I added in fresh but apples and pears I still steamed. When Evie is a bit older, I will stop blending it and serve the oats as they are.
Oats with strawberries and banana.
Oats with banana, kiwi fruit and pear.
Oats with banana.
Play around with the fruit options you already have in your fridge and pantry.
Quinoa with strawberries and banana.
Quinoa porridge is prepared slightly different to the oats. As it is already quite small, there is no need to blend it. I cook it in the microwave just like the oats. 1 cup of quinoa with 3 cups of water but it takes a bit longer so keep an eye on it - approximately 6-10 mins. I blend 2 punnets of strawberries with 3 bananas and then stir this purée through the cooked quinoa.
Quinoa with blueberries.
Quinoa with blueberries and banana.
Again, you can play around with different flavours. Puréeing the fruits first, then stirring them through the cooked quinoa. I only serve one course for breakfast. I heat up one container of porridge and serve with a large tablespoon of natural Greek yoghurt stirred through.
Savoury options are:
Sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini
Tuna, sweet potato and potato
Tuna, pumpkin, potato, green beans
Chicken mince, pumpkin, carrot, zucchini
Potato, mushrooms, green beans, zucchini
Beef mince, pumpkin, zucchini, carrot
Tuna, chick peas, pumpkin
Chick peas, carrot, green beans
Eggplant and carrot
Fish, sweet potato, pumpkin, green beans
Tuna, lentils and pumpkin
All of the vegetables are steamed in the microwave with skin on except for pumpkin and sweet potato. I oven baked the fish with no oil and no seasoning. For the tuna, I use tinned tuna in either spring water or olive oil. Chicken and beef mince are cooked in olive oil in a pan and then blended with all of the cooked vegetables. Chick peas and lentils I use straight from the can - just drain and rinse. Nothing is measured, I just fill my large Décor Microsafe bowl. Sometimes I pour a little bit of the boiling water from the steamer into the blender to help blitz it to a smooth consistency but zucchini and pumpkin help make the mixtures runny, so I try to add one of these into every meal for their water content.
Sweet options are:
Pumpkin and banana – tastes just like custard!
Sweet potato and apple – tastes like apple pie!
Chickpeas and banana
Apple, carrot and potato
Banana and avocado - both fresh, just blended.
Evie is now 7 months old and she has so far loved all of the fruits, vegetables and grains we eat in our household. This month, I would like to give her eggs, salmon and nuts and try to stop puréeing the meals so much. We'll start mashing, leaving her oats and rice whole and will offer more finger foods.
Stay tuned. xx