Posts By Luschka

On Your Last Day Of Preschool – Letter To A Four Year Old

Your First Day of 'Big Class'

Your First Day of ‘Big Class’ – You didn’t want to pose for a picture as you didn’t want to be late.

My most beloved big little girl

It’s the day before your last day at preschool and the world is changing again for you and for me. I watch you sometimes and the mannerisms, words and thoughts that come from you are no longer those of an infant or a toddler. I’m scared to say it as you are still only four but they are often barely those of a child and at times, when you speak, I feel like I’m faced with an adult – a short little grown up.

It’s strange for me, you know. I know this is your whole world and right now you are standing at the furthest reaches, the outposts of the world you know, standing on tip toes and stretching your hands out. Like a counter from which you can smell, but not yet see the chocolates. You think you see the whole world. All of life. And you feel so big, so ready for it.

I can’t imagine how I will feel when you reach the end of school, university, singledom, child-free, or when your little girl heads off to her last day of preschool. But I do know that on that day you will look at me and there’ll be a little understanding, a little sympathy for what my heart feels right now, when I look at you and see the smaller version of the future you.

You were born, and imprinted on my soul forever

You were born, and imprinted on my soul forever

You may have forgotten, but I rember the moment our eyes met. Hollywood makes movies from moments like that. That moment, that first feel of your skin, the meeting of our souls, it is imprinted on me forever. As I write this I’m sitting on a train and my eyes well up with tears as I remember the moment that cataclysmically ended life as I had known it, bringing in a new dawn, one where I became a mother. At the moment while you are so excited about all the new things that the new school year will bring you I can only see you through that filter, that small baby.

Oh, if I could stop time to do again these last four years with you unaware of the world out there, with me as your world once more, oh my darling, I would, I would.

I remember the first time I got on a bus with you. I paid my fare and asked the driver how much I had to pay for you. He said “children under 5 are free!” I laughed. I felt I had won the lottery! FIVE years!! That was, I thought, practically a lifetime of free travel!

In just a couple of months, you’ll have to get your own ticket and the thought of it startles me. Where did five years go? Sometimes I still feel like that young mama, baby strapped to me, boarding a bus.

Go my girl. Go into this big wide little world in front of you. Explore beyond the bug box, beyond the sensory rice, beyond the mock snow, dig deeper than the sand pit, deeper than the treasures I’ve hidden for you.

Your first school play at Preschool

Your first school play at Preschool

Make friends with people I haven’t introduced you to. Learn about things that I haven’t taught you. Go where your imagination takes you but always know where your home is, and where my heart is beating anxiously to hear about your day, your adventures, your experiences.

Yes, you are only nearly five, not eigteen, but if I don’t say it today, the next 12 years may soar by and I’ll be saying it again but with less time to hold on to you.

The world is out there my beautiful, strong-willed, golden-locked girl. The chocolate is yours for the taking. But be kind to your mama whose arms still carry the imprint of the first time they held you. Once in a while, nuzzle into my chest so I can still breathe you, once in a while look back and know that you are still in the centre of my world.

 

Wanted: Escape From The Hamster Wheel

It’s not that it’s a failure, per se. I’m not even bitter. It’s just that things haven’t panned out as I imagined. If I’d ever made it into a year book, the caption by my picture would probably have said ‘Most Likely To Succeed’ or at least ‘Most Likely To Die Trying’.

But instead, I woke up one morning and found out that life today would be exactly like life yesterday, and life tomorrow the same too. Not in a day-to-day way, actually. I mean, today we may do crafts, tomorrow we may go out, but at the heart of the matter, every day has one objective: Make it through. Scrape the Pennies together. Survive. Okay, that’s three, but they’re on the same theme.

Woman-on-hamster-wheelBiding my time has never been my thing. There’s so much to do in this world and with this life, but living from paycheck to paycheck, juggling which bills will get paid each month because there simply isn’t enough money around to pay them all? Well, that’s not where I hoped to be in life.

Jolly RogerAnd it’s not just me. I was reading up recently about how many families with children there are in the UK and I found that the number of families who have moved in with other families (concealed families, they’re called) has dramatically risen over the last few years because people can’t afford to stay on their own any more.

Thank God we’re not there yet – I don’t even know who we’d stay with! But when did life become such a hamster wheel? There must be more. Teachers are striking. ‘Poverty Pay’ is an actual term used in the news. Apparently one in five in the UK live under the poverty line. And sure, there’s poverty and then there’s POVERTY. We’re not homeless with our children playing in the dirt outside ramshackle huts. I know that. But it’s all about perspective.

Maybe part of this ‘gentle stroll to granola’ is going to become about living different to the norm, out of the hamster wheel, and different to what’s deemed “right”. I can feel the North Wind blowing for me. It’s time to pull up anchor and see what’s still out there. 

Jolly Roger

How The School Run Drove Me to Home Education

Well, I should say, “How the Pre-School Run Drove Me To Planning For Home Education” because that’s where we are right now, on that cusp between the final term of preschool and the first term of home schooling, home educating in the UK, our four and a half year old Ameli.

How the school run drove me to home educate

Ameli’s been going to pre-school – a play group in a church – for over a two years now, on and off. She goes three times a week, for three hours. It’s not so short that I can’t do anything with that time and not so long that I can do a lot. It’s just enough time for her to have a fabulous time playing and learning and being part of a group. It’s been a time for us to see her through someone else’s eyes, and a time for her to enjoy – she’s been independent since the day she was born holding her own head up to look around – some of that independence all of the Western world seems to want our infants to have.

When we had to look around at schools and make the decision on where we were going to send her in September, I made two lists. On the one I wrote down the pros and cons for her. On the other I wrote down the pros and cons for me.

My pros were easy: me-time, time with Aviya, time to pursue some of my own interests again. The cons were even easier: SCHOOL RUN. Yip, just the one.*

I hate the (pre-school) run. The mad dash to get ready in the morning. Getting to the school ‘gate’ with my hair unbrushed packed into a tight bun so no one will know. My fingers still sticky from the jam on Ameli’s breakfast toast. The evidence that I’m just not as organised as everyone else looks.

Their kids don’t have pen marks from DIY tattoos. Their hair is in perfect ponytails, not pulled out 6.3 seconds after they were tied up. No one else ever forgets the (empty, because I have no idea what to put it in it now that she doesn’t need a spare change of clothes for ‘in case’, and since she gets a snack and drink from school) backpacks. It really seems to be just me.

But that all I could live with if I could stay in the car and wave her off into the school building. But no. Come rain or shine, I have to stand in line with a bunch of other mothers and fathers, and make small talk.

Folks. I missed that class in school. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to talk about the weather, and I don’t watch X-Factor or Big Brother. And I don’t want to start, just so I can talk to the parents in the school line.

To be fair, my life is unchanged by their presence in it. I’ve become friends with one or two but for the rest, they have no impact on my existence, but I know this isn’t fair to Ameli. She comes home and talks about her ‘best friends’, these people who are so formative to her future in these relationships that form the basis of every other relationship in her life to come. I feel I owe her to at least try.

So I do. But I wear my heart on my sleeve. I think I look and sound like a fool. I look and sound like I’m pretending.

Sorry parents on the school run. My husband normally takes and fetches Ameli, because standing in that line with you feels like there’s a spotlight on me. My husband says you all think I’m really rude and stuck up, because I don’t talk to you much. I just nod and smile. Which he says is “sooooo unlike you!”

He’s right. But whether it’s because I spent my first six months of school run over two years ago now not talking because I was afraid I was going to throw up on you, or if it’s because  I can’t bare to stand and talk about nothing, I apologise. It’s not you, it’s me. And I’m so very glad that we have chosen to home educate, at least in the beginning, so that I don’t have to do it every.single.day.

Also, I have no idea how I spawned such a confident and outgoing child, but I’m sure glad for her that I did.

*my decision to home educate came down to a lot more than just hating the school run. This post is about hating the school run. This was not what made our decision.

What The Contents Of My Hoover Say About My Life

I hoover my house almost daily. If I don’t, after just one day, it looks like I never have.

A few days ago, I was cleaning out the bagless hoover, and amid a cloud of dust, I began to giggle to myself as I realised that the contents of my hoover are a direct insight into my life.  Read more here…. 

For a long, long time now, I’ve wanted to start another blog, something that resembles what this blog used to be a few years ago, but it’s taken me almost a year to come up with a name I liked. Well, I’ve done it now… and in walks Not Quite Granola.

I’ve shared a few posts from Diary of a First Child over there, but also some new content. If you’ve enjoyed my attachment/natural/gentle parenting posts, please pop over to Not Quite Granola. I’d love to see you there!

 

What The Contents Of My Hoover Say About My Life

I hoover my house almost daily. If I don’t, after just one day, it looks like I never have.

A few days ago, I was cleaning out the bagless hoover, and amid a cloud of dust, I began to giggle to myself as I realised that the contents of my hoover are a direct insight into my life.

Contents of my HooverOnce upon a time there was a man and a woman. They both worked full time, and were hardly ever home. They hoovered every few weeks and cleaned out the hoover every couple of months. Their hoover was full of hair and dust balls. Fast forward four years and that hoover is full of… well… everything else.

There’s glitter from the morning crafts, play rice from the afternoon sensory play. There’s broken up bits of water beads that were brought in from the water table and stomped on, and there are thousands of bits and pieces of paper, string, confetti, crayon wrappers and a million other remnants of creative projects. There’s bits of food from a two year old insistant on feeding herself and from a four year old who tips her plate over to show us there’s only crumbs left on it.

There are bits of LEGO Friends that have to be meticulously picked out, and a pebble – the most specialist pebble in the world, mind you – from a recent trip to the sea, or a leaf from the nature hunt or the now dried and crumbled remains of a nature art activity.

I look through my hoover and I see the signs of a life lived with children, in full colour, full exhuberance, full enjoyment. This is the life I see now. My life.

And one day the hoover will be used every week or so again. There will be no muddy footprints going through the house. There will be no glitter, confetti, sparkles that cling stubbornly to the floor. That day I will look at the hairballs and dust bunnies gathered in my hoover, and I will remember today and I will miss it.

Mamatography Week 13: Flowers And Firemen

There’s definitely a hint of spring in the air, with lots of flowers everywhere.

82: Bring On Spring
Inspired by our trip to the Moonpig Mother’s Day event a few days earlier, we made a lollipop flower garden so we could give a few special people some flowers.

84: Gift Basket
Friends of ours came back from a holiday in Australia, so we dropped a care package on their doorstep so they wouldn’t have to rush out for breakfast, or worse, milk for coffee first thing off a 19-hour flight. I know what it’s like coming ‘home’ from a trip ‘home’ and never really belonging in either place. It’s hard.

85: Breakfast
We receive the Disney Cakes And Sweets Magazine every month, and this month, the freebie with it was a pan for making these fab Mickey Mouse pancakes. So yum using our regular recipe, and the girls just loved it.

Mamatography Week 13

86: Sugarcraft

Although it’s two weeks after the fact, we’re having Aviya’s birthday party tomorrow, so I’ve been making flowers for the cake. Unfortunately I didn’t think to actually flour the shot glasses, so most of them broke taking them off. Lesson learned. I was quite happy with them to that point though!

87: Messy Play Party
At some point I’ll get round to blogging Aviya’s messy play party. Suffice to say it was super fun though.

88: Firestation!
Another thing I have to get round to blogging, is our trip to the Farnham Firestation as part of our Emergency Services PlayLearning week. Doesn’t she look pleased with herself though?

Link Up Your Mamatography Posts:
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 This post is part of the Mamatography 2014 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day, a collage or a picture each week to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Click Get the code here below to add the blog hop to your blog and join the fun. (Also sign up to be added to a comment group!)

 



Love Bombing With A Three Year Old

There’s been a distinct disconnect between my almost four year old, Ameli, and myself lately. We just aren’t working well together. We’re not cooperating. I’m shouting at her, she’s shouting at me. She ignores me. She tells me I’m not her best friend anymore. She doesn’t listen to me… and the number of times I’ve said the words ‘you’re  not listening to me’ made me realise that maybe, just maybe, the disconnect is because I’m not listening to her, either.

By listening to her, I don’t mean paying attention when she talks, or doing what her three year old demands insist. I mean really, deeply, listening to her, to what her words are not saying.

Love BombingIt started in Australia really, when I guess we pulled the rug out from under her world very quickly and spent six months constantly changing the rules, uncertain of what we were doing, or where, or when. That can’t have felt very secure for her.

Coming back to England has restored a lot of security and routine, but the disconnect has been there, a steady constant.

I remember some time back I started reading a book called Love Bombing which talks about resetting the emotional thermostats of parents and children. It makes sense. When you and your partner aren’t connecting your relationship suffers. When you spend time together, talk and have fun together, you end the day feeling a lot more connected and together than you started it. Why shouldn’t the same principle ring true for our relationships with our children?

The principle of Love Bombing is pretty simple. For a specific period of time, you do what the child wants. Whatever the child wants. You don’t answer the phone, read emails or have other distractions. Your attention is 100% on the child.

Don’t we all like to be the centre of attention for the person we love sometimes?

So, Ameli and I went to see a movie. She didn’t love the movie – she found it a bit scary – but she loved sitting on my lap, hiding in my arms. She loved it being just her and me.

And this morning, she came and sat next to me on the sofa for a while. She cuddled with me. She told me about sharks and shrinkets and all sorts of other things that occupy the mind of a toddler.

One movie doesn’t fix everything. There’s work to do, time to go. We’ll have to have a mamadate again. I look forward to it. I missed the closeness with my little big girl.

Problems And Suggested Solutions For Tandem Nursing

You know how breastfeeding is ‘the most natural thing in the world’, right? And how it should be as easy as that? And how it often isn’t?

Well, picture every newborn problem (and victory) that you’ve ever had with breastfeeding a newborn. Now picture doing it with that newborn, and a climby, excited, gymnastic toddler too.Tandem Nursing

It can be pretty rough (and awesome).

  • The biggest problem I’ve experienced in tandem breastfeeding has been feeling thoroughly touched out. In the 13 weeks since Aviya’s birth, I have felt more ‘touched out’ than any other time in my life before. To the extent that the feel of the sofa cushion irritates my skin sometimes! There is no solution for this, other than making sure you understand why you feel as you do and making an effort to have some you-time, even if it includes going for a short walk, a solo bath or something more extravagant, like a well-timed-between-feeds massage.
  • Logistics. In the early weeks, while baby is small, it’s easy to lie one child on top of the other. Unfortunately, the baby grows at a much faster rate than the toddler and sooner or later, you might find the toddler begins to protest. While it’s quite nice and easy to get into the habit of tandem nursing with one lying on the other, while baby is small is a good time to practice tandem feeding in other positions too, such as holding one or both in the rugby ball position.
  • Your toddler may have a huge increase in feeding, and a massive decrease in eating. Ameli was nursing 2 – 3 times a day when Aviya was born, and suddenly she wanted to drink every time Aviya was. While I knew this would happen, and ‘prepared’ myself for it, I really had no idea how frustrating it would be.  It’s really important to have strategies in place, when you don’t want to tandem feed at every feed, for things to occupy the toddler. Wearing a sling for feeding the baby can be very useful as it keeps your hands free to do things with the toddler.
  • Tandem nursing can be very exhausting, thirsty and hungry work. Have a ‘nursing station’ ready. Somewhere with a lot of pillows so you can all be in a good position, and have an easy to use drinks bottle handy – something that won’t have water everywhere if the gymnastic feeder kicks it – as well as some snacks if you feel you need them. Replenish your nursing station daily, so that you can feed without meltdowns while you’re getting everything ready, or upsetting interruptions to your nursing.
  • Breastfeeding works best in a tribe where mothers can look out for each other.  Spend as much time as you can with sympathetic friends who can entertain your toddler (simply by having their children around too, while you nurse the baby) or by making sure you have what you need while you’re breastfeeding one or both children. And when they’re done, you support your friend again.
  • Sensations during tandem nursing. Unfortunately, if you’re ‘feeling’ something when you’re breastfeeding, it’s probably not pleasant. With tandem nursing there’s an increase in hormones and there is a change in breast size which can affect the older child’s latch. These changes can cause either a very painful feeling – with my two year old, it feels like her front teeth are slicing papercut sized slices into my nipples sometimes, simply because the nipple is larger right now. Alternatively, the increased hormones can cause an incredibly unpleasant sexual stimulation. Trust me when I say it is not a good feeling.  It is very uncomfortable. I can’t cope with it and have to stop nursing when that happens. There’s no real ‘solution’ to it. Just stop, have a cuddle, a repositioning and start again.

I do think that breastfeeding is without a doubt the most committed thing I’ve ever done. It’s been very much all or nothing, and I’ve gone for all.  While there are many challenges and obstacles on the journey, don’t forget to also look at the benefits of tandem breastfeeding.

10 Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding

When Ameli was a baby I wrote many articles on breastfeeding and its benefits. I wrote about things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding, and some relatively unknown things about breast milk, and how breast milk is made. I’ve shared my confessions of an extended breastfeeder and I’ve written about the highs and lows of breastfeeding during pregnancy. My last post about breastfeeding was on nursing a toddler during the final stage of pregnancy, so it’s only logical that my next series of posts will be on that thing that is the art of tandem nursing.

I’ve been asked a number of times by various people whether it is possible to nurse both babies at the same time, and the simple answer is yes! I know the concept is foreign to many people, so here are nine reasons why tandem breastfeeding is worth considering.

10 Reasons to Consider Tandem Breastfeeding

Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding For The Toddler: 

1. Bonding and reduced jealousy
This was one of the most beautiful and surprising parts of tandem breastfeeding, for me. The first time I lay my nursling on top of my toddler to allow them to feed together, and my beautiful big girl put her arm around her sister to keep her from ‘falling off’. I think my heart melted in that moment. We’ve had absolutely no jealousy since the birth of our second little girl twelve weeks ago and I am convinced that breastfeeding both children has something to do with it.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any studies on this subject yet, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, and I’m happy to be adding to that.

Regardless of what you do to prepare a toddler for a new baby, the reality of the new addition is beyond anything they’d have expected, and having something that bonds them together from the beginning is very helpful. It’s also something they can do together.  The first question Ameli asked, while Aviya was still in the birthpool, was, “can it walk?”  She is very aware of the fact that Aviya can’t talk to us and can’t play with her. In fact, as Ameli’s book says, “it’s basically a lump of clay.” Having something they can do together definitely creates a bond from early on.

2. Valuable lesson in sharing and consideration
Sharing breastfeeding is an incredible lesson in sharing in general. This is another area my Ameli has surprised me: she understands that the baby, who cannot eat food yet, needs to have milk more than she does. It’s not always easy for her to have to stop feeding when it’s Aviya’s turn (tandem nursing can mean two simultaneously, or one after the other. We do both.) but she usually does. You can see sometimes that she doesn’t really want to, but she does. I think it’s a great lesson for life.

3. All the benefits of newborn milk
Newborn breastmilk is full of so many good things, and the mother’s body adjusts the milk to meet the newborn’s needs. That means the toddler is getting all the benefits of baby milk, all over again.

Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding For The Newborn:

1. Milk on tap
Now, this is purely anecdotal, from my own experience, but in our case, my milk came in pretty much immediately after Aviya was born. There was still colostrum, as I could tell from Ameli’s nappies, but she had milk available on tap from the start. This meant that she didn’t have to work very hard to fill her tummy, which meant she fed for shorter periods of time than newborns normally do. It also meant that she slept for longer than newborns normally do. In fact, she fed so little and slept so much that she lost 11% of her body weight in the first week, but more than made up for it subsequently (she’s currently in 4-6 month clothes, and is only 2.5 months!) The fact is that she didn’t have to burn much energy in an attempt to consume.

2. Milk supply
Because I had milk and nursed all the way through the pregnancy, bar a few days here and there, milk was just ‘there’ from the start and I haven’t had any issues with supply at all, not even during the six week ‘drying up’ that most people experience as milk goes from reservoired to supply and demand

3. Familiarity with the older sibling
It’s easy to very quickly fall into the habit of saying ‘don’t touch the baby’, ‘leave the baby’, ‘be gentle with the baby’ and any one of a million variations on that theme. We’ve tried very consciously not to plant the idea that ‘sister’ isn’t to be engaged with in Ameli, and have instead decided to accept that babies aren’t actually as fragile as we tend to think they are when you have your first born. Tandem nursing is a way of introducing an older sibling into a baby’s space, so that the younger can become accustomed to the sound and smell of his or her older sibling too.

4. Gag-free drinking
Sometimes the flow of milk can be so strong and forceful that the new baby can gag and choke. Getting big sister or brother to take the edge off, can be really helpful. It’s worth remembering the difference between foremilk and hindmilk and making sure baby is getting enough of both, especially in hot weather.

Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding For the Mother:

Believe it or not, tandem breastfeeding has a number of benefits for mama too.

1. Put your feet up
If you’ve had a toddler let loose on your house for any length of time, you’ll know what devastation can be wrought in the shortest of times. Nursing both together means you actually get to have a break without having to directively engage, occupy or entertain a toddler. This is where a hands free water bottle with a straw comes in though, because it can be hard to hold a cup while nursing two children!

2. Health benefits of extended breastfeeding
All those things that hit the headlines from time to time? Those. Reduced risk of breast cancer being the biggest one.  And some people put weight loss in this category. Breastfeeding gives me a sweet tooth, so no, I don’t lose any weight!

3. Relieves engorgement
Despite popular belief, when your milk comes in proper, you can still get really engorged, even if you’ve been breastfeeding through pregnancy. I haven’ t had to express once this time round, nor have I had any problems, such as mastitis or clogged ducts, because when I’ve needed to, I’ve been able to call on Ameli – even in the middle of the night, since Aviya sleeps through – to quickly and effortlessly drain an engorged, painful, leaking breast.

So there you have nine reasons to at least consider tandem nursing. It’s not always easy, and there are days where I wish more than anything that Ameli would wean, but looking at the list above, the benefits are fantastic, and this is a phase in our mother and daughter(s) journey that I will always look back on with a distinct sense of pride in all of us.

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