Dearest Daisy – Happy 1st Birthday!

To my dearest Daisy Emmeline,

My little love. My sunshiney Daisy Baby. You’re 1 year old!!

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So here we are – the official end of your baby days. You’re 1 year old now sweet girl. I could probably write that last sentence a million times over and yet I would still not believe it. I am truly in denial that the first year of your life has flown by in the blink of an eye.

You have added so much sunshine into our home since you speedily entered the world last August. Watching your birth video again reminds me what a special moment it was finally holding you in my arms after dreaming of you for so long. Your pregnancy was my hardest, the nausea was the strongest and the exhaustion was overwhelming. I honestly don’t know how I made it through those early days and weeks.

I remember lying there during your 20 week morphology scan being so excited to hear it confirmed that it was you who was coming to meet us, our little Daisy who was so eager to let us know your presence long before I ever saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. My intuition – which had always been raised during my pregnancies – was incredibly strong with you. I felt so connected to you, to our dance of birth and the early months of your life. It just seemed like perfection.

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You were my sleepiest newborn, my first baby who didn’t prefer to feed to sleep and definitely the one who used up the most spew rags! I loved watching you fall asleep in my arms after a breastfeed as it didn’t happen nearly as often as I would like. I mostly walked you to sleep in those early days, watching our dance in the wardrobe mirror as your eyes grew sleepier and heavier. You slept in your gorgeous moses basket for the first few months and then moved beside me to the side-carred cot. I love co-sleeping with you. Waking up to your smile is the best start to my days. I miss those heady newborn days, they never seem long enough.

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This is one of my favourite stages, this happy, cheeky, fun-filled age where we really get a good glimpse of your personality. So far, you just love being around people, and lucky for you you have two adoring older siblings to sing you songs and teach you rhymes and cuddle you until you are all cuddled out! They are so natural with you, and amazingly they are so tolerant of your needs, and they appreciate your babyness. Hannah and Blake loved you while you were still growing in my belly but they couldn’t get enough of you once you were born, and they still can’t. I am so proud of them and I am sure your sibling relationship will continue to grow from strength to strength through the years.  Watching you with them, watching the 3 of you smile, giggle, cuddle, care for and think of each other has been amazing. Our home is full of the sound of children, of laughter and little feet and it is everything I never knew I wanted until each of you came into my life.

I couldn’t have wanted more during this first year of your life. I know there is so much fun and love to come so it is bittersweet to say Happy Birthday to you today, but I will, because this is a celebration of you my darling, and you deserve it. Thank you for coming into my life and choosing me to be your mama. I appreciate it more than you know. You were just a beautiful thought in my mind for such a long time and now you’ve already had your first circle around the sun. Keep shining bright Daisy darling, we love you.

Love Mama xx

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[We visited one of our favourite places this afternoon and picked some beautiful yellow Wattle there to celebrate your birthday. I was so surprised and happy to see a couple of ladybirds on the blossoms. It reminded me of the moment where I saw the ladybird long before I was even pregnant with you and I knew this was another sweet moment of divine connection between you and I Daisy. I love you, you are sweetness personified.]

 

 

What I want my children to know about breastfeeding…

Breastfeeding means a lot to me.

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After my disappointing attempt at breastfeeding Hannah I did a lot of research on the dynamics of breastfeeding and what helps a woman become a successful long-term breastfeeder (this was my goal with my future children). I realised that I had missed out on one of the key aspects – watching and being around other women who breastfeed. So I made sure I changed that in preparation for Blake’s birth. I searched out new groups of friends, I watched those women breastfeed, I asked them questions, I made mental notes. Going into Blake’s birth I felt confident that he was going to get my breastmilk no matter what, and seeing other women breastfeed played a big part in me feeling so confident. I needed to see it in real life all around me, just like women before me had for most of time.All Rights Reserved

I knew I wanted my children growing up feeling that breastfeeding was a really normal, achievable way to feed a baby. That our bodies were made to lactate and that although it can be a hard skill to learn, it can be done with support and love. I wanted them to grow up seeing their siblings be breastfed and friends babies grow up breastfeeding so that this would become part of their world view. I believe our bodies are amazing, and I want to pass on that amazement, that pure respect,  onto my children. And so far, from what I see in their play and in the way they relate to babies, I can see it has made the difference that I hoped for.

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The health benefits of breastmilk are amazing and we still don’t know so much about this incredible milk our bodies were made to give our babies, but for me the benefits to breastfeeding Daisy right now are very much for our whole family and the community in general. As a wonderful friend of mine said “The more we see it, the less we will see it.” and I believe that to be true. I find breastfeeding as normal now as any other type of eating and I love that my children, and my husband do too.

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So yes, breastfeeding means a lot to me. But now, it also means a lot to my children.

(In honour of World Breastfeeding Week 2014)

[Photos 2 & 3 by Documenting Delight]

An Alternative Education – Making the Decision to Unschool

In January this year when most children Hannah’s age were donning their uniforms and backpacks and heading off to their first day of school, Hannah slept until 8am and then we headed to our local city farm to explore, learn and hang out with our friends.  We had the most amazing day and as I watched my 5 year old running around in her dress-up tutu and painting with clay, I knew we had been right in making the decision to unschool our children.

During my pregnancy with Hannah I became obsessed not just with preparing for birth but for everything related to parenting, and this eventually took me down the path to Alternative Education. I began to use little bits of all the different philosophies and methods I had read about, in our day to day life. I love so much about the Montessori approach and our home is designed to be very child friendly and is influenced by many Monetssori principles. Some aspects of the philosophy were missing for me and so I adopted what could easily be termed Steiner ideas into our home as well.
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As Hannah grew though, and as we watched her take her first plunge into ‘academic’ learning just after she turned 2 by learning to write the letter ‘H’ we – well, mostly I! – felt a little lightbulb go off that quietly said ‘She is learning, not by force or compulsion, but naturally‘. And so I did what I have always felt was right and I followed my child.

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As Hannah grew, we watched her learn. She learned from the moment she woke up to the time her eyes closed at night and we were even speculating that she was learning in her sleep (which is actually true!). As I watched this process happen I started to question everything I had known or read or accepted about education. I began to see that children are born to learn. I mean, everyone knows that, but I began to see this for what it really is – a completely natural state for a child. A state of constant inquisition with the driving force being a need to learn how to grow into a competent adult in the society they have been born into.

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When Brian and I sat down and discussed what we wanted for our children in the future, we decided we wanted to find a way where our children could learn with joy, with desire and with a thirst for knowledge. Where we could be there next to them as a companion that could answer questions when asked, supply materials if needed and offer different perspectives when required. We wanted to be the person who could offer inspiration and varied experiences and then leave them to learn for themselves like we knew they could. We knew this because we had watched them learn since the day they were born.

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No one taught my baby to crawl or babble or reach for a toy or touch her toes. She noticed the toy and felt the desire to touch it so she strived to reach that goal until she did. It was an insatiable need and she wasn’t going to be satisfied until that toy was in her grasp. And how did she feel when she held that toy and moved it to her lips to finally begin to recognise exactly what it was that she had been looking at that whole time? Absolute delight! And satisfaction. And then she moved onto the next thing, the previous knowledge safely tucked away to be used in the future. She never did anything before she was ready and never until the learning was meaningful to her.

Everything my children have learned happened in the right way, in the right order and at the right time. For them.

And we trusted it to happen that way.

We expected it.

And it did. They learned. And they have never stopped.

And you know what?

I still see that same delight in their eyes when they reach a new learning goal  – whether it be climbing a tree or writing a word – that I saw when they were just babies. Their desire for knowledge has never been disapproved of or feared. We have always welcomed it with open arms even when it seemed frightening to us. We knew they were ready to learn it because they wanted to try. We trust that they will want to learn the things Brian and I know – such as reading and writing – because they see us use these skills in every day life. We trust that when those skills become important to them that they will become interested in learning them and we have no doubt they will.

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And so in the last 5.5 years, Brian and I have been witness to something spectacular – our children learning all about life, through life itself. It really is a beautiful thing to watch. To see the opportunities that are created every hour to learn and to watch children take on the challenge with an enthusiasm that is essentially unremarkable because it is their everyday. That is the true beauty of this approach to learning, to life. When we began to look very closely into our childrens world we began to see that learning is everywhere and in every thing and this is what makes us confident in our decision to unschool our children.

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I won’t go too much into what unschooling is as a philosophy as there are many other sources of that information elsewhere. But basically it is all about what I described above. This is a quote from a blog called The Path Less Taken that sums up unschooling really well – “Unschooling is a philosophy that allows that given a rich, interesting environment, and attentive, supportive parents, that learning will happen naturally.  To believe in unschooling is to believe that true learning happens best when it arises from the experiences and interests of the learner, not from an imposed curriculum or a teacher or a parent.  As unschooling parents, we don’t act as teachers, but as facilitators and partners.  We do not separate the day into subjects, or into school time, or play time, or learning time.  We live as if school does not exist.  We live our lives and we learn from it.

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Our life is what it is, we made this decision knowing that it felt right for us and our family. We know why schools exist, and we don’t feel that they will need to be a necessary part of our childrens lives. We feel that learning cannot be contained or explained or tested. It cannot be trained or directed or controlled. It is a personal, individual and unique experience that every person travels through themselves. Learning doesn’t only last for 12 years! It should continue for a lifetime.

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As an example – which was prompted after hearing Dayna Martin speak at the Conscious Parenting and Natural Learning Conference we attended in 2012 – I realised just how much time and effort I had put into learning about pregnancy, labour and birth. I knew almost as much as a midwife and yet I wasn’t going to be be tested on this information. I was reading, researching and memorising because I desired to do so. I had a goal and I was meeting it. It was entirely self-initiated and therefore it was self-activated. My satisfaction came from the learning itself. I was educating myself because the learning was meaningful to me. This is the key to unschooling. It is learning from living.

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This realisation affirmed for me how much I wanted my children to keep that love of learning burning in their hearts. I wanted them to feel that if they wanted to know about something that all they had to do was follow that desire and seek the required knowledge. Learning without school makes sense to us. We are living in the real world and our children will learn from living every day, following their passions, experimenting, asking questions, travelling and experiencing new things. We don’t need to teach our children how to learn. That is an oxymoron. They have been learning since they took their first breath and we know all we need to do is step back and let them live life. And for us, that just happens to mean life without school.

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I will be blogging more of our unschooling journey in our Week In Review, so just click on the Our Unschooling Journey  tab above to read more.  I also post more real-life updates on Instagram via ‘andrea__sunshine’, check out the #ourunschoolingjourney hashtag to get a comprehensive view of how we do unschooling.

 

Naming Daisy

Daisy was never in my fantasy childrens names list. I would have been really surprised if someone had told me five years ago that I would have a daughter named Daisy one day. Not because it’s not a beautiful name but just because it had never spoken to me in a way other names did. But just like when I dreamt about Hannah before she was conceived and when I knew Blake was a boy even though the ultrasound said he was a girl, Daisy made herself known to me and worked her way into my consciousness a long time before I felt her sweet kicks and bumps in my belly.

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It all started in January 2012, when quite literally the name Daisy just popped into my head. We were trying for another baby and thinking about baby names is a favourite pastime of mine but this seemed a bit too girly and sweet to me. I decided to see what Brian thought of it – completely assuming he would dislike it – and I hoped his reaction would dissuade me. Straight away he said he it was a great name.

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Soon, I began noticing signs… little things that made Daisy a prominent feature in my mind every time I tried to put her to the back of my mind. I began to imagine that I would have another little girl, that this was the spirit of that baby making herself known to me. I began to feel comforted by these little signs and know it was her way of saying to me she was getting ready to come into our lives.

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I began to see the name Daisy in department stores, in movies, photographs and linked in blogs. This happened over and over for a couple of months in mid-2012 and then it seemed to slow down. Around the time of Blake’s birthday in October we decided that since we hadn’t fallen pregnant we would go overseas with my family and we started to make preparations for that. Literally that same week, I had a dream that I was 3 weeks pregnant with a baby girl after not having a baby related dream for a long time. My heart began to ache for this new baby that I now had to wait many more months to meet as I knew we would not be trying to conceive again until we come back from overseas.

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A few days after that dream, we were all getting ready to go out and the kids were bundled in the car with Brian when I went back into our little cottage to quickly sweep some crumbs that the kids had dropped by the doorway so ants didn’t come in while we were gone. As I was doing this, a ladybug landed on my arm. I stared at it and I felt goosebumps. I just knew it was another sign. The lady bug stayed for a minute and then flew off. When I got into the car I mentioned it to Brian straight away, I knew something had just happened . Later that day I opened my Instagram  account and the first photo I saw was of a Daisy flower with a ladybug sitting atop it…

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When we found out we were pregnant less than 2 months later, Brian immediately told me, “Our Daisy is on her way.” and I didn’t doubt it for a second. We just knew this was the child, this was the other member of our family who was coming into our world. I still had hesitations about naming her Daisy though. I felt as though she had named herself instead of us choosing a name for her as we had done with her siblings. I was worried we would make the wrong decision. After another conversation where I rattled off a handful of other names, Brian asked me if I could imagine her name being anything other than Daisy and I knew that I could not. Friends who I had told about my ‘daisy signs’ all had the same reaction when I told them I was pregnant “It’s your Daisy coming to you!” they said and I knew they were right. It was a really nice feeling, like we all knew a little secret that noone else understood.

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When it came to choosing her middle name, for a long time it was going to be Juliet. But our other children’s middle names have a family significance and I knew I wanted to try to find a name for Daisy that did too. Brian’s grandmother, his mother and my mum all have names beginning with ‘M’ so I was initially searching for M names. One night as I tossed and turned in bed with my swollen belly I jumped bolt upright when I remembered  I had always liked the name Emmeline. I quickly googled the meaning and was thrilled to find it meant ‘Hard working’ which seemed perfect as Daisy means ‘The day’s eye’ which always reminds me of dawn. I had a strong feeling Daisy would be born in the early morning so her name meaning hard work at dawn seemed perfect and  the strong M sound worked in with the family significance. I woke Brian up excitedly and let him know I had found the middle name that very moment!

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Each of my children has stretched me and my beliefs and understanding of that womanly intuition. Daisy stretched it the furthest just as she was meant to, and I let her. I let her take me on this journey and I know that her name – although it seems such a small part of her – will always have a big meaning to me and be a part of her story that I will love to share with her when she is grown.

{Photography of Daisy at her newborn photo-shoot at 2 weeks old by Documenting Delight}

A Snapshot of Hannah at 5.5 years old.

Hannah, at 5 and a half years old you are –

Intelligent, curious, kind, thoughtful, positive, responsible, friendly, empathetic, caring and wise beyond your years.

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Hannah, at 5 and a half years old you love –

Green apples, rainbows, movie nights, wearing dresses, carrot sticks, the colours pink and purple, going to Grandma & Grandpas house, unicorns, chicken and chips, riding your bike, playing with friends, gymnastics,  pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup, arts and crafts, baking, red capsicums, painting, collecting things for the nature table, butterflies, dress-ups, going out to new places, blueberries, reading the same books over and over, and being independent.

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Hannah, at 5 and a half years old your secret skills are –

Folding towels precisely; having an incredible memory and being able to recite books and songs verbatim; excellent physical skills like trampolining, balancing and climbing; and using your hair as a scarf on cooler days.

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Hannah, at 5 and a half years old the things I love most about you are –

Seeing your drawings stuck on walls around the house with bandaids; that you’re not afraid of heights; hearing you giggle; your sense of adventure; your negotiation skills; your long hair; and that you’re always looking to the future.

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My darling Hannah, don’t ever change. Always be proud to be YOU!

Dearest Daisy – Six Month Update

Happy half-birthday baby girl!!!

I’m shaking my head sitting here typing this because I just can’t believe you’re already 6 months old. Time simply MUST slow down!

This month you began rolling straight over onto your belly every time you were placed on your back. For the first week or two you thought this was great and you were kept entertained for quite a while but soon you began to squeal as soon as you went onto your tummy as you had forgotten how to get back onto your back. You were like a stranded little beatle, you lifted your legs and arms up so you were just balancing on your tummy and you screamed until someone picked you up! In the last few days you have become more comfortable on your front again as you have realised you can begin to try to reach for toys and you have attempted to get your knees up in your first tries at crawling. You’re probably still at least a month away from full crawling but that is fine with me – it’s certainly not my favourite baby stage!

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You began having a few tastes of food this past month, simple things like avocado and sweet potato. We’re doing BLW again so although we didn’t intend to feed you puree Hannah expressed an interest in feeding you from a spoon so she fed you apple puree about 2 weeks ago. You ate about two teaspoons worth but then spent the rest of the afternoon chucking up constantly. I knew this was not normal for you and a friend suggested a fructose intolerance so we’ve decided to stay away from certain fruit for another month or so and try again when you’re a little older.

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We finally moved you out of your moses basket (cue tears from me!) and side-cared the cot next to our bed. You transitioned really well and actually began putting yourself to sleep a lot of the time. I’ve written before that you don’t often like to feed to sleep, and either your daddy used to walk you or we used to bounce you in the bouncer but now I can put you in your wrap after your feed into the cot and you will roll around until you fall asleep. That has meant that you’ve found your tummy and you have slept on your belly quite a few times. However you recently had your first illness so all of that has gone out the window and since your nose is blocked it’s better for you to sleep on your back.

You have been waking up quite a bit at night, probably every 2-3 hours on average but sometimes giving you your dummy is enough to get you back to sleep or a quick feed will always do it. You still occassionally do longer stretches so I am confident that in a couple of months when the big developmental leaps of sitting and crawling are out of the way, we can work together to get you sleeping a few longer stretches. Though I know this stage will pass all too quickly as well. It’s nice having you next to me in the cot though. I love watching you sleeping and being the first to see those gorgeous smiles  in the morning.

You’re such a smiley baby, you just love people, and all someone has to do is to look into your eyes and you will almost always give them a big smile! In the mornings when you first see Hannah and Blake you smile as big as you possibly can and you chuckle a little and I just can’t stop myself laughing at the sight of it! It is a really nice way to wake up in the morning. Your bond with your older siblings is just growing stronger by the day. They love talking, playing with and cuddling you and you are really enjoying all the loving now instead of resisting it as you used to do when you were a bit smaller.

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So we are now in the second 6 months of your first year. You are going to get more interactive and more independent and we are going to see more and more of your personality develop. I am looking forward to everything yet to come but I have to admit I am grieving those early baby days and how quickly they seem to have slipped away. You’re just gorgeous Daisy, thank you for the last 6 months of love and joy, we’re incredibly grateful for your presence in our family <3.

Love, Mama xx

Daisy’s Herbal Bath, Family Photos + Birth Video

 

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Daisy was 5 days old when these photos were taken. It was my first time having a herbal bath and it was such a lovely experience. Daisy loved it so much she literally fell asleep. Hannah and Blake joined in and loved playing with the flower petals, it was a really calming and sweet bonding activity with their new sibling. Now that Daisy is 6 months old, it seems time has been on fast forward ever since that day.

I am also very happy to be able to share the birth video created by Georgia from Documenting Delight (who also took these wonderful photos) it is such a treasure for our family to have – The Birth Video of Daisy Emmeline

January Photo A Day Grateful Project – Day 30

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Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it feels like to be a child.  It shouldn’t be hard to see things from their perspective – since we’ve all been on that same journey of childhood – but often it’s something I remind myself to do. I remind myself to be grateful for their inquisitiveness, for their exploring, for their enthusiasm and for their wonder as I learn to see things anew, the way they do.

January Photo A Day Grateful Project – Day 29

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This bunny is almost 7 years old. I bought him when I fell pregnant for the very first time, just weeks before our wedding day. Three days later, on our honeymoon, after a very traumatic time in hospital we learned that we had lost our baby. In the days to come I held this bunny close, I slept with him and I cried with him and I wondered if there would ever be a baby that would cuddle and love him like a child should.

I’m happy to say of-course that he has been loved and snuggled by all three of my children but somehow he has never become the toy; the one that makes it into the bed at night or dragged to the grocery store during the day. I think that’s because in a way he’ll always be the bunny I bought for May – for our baby that never was – and that’s a healing thought.