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Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye…

Just like that, I am now the mother of two toddlers.

While we were in Auckland Chip started walking.  He is delighting in his new-found freedom and wobbles off as fast as his little legs will go.

Bipedal is definitely the way to go

Bipedal is definitely the way to go (excuse how blurry this is, he’s so fast!)

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While my children will always be my babies, even when they are old and grey, it is with only a teensy bit of sadness that I kiss babyhood goodbye.  Our play gyms, bouncers and slings are officially retired, and I just gave away the last of Chip’s baby clothes to be worn by the soon-to-be-born baby of a dear friend.

I have several friends who are either due to give birth soon, or who have recently had baby number two or three, and all I can think is ‘I am so glad I’m not in your shoes!’  That first year with a new baby is so intense, even if it’s your second, fourth or tenth.

I know many parents struggle to know when their family is ‘done’ and regret not having another child, or who suffer the pain of secondary infertility.  D and I have never hankered after a large family and both have a very solid sense of being done.  I have a new appreciation for just how breathtaking and clever and fun and mucky and miraculous babies are, but I do not hanker after any more.  Any such thoughts are deftly quashed by the thought of having another dreadful pregnancy like I had with Chip – only this time with two children in tow.  No, I could not go through that again.

I’m enjoying having children who (mostly) sleep through the night.  I love the utterly random conversations I have with my almost three year-old girl, and the ‘what the heck is that’ pointing from my 13 month-old boy who just wants to know what absolutely everything is called – and preferably put it in his mouth.

Life is still dictated somewhat by the midday nap, but at least there is only one nap to worry about.  While my brain has years of sleep to catch up on, it definitely seems to be more functional these days…unlike the baby sleep-deprived brain when I forgot how to spell my last name.  I like having more capacity for other things in my life, and being able to have conversations with D that don’t involve monitoring the bowel movements of our baby, or desperately trying to get the baby to stop crying.

So bye bye baby, hello toddlerhood.  I hear ‘threenagers’ are really, um, interesting.

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Dollar Diet: Week 31 – A frugal first birthday

It's good to be 1

It’s good to be 1

My baby is one.

The first birthday feels like such a massive milestone.  D and I patted each other on the back, congratulating ourselves for surviving the sleep deprivation and reflux intact.  Our screaming baby soon morphed into a happy, cheeky and active wee boy who is an absolute delight.

We decided to have two parties to celebrate Chip’s birthday.

Now, I am not a big-birthday-blowout sort of person, especially when it’s a first birthday.  Some people go all out for first birthdays, with huge numbers of party guests, themed everything, and smash cakes.  I don’t like that sort of excess myself, especially when the guest of honour isn’t going to appreciate, let alone remember any of it.   However, the idea for two parties was sown after a young man D is mentoring had loads of fun making a rocket stove with D.  ‘We should have a winter party so we can use the rocket stove again!’ he enthused.

Yes.  Yes we should.

We invited some good friends with kids older than ours, so the party was more for these kids than Chip.  We played a couple of games, ate dinner and toasted marshmallows using the rocket stove.  The older kids had a blast playing Spotlight in the dark.

I'm a rocket maaaan...

I’m a rocket maaaan…

Despite spending most of the day preparing for the party, it was a low-key and frugal affair.  We saved roughly $40 by making Chip’s cake ourselves.  D and I had another fun cake-decorating-date-night creating this:

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I made two chilis (one meat and one vegetarian), although I accidentally burnt one (so annoyed, the element was not switched off properly by a milimetre) which sent D running off for a few pizzas, so no savings there.  My mum kindly donated quiche, I made salad, grilled a few sausages and voila – everyone was happy.  We bought a couple of bags of lollies to use in the games, and marshmallows for toasting.  I made punch with low-sugar juice and soda water, and the cake was our dessert.

Minimum fuss, maximum fun.

Our second party was an afternoon tea with grandparents, aunts and uncles who I wanted to spare from all the noisy children.  It was extremely low-key, and cost me no more than a couple of boxes of party savouries and some egg sandwiches.  Our family contributed food as well, including this amazing cake made by D’s Aunt:

Yum!

Yum!

Chip had a wonderful time with his doting relatives, and it was such an occasion of thanks-giving as we celebrated this wee boy being in our lives.

Will I do two parties again?  Nah, but we sure did have fun.  Having some sort of winter bonfire party definitely ticks all my boxes so I think we might make that an annual tradition – but probably in June instead.  As for Chip, his next birthday will be a much smaller affair, but with lots of space for him to run around and around and around and around.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: Wasting away…a photo update

Even though it’s Friday here in NZ, technically speaking it’s still Thursday for many of my readers so today’s post still counts, right?

I have been doing THM for four months now and thought it was time for another photo update.  I’m sooooo glad I’ve chosen this way to measure my progress because I was starting to get somewhat discouraged, as I think I have hit a bit of a plateau at the moment.  All I can say is if you are doing THM: throw away the scales and take photos to measure your progress instead.  I’ve lost about 7 kilos during the four months, but as you can see from the pictures below it looks considerably more than that.

Shrinking

Shrinking

My husband loves to joke that I am wasting away.  Whilst I’m certainly not in any danger of that, he is my biggest supporter and cheerleader and I appreciate the encouragement.

I may not have dramatic results like some THMers, but it IS working.  (Wahoo!)  I don’t use any special ingredients as we are on a tight budget.  You can read here about how I keep it simple.

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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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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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Montessori Baby: how we use Montessori at home

Six months old - eek!

Six months old – eek!  (I love his furrowed brow)

That gorgeous fella in the picture above is hitting the six month mark.  Wow, has that whizzed by!  From the moment he was born, Chip’s motto seems to be GO SPEEDRACER GO!!!!  He’s already got some teeth, rolled really early and can crawl backwards.  Looking to the future when he’s a toddler I can foresee some very tired parents… 🙂

He’s a very different character to his easy-going, book-reading, people-loving sister.  Chip is a friendly wee chap, but he is far too interested in the world around him to be bothered too much by cooing adults or books.  His favourite person is his sister, and his favourite things to do are to watch big kids playing and to look at light fixtures (he is the grandson of an electrical engineer after all).

I use a mix of approaches, philosophies and most importantly, my common sense when it comes to wrangling my kids.  The philosophies I relate to the most are Steiner, Reggio Emilia, RIE and Montessori.

I use Montessori quite a bit with both my children, mostly due to reading the wonderful book The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom from Birth to Three.  If you are interested at all in the Montessori approach I highly recommend this book, which is filled with realistic and practical advice for parents.  There are many easy ways to add a little bit of Montessori wisdom into your routine and your home.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the things we’ve done with Chip so far:

  • The mirror.  Having a mirror down on the floor where your baby can see themselves is classic Montessori, and Chip loved it.  He found the baby in the mirrorto be extremely friendly and interesting.  He started to get bored with it at around four months, but mostly because he’s determined to get on the move and kept pushing himself into it.
    Chip and Sausage

    Chip and Sausage

     

  • Natural materials:  Not that our house is a plastic-free zone or I turn up my nose at plastic toys.  Not at all.  But I have made a concerted effort to give Chip toys that feel interesting in his mouth or his hands, like wood, metal and different fabrics.  He’s like a magpie when it comes to shiny metal objects and loves nothing better than a wet cloth to suck on.  Our families have given Chip some wonderful wooden toys which I’m sure will withstand many years of use – and they are perfect for my teething guy to munch on right now.
  • Natural objects: As most parents discover often the best ‘toys’ for children are not toys at all.  It’s often stuff you have lying around the house already, like boxes, jars, pots and pans and cutlery.  Chip has whiled away the time playing with things like our metal whisk, pastry brush and lemon squeezer, and currently he is desperate to grab my fork whenever I’m eating dinner.
  • Lots of floor time.  We had to wear Chip in a front-pack quite a bit in the early days due to his reflux, but even then I tried to give him as much time on the floor as possible.  Floor time is extremely important.  It’s when babies really get to work so give them every opportunity to move, move, move.  They may fuss and even cry (often due to frustration) but give babies a chance to figure things out before you swoop in to the rescue.
    Hanging out on the floor has its advantages

    Hanging out on the floor has its advantages

     

  • A few things out at a time: This one is rather hard to police because, well, I have a toddler who is currently going through a kleptomaniac stage and loves to gather up as many toys and household objects as she can and then shed them all at once.  Anyway, the theory is that babies and children feel safe and trust in an environment that is ordered and uncluttered.  Yeah, good luck with that one.  I do try not to bedazzle Chip with toys or objects, but rather give him two or three things at one time to choose from.
    Sausage strikes again!

    Sausage strikes again!

     

  • Comfortable clothing: It’s so tempting to dress up my babies as if they were a doll, in things like hoodies and baby Nikes because baby clothes are ridiculously cute, but I do try to ensure they wear clothes that fit well and do not impede their movements in any way.  Remember that as adorable as some clothes are, you might want to take bulky things off when your baby goes down for a nap.  Would you want to wear your jeans and a hoodie to sleep?  And be wary of putting your baby in clothes that are too big.  I once saw a baby wearing an oversized all-in-one bodysuit, and its too-big feet were definitely stopping him from furniture-surfing about the room.
  • Lots of time with his ‘village’.  Chip is one lucky baby.  Not only does his Dad work from home so he gets to see his Dad a lot, but we have many family members in town, some really great friends and a supportive, caring bunch of church-folk.  I want my kidsto be widelysocialised and I do believe that love begets love.  I want Chip to know that heaps of people love him, and that other people besides Mum and Dad are able to take care of him well.  I  never freak out when Chip is handed from one cooing elderly lady to the next at church because I know he is in good hands, and I trust that they will come and get me if he becomes unhappy.  Sausage has  really close relationships with herlocally-based family who she normally sees several times a week,and sheis cared for regularly by her Oma and Nana who take her toplaygroup, out and about or babysit.  Chip gets the same amount of face-time with our family and friends and has recently started to have some one-on-one Oma time (Nana is away on holiday).  My hope is that Chip’s formative years will be happy ones,and due to his socialisation with trusted loved ones he will grow up with a secure knowledge that the world is basically a safe place.  And go on to invent a cure for cancer, discover unicorns existing on some unchartered isle and bring about world peace.  Or something like that 😉

    Chip with his favourite villager

    Chip with his favourite villager

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Whanganui Playground review: Lundon Park

This is the first in a series I will do of all the playgrounds in and around Whanganui (sorry overseas readers, you’ll want to skip reading these unless you have a burning desire to see New Zealand playgrounds 🙂 ).

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Okay.  Let’s crack on.

Lundon Park is on Carson Street and is opposite the back entrance of Castlecliff School.

The park has heaps of green space, enough for a game of cricket or an epic battle of Bullrush.  There are several areas of play equipment dotted around the park.

There is a decent climbing frame. that Sausage had a great time playing on.  It’s not too high off the ground, and is surrounded by bark for a soft landing.2015-01-03 11.05.48

It has several seesaws and swings.

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And a weird hanging hoop structure that you can see in the background of the picture above if you squint.  The park also has a slightly derelict-looking skate/scooter ramp area.

Pros:

  • Heaps of green space, lots of play equipment so it’s good for a big group of kids.
  • Toddler-friendly climbing frame
  • Play equipment is all in good working order
  • Quiet street (when school is not in session)
  • There is some seating for tired parents
  • Skate park area is attractive for older kids

Cons:

  • The playground looks TIRED.  The paint on the play equipment is faded and peeling and just looks a bit meh.  There was nothing wrong with any of the equipment when I visited, but the Council needs to tart this baby up.
  • There is NO SHADE anywhere near the play equipment.  Sigh.  This is a major grumble of mine as most of the playgrounds in Whanganui have little to no shade.  It’s not such a big deal if you have older kids who can be watched from a distance while Mum or Dad takes a break under a tree.  Unfortunately I visited on a blazing hot day with Chipolata in tow who was in need of a feed, and the only tree was quite a way from the play area.  Sausage is too little to be left to her own devices on play equipment at the moment, so Chip and I got rather hot and bothered while he fed, and I had to cut the outing short as a result.  Most parents like to play with their kids for a bit, and then chill out while watching them have fun – so come on Whanganui City Council, plant some trees!
  • There were some toilets there, but they looked scruffy and were locked when I went there, and looked like they hadn’t been in action for some time.
  • The playground is not fenced so if you have a renegade tot who likes to take off, this may not be the park for you.
  • No picnic tables (not that they are necessary, just a nice-to-have.

Tots in Tawhero rating: 4/10

I apologise for the rubbish photos, it was such a sunny day most of the photos I took were too washed out!