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6-8 Month Milestones (that you won’t find in parenting manuals)

My post about Sausage’s two-year old milestones proved popular, so I thought it was high time I wrote about what Chip has been up to lately.  A lot goes on during 6-8 months of age as your tot continues to wake up to the world around them.

Chip on the move

Chip on the move

Can't this thing go any faster?

Can’t this thing go any faster?

My super-active boy started crawling dolphin-style at 5 months – backwards much to his chagrin, but managed to discover his forward gear a wee while ago.  Nothing is safe from his chubby little hands as he zooms around the house on voyages of discovery.  I keep meaning to dust off my running shoes because I’m sure I will need them very, very soon.

You won’t find these milestones in any parenting manual, but they are pretty universal nevertheless.

What life is like when you are 6-8 months old:

  • Flingstar!  Once your tot is able to sit comfortably in a high chair a whole new world of entertainment opens up to them – flinging things off it.  Chip loves nothing more than do experiments in gravity and sound waves.  ‘Oooh, you just handed me my bells!  Thanks Mum, listen to the lovely crashing sound they make…tinkle, smash!’  ‘Mum, did you see how far I managed to throw my board book?  I reckon I just set a new personal best…hurl, boom!’

    Your baby's science lab (image credit)

    Your baby’s science lab
    (image credit)

  • Dino-ROAR!  At 6.5 – 7 months old your babbling baby will discover a new super-power – the ability to perforate eardrums with pterodactyl-like shrieking.  Well, at least it’s what I think a pterodactyl might have sounded like…On more than one occasion I have had to leave the room as Chip gleefully reaches a new decibel level.  And when he gets together with his friend J who is 2 weeks older than him, ear muffs should probably be handed out.  Shrieeeeeeeeeeek, shrieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek shrieeeeeeek!  Ouch!

  • Surely you can’t be sirius?  From about 6 months your baby will pant like a dog whenever they get really excited about something.  ‘Woah, what is that?  A light fixture!  Awesome! Let me at it! Huff, huff, huff, huff.’  If only we were all so transparent, and easily pleased.
  • A gaggle of gigglers.  Chip’s favourite person on the planet is his big sister.  His eyes follow her around where ever she flits, recording all of her antics – no doubt for future reference.  At about 5 months old Chip became much more interactive with Sausage (and the world); therefore he became a far more interesting play mate to her.  Now we get fits of giggles as they crack each other up all the time.  Sometimes they go on for 20 minutes!  You can view them in action on YouTube here.

    Partners in crime

    Partners in crime

Can you add any more?  

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Trim Healthy Thursday: Week 5, feeling great!

This has not been the best week at sticking to the Trim Healthy Mama plan.  I probably managed it 70% of the time as I snuck in more carbs than necessary.  One day I just had to have something bready so I bought some wraps (haven’t sourced any low-carb wraps in NZ that don’t cost a small fortune…), which I figure were still better than a thick slice of D’s bread.

I had too many just ‘S’ meal days as well, and ate waaaay too many sausage rolls at my MIL’s party.

But I have not abandoned ship, disgusted at my lack of willpower.

My clothes are still getting looser, and I’m eating well.  The last few days I have been back on track, daily switching out my S and E meals, and eating some pretty yummy food, like taco salad.  As ‘diets’ go, this one is much easier to plod along with.  With some diets, the minute you hit a snag, it feels like game over.  You want to hurl your goji berries and spirulina out the window.  With THM being so close to how I was eating previously, it doesn’t feel like a Herculean effort to get back into it.

The best, best, best thing is how I’m feeling.

I woke up last Sunday finally feeling better after picking up some sort of bug in Adelaide.  Actually, I didn’t just feel better, I felt great.  More energetic than I have felt in a long time. And my energy levels have (mostly) remained at this level.  Prior to THM my energy levels would wax and wane.  Particularly in the afternoons, when looking after my two tots would feel like an eeeeeeeeeeeeeternityyyyyyyyyyyyyy.  But this past week I haven’t struggled at all.  I still have energy left at the end of the day to do stuff around the house, rather than collapse on the sofa.

If that’s not incentive to keep going with THM, I don’t know what is.

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Dollar Diet: Three Months In!

Woah, three months down – go us!  The Dollar Diet way of life feels like second nature now, although a few spendy-spendy things crept up on me this week without me being fully prepared.

After recovering from a bug last week, my kids both came down with different illnesses so normal life was temporarily evicted from our house in Tawhero.  My best friend’s birthday came and went without me having the time or energy to make her present, and then when I did try, it turned out disastrously.  Even though I was saving money by making the present myself, the materials weren’t cheap, so I’m angry at myself for wasting money on my failed project.  Back to the drawing board.  You will get something one day R, I promise!

My mother-in-law turned 65, which is kind of a big deal here in NZ as it is ‘retirement age’, or the age where you become eligible for the ‘old-age pension’.  Because of all the sickness, it felt like her birthday arrived out of nowhere, and I had ZERO inspiration as to what to make her for a present.  She’s a really good sewer, so I didn’t want to gift her any of my wonky stitchwork.  D ending up buying her a nick-nack from Trade Aid, and because I like to give things that are useful, I also bought her a beautiful artisan-crafted dish from an op-shop.  For $1.50.  For the record, I’m not a cheapskate when it comes to gifts, it just so happened that I spied something perfect for her, and it only cost $1.50!  (She loved both gifts.)

As we have a larger house, we offered to host my MIL’s birthday party.  I busted out my frugal staples of nut truffles, sausage rolls and fizzy soda water/juice.   I made some bunting from materials I had to hand – paper doilies and ribbon.

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D and I also made my MIL a cake.  We cheekily gave  her a ‘super gold card’ cake – which is a card that allows senior citizens to get discounts all over New Zealand, and is sent out when you turn 65.

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Everyone bought a plate of food to share, and we got stuck into the festivities.  My MIL wanted a kids party theme so we played a few games from childhood and had an absolute ball.  We brought Pin the Tail on the Donkey forward into the 21st Century by playing ‘Pin the Mustache on George Clooney’.

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I think he’s never looked better…

We also played pass the parcel, and a ruthless ‘Chocolate Game’ where the competition was fierce.

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It was a very enjoyable party.  My MIL said afterwards that no one had ever thrown her a party before, so it was very special.

I did have to spend some money on children’s clothes this week, which I was hoping to avoid.  Chip is consistently measuring 3 months ahead (D and I are tall) and while I have been gifted plenty of clothing in 1+ sizes, he didn’t have quite enough warm 9-12 month clothing to see him through the next few months, as we are now very much in Autumn.  While I could have dressed Chip in larger sizes for a while, I believe that having clothes that fit well and that don’t impede movement is really important for his physical development, particularly now he is crawling.  One of our local second-hand charity stores was having a garage sale so I thought I’d check it out.  It was my lucky day as I found just what I wanted, and got the lot for 50 cents!

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I’ve been surprised just how strong my urge to buy clothes for my kids is.  Some days it literally takes all my willpower not to head to a store, even if it’s just an op-shop.  I have clearly been obsessed with having ‘enough’ and buying things for those ‘just in case’ occasions for a long, long time.  I had to do some serious mental negotiation while I was out looking for a few warm things for Chip to not buy more than was necessary, just because there were ‘bargains’ to be had.  I will be doing my best to not venture into such places again for quite some time.

Other frugal things: I made chicken stock, and blanched a whole lot of cauliflower as it was really cheap at the supermarket.  2015-03-17 20.40.21

I harvested some feijoas, tomatoes and mushrooms (which I gave away as I don’t eat them) from our garden.  We had one evening where D and I had two sick, whiny kids on our hands and getting takeaways felt like a good option as the day had been long and draining.  But we resisted the temptation and cooked a meal ourselves.

This month we’ve saved over $600.  We’ve been able to consistently bank over $120 a week thanks to our budget tweaks, and as our grocery budget is $200 in surplus after shopping for this week (this is despite spending $80 bulk-buying meat last week) we’ve saved even more.  The money saved this month will more than cover my spending in Adelaide, and we are well on track to cover the rest of my expenditure for that trip.

Brilliant.

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How to Explain Death to a Two-Year Old

My hope is this post helps another parent or caregiver out there one day.

A few years back my brother met and married a wonderful, sassy, intelligent, Jesus-loving woman blessed with more gumption than most of us possess.  She also happened to have multiple disabilities, and had battled and defeated a life-threatening condition.  She bet the odds and lived life with gusto.

To her deep sorrow, she was unable to have children and so she poured her love into the children around her.  She worked with children, and was very popular with them.  Knowing she could not have children of her own, my husband and I never hesitated to ask her to be godmother to our children.  We knew that she would not only love them, but she would pray for them and help them in their own walk with God.  She cried when she received a ‘Godmother’s day’ present on Mother’s Day.  Holding a special role in our children’s life meant a great deal to her.  And my goodness, how she loved our children.  Their welfare was always at the forefront of her mind, they were often at the top of her prayer list, and a visit with them made her day.  She and my brother once took Sausage to a park and when they returned I was unsure who had enjoyed the outing more, so wide were all the smiles.

But her time ran out.  She developed liver cancer and after a courageous battle, she passed away.

Chip was only a few weeks old at the time, and Sausage was not quite two.  Along with my own heavy heart, I felt sad for my children, particularly Sausage.  

Her inability to really understand what was going on meant she could not grieve for her Auntie, whom she loved very much.

This compounded my own sorrow.  Sausage was so special to her Auntie at one point during her illness when she had been unresponsive for hours, it was Sausage who elicited a ‘hello beautiful’ and a smile from her.  I’m sad that Sausage will not remember her Auntie, nor will she be able to truly appreciate just how much her Auntie loved her.  For Sausage and Chip, she will be someone in a photograph, someone talked about at family gatherings, someone visited at the cemetery.

I have a few degrees under my belt – and studied human development in depth – so I was aware of what Sausage would and would not be able to comprehend.  Two-year olds have limited concepts of time and permanency so it is important to try and explain death in terms that they can understand.

Here are some tips to help your two-year old deal with death:

  • Realise that they will be a little familiar with death already.  The average two-year old will have seen dead bugs or other animals, had fairy stories read to them where someone dies, or have seen it on TV or in a movie (let’s face, pretty much every Disney movie has a death in it…).  My point is, they won’t have a blank slate when it comes to death.  But, as children are great observers and poor interpreters, they may have wrong ideas about what death actually means.  Which is why it is important to…
  • Explain what happened to their loved one in very simple terms.  I explained that Auntie had died because she was very sick, which meant that her body didn’t work anymore, and that we wouldn’t see Auntie again.  I also explained that everyone was very sad because Auntie had died.  Two-year olds will be happy with the bare minimum of information – they don’t need to know that ‘Cousin Bob fought bravely’ or that ‘Uncle Joe had leukemia’.
  • Don’t expect them to ‘get’ it.  Even after you’ve explained that a loved one has died, and what death means, they probably won’t get that death is a permanent thing.  Permanency is a pretty big concept to get their little heads around.  Be prepared for them to ask after your loved one for weeks and months after the death.
  • Expect to go over what death means many times as they grow up.  Never stop explaining what it means until you are sure your child fully understands.  Somewhat bizarrely, children can often feel responsible for someone’s death, so it is vital they know it was not their fault.  Likewise they need to know that they/you/whomever are not going to die anytime soon.  And – particularly if they know someone died of an illness – that they will not ‘catch’ it.
  • Avoid euphemisims.  Telling a two-year old that someone has ‘gone to sleep’ or has ‘passed away’ is only going to confuse your tot.  Please, just say ‘Grandma died’.
  • Leave religion out of it.  Even though I am a Christian and believe that I will see my sister-in-law again one day, I did not say that her Auntie was ‘in heaven’ or ‘with Jesus’ or anything like that.  Even if you believe in an afterlife, your tot won’t understand what that means for years to come, so save it for when they are older.  Telling a child that ‘God has taken Grandad up to heaven’ may confuse or even scare a child.
  • Talk about your own feelings.  It can be very frightening for children to see a caregiver cry.  Let them know why you are upset or crying.  I told Sausage that I was ‘crying because I was sad that Auntie had died, and I wouldn’t be able to see her anymore’.
  • Be prepared for a number of different reactions.  Some children may get upset or cry, while others may carry on as normal.  Sausage was her usual self throughout the aftermath of her Aunt’s death.  Some toddlers may get clingy and whiny because YOU are upset.  Or because (depending on who died) their daily routine has been put out of whack.
  • If you are taking them to the funeral, prepare them for what will happen.  Whether you take your two-year old to a funeral or not is a personal decision.  Some people don’t because they need that time to grieve and say goodbye without having half their brain attuned to their wriggly toddler.  Other people take their kids as they think it will give them closure (I’m not going to lie, at this age it won’t), or in the knowledge that their child’s presence will be a light in the midst of darkness.  I know that I find the presence of young life comforting when I attend funerals.  If you take them, explain to them beforehand in as simple terms as possible, what will happen, who will be there, and what a coffin is (or whatever funeral/burial ritual your loved one has).  While it is worth explaining to them that lots of people will be upset, and maybe crying, don’t expect it to affect them.  It may or it may not.  At her Auntie’s funeral Sausage was most taken with the church organ (and still occasionally mentions it) and wasn’t at all perturbed by crying people.
  • If you can arrange it, have a babysitter come and take them away afterwards.  Interments, wakes etc are long and boring for toddlers.  Seeing a coffin descend into the ground and covered with dirt won’t give your two-year old any greater sense of closure.  Let them go home to play while you catch up with friends and family.
  • Make a point of telling stories of your loved one as your child grows up.  Even if they can’t remember the person, knowing about their wider family helps children feel connected.  My children will grow up with stories of their Auntie, who loved them ferociously.   Who loved their Uncle.  Who was an inspiration to many people.  I’d like to think that maybe, when they hear these stories, my kids will feel even just a fraction of the love their Auntie gave them, and be blessed by it.
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Trim Healthy Thursday: One Month In

It feels hard to believe that I have managed to stick to a ‘diet’ for one month, with very little cheating.

The beauty of Trim Healthy Mama for me is that it is not terribly different from how I was eating before – I just eat my meals in different combinations and have ditched some carbs like bread, and I’ve swapped rice for quinoa.  And the weight is coming off.  Not eating sugar has been a way of life for me for several years now, so that part of the THM lifestyle isn’t difficult for me.

I’ve dropped a dress size this month while eating yummy food and seldom feeling deprived or hungry.

I’ve deliberately kept meals simple (eggs for breakfast, some sort of salad for lunch, chili with quinoa and veges for dinner etc) just to get the hang of eating ‘S’ meals and ‘E’ meals (pretty meaningless I know, read the book).  This past week I branched out into the world of cream cheese – yes, you can eat cream cheese! – and we enjoyed an amazing broccoli and cheese soup, and a ‘cheesecake’/berry/nut dessert.

While some of THM’s dessert recipes are a bit complicated or expensive (like ‘use 10 egg whites…’), what I love is that the majority of the recipes are  simple to prepare.  And it’s not too hard to THMify some of my own staple recipes.  The other day we realised the meat for that night’s dinner was off, but fortunately D had bought a ton of chicken which was on special so there was at least something fresh to hand.  I simply chopped up some veges, and threw it in the pan with the chicken, some fresh ginger, soy sauce, and peanut butter.  Usually I would have added rice, but as peanut butter is fatty, carbs are a no-no.  There were no complaints about the lack of rice, and Sausage ate loads of chicken (she’s a peanut butter fiend).

I did have two non THM meals this week: one at a family dinner (as a guest I simply eat whatever is put in front of me), and a snatched lunch at the hospital cafe as I spent the day in ED with my brother (he’s okay).  I try not to get into ‘oh well I’ve blown it’ thinking, and so far so good.

I weighed myself today.  I’ve been putting it off because I knew it would depress me, but I figured it would be helpful to my readers to know just how much weight loss is happening.  I think I will weigh myself once a month so I don’t get obsessive about it.  But sheesh.  It was definitely a depressing number.  However, I take comfort from the fact that my clothes are getting looser – which means more wardrobe options for me as my pre-Chipolata clothes fit – and that I am actually doing something about that number, instead of feeling hopeless.

I have two magic numbers to hit and plan to reward myself when I get there.  No food or money involved of course.

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Dollar Diet: Week 11, to the death!

It’s been a so-so Dollar Diet week.  Mostly because I picked up an unwanted souvenir of my time in Adelaide – a virus.  it wasn’t a bad bug as viruses go, just a low-grade fever but it left me feeling drained and very, very tired.  Oh, and I gave it to D.

As a result we had a LOT of food wastage this week.  I meal plan, but because I was sick it got all out of whack.  I grabbed some meat the other day only to discover it was several days past its best before date.  It was meat we’d got cheaply, but still, that’s just money down the drain.  A couple of ‘leftovers’ meals didn’t get eaten either, so they had to be binned, as did some veges I didn’t get around to using.  The Dollar Diet has definitely helped us decrease our food wastage as we no longer pop off to the supermarket the moment something runs out, so this week of wastage irks me even more than it did in the past.

We also gave up on our new, cheap(er) dishwasher powder in disgust.  It really was hopeless.  Things would not be cleaned properly, or there would be a noticeable residue left on the crockery.  I know, I know, #firstworldproblems.  Anyway, the more expensive stuff is the business, so we’ve switched back.  That’s how it is with trying to cut back on spending – somethings work, and others are a false economy.

But there has been good stuff too – like my tomatoes finally getting big enough to eat.  Being given some quinces from a neighbour.  Not grabbing takeaways when I discovered the meat was too old and I was feeling tired and sick, but making do with what was on hand.  We also bought a ton of chicken as it was on special. Like $40 worth.  We had lots of wiggle room left in our budget thanks to me getting our groceries consistently under budget for the last few weeks.

And another thing I love about the Dollar Diet is the chance it gives me to run some experiments.  My cell phone is dying.  It’s been on its way out for several months now, and D did get me a new one (pre-Dollar Diet) but I hated it so much I was delighted when it turned out to be a total lemon, and went back to my old faithful phone.  Anyway, the past few days whenever I am loading a web page on it, it freezes.  D, who has performed major surgery on my phone in the past, tells me it has now entered into the realm of ‘do not resuscitate’.  So I am going to use it to death.  Will it see me through the rest of the year?  If it doesn’t, there’s no room in my Dollar Diet budget for a new one.  I kinda like the idea of going phoneless for a while.  I don’t even like mobile phones.  I hate talking on the phone (I’m a visual person, so I really, really like being able to get my non-verbal cues from whomever I’m talking to).  I hate seeing people who are out together but one or both are texting away.  Ugh.  Smart phones are incredibly addictive and I’ve been telling myself to use mine less for ages now.  So this will be my chance.

To the death!

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Two Year Old Milestones…that you won’t find in parenting manuals

My two year old, Sausage, is in a constant state of flux.  I love seeing her grow and develop, and enjoy her cheeky personality coming out more and more.

Is she on target for meeting her milestones listed in the parenting manuals?  Who the hell cares.  I have long ceased to have any concerns about how my kids are ‘measuring up’ and resolved to try and just enjoy them being exactly where they are at.

Observing without measuring is fascinating.  You start to register a whole bunch of stuff that’s not in any ‘how-to-raise-a-perfect-kid-and-be-a-super-parent’ guide.  Here are three of my observations of what Sausage been up to lately.  While Sausage is of course, special and unique to me, I’m sure many parents will see their own child in these descriptions.

  • Klepto-Girl strikes again!  Around two, your child will develop a strange fascination for putting objects into bags/boxes/any container they can lay their mucky fingers on.  The objects that absolutely.must.be.put.into.a.bag. will probably be stuff that you really, really need right this second, like your keys, wallet, cellphone, passport, bottle of vanilla essence, potato peeler…
  • The world is soooo scary! Your heretofore fearless toddler will develop phobias about random things, and usually express this fear in thrilled ecstasy.  At the moment Sausage loves to be scared of giants, ants, and GLOOM.  Yup.  Gloom.  “It’s gloomy Mummy.  I’m a bit scared. Giggle, giggle”.
  • Life becomes one long episode of ‘Glee’.  Once your kid can string a few words together, the making up of songs about whatever they are doing begins.  The ‘I am eating my yoghurt, yoghurt, yogey, yogey, yoghurt’ song.  The ‘I am building a tower, no wait – a bridge!’ song.  The ‘I’m dancing, I’m dancing, oopsey-daisey, I fell over’ song.  It’s actually very cute and kind of a shame we no longer express our most mundane tasks in song as adults.  “Oh, I’m doing my taaaaaax retuuuuurnnnn!”

What does (or did) your two year old do?