Sling it, wing it

I love my new sling.

The fabric is perfect for hot, tropical weather and the bright print reflects the beauty of traditional culture which I love.

Sling in car

This sling was given to me by a dear Indonesian friend who bought it on one of her holidays back to her home country a few months before Roo was born.

Recently my mother in law went to Jakarta and got me this other one.

Indonesian sling

These traditional slings may not be the most fashionable to some mamas but I love them!

They consist of a broad piece of cloth, 86cm wide and 248cm long. The material doesn’t come hemmed at both ends and you could use them as is if you don’t mind the raw edges, but I plan to hem them myself.

The baby is snuggled close to the front of your body and the sling is tightened simply by twisting one end several times and tucking it to form a knot just behind the shoulder. If the baby is carried behind, the knot is tightened at the front of the shoulder.

It took me about 5 attempts to get the knot right and Roo adjusted properly in it. I daren’t carry Roo on my back yet as she’s still so little. Traditional women don’t seem fazed by the size of their babies though; I am told that when carrying their newborns on their backs they just apply the same method of carrying them in front by ensuring that the cloth goes around the back of the baby’s head so that the baby’s neck is well supported.

Here I am with 11 week old Roo. She just had a feed and wanted to be held in her favourite position, but I had to get dinner on so into the sling she went!

Sling carry

My first sling (by Little Haven) is a modern version that is adjusted to fit using two plastic rings. I still use it whenever the traditional one is in the wash. I think the rings make it easier for first-time sling wearers to tighten the sling, but it’s simply a matter of practice before one finds it just as easy to use the traditional sling.

Sling (Little Haven)

My Little Haven sling was a gift from Sweet Man’s cousin when Puppy was born, before I knew anything about slings or their usefulness. As a first time mama, friends would ask me, “Would you like —- as a gift for your baby?”. My answer was always a tentative, “Umm, yeah sure …” because as far as baby care or baby gadgets were concerned, I was utterly clueless about what was necessary or handy and what wasn’t. Saying “Yes” to my first sling was one of the best things I ever did.

Almost 8 years on, the sling is still an indispensable part of my life. I can’t imagine how I’d manage without it.

A sling helps me …

Carry Roo and keep her happy and contented if she doesn’t want to be put down alone, while I homeschool or do chores.

Nurse Roo in public without drawing any attention to ourselves, unlike nursing covers which look like makeshift blankets with little ventilation. In a sling, people mostly think she’s just sleeping.

Put Roo to sleep anywhere, in almost any situation because it mimics the close comfort of the womb.

Feel easier during shopping trips with 4 kids as we don’t have to lug a stroller around. None of my babies have been happy for long enough in a stroller anyway.

A sling also helps me ….

Nurse Roo discreetly and still be able to gaze at her sweet little face. She can look up at me, too.

Hold two little kids’ hands, carry Roo in the sling, and cross the road at the same time.

Get some weight training!

Use a public toilet, with Roo right with me, when I’m shopping alone and there’s no one to help.

Swaddle Roo after she’s finished nursing in it and I don’t want to transfer her to a swaddle blanket (as that might wake her).

Sling wrap

These are just a few things I love about my sling, but the best would be that it helps me nurse Roo unnoticed anywhere, whenever we go out, and I don’t have to waste time expressing milk or using bottles.

The first few times I took Roo out to meet friends or family, people were simply amazed that she was so quiet. She’s had some uncomfortable moments in public like other babies of course, but during those times she was just happy being in her sling!

I haven’t been using the sling as often at home these past few weeks because of the extra hot weather and it can get pretty warm snuggled up in there. Of late the temperature has improved and I’m now using it everyday.

I love my two new Indonesian slings as they remind me of how easily and quickly traditional women get back into the swing of things after giving birth.

Some women in Sarawak villages are out working in the fields just two weeks after having their babies. They simply sling their newborns onto their backs like you would a backpack and get on with work!

Don’t you love that “I can!” attitude? Just do it, mamas!

 

How do you keep your baby happy for a good length of time while you work? Do you use a sling too?

Play dough fun

Playdough Collage

Play dough is one of the absolute must-haves in any toddler’s or preschooler’s play kit.

Today I decided it was high time I whipped up a new batch of play dough as our last batch had gone mouldy. We had made it in my 8th month of pregnancy last November and I had forgotten to store it in the fridge, so you can imagine the Goliath it had become.

In the past I tried a number of recipes, all of which worked really well, but this time I found one I simply had to post about.

It’s a no-cook play dough recipe that I found at The Imagination Tree, which practically makes it the Number 1 play dough recipe in my books! It’s so easy to make and we love the texture too.

Piglet had lots of fun pouring the ingredients that we had measured into a bowl and then mixing them together with a spoon. We watched how the different ingredients blended together, changed texture and colour.

The great thing about this recipe is that we don’t have to stand over the stove to cook the dough. That isn’t something I want my 3 year old doing! This recipe just calls for boiling water to be added to the other ingredients.

After we added the water (and we didn’t have to use all the water as stated in the recipe, just enough to create the texture we liked), I took over the stirring until the mixture had cooled. Then Piglet got his hands into it and we both started kneading.

Once we were happy with the consistency of the dough, I divided the batch into 4, then added a few drops of food colouring. The nice part of kneading the colouring in is watching how it begins looking like a marble swirl of colours and how it gradually blends into one solid colour. Piglet was enthralled. He eventually had to take a rest from working in the colour, after doing a whole lot of poking, twisting, turning, patting and squeezing. A great motor skill activity to strengthen his fingers for writing.

Playdough boxes

Aren’t these tempting?

We had a wonderful time talking about the process of making the dough, doing it together, and lots of fun exercising our fingers while kneading the dough and giving life to ideas.

Piglet made lots of little balls and I made “cars” to go on top of them. He was impressed. He then made lots of “jets” which looked like rocky mountains to me, but if your kid says his creation is a “jet”, you had better agree or else.

We also planned how much dough we would need for different creations, how much of a particular colour he was willing to share with me and vice versa.

We made all kinds of other things together before it was time to pack up and I thought I’d make a “snake” that consisted of all the leftover bits rolled together. But Piglet insisted it was the letter “S” instead.

And so it was!

Making and using play dough is not only fun but affords plenty of opportunities to develop various skills (creativity, literacy, fine motor, mathematical, organisational and social skills). We’ll definitely be incorporating a lot more play dough fun in our learning this year.

By the way, The Imagination Tree is probably the website to go to for some of the loveliest play dough recipes and fun activities to do with them. Anna, who writes that blog, has a perfectly written post on the central importance of play in the early years. Play is something we embrace wholeheartedly in our home. It makes homeschooling (and parenting) so much fun. Do pop over and have a read!

Kefir

Kefir in a cup

Kefir has become a staple drink in our family.

I was first introduced to milk kefir last August by a dear friend who passed me some of her milk kefir grains. She showed me how to brew the kefir and pointed out some useful kefir sites.

The first time I tasted kefir, I fell in love. So did Sweet Man and the kids. Kefir has a tangy flavour but the kids didn’t seem to notice or be bothered by the sour taste. We drank it as it was, chilled and plain. As a two year old, Piglet downed his portion with tremendous gusto and I wish I’d taken a photo of his thick milk kefir moustache!

I now drink milk kefir three times daily and the rest of the family consume at least one cup each.

Kefir is rich in protein, calcium, fiber and is a powerful natural probiotic – 10 probiotic strains! Research has shown it helps lower cholesterol levels and keeps the gut healthy. Drinking kefir has helped to strengthen our immunity and we have noticed that it improves our digestion and regulates our appetites too. I drank kefir during pregnancy as it was great not only for me but also for the baby. I am so glad our kids love kefir, even plain kefir, as it has so many health benefits for children.

If you want to know more about the benefits of kefir, check out the National Kefir Association. For lots of in-depth information on kefir, visit Dom’s kefir site. (He is the absolute Guru of kefir. You’ll know why, when you read his site.)

After Roo was born, I continued brewing our milk kefir every 24 hours for the first few days during my confinement. After a week, I decided I needed a break because, well, life is full as it is with a newborn and three other kids! I stored my kefir grains in the fridge following Dom’s instructions.

Two weeks later I was ready to resume kefir brewing again. My kefir baby was still alive and active and I was glad it took no time at all to produce the same results as before.

I embarked on a new way of drinking milk kefir quite by chance. It happened when I had to take a second break from kefir, when Roo was 8 weeks old and I had to go on a 2-week course of antibiotics as a precaution against infection, a risk when you have retained placenta remnants. Kefir is slightly alcoholic and so I couldn’t consume it while taking the antibiotic I was prescribed.

Nevertheless I continued brewing kefir everyday and gradually accumulated 3 jars of kefir in our fridge. I then had an idea of using our excess kefir to make a banana milk kefir smoothie. This is how I did it:

BANANA MILK KEFIR SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

800ml milk kefir

4 bananas

1 tbsp honey

Method:

Put all the ingredients into a blender. Give the mixture a good whiz. Serve chilled, either as is, or with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder on top. If you wedge a slice of orange or lemon on the edge of the glass, you are guaranteed to get lots of oohs and aahs from admiring little ones.

Banana milk kefir smoothie was a raging hit from the first sip. It has a lovely fizzy zing. The moment he tasted it, Lamb proclaimed I was “The Best Mama in the World”. It can’t get easier than that!

Lately, we tried adding freshly squeezed orange juice and love the results.

There are other natural flavours we want to try, so this week I’ll be making mango kefir smoothies and we might try a honeydew version soon after.

Have you tried milk kefir yet? It just might revolutionize your life!