Interlude

Sometimes I’m not sure why I’ve got to this place. Why I’ve bothered.

I’m talking about the days when things don’t go as I’ve hoped for, or wanted, or planned and life seems to have drained out of it all.

I’m talking about staying home with the kids, homeschooling.

Homeschooling – does the word conjure up scenes of perfection in which little children always play and learn happily in a cosy, well-kept house? Where afternoons are spent laughing over baking sessions or craftsy moments and nutritious meals are dished out constantly and effortlessly to well behaved diners?

I have those days when everything seems to flow seamlessly. When Roo has long naps and we fit in all that we could ever do, even with two school pick ups in between.

But you can be absolutely sure I also have those days when my hair stands on end after I find soil scattered everywhere, from the kitchen to the living room (just after the house has been cleaned) because someone did a science project while I was upstairs putting Roo and Piglet to bed.

Those days when I have two extra laundry loads to run because I forgot to remind little ones to go pee before sleeping and consequently get not one, but two wet beds in 24 hours.

Those days when I say things to the kids that I really regret afterward (like “shut up!” because the baby can’t sleep but that reason is completely irrelevant for the sheer wrongness of it all).

Those days when I feel like such a lousy mother I can’t do it anymore, but then I have to write a commissioned article on “Why I’m Homeschooling” (all of it being true but the irony of it on such days is gut-wrenching).

The season of Lent has come and gone and I’ve been following a Bible reading plan more or less regularly each day. I’ve needed it so, having had too many “those days” of late.

This Easter, the force of Jesus’ resurrection struck me with a particular bent. Do you ever think of Holy Saturday, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting.

The days I get so tired, when I’m waiting for strength to return, those are my Holy Saturdays.

The days I have absolutely no inspiration left in me to mother, teach or write, those too, are my Holy Saturdays.

The days I just have to do what has to be done, feelings aside, and wait upon God to renew and refresh me, those are my Holy Saturdays.

Those days are tough. They really mightn’t be the way they are, but for the sleep deprivation and the sheer number of hours we spend between ourselves, myself and the kids. They remind me of the days I could work uninterrupted in an office and make me want to leave everyone at home, drive out to my favourite joint for a latte and never mind what time I’m needed at home once again.

Yet, the impression of bleakness is really what it is – an impression.

There will be a Resurrection Sunday. There always is.

I just need to remember that fact on those days, those Saturdays, when there is nothing I can do except wait.

I just need to keep persevering, serving and knowing that joy and new life comes in the morning.

Because it does. It always does.

Sunset

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!