Monday, September 30, 2013

Ellie turns one!

On Saturday, we celebrated Ellie's first birthday. Despite the weather being a little gloomy, a great time was had. We didn't really go all out for the day because a) I don't think she will remember it in detail anyway and b) I am lazy. While other mummies plan lovely themed parties and make gorgeous cakes, I'm content if I can throw on an outfit that is coordinated. We therefore settled on celebrating theme-free that quite frankly, we've made it to a year and haven't done anything seriously damaging to our daughter so far!

So, what was the birth day of 1 year old Ellie like?

At 6:45 we went off to swimming lessons. It sounds like a horrid time of the day, but with the sun getting up early, so does Ellie and 5am is the normal wake up time now. On work days, I appreciate this. Other days, not so much! As a twelve month old, she's moved up to the toddler class and now does much more swimming without being held, and learning to move herself around the pool more.

We came home and opened presents. In line with our present policy, Mr Fork and I got Ellie a giant wooden xylophone. Just quietly, it's a bit of a hit!

She loves it! Hound photobomb and Mr Fork being mysterious
My aunt was visiting for the weekend and festivities and she assisted with the creative direction of the cake. I was going to do the comparison of the Pinterest photo inspiration and the end result but that's just depressing, so here's my version only. I'm not going to justify it except to say that again, she won't remember it and it looked much better in my head! Also, you know, I went to the effort of making a cake. That's love right there.

Hello piranha cake! Do you live in the Amazon?
Ellie's friends (and the friends of Mr Fork and I) came over for the kid friendly party which was basically an open door between 11 - 2. Children's sleep schedules are so unreliable so we made it easy for people to just turn up and celebrate with us. Much festivity was had, but unfortunately I was too busy 'assisting' with present opening and socialising, so not many photos were taken. Here's a photo of the cake cutting. Note that the tutu also got an outing!

Cake cutting fun! Turns out Ellie loves chocolate (duh)
After the kid's party, it was time for a nap (for everyone). Then cleaning up in preparation for an influx of family members to celebrate over dinner. Many more presents and cuddles happened. A big deal was made of Ellie walking. Oh yes, I'm not one to brag about baby milestones, but Ellie started walking in the weeks before her birthday. I am just so proud of her!

This also happened. As I was cleaning up, I dropped a salad bowl. It was a reflex reaction to just stick my foot out and try to stop it breaking. Well, I did that, but I also broke my toe in the process. Silly mama! Lucky aforementioned aunt has a first aid certificate and got me iced up and resting. Mr Fork says I did it on purpose to get out of cleaning up but with the pain that comes with a broken toe, I tell you this was completely accidental! I'll spare you the horror of a colour photo. And not that having a broken toe stopped me having a much needed pedicure either. Guess which toes are usually buddy taped together though?!

Toe. Broken.
All in all, it was a great day. Life with a one year old is lovely. From birth to now, she has developed so much. She is walking, making baby talk and is so sociable and smiley. She loves to laugh and play with musical toys and anything fluffy. She will give cuddles and kisses and is just such a people person. It's been one of the best years of my life and I can't wait to see how she changes over the next year.

Happy first birthday bean!
I love birthdays, even if they're not mine. What's your favourite way to celebrate a birthday?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

F for Fun and Friends

When I was growing up, it was in a small town and I know that my parents trusted me implicitly. I was allowed to ride my bike to school and I never asked permission to do things, I just had to be courteous and let someone know what I was doing. I had my own key to the house since I was in primary school and I could be trusted to make simple meals by myself while aged in the single digits. Friends were the people we grew up around and it really was determined by location and nearness. This had me thinking about the friends that Ellie has now, how she came by them, and whether they’re friends she’ll keep when she’s older. Really, they’re the children of my friends. The people she goes to daycare with, and most importantly, the children of mothers in my mother’s group. Apart from my friends who live all over, for Ellie it’s also somewhat proximity based more than any real preferences from herself.

Ellie has just recently gotten to an age where she’s interested in interacting with other babies. Previously, if I’m honest, gatherings were more for the mother’s sake and we would all chat and compare notes while our babies sat still on a mat and gazed around them in wonder. Now, we still chat but we’re often interrupting ourselves to chase down a wayward crawling child, or instigate sharing when one child has snatched all the toys. It’s great that they’re now starting to interact with each other, but sometimes I’m just bamboozled with the things Ellie chooses to play with.
 
Her idea of fun is ripping up the junk mail. Pulling tissues out of a box one after the other. Examining each item in the (clean) recycling bin. Staring through the crimsafe and moving her head back and forth to make things fuzzy. Opening and shutting drawers… not taking anything out or looking in them – just opening and shutting them. Eating a leaf and pulling up handfuls of grass. Rolling around on the rug and studying lint. Which I think is just great for my wallet and appeals to my frugal side no end! Thinking about it more, I suppose that when everything is new to you, of course it’s amusing and interesting. It’s when you start to get a bit older and ‘wiser’ that things become mundane and jaded. I personally hope that Ellie keeps her sense of wonder with the world because I love seeing things through her eyes!

Of course, she has more traditional toys as well. Mr Fork and I generally ignore the age suggestions given and look more at what interests her when we’re choosing things.

Apparently this ball pit is for age 3+ but Ellie loves it anyway
As long as she’s not going to choke on any small pieces it comes down to judgement calls about what is suitable. It’s really hard when it comes to buying presents as there is SO MUCH COOL STUFF out there! We’ve had to put a system in place. Every occasion that Ellie gets gifts, we limit ourselves to a maximum of four things:
  1. Something to read
  2. Something to wear
  3. Something she needs
  4. Something to play with
We hope that this will do several things. Teach her the value of things. Help us save money by allowing us to buy things such as a school backpack in the future. Encourage a love of books. Making us carefully choose her presents as each one needs to count.
How does your child have fun with friends? How did they meet their friends?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bagel goodness

I'm a sucker for a good bagel. When Mr Fork and I make it to the New Farm markets (less of an occurrence now Ellie is around) I used to stock up at the bagel stand at 6 for $10, then freeze them and hoard them, savouring them for special breakfast and lunch occasions.

Since we rarely go to those markets anymore, I've been somewhat bagel deprived. Then I figured, $1.67 per bagel is kind of pricey, especially when I could get a whole loaf of decent bread for twice that. So I started to look around for a recipe I could utilise at home without needing a bread maker or any fancy ingredients. I think I've cracked it!

Bagels - makes 8

Ingredients:
4 cups plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warmish water

Method:
  1. Combine half the flour with the sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl.
  2. Add the oil and water and pour into the bowl 
  3. Use a wooden spoon and beat until smooth and creamy looking
  4. Add the remaining flour and knead by hand for 10 minutes
  5. On a lightly floured board, divide the dough into 8 equal size balls. Let them rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Roll each ball into a long log and wrap around to form a ring. Make sure the hole in the middle is distinctive otherwise it may close when the dough rises. Fuse the ends of the log and smooth over the join. Rest the rings for another 20 minutes.
  7. While the dough is resting for the second time, preheat the oven to 205C, boil a large pot of water and line a baking tray.
  8. Drop bagels into the boiling water and cook 1 minute on each side, then place on the lined baking tray.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes then turn over and bake for another 10 minutes.
Fresh out of the oven bagel goodness!

Tips and Substitutions:
  • I've successfully made this with a mix of wholemeal and white flour, and have even substituted some wheat bran for the white flour successfully. The recipe is pretty forgiving!
  • You can season the bagels before baking. After boiling them, drop them face down into the decoration - poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried herb or garlic for example. Continue to bake as per the method above.
  • I've also made these in a sweet version by adding cinnamon and dried fruit to the mix as well.

Cost of my home made bagels? About $1.50 for the batch if you use fancy flours (cheaper if you just use white flour)... so 19 cents a bagel. Much better than the $1.67 I was paying before, and I get the satisfaction of making them myself to taste. Win!

Tell me, have you made anything delicious lately?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tutu crafty

Let's talk craft. As soon as I saw them online, I wanted to make Ellie a no-sew tutu. I had in mind that she could wear it for her birthday, and then we also got an invite to a fairy party as well. Sweet, I thought! I went and had a look at the local fabric places, but at $5/m for tulle, I wimped out when I figured out how much I'd need for a decent tutu. Then I checked out good old eBay, and found I could buy tulle by the roll. $5.96 and 25m of tulle purchased later, I was back in business! Of course, I did have to pay for my cheapness by needing to wait 20 days for delivery but I wasn't in a hurry.

Almost 20 days later exactly, my tulle arrived and I set up shop. I sewed a loop of elastic. I had a book of appropriate size ready so I could wrap the tulle around it and cut it nicely without measuring properly. I had scissors and everything at the ready.


And it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.


Except Ellie hated it. She screamed as soon as I put it on her, and the screaming continued until I took it off again. She kept pulling at the tulle strands so I will need to sew them on anyway. Stupid no-sew tutu my butt.
Who can resist a little tu-tued behind?
Wouldn't even look at the camera
I suppose it's a good thing she is asserting her independence and choices. So, without the tutu, we went to the fairy party in a plain gingham dress. Although I was allowed to put a flower clip in her hair for the occasion.


Have you made anything crafty lately?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

E for Education

No I’m not talking which school your child will go to, but more like learning through play type education. I will probably be shot down for voicing this, but I sort of think of it as something similar to raising a puppy and the environmental enrichment you provide. Ellie is sometimes very much like a little pet – she follows people around the house, will bite Mr Fork’s toe if he pays more attention to his iPhone than to her, and thinks that everything in the house belongs to her.

Since she was very small, I have been quite particular about the type of play Ellie and I do. I much prefer her to have a mama who is there for her in each moment instead of putting her in front of the television or a piece of technology. I think it’s perfectly acceptable that if I play with my iPad that she be allowed to look at it too. Otherwise, why get it out in front of her? My preference though, is for active play, and to let her have toys that will let her learn through what she’s doing.

When she was smaller, her favourite toys were ones that had lots of textures and noises like her very hungry caterpillar. She also loved her mat which encouraged both hand/eye coordination and tummy time. 


Now she loves blocks and balloons (which if they aren't helium I enclose in a fabric cover so if they burst she can’t eat any pieces).

 
She also loves painting, dancing (either with me or by herself), anything soft and fluffy (including our hound!) and musical instruments. She has even become a bit creative in making music – she has a rattle and a little piano but Ellie loves beating two blocks together, or tipping everything out of her bucket and using that as a drum.

How do you enrich your child's environment?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

D for Developmental Milestones

When I was pregnant, I had the ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ app on my iPhone and I got a real kick out of looking at it each week to see what fruit size my baby was at, and the developmental milestones that she was making in utero. That sort of consumed me while I was pregnant and I didn’t really read on much further – hence actually having a baby was a real shock! I mean, I knew I was pregnant; I knew what the end result would be but sort of glossed over having to give birth and all that came along with it.

Similarly, I also glossed over all the milestones that are associated with having a baby. Mr Fork and I didn’t get caught up in when Ellie would reach certain milestones at all, much to my consternation as I go back and retrospectively complete her birth book. I’m often heard going “Honey, when did Ellie first sit up on her own?” and likely the answer will be “I don’t know, just put down early May or something!”

Sitting so easily now it's hard to remember she didn't always do it!
That’s not to say that we didn’t do some research. I have a fabulous app called the Wonder Weeks  which has been pretty great. It works on the premises that as children grow, you can predict with some accuracy when they are going to make a mental development leap based on neurological changes. These changes generally mean that baby is exposed to so much new stimulus that they get grumpy and have regressions in previously learnt skills (such as sleep and independence!). In practical terms, we are able to recognise signs she is about to hit a ‘wonder week’, understand when Ellie has problems sleeping and is extra clingy, and in turn, help her to develop new abilities with targeted play and activities. The app isn’t specific and times though and generally gives a window of several weeks for things to happen.

So, we don’t generally push for Ellie to do things. We cheer her accomplishments, such as teeth, sitting, standing, sleep, the ability to give cuddles (yay!) or vocalise. What we don’t do is compare her to other baby’s progress. My thoughts are, when it comes down to it, who really cares when she walked? How long she was breastfed for? When she got all her teeth? Ate solids. Children do things in their own time when they are developmentally read for it, and it’s my job as a parent to be aware of that add support her through my actions.

Hence, I’m throwing developmental milestones and comparisons out the window and celebrating Ellie for herself! As long as she’s tracking nicely and staying in the right growth percentiles and continuously developing, I’m not worried about the specifics of when she does things. I know instinctively that my child is just fine, and when she’s ready, that’s when she’ll do things.

Do you adhere to developmental milestones or use them more as guidelines?

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