Autumn has arrived! (Officially autumn arrived a couple of weeks ago but now I actually believe it). The sun is setting earlier and the nights are cooler. It hasn't been above 30 degrees for a whole week. It even rained last week! It's such a refreshing change. It's brought energy. I feel motivated to reflect on the year so far.
I was nervous about embarking on 2015. There were a lot of challenges to negotiate and it got off to an uneasy start. There has been a lot of change and a fair bit of uncertainty. That said I think we're doing ok. Work is challenging but I'm starting to enjoy it and I'm starting to feel settled. I am exhausted at the end of my 2 and a half days of work. But I am coping - even now right at the end of my pregnancy.
Tom's new job has been such an incredible gift from God. It is a lot of work but it really has been a positive change. Last year Tom was at home 2 days per week to care for Bear. This year he has needed to work full time so Bear has been cared for outside our home.
The timing has been just right for Bear. God amazingly answered my anxious prayers for a fantastic carer. She is a lovely quiet, gentle lady. She has been caring for little children for 20 years and obviously has a deep love and respect for them. I feel so confident leaving Bear in her care. He comes home tired but you can't wipe the smile off his face. He comes home relaxed and happy.
I've been trying to do Montessori with Bear at home. I've learned a lot by trial and error and my understanding and expectations have evolved. My goal has been to help Bear learn concentration, coordination, language and responsibility in this toddler period. On a day to day level I find the more time and effort I manage to invest in preparing his environment the smoother and more enjoyable our days at home become.
These are the things I've come to realise:
What does autumn hold for us? Lots of gardening (my favourite thing). The arrival of a newborn son/brother for Bear. Lots of friends and family coming and going. Maternity leave. A trip to Sydney to visit a newborn nephew/cousin. Lots more change and many more challenges to come. But lots to look forward to!
"When we speak of a free child we speak of a child free to follow the powerful guides of nature within him. These guides are extremely wise, and lead the child to seek exactness, precision, and the full achievement of what he undertakes. The child is lead by nature to go into all the details. This is what we want for success in education."
It's been so interesting watching Bear work on this activity over several months. It's been on and off the shelves every other week and hasn't ever had a lot of attention. I'd put it out for a week, it would be ignored, I'd put it away for a couple of weeks before bringing it out again. If I showed it to Bear he'd play with the animals for a little while or handle the cards but soon move off to do something else. I'd demonstrate how to match the animals by standing them on their card. He'd have a go but would stand an animal on any card randomly... then knock them all over!
Today he just got it! He's been matching them on purpose and for fun. I can't believe how long he spent crawling all over the floor to try this one here and that one there. He didn't get them all right every time which didn't seem to bother or frustrate him but he did notice that they weren't quite right. It was a real pleasure to watch as if a little light bulb had been switched on for him.
It was also interesting to see him take a break from matching at one point to line all the animals up head to tail. Then he went straight back to the matching game. Having such a lovely time exploring, experimenting, practicing.
Its so exciting to watch him learn so happily and unconsciously. It makes the effort of rotating his materials and coming up with new challenges for him completely worthwhile. I wonder what his next big discovery will be.
I've been thinking hard about how to prepare Bear for the arrival of a baby. I'm not sure how much he can understand at 20 months about what's going to happen. I suspect not very much. That said we want to give him the benefit of the doubt and talk to him as if he can understand. My main objective is to teach Bear what a newborn baby is like and what it does.
I've had a hunt around for a good board book that introduces babies to very young toddlers. I couldn't find anything I was happy with. I wanted to find something that had realistic pictures of newborns in board book format so that Bear could independently explore it without doing it damage. I liked this one the best - the content seemed relevant and age appropriate but the pictures weren't realistic - I might get it for him later, once he's met the baby. In the mean time I've made some cards for him instead.
I found this book at an op shop and had to buy it (I remembered it satisfying my adolescent curiosity when I first found it on my mum's book shelf back in the day). It has beautiful photos of newborns doing newborn things. I photocopied them onto photo paper, cut them out and laminated them onto some cardboard. They came out nice and robust.
We use them to talk about what babies are like and what they do i.e. sleep, nappy changes, baths, cuddles, cry... The cards live in a basket in Bear's baby drawer (the only drawer in the playroom that isn't Bear-proof) with his baby doll, a blanket, a bib, a washcloth and a soft rattle.
A baby doll
I was so inspired by this post to put out a baby doll for Bear. Why not teach boys to care for baby dolls? How important are tender, gentle, confident fathers!
We look at the baby's face and body and point out his eyes, nose, ears, fingers and toes. We take his clothes off and put them back on. We cover him with a blanket. We take turns cuddling him.
Bear doesn't choose to get the baby out on his own. I guess he's still just not that interested. He's much more interested in pushing his truck, building train tracks and throwing balls. Every now and then I suggest to him that we explore in his baby drawer and he enjoys playing with the baby together.
The count down is on before we meet our second son. I wish I could know how and when it will all happen. All I can be sure of is that is will unfold in its own way and I'm sure very differently from my labour with Bear. I've been imagining the way I would like it all to happen and have shared my dream birth story below.
I'll wake it the early hours of the 9th April (the day I'm booked for my induction) with strong contractions coming regularly. I'll lie quietly in bed snuggled up next to Tom and listen to my favourite playlist. I'll sleep in between contractions until they get too strong to lie quietly through them or until the sun comes up.
I'll get up and make myself a delicious and hearty low carbohydrate breakfast - nutty muesli with apricots and honey - pausing to breath through contractions. I'll eat outside in the crisp morning with my ugg boots and beanie on and a blanket over my lap. I'll watch the sun rise across the paddocks and listen to the birds waking up.
By the time Bear wakes up the contractions will be getting stronger and I'll wake Tom up to help me with him. I'll bounce on my exercise ball while Tom and Bear eat breakfast then I'll play with Bear while Tom has a shower and gets dressed. Bear and I will talk about babies and read books about babies. Or maybe we'll just play with his toys or play outside together.
Once we're all dressed we'll take Izzy for a walk through the bush. A slow, lazy walk. Enjoying each others company. Pausing for contractions. Taking our time.
It's probably time to call the midwife and the babysitters when we get back to give them an update. We'll plan to stay at home for now, we'll come in to the hospital when the contractions get stronger.
Bear and I will hop in the bath while Tom makes us a big breakfast for lunch with bacon and eggs, french toast, avocado, mushrooms and a strawberry smoothie. Bear goes to bed after lunch for a sleep and contractions start getting much stronger.
I lean on the kitchen bench through contractions while Tom rubs my back or holds a hot water bottle for me. I rest in between on my fit ball. While Tom gets our bags in the car I hop back in the bath then he comes in to massage my back with tennis balls.
By the time Bear wakes up from his sleep contractions are coming every 3 minutes and I'm keen to get up to the hospital. We all get in the car and head into town. Tom drops me off first then takes Bear to the babysitters. He leaves me in the care of my midwife who shows me to my room. She checks my cervix - 6mm dilated! more than half way. When Tom gets back I'm in the bath again and he sits with me and rubs my back through the intense contractions.
One contraction at a time. I focus on the second hand of the clock and my breathing. Time ticks by. Finally I feel the urge to push so we hop out of the bath and I kneel up on the bed. Pushing with contractions and breathng in between. One push after another after another.
Finally my slimy little boy arrives. I scoop him up and we snuggle up and enjoy the amazing relief of being together peacefully again. He's calm and alert and almost immediately he's looking for my breast. Before the midwife has a chance to get the glucometer out he's sucking vigorously with a perfect attachment.
I'm nervous about the amount of intervention I'm going to end up needing. A short natural labour would be a dream come true. There are threats of induction, continuous foetal monitoring, drips, assisted second stage, formula feeds, special care nursery admissions... Of course these things aren't disasters and I am completely prepared to cooperate 100% with whatever my midwife and doctors advice. But I dream of a natural birth... I pray that it will be so.
Toilet learning has been such foreign territory as a first time mum. There is such an overwhelming supply of advice and "information" out there and of course all of it is conflicting. I was so relieved that Montessori provided a comprehensive approach to this area of child development as with all other areas. What a relief to find common sense, gentle, thorough guidance.
I love the Montessori concept of "toilet learning" vs "toilet training". "Toilet learning" implies a gentle and gradual process that is intrinsic to the child. It is something that he will master when he's ready if he is given the right support at the right time. It's not about success or failure (for the child or his "coach"). I've used a lot of practical information form how we montessori and Racheous has collected some fantastic links on toilet learning which I have read thoroughly.
Our toilet learning journey started with cloth nappies from birth. I started using Gerber undies inconsistently from 12 months. Then from 18 months I have became much more consistent with a prepared environment and consistent routine. This is what we've been doing since then:
I have two identical potty stations located in places Bear is likely to be without pants on. The first on the way out of his bedroom. Here he changes out of his nappy and into undies first thing in the morning and after naps.
The second is in the bathroom opposite the toilet. I bring him here to clean up a poo. He likes to see his poo tipped into the toilet and waves goodbye when it's flushed. I also suggest he sits on the potty before and after baths or if he comes with me when I go to the toilet.
I use the word "suggest" very deliberately. I learned very quickly that there is NO point forcing, bribing or even encouraging Bear to sit on the potty. He will tolerate is a very brief reminder that the potty's there. Sometimes he does like to practice getting on and off but it has to be on his terms and so far he's not very interested.
We use Gerber baby training pants because they're cheap. Even when they're shipped from the US to Australia they're no more than $7 per pair. Advantages - cheap, good fit, good colour options, 100% cotton, no waterproofing. Disadvantages - poor absorbency, tend to fall down after a bit of wear.
At the moment we have 12 pairs and we use them whenever we're at home. 12 pairs isn't quite enough because they need to be changed so frequently. I have ordered another 12 which will be plenty and allow me to use Bear's nappies for the new baby. I slip a soaker from our Pop In nappies inside the undies which gives them the perfect absorbency. We've never had an overflow with the soaker in place but the nappy still looks and feels very wet.
When I can see that Bear has done a wee I tell him "you've done a wee in your undies - look your undies are wet". I encourage him to look at his wet undies and feel them with his hand. Then I change him quickly without fuss where ever he happens to be at the time and point out "now your undies are dry".
I don't think he is able to anticipate a wee or a poo yet. But over the last few weeks he has become reliable at letting me know when he's wet or dirty and cooperates much better with changes. This is exciting progress!
Of course being prepared for accidents is important. We have a ready supply of cloths and carpet cleaner. Bear loves this task and helps diligently whenever there is need. I was amazed how carefully he watched what I was doing the first time and how exactly he has imitated the work ever since. A fantastic Montessori moment!
I was inspired by this post to get the bathroom working better for Bear. There are still some things I'd like to change but this is what we're up to so far.
There is a little shelf at the end of the bathtub which is a perfect height for Bear. He has a little basket here for his cup, toothbrush, hair brush, comb and nail clippers. I added a couple of mirrors at his height so he can see what he's doing.
In the mornings we do our teeth and hair together. I fill his cup with water and put toothpaste on his brush. I leave them on his shelf for him. He brushes his teeth first (chews on the brush and eats the toothpaste) while he's watching me brush mine. Then I brush his teeth properly for him (sometimes against strong protests). When he's done he tips his water in the bathtub and puts his cup and toothbrush back in his basket. He loves watching himself brush his hair in the mirror.
We're still using the baby bath for Bear to save precious water. I'm so looking forward to bathing 2 boys together so that I can justify filling up the big bath! There's a shelf along the edge of the bath that he can reach while sitting down. I put his bath toys along here. The mirror sits here as well so he can see himself while he's in the bath.
Lately it's a struggle getting Bear in the bath. Sometimes he point blank refuses. Or when he's had enough he's out of there like a shot - like bathing a cat! I rotate his bath toys in an attempt to lure him in and keep things interesting. The mirror has helped as well. At the moment if anything will hold his attention in the bath it's washing himself. He has two little bottles - one of body wash and one of shampoo. He loves opening and closing the lids, standing them up on their shelf and squeezing a drop at a time onto his arms and hands. He likes the game of washing body parts as I name them - "can you wash your tummy?" "Can you wash your toes?".
His towel hangs on a low hook next to the bath... Alas he's even less interested in getting dry than he is in getting wet in the first place!
In the cupboard are supplies of clean nappies and undies that Bear can help himself to.
One of Bear's potty stations is in the bathroom opposite the toilet. He can see himself in the mirror from the potty as well. There is a stool at the toilet so he can reach the flush and look in the bowl. Note the elastic band around the toilet roll - essential for my sanity.
I bring Bear in here to clean up when he's done a poo. I suggest he sits on the potty whenever he's in here with his pants off. Sometimes he does. It's early days for toilet learning for Bear - I'll write a more descriptive post about toilet learning next.
Things that need work...
The main thing that's missing for now is somewhere for Bear to wash his hands. I haven't worked out where and how to do that yet. So far I've been putting a bucket on the floor and putting it away afterwards. It's not idea.
I would also love for Bear to be able to get himself into and out of the bath safely. I think if he had more control over whether he was in or out he might be more willing to participate.
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.