Monday, February 28, 2011

Paper bag puppets

Following on from our pet theme of late, this week we decided to make some dog paper bag puppets. They were really easy to do! All we needed to make them was a paper bag, some newspaper, a stick, pipe cleaners, a bit of black and red paper, some fur, googly eyes, elastic band and a black pen. I did this with both the students I teach at school and my own kids.

It was a great choice making activity for the students at school. They got to choose what colour fur they wanted for the ears, the colour of the eyes (I got different coloured googly eyes) and whether they wanted to fill the paper bag with cellophane or newspaper. The scrunching of the cellophane/newspaper was a great sensory activity for the students and they got to co-actively assist with glueing the things on the puppet (using a glue stick with a holder).

The kids and I had lots of fun making them together too. We filled the bags with scrunched up newspaper, put the stick in and then secured them with an elastic band. Then we got to cut out and stick on all the different bits; ears, eyes, nose, whiskers and tongue. I took a bit of artistic license and drew the mouth myself ;)

Esme fills the bag with scrunched up newspaper - we went through a couple of bags before she learnt to be gentle putting the paper in!

Jacob tries on some whiskers of his own!

Glueing the nose on the face.

Esme's completed puppet...

And Jacob's too. They were both so pleased with their efforts!

Visit We play at Childhood 101 for more great play ideas!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New vegie garden!

I'm so excited about our new vegie garden! We've had a vegie garden in the past which the previous owners had made and we adopted but it's just never done that well. So we decided to build our own 'no dig' vegie garden. Luckily Chris was on holidays recently so had time to construct it all.

The frames for our two new garden beds. It's nice to finally have some raised beds!

The beds are made by putting a layer of newspaper on the bottom then a layer of manure, a layer of lucerne hay and a layer of compost. We only ever used soil from the garden centre in the vegie garden previously so we're hoping that by putting the right mix of 'good' stuff in that the vegies will grow better.

The completed beds.

We let the beds settle down for a few days and then planted them out. So far we have carrots, lettuce, spinach, rocket, beetroot and corn planted. The weather has been perfect for growing things and a few days after we planted the vegie garden we noticed seeds sprouting already! We have to be a little careful of the chooks getting in and digging everything up as our chooks free-range. At the moment we've covered it all with a wire frame which seems to do the trick but not sure what we will do once everything has grown past the height of that!

One week later and the vegies have well and truly started sprouting!

We have plans to put in a third bed as well but will wait and see how these two go first. I have a bit of a reputation for getting excited about these sorts of things initially but then losing that enthusiasm ;)

Oh, if anyone has any ideas for natural pest control I would love to hear them as I'm reluctant to use chemicals in the garden.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pet themed sensory tub

I've loved the idea of sensory tubs as an activity for kids for ages. I just never seem to find the time to get around to making them. This week though I was inspired to make one for the kids I teach. Sensory activities are an important part of learning for children with multiple disabilities. We've been reading a book about a dog in the class recently so I decided to make a sensory tub that incorporated items around this.

Included in the tub were the following:

Dry dog food
Rawhide bones
Tennis balls
A dog collar
A dog brush
A rope tug toy
A food treat ball
A metal food bowl

I tried to include items that had different textures, smells, tastes and sounds in order to give lots of sensory input. The food treat ball made a squeaky noise when shaken. The brush could be gently used on a students arm/leg. The food could be eaten (although we did try to deter that!) and smelt, etc.

The good thing about doing this tub was that I could also give it to my kids to explore. They loved playing in it - especially trying to find all the little bones in the dry dog food! It also allowed them to practice skills such as pouring and manipulating. I gave them containers to pour the dog food into. They also practiced putting the dry dog food into the hole in the food treat ball.

The kids check out what's in the sensory tub

Jacob holds out a handful of dry dog food - including the little bones he'd found.

Putting the dry dog food into the treat ball - it required some concentration!

Visit We play at Childhood 101 for more great play ideas!

Schooling decisions

How do you know if you're making the right choice for your child? This is the point we are at with our decision making process at the moment. Jacob is in his final year at Steiner Kinder this year and so we are having to decide where to send him to school next year. Or, indeed, *if* we decide to send him to school.

I love the thought of homeschooling. I know that I am capable of it and I know that Jacob would really flourish with homeschooling. He has that insatiable thirst for knowledge that would make teaching him very easy. BUT I worry that I won't be able to give Jacob as much attention as he deserves by homeschooling him. Esme is a child that needs a lot of attention (I hate to use the word 'demanding') and with another baby on the way I think Jacob's learning will be neglected while I look after the other kids. Part time home-schooling is still an option on the cards I guess but will require some more thought on my part!

We have been very happy with the Steiner Kinder and are very comfortable with the philosophies and beliefs behind Steiner. Jacob has changed a lot since he started Kinder and we believe it's the Steiner education that has created this positive change in him. I guess our first choice in a school for Jacob would be Steiner. But that all depends on whether we have the money to send our children through the Steiner school system. It's not that expensive in terms of other private/independant schools but a lot more than what you'd pay in a government school of course!

We are fortunate enough to be living in an area with lots of great government schools as well. But I can't help thinking that if we send Jacob there then we will regret not sending him to a Steiner School. It feels like such a huge decision and something that is going to impact on his life forever. I don't feel ready to make these big decisions yet! But, I guess that's the way it is with parenting. You make these choices and hope like hell that you have made the right ones for your child.

Jacob's weaning story

It appears that Jacob has weaned after 4 years and 8 months of breastfeeding. I'm still not exactly sure when his last feed was as the whole process has been a slow and gradual transition. I'm feeling a little bittersweet about it all. On one hand, I'm happy and proud that we shared this breastfeeding journey for so long and am so grateful that I've been able to give him this gift. It's undoubtedly provided us with an incredible bond and health benefits for both of us. On the other hand, I'm feeling a little sad that this stage of Jacob's life is over and he is growing up so quickly.

Breastfeeding didn't come easily to us. I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed but had no idea how hard it would be. When Jacob was born we had skin-to-skin time but he wasn't interested in attaching. It didn't help that the midwife who was with us tried to 'force' Jacob onto the breast. It was a horrible experience for both of, it made me feel inadequate that I couldn't breastfeed my son and Jacob upset and crying. Jacob was fed by syringe for the first couple of days with the midwives expressing colostrum from me to feed him. Then on about the third day a midwife suggested using a bottle which he took to quickly (in hindsight we were lucky that this didn't lead to nipple confusion - but we didn't know any better at the time) I was so excited when my milk started to come in and I was able to use the electric pump.

On about day 5, Jacob was taken away from us to the special care nursery. They wanted to keep an eye on him because they thought he might be having seizures (I didn't!). He also had an eye infection. This was a horrible time for us. I was already feeling hormonal and emotional from the birth and to have my son taken away from me made it even worse. Jacob was given lots and lots of tests by an overzealous paediatrician. There were blood tests, head ultrasounds and so on. By far the worst though was a lumbar puncture. We were told it was best for us not to be there while they did it. We could hear Jacob screaming from our room as the needle went in. All Chris and I could do was sit there and cry as we heard our baby screaming.

Jacob was given ABM because I didn't have enough milk for him. I wish I'd known at the time that I could have refused permission for them to do this. I hated the thought of him getting ABM rather than my breastmilk. After advising staff in the nursery that I wished to try feeding Jacob from the breast, I went in one night and found that they had already given him a bottle of ABM (not even the EBM which I had in the fridge!) I was upset, angry and so sad that once again I had failed my duty as a mother.

On my last night in hospital, a lovely midwife and lactation consultant helped me to get Jacob attached using a nipple shield. This was such a moment of joy. It felt good to be able to feed my baby the way nature intended (even if it meant having a piece of plastic in between!) It also meant I didn't have to worry about heating and cleaning bottles - yay! We hired a breast pump from the chemist (wish I'd known about ABA then!) for me to use to keep up my milk supply as we'd been told that nipple shields could affect my supply. Unfortunately, this contributed a lot to my engorgement issues as it turned out I already had a good supply. I was pumping a whole feed out, probably about 3 times a day in addition to what Jacob was taking!

I was very fortunate that the hospital where I had stayed had a lactation clinic. I attended the clinic a few times in our journey to breastfeed without nipple shields. The first lactation consultant I saw was good but she implied that I needed to get Jacob off the nipple shields as soon as possible (or maybe that's just the message I took away because I was so desperate to be free of them!) Trying to get Jacob off the nipple shields lead to lots of anger, tears and pain on my part which I'm sure Chris will attest to. I ended up with badly cracked nipples and feeds were just so painful that I dreaded them. This wasn't how breastfeeding was meant to be.

Luckily, the second lactation consultant I saw was wonderful. She encouraged me to relax about getting Jacob off the nipple shields, that there was no rush. It turned out that I had a bout of mastitis the day that I went to see her. I'd thought that it might have been mastitis but wasn't sure because I didn't know exactly what it was. She was wonderful in helping me to massage the lump out and encouraging me to rest. After all her help I didn't even need to take antibiotics which I was glad about.

I think it was about 3 weeks that we finally stopped using the nipple shields. I still felt awkward about feeding Jacob in public though and would avoid it whenever possible. It was really difficult to get him attached. He would fuss and pull away and I'd end up with milk everywhere. I'd watch other Mum's with babies the same age breastfeeding and they seemed to do it with such ease. We ended up taking Jacob to see a paediatric chiropractor and it turned out that he did have a few issues that were most likely to do with his birth (he'd come out quite quickly in the end). Jacob seemed a little better after our chiropractor visits but breastfeeding was never completely pain free.

When Jacob was about 6 months old, I developed another badly cracked nipple. It didn't seem to want to heal no matter what I did and was still there after weeks and weeks. I remember one night, Jacob slept a bit longer than usual and I was starting to get blocked ducts so I got up to express. All I could express into the bottle was drops of blood. It was so painful. By this stage, I'd discovered my local ABA group which was a god-send. I called my group leader to talk to her about what was going on. While she couldn't really offer any advice, she listened and that made a huge difference. I ended up going to the doctor to make sure the crack in my nipple was some other sort of infection. Turns out it wasn't (or I assume it wasn't seeing the doctor didn't even want to take a swab - he brushed me off pretty quickly!) and not long after it did end up healing.

At about 7 months breastfeeding just seemed to fall in place. All of a sudden it wasn't painful. This was what I had always imagined breastfeeding to be like! I'm not quite sure what was going on in those early days. Although, when I was pregnant with Esme and on a visit to my midwife she happened to see in Jacob's month and said to me 'he's got a tongue tie - did you have trouble breastfeeding?' Suddenly everything made sense. You can still notice it a bit when you look in his mouth now, at 4.5 years old, but it doesn't affect him in any way. Obviously, at 7 months old his mouth had grown enough for it not to be a problem which is why breastfeeding was no longer painful.

Although the breastfeeding was now going well, I wasn't coping with being a Mum. I felt lonely and isolated. I loved my son but would feel intense anger with him at times when I couldn't get him to sleep or he was crying. I was also frequently in tears. Jacob was quite a high needs baby. He didn't sleep much and just wanted to be held by us all the time. We got to the point of him waking every 45 minutes at night and I just couldn't do it anymore so off we went to sleep school. Sleep school was pretty horrendous and I wouldn't ever do it again but I do credit it for being a turning point in my life. I spoke to a psychologist who suggested that I might have post natal depression. I started on medication not long after. This, and finally having some coping strategies helped me turn things around.

I honestly believe that it was breastfeeding that helped me to bond with my son in those first few months and I think my post natal depression would have gotten a lot worse, a lot quicker, had I not been breastfeeding. When I felt those surges of anger at Jacob when he wasn't sleeping all I would need to do was sit down and breastfeed him and those feelings would disappear as my let down happened and my body was flooded with oxytocin. I was very set into routines with Jacob as this helped me to cope and I found that feeding him frequently, ast certain times in my routine helped a lot (how much that has changed now lol!)

We went through a week or so of breast refusal when Jacob was about 11 months old. He would still have his morning feed but refused all other feeds. Luckily, with the advice from my ABA group leader (again!) and by staying calm and relaxed about it all it didn't take long for Jacob to start feeding again.

As Jacob got older and started to feed a bit less our breastfeeds became our special time together. We would have a feed in bed in the morning, then usually after his day sleep and at bedtime to feed him off to sleep (ahhh, so easy!) I got pregnant with Esme when Jacob was about 18 months and he quickly dropped his middle of the day feed as my supply dropped. Although my nipples were quite sore during the pregnancy we managed to keep up these two feeds throughout. Well, mostly. Jacob went through some times of fussiness during the pregnancy which I assumed were because of the changing taste of the milk and we ended up only feeding on one side but we kept going nonetheless!

We then went on to tandem feed when Esme was born. I loved that I could still have that special time with my son even when things were so busy looking after a newborn. Jacob ended up dropping his morning feed not long after Esme was born (mainly because I wasn't really 'available' to him in the mornings!) but we kept up the bed time feeds. It was lovely still being able to feed my little boy off to sleep even though he was a little bit older.
He did ask for a few more feeds after Esme was born and sometimes I would let him but was happy to just keep him to a few. We had a few simultaneous feeds and it was lovely to see both the kids feeding at the same time although I didn't always feel that comfortable feeding them together.

I really thought Jacob would continue feeding for ages, he gave no sign that he was ready to drop that bed time feed. And I was happy to keep giving it to him. Around the time that I got pregnant we started to give him the choice of milk in a cup or milk from me (there's a few reasons for this which I won't go into here). Sometimes he would choose milk from a cup but for the most part he still wanted a feed from me. I had started to get really sore nipples from the pregnancy (worse than last time!) and Jacob's attachment started to feel 'wrong' as well so it was almost a relief when he would choose milk from a cup. There was no pressure for him to stop feeding though.

As my pregnancy progressed though, and my milk supply started dropping, Jacob started wanting milk in a cup most nights. He would say he wanted milk from me but then change his mind and say there was 'no milk'. He would go a few nights and then have a feed and then a bit longer until I realised that it had been a couple of weeks since he'd had a feed. So, although it has been a little sad for me, it has been a gradual transition and part of the rhythm of life I feel.

I am so grateful that we were able to share our breastfeeding journey for so long together.

I may have made a mistake in telling Jacob that there will be lots of milk when the baby comes however. He has already told me that he is going to have milk again then. We'll just have to wait and see what happens ;)

Here's some photos from our breastfeeding journey. I really wish we had more photos from when Jacob was younger but sadly we don't.

First breastfeeding photo - Jacob was about 4 months here.

The best thing about breastfeeding - it's portable! Jacob feeding on a picnic at 6 months old.

Jacob wearing his Mummy milk t-shirt
A sleepy feed at about 17 months

Breastfeeding at 40 weeks pregnant. Jacob is 2 years, 3 months. Apologies for the darkness of the photo!

First tandem feed with my two children.!

Tandem feeding my two children in the Fitzroy Gardens. Jacob is 2 years, 9 months and Esme is 6 months.

Another tandem feeding photo! Jacob is 3 years, 3 months and Esme is 12 months. This was such a gorgeous moment. I hadn't fed them together for quite awhile and Esme thought it was hilarious seeing Jacob feed. She kept trying to poke him in the mouth! Jacob continued on regardless...

Our last breastfeeding photo together. Jacob is 3 years, 3 months. I really wish I'd taken another one before he weaned though

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A snap shot of our weekend in Ballarat

It's taken a while for me to get round to sorting out photos for this post! We've just spent a lovely weekend in Ballarat. The trip came about because of my involvement in the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Every two years we have a residential conference in Ballarat that volunteers are required to go to. So, I spent Saturday and Sunday learning lots of great stuff about breastfeeding (the theme of this year's conference was 'the world of breastfeeding' which was really interesting) while Chris and the kids explored the rest of Ballarat.

On the Saturday Chris took the kids to the Farmer's Market at Lake Wendouree (a bit of a disappointment though, it didn't really compare to our regular farmer's market!) There were lots of other things for the kids to do at the Lake though. There were playgrounds to explore, ducks to chase and trams to ride! Until we caught up with friends from Ballarat, we had no idea that Lake Wendouree had been completely dry until recently when we had all the rain. As you can tell from the photos it's pretty full now! On the Saturday afternoon Chris discovered a bird park which the kids enjoyed exploring.

Lake Wendouree

The playground at Lake Wendouree

Aboriginal cultural playground

Memorial Park

Tram ride

Ballarat Bird Park

On the Sunday, Chris and the kids went to the Ballarat Wildlife Park. I am told that Esme loved being able to pat the wallabies and kept wanting to give them cuddles. In the afternoon they went to another playground. Can you guess our kids love playgrounds?! We even had a jumping pillow at the caravan park which they thought was wonderful and spent ages jumping around on. We visited a friend and her family in Ballarat for dinner on Saturday night which was lovely.

Ballarat Wildlife Park

We decided to spend an extra night in Ballarat and on the Monday we visited Sovereign Hill before we headed home. I hadn't been to Sovereign Hill for years so it was really fun to visit again. Jacob loved seeing all the different parts of the mining process and watching all the engines run. Both Jacob and Esme loved 'panning for gold' too. Chris even managed to find a few (tiny) flecks of gold. I think the best part for Esme though was getting to taste a lolly after watching them being made. She managed to get it all over herself - just have a look at the last photo!

Sovereign Hill

See how our (herb) garden grows

Our herb garden has been growing so well lately with all the rain and humid weather. As you can see in the photos above, the thyme, parsley and basil have been going absolutely crazy! We've had to replant the coriander and thyme as they died off a bit towards the end of last year but it won't be long before we have an abundance of that as well. Mint is in separate pot next to the box but that is doing really well too. Our never failing rosemary bush is not doing so well at the moment though. We've given it a bit of TLC though and are hoping it will come back as strong as ever soon. It's hard to believe that it was just over 6 months ago that we built the herb garden. We use herbs in so much of our cooking and it's so nice to just be able to go out to the garden and grab a bit of whatever we need for what we are making. It's great having so much basil too as it means we can make lots of basil pesto - which we all love!

Chris has another week off work this week and we are looking forward to making some more garden improvements - specifically building a new, proper veggie garden! The old one has been a bit of a mess for quite a while now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our new chicken house

The Silkies we got a few months ago as chickens have been living in an old rabbit hutch. It was always in the plans to make them their own separate chook house but it's taken us this long to get around to it! We finally got it all set up for them yesterday. This chook house is courtesy of Chris' parents (and they got it from some other friends to start with). Chris has also made a fenced run for the chickens (although we let our Isa Browns free range, I'm a tad protective of my Silkies ;)) We put this house and run down the bottom of our yard (which is quite fortunate as we now know that one of our Silkies is a rooster). The plan is to lock the Silkies in the chook house at night and let them into the run during the day.

The new chook house in place!

Looking at the chook house from the end of the run - the Silkies have quite a lot of room to roam around.

The master chook wrangler at work.

Oh, we also got our first egg from our Silkie hen yesterday too (pity it was trampled though as she didn't think to lay it in the proper nesting box!)
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