Ice Skating @ O’Brien Group Arena, Docklands

Thanks to Frozen, my 3.5-year-old has been dying to ice skate. Of course, she had no idea how hard it was going to be. And I don't think my husband was quite prepared for the challenge of taking her either!

ice-skating

We went to the O'Brien Group Areana at Docklands on Tight Tuesday where tickets were all $11 each (wiith skate hire usually $27 for an adult, $23 for 6-14 years, and $14 for 3-5 years). We got a handy little helper seal which is usually $5 for half an hour but since it was a weekday and Miss A was literally the only young kid there, they didn't enforce the time limit on us. The kids can either hold on to the seal's tail (pushing it along like an old person using a walker) or sit on it while an adult pushes them around.

The verdict was…well, there is a reason why the minimum age is 3. In fact, it should probably be higher because this 3-year-old had NO LEGS on ice, even with the seal! Heck, they can't even run straight on normal ground half the time. There were some smiles but probably more crying and frustration than anything. But I'm glad at least she found out how hard ice skating was and that she will probably stop bugging us to go ice skating now that she has had a taste of it!

Scratch Me Not: Anti-Scratch Sleeves for Eczema

When Miss E is sleepy, she tends to scratch her face or rub her face into me or the bed as she is rolling around trying to get comfortable. We used to flip up the mittens of her Bonds onesies when she went to bed so that she can't scratch herself into a bloody mess but I found the cotton/polyester material was still abrasive for her face. Not to mention, sometimes she would manage to get a finger or two out of the mitten if she tried hard enough. So I went online and searched for silk mittens that she could wear at sleep time.

scratch-me-not-box

We got these ones called Scratch Me Not. What I liked about them was that they are not just mittens, but a sleeved/shrug design. This means it's really hard for them to get out of! And it also means they can wear it as a cute little shrug with the sleeves opened up when out and about. When they need to sleep or are scratching, you can flip the end of the sleeves and it turns into silk mittens. Obviously these flip mittens are much bigger in size than the ones on onesies, so it's pretty much impossible for them to get any fingers out of them.

scratch-me-not-product

Sleeves open for free hands

You can get them in a variety of colours and sizes from newborn to 6 years. The Australian store we got them from was unfortunately sold out of a lot of sizes and colours. There were none in Miss E's size at all so I went bigger and got 12-month ones. The only colour available for that was grey but I didn't mind that. I think for sleeves, you can't go wrong with going bigger. Obviously the arms are a bit long for her so it just means she can't really wear the shrug with the sleeves open yet but this doesn't really matter when it's in mitten mode which is the important part.

scratch-me-not-miss-e

Sleeves closed for sleepytime

We've been using these sleeves for a week so far and it's going great!  The silk mittens are nice and soft on the skin and I don't feel so bad to let her self soothe now. In fact, for the last few days she's been really good with putting herself to sleep first thing at night. She tosses a bit, rubs a bit, then goes to sleep instead of getting more aggravated like she used to!

Highly recommended if you have a scratcher! (Or you want to put an end to other habits like thumb sucking, hair pulling etc)

Toddler Activities: Universe in a Bag

Letting your kids play with paint in a Ziploc bag is an activity which you can see all over the internet and for good reason- it is simple, entertaining, and -as long as you pray for good fortune from the Ziploc gods- mess free too.

Paint bag

Just squeeze paint into a Ziploc bag, seal it up (add sticky tape if you're paranoid), and let them go for their life at it- poking, squishing, writing and drawing in it with their finger etc. Okay maybe remind them not to be too rough, because, you know, making holes in a bag full of paint is not going to make Mummy's afternoon. You can also stick the bags to a table or window with sticky tape if you like.

In this case, Miss A chose her own paints and squeezed it out into the bag herself. After she was done squishing it around and playing with it, I suddenly noticed it kind of looked like a universe in a bag!

Paint bag2

Pretty cool, hey? There are times when I feel incredibly inspired by her art, and this is definitely one of those moments!

Getting Fit with a Baby in Tow

Squats with bub

Squat, baby, squat!

For the last few months, I've had an almost instinctive defence mechanism to getting in shape.

It's only been 6 months! I just made a human being puh-lease!

I'm so sleep deprived! Leave me alone! I don't have time and energy for this shiz!

I already carry a baby all day, play with a toddler, breastfeed day and night, do endless chores, run around everywhere…I think I'm working out enough thanks!

Thinking about looking good when a little human being is vomitting over you and your hair is falling out is really not a priority right now…

Society has an unrealistic expectation of women seriously…

It's a miracle I have time for a shower, let alone go to the gym!

But then I recently took a step back and realised…I need to stop using motherhood as an excuse. Yes Miss E is only 6 months, BUT she's really not a newborn anymore. Yes she is attached to me 24/7 and I don't have anyone around to help look after her, BUT anything is possible if I want it to be. My life is what I make it to be. So I held back my defence mechanism with all my might and promised myself to stop saying "I can't- I have a baby!" and start saying "Sure I can do that! No problem mateeeyyyzzz…" Time to start reclaiming back my life!

Once upon a time I used to dance and be fit and flexible. It's been so many years but I've decided to try to get back to my pre-marriage fitness level. I don't want to be as skinny as I was, but I do want to be strong and flexible again, if not more than I used to be! I want to actually have a core again! I want to get back to dance classes, choreographing and making dance videos for the heck of it!

So this is how I think one can begin the journey of getting back in shape while having a totally dependent young baby:

1. Forget the large chunk of exercise, do short bursts throughout the day

Five squats while hanging laundry, ten push ups while baby is crawling/having tummy time, ten knee lifts while baby is in the carrier, twenty sit ups while waiting to see if baby will resettle to sleep…Keep doing a minute here and a minute there and it will add up!

2. Use baby as weights

Why buy weights when you have an 8 kg chunker who is demanding to be picked up and swung around? Mummy works out and baby has fun. Win win. And if you have a toddler, even better! Babies make good weights but toddlers make killer personal trainers! What I did over the weekend is try to play with my 3.5-year-old in a more physical way to try to get moving more (putting music on and dancing, picking her up and twirling her around etc). At one point I picked her up by her ankles (she is 15-16 kg), ran to her room with her hanging upside down and put her down on her bed…and then I regretted it as she loved it so much she made me do it over and over and over again. Seriously they will push you ("Again Mummyyyyy!!! Again!!!") until you threaten to send them to time out!

3. Look up YouTube videos for quick workouts

For inspiration and motivation, just look up "Mummy workouts" on YouTube and you will find so many quick options available that you can do if you have a baby who actually naps in their own bed or in a pram…or after you put them down at night. You can also look up 5 minute workout videos. Stick to super short workouts so you have energy to do everything else you need to do and don't burn out! Like I said earlier, it all adds up! Especially if you can do it more than once a day. We are so blessed to live in the digital age where we can access all these resources so easily and for free seriously. I remember buying an exercise video when I was a teenager and working out to the same routine over and over and over again. Now you can follow a different routine every day if you wanted to!

4. Ditch the car

Cardio isn't an issue for me because I don't drive. So I walk and run to catch public transport with the baby and toddler in pram on most days. It is quite the workout. Of course the bonus is that most really young babies love being walked to sleep too. I think incidental exercise is key to staying fit.

5. Eat clean

I admit being more mindful of my diet was a little bit of a challenge to me as I did eat as a stress reliever on bad days. Nothing like chocolate or ice cream to pick you up when the kids are driving you up the wall! But the effects of bad eating on the body is not hard to see. For me, I knew I was eating too much carbs and dairy and was feeling bloated and sluggish. Now I'm trying to be more conscious of eating more fruits and veggies and taking less sugar and dairy. Smoothies are a great way to start the day. I like to put oats in mine along with fruits, spinach, and nuts.

My current fitness goal

So what are my goals? Right now it's pretty simple. Just to build up my core strength again and get a strong, flat tummy and also save my back from getting hurt from carrying this heavy bubba so much! My weight is not an issue for me, it's more a lack of tone and definition. I'm also trying to stretch more throughout the day to try to start regaining some flexibility in my body. 

Are you a Mummy? What are you doing for exercise?

Learning To Let People In

I would like to say I've always been introverted. But deep down, I know it's not true. I think in the last few years, I have been introverted by choice. I have shut down as a protective response to all the difficulties I have gone through in life. I didn't want to hear another opinion or criticism or face another disappointment. I didn't want to make friends only to have them leave. I didn't even want to see or talk to people. I didn't want a job where I had to talk to anyone. I was tired and I wanted to live in a bubble to heal and recover.

For a while it worked. But after a few years, reality has hit. I can't stay in my own little world forever. I have family who need me to live in the present. And despite my denials, I do need friends and people in my life. The one good thing about being older though is that I have the wisdom to realise you really can't please everyone and that you should actually expect that that are always going to be people who hate you and what you do and will chuck negativity at you. At this age I am more self-assured and do not measure my self-worth by how much people like me (or pretend they like me). I no longer worry about doing the right thing or saying the right thing to not provoke debate or anger, as long as it is a genuine and true thought or action (obviously it is not in my nature to be intentionally inflammatory, but I won't be buttering up people who disagree with me just so they like me).

Once upon a time, I used to enjoy talking to strangers and making friends. A part of me still does but I'm not as blatant and forward as I used to be when I was younger. For example, I don't enjoy making up a character and talking to someone (that I know I will never see again) as that character for the heck of it anymore (and no this was not a pick up thing at all- I just used to enjoy acting). I do value quality over quantity these days but that doesn't mean I have to hold the people close to me tightly and never let anyone else in. I am trying to throw out the cynical side of me and be more open to relationships. To accept that not everyone can stay around forever but that doesn't mean we can't learn from them and enjoy life with them in a particular stage.

As part of my journey to being a better version of myself this year, I have made the choice to start plugging back into the real world. To be more open to forging connections, hearing from other people, talking to people, learning about other people's stories…To be more open to criticism and judgment, and to be more honest, authentic and real in my thoughts and actions. I recognise it won't be easy at times. It is hard to fight the instinct to protect our own hearts and not become defensive and wounded, but I will do my best.

I pledge to actually get with times and start using social media more, to read more people's blogs and learn from others, to not be afraid of speaking my mind, to email and message people more, to meet up with people when I can, to open up my mind to different perspectives…I choose to live in the real world and put myself out there without letting the fear of what people might think hold me back. I choose to be unashamedly me. I choose to still have an open heart despite what I've gone through…because I believe it is worth the happiness and positive experiences that I will receive.

***

Oh look I've JUST joined social media! Joining these apps and trying to figure my way around them hurt my brain a little. It made me really wake up to the fact that I'm not 19 years old anymore!

Instagram

 

Interviews with Mamas: My Baby Has Eczema

Eczema

Miss E is 6 months old and has eczema on her face. I'm really struggling with her sleep as she is constantly scratching herself (sometimes to a bloody mess) and waking through the night. Her case is actually pretty mild compared to others and I started wondering if this is so hard already, what it's like dealing with a baby with severe eczema? So came the idea to start interviewing other mums on their experiences in a particular area of motherhood and/or life I want to know more about.

This interview is with a mum who has an 1.5-year-old daughter who has severe eczema (on 90% of her body at its worst point). Obviously all kids are different and have different backgrounds, triggers, reactions to treatments, allergies etc, so please consult your doctor for professional advice. This is simply one mum's experience and I thought it would provide some interesting insight.

Does eczema run in the family?
No it doesn't. But my husband suffers from asthma which was worse as a kid. So he is considered atopic. (Apparently if one parent is atopic the chances of eczema is 60% and if both are then the chances are 80%)Note this is verbal information relayed by a doctor

When did it first start appearing?
Some time between 3 and 4 months old.

At what point did you think it was time to go to the doctor's to get it checked out and get a diagnosis?
We went to the GP (general practitioner) 2 or 3 times from the moment I noticed it (who weren't of much help really) then consulted the MCHN (Maternal Child Health Nurse) at her 6 month appointment, who suggested we get a referral to the RCH (Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne) ezcema nurse. Things got really bad by 6 or 7 months. We got an appointment at the RCH around 8 months old.

What was her skincare regimen as recommended by the RCH (Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne)?
Initially it was Advantan Cortisone (steroid cream) full body, hydrocortisone for face, then QV cream (moisturiser) whole body and wet wrap twice a day for a week. Then it was Advantan to affected areas only and wet wrap affected area once a day as required. Moisturise with QV cream 5 times a day or every nappy change. Bleach bath daily for 2 months then gradually weaned over 4 or 5 months.

When did it start getting manageable?
That's a tough question. We always have to keep her moisturised and cool (it got worse in winter because of the dry heater and over dressing). But we've had to learn from lots of mistakes. On the whole it got better around her 1st birthday. By her 1st birthday it would only appear in patches but before that it was 90% all over her body.

Did any foods make it worse in her case?
No not in her case. Nothing that we noticed and we were told not to abstain from any foods. In fact to keep giving her foods that many might have allergic reactions to. So we had to keep giving her peanut butter and egg etc- Note this was professional advice given in their individual case

Did she react to the water in swimming pools?
Not the chemicals in the water. She had bleach baths daily anyway. It was more that the warm pool flared up her eczema. Anything more than 32 degrees Celsius would flare up her eczema.

Do you think it affected her sleep/mood?
Yes I think it did. It's hard to tell but I do think she slept better after treating it. It was hard in those early months with a baby who slept very lightly anyway. I have to say at the start having to wet wrap and follow the whole regimen was very hard but with regular practice we got very efficient with knowing what to do.

Coping with a healthy infant is hard enough, how was the emotional toll of having to cope with this added problem?
Yes it's hard. But having support and reinforcement that I'm doing the right thing really helped. I'm blessed with a husband who is a pharmacist who knew a few things. I think the other thing I felt was "mummy guilt" that I couldn't get rid of it and that she was just so itchy and I felt upset for her. The guilt was that she was just so focused on being itchy that she wasn't progressing in other aspects ie physical milestones. Do talk to your doctor or MCHN if you need as I can see how this can make post-natal depression a lot worse.

Any further words of advice for parents with kids suffering from eczema or anything I haven't touched upon that you think might help other parents to know?
I think the best thing to do would be to keep them cool, never overdress them, and only lukewarm baths. Even in winter, all she wears is a single long sleeve cotton layer when indoors (minimal heating on). Don't worry about cold extremities as long as their core is warm, they're all good. Moisturise moisturise moisturise. I would highly recommend to go to a ezcema specialist if it's uncontrollable. The idea is that if you keep it under control, the higher the chance it will be that they will eventually grow out of it.

I think one more thing to mention is about cortisone use. No parent wants to have to use cortisone and everyone seems scared to use it so they just use the smallest amount or the lowest concentration but for long periods. But the theory is that we need to get the skin back to baseline and the only way is to use the high strength (ie Advantan) for a short period rather than continuously using the lower strength for long periods. Dont be afraid of having to use cortisone. Again always be guided by your eczema specialist or your paedatrician.

***

Please consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and professional advice. For more information you can look up the Royal Children's Hospital's resources:

Eczema guidelines
Clinical guideline (which is apparently currently under review)
Knowing Your Child's Eczema (a long booklet)
Wet dressings for eczema
Formula for an eczema bath

Toddler Activities: Upgraded Operation Game

Ever played the game Operation when you were a kid? Here is an anatomically accurate version!

Operation

Our model here is Electra. She hails from the Scienceworks Museum shop and is genuinely anatomically correct. Electra has "cancerous tissue" (literally ripped up pieces of tissue paper) on various organs. Miss A is busy removing them with a pair of tweezers.

Great for a rainy day, learning anatomy (for the parents too as you have to know your stuff to answer the "what's that??" questions), fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination!

Would like to say I came up with this activity. I didn't. Credit to my husband.