Boy oh Boy oh Boy: life with three boys {guest post}

As a mother of three boys, I always love meeting other mums who are part of that exclusive ‘all-boy’ club too. I was introduced to the lovely Peta when, together with my sister, Rebecca, and brother-in-law, Joe, they began the awesome 4 Blades Magazine. So, when I contemplated asking other bloggers to write about their experiences as mothers, especially with regard to having sons, daughters or a mix of both, I was delighted that Peta agreed to kick off the series by sharing a bit of her mum-of-all-boys story with us here. Thank you x

  1. Tell us a little about your family

My family consists of three hilarious, gorgeous, energetic, noisy boys. William is my 7 year old, Corbin is 6 years and Miller is 2 going on 20 (I often say he is a 20 year old trapped in a 2 year old’s body – he thinks he rules the family!)

We are a little different from traditional families. My older two children are from my previous marriage and we share custody of them. We have the older two boys every second week (50/50 arrangement).

I run my own business and co-own another from home so whilst the older two are at school, I am home with Miller.

  1. Before you became a mother, what gender combo did you picture your future family would have?

I always said I would have three boys. Once I had babies I changed that to four boys. We would love one more child. I see myself with another baby but not sure of the gender. A psychic once said I would have three boys and a girl. Come back to me in a couple of years and see if she was right!

  1. Did you find out the gender of your babies during pregnancy or when the babies arrived?

Yes in all three pregnancies we found out what we were having but didn’t tell anyone. It made it interesting when people would comment with “Oh I bet it’s a girl!”.

My best friend was convinced I was having a girl in my third pregnancy. She even called the baby Lily. Even people we knew were calling him Lily. She was absolutely convinced I was having a girl. We felt so awful keeping this big secret from her so when I had some pregnancy complications and needed scans late in the pregnancy we invited her along so she could see what we were having. She quickly saw he wasn’t a she before anyone had to say anything.

  1. Did you ever hear comments from friends or strangers about the gender of your child while you were pregnant? 

All the time. Every single day. It made it hard because we knew exactly what we were having. I really disliked hearing “Oh I bet you are hoping for a girl” as if another boy was a runner’s up prize and not as great as having a girl.

Once my third son was born most people started with “Oh you will have to try again for a girl”, “Oh I bet you want a girl!”, “Im sorry it wasn’t a girl”.

  1. During each pregnancy, did you hope for a particular gender (even subconsciously)?

There is a little part of me that would love a daughter and to experience being a mum to a girl, so when we found out we were having another boy after being convinced he was a girl there were a few seconds of “Oh. I won’t get to experience a girl”. Then “PHEW! It’s a boy. I know boys. Boys are easy” kicked in. I think a daughter would scare me a little after having three boys and knowing boys inside out.

  1. Did you, or would you have considered, following a particular diet or timing conception to help you have a baby of a particular gender?

No. That never interested me. I was at the beach recently on holidays with the kiddies and we stopped for lunch. A lady stopped us to ask about our three boys (Miller has gorgeous curly hair and big blue eyes so we are stopped often). She pulled me aside to say she was sure I wanted a girl and this is how I could do it. She gave me book recommendations, told me what to eat and even went into very TMI subjects. I remember walking away thinking “I barely find the time to brush my hair and eat lunch these days”. She meant well but it amazes me how honest, helpful (and opinionated) some people are when it comes to genders of children.

  1. Did you or your partner experience any disappointment finding out that your child was a boy (if you wanted a girl) or girl (if you wanted a boy)?

My partner was very relieved Miller was a boy. He grew up in a house of boys so he only knows boys. I had the two seconds of being sad I wouldn’t experience a girl.

  1. What does a typical day in your family look like?

Each week is different whether it is a on or off week with the bigger kiddies. Regardless of the week our days are busy, noisy and messy! I generally drop the bigger kiddies off to school (an hour and half to two hour round trip most days) then come home to juggle Mr 2 year old and two businesses I own and co own. Mr 2 has decided he no longer likes naps so it makes the day interesting. Our days are spent at playgroup, swimming, playing games, the park etc. Then off we go back to school to pick up the older boys, come home and have afternoon tea and then spend the next two or so hours building Lego (soooo over Lego!) or go for a walk to the park before dinner at 5.30/6 and bed at 6.30/7. On the off weeks with the bigger kiddies it is exactly the same minus school drop off. I have them every afternoon rather than them going to after school care or the like. Weekends are the fun days! We love going out for their chosen sports, picnics, parks visit, sight-seeing around Canberra. We just get the boys out of the house and let them run. They are our family days and I love them!

  1. How do you think your family differs from a family with children all of the opposite gender, or a mixed gender family?

I often wonder about this. I often think we have a far more energetic, noisy and messy house due to three boys but then I see friends with girls and think perhaps we are all like that – the energy, noise and mess is just kids in general, regardless of gender.

  1. Do you think you have it better / worse / harder / easier than a parent of all girls?

I sometimes think I have it easier as I don’t have to have the “period talk” with my kiddies like I would if I had a daughter. That talk from my older cousin as a kid scarred me for life so I’m secretly grateful I won’t be having it! Haha.

But in all seriousness, I don’t think I have it any easier or harder due to my child’s gender.

  1. What’s your hot tip for a parent of all boys?

Invest in Dettol shares or the like. You will be keeping them in business from the amount of scrapes, cuts and general gross stuff you endure for the next 18 years. Have a great GP. They will become your best friend.

Honestly? Give them your time. Talk to them often. People often think because they are boys, they don’t talk to me and we don’t have a strong bond like I would if I had daughters (who says that right!?). It’s so not the case.

  1. Anything else you’d like to add?

Boys are truly awesome! How lucky am I that I have three of them.

Peta Black and White (00000002)Peta is a mum of three from Canberra. When she isn’t chasing after her boys she is cooking up a storm in the kitchen for her cooking blog or for the digital thermo mixing magazine she co-owns called The 4 Blades Magazine. If she is isn’t cooking she is dreaming of Bali, air shows and lollies.

Stepping Outside the Bubble {my baby starts kindy}

Mummalove-Kindy-2-2Two days before Nicholas started kindy, I found myself cranky and irritable. It was Australia Day and I enjoyed spending the holiday with my extended family and friends, but when we arrived home and the day drew to a close, I felt on edge. In the hope of improving his wife’s mood, Ben sent me off to a local Thai massage therapist (who was hilarious, but that’s a whole other story) while he looked after dinner for the boys. It was a lovely gesture, but didn’t really help.

Later, as the children slept and I was finalising preparations for the big boys to start school the following the day, it occurred to me that I was actually worried about Nicholas starting kindy. In the leadup, I had been excited for him and knew that he would love it, but as when Ben asked me a simple question (something poignant like “do you know where the remote control is?”) I felt teary and I realised that I had bigger things on my mind than the remote control.

I felt disorganised and unprepared for Nicholas’ first day. And I realised that we would soon be stepping outside ‘the bubble’, that safe haven of home.

Mummalove-Kindy-3Late last year, I went along to the kindy orientation night for the 2016 class and felt like an old hand, listening to the details of a kindy we’d be attending with our third child and one we’d already spent three years at. While I felt like ‘just one of the parents’ that night, I knew that pretty soon we would be well known around the centre for being Nicholas’ parents. With white blonde hair, almond eyes and an extra set of chromosomes, he is a bit hard to miss.

Down syndrome is our normal. Our life feels very run-of-the-mill, and at the end of the day, we’re just an average family with three handsome, crazy and noisy boys, but to the external observer, I can imagine we might seem quite different. As we were about to meet a whole range of new people in this kindy community, I began to feel quite exposed. Suddenly, this amazingly wonderful child of mine who has flourished in his home environment would no longer be in the bubble with the family who adores him, but be outside our comfort zone, filled with comparisons with typical peers and potentially difficult conversations. And that scared me.

So, while I didn’t feel teary or emotional that my ‘last baby’ was off to start kindy, I was feeling nervous about the new adventure ahead of us.

But as soon as we walked in the kindy gates that first morning, my fears melted away.

We were greeted warmly with friendly hellos from familiar faces, both the teachers and parents we’d met in previous years. Even the new families we encountered gave us warm smiles. Our Centre Co-Director said “Yay! We get to keep him this time!”

This was the same centre where I did my first parent ‘roster day’ when I was pregnant with Nicholas. When Nicholas was eight weeks old, we bathed him in front of all the kindy kids in Sam’s class. He had learnt many songs from the mornings we joined Charlie and his friends in a circle on the mat. He had loved coming along on roster days, and inevitably never wanted to leave when it was time to say goodbye. Nicholas had been part of this kindy community since before he was born.

This was where Nicholas belonged. This was where Nicholas was already loved.

In true Nicholas style, he walked in on his first day like he owned the place and, according to his teacher, had a “divine divine divine first day”. Hearing those words made my heart burst with pride.

Mummalove-Kindy-2Starting Pre-Prep in Queensland

In Queensland, many children go to pre-Prep (otherwise known as ‘kindergarten’) in the year in which they will turn four years old by 30 June, which is generally the year before they begin formal schooling (for us, this first year of school is called Prep). Pre-Prep is not compulsory. We have chosen a dedicated pre-Prep program at a local community kindergarten with play-based curriculum based on the Early Years Learning Framework. The kindy day runs from 8.30am until 2.15pm on five days per fortnight (eg. Mondays, Tuesdays and alternate Wednesdays). Many children attend a kindergarten program within a long-hours daycare, which is a great option as I know a community kindergarten’s hours can be really tricky for working parents.

Choosing a Kindergarten for Nicholas

While Nicholas had been at a great daycare one day per week in 2015 and could have stayed there for kindy, I never questioned our decision to move to a community kindergarten. My main reason for choosing it over a daycare centre is knowing Nicholas will be with the same group of 22 children each day, arriving and departing at the same times, which is a great way of facilitating a bond with the other families over the year.
By its very nature, a community kindy needs family participation and close relationships with the skilled teachers in order for the centre to run smoothly. They often hold gatherings, such as the Annual General Meeting, working bees, family sports day and Christmas concert, as well as parent social nights, for building relationships outside of regular kindy hours.

Choosing the specific centre for Nicholas was not a difficult decision for us. On the recommendation of a very good friend, both Sam and Charlie had attended the same kindy in previous years and we’d had a wonderful experience. It was actually the Centre Co-Director who encouraged me to submit Nicholas’ name to the waiting list early on. They were obviously very familiar with Nicholas’ Down syndrome diagnosis. While I don’t think they’d had any other children with Down syndrome attend in recent years, I know the centre was used to catering to children with varying needs. More importantly, I knew they were willing to welcome Nicholas for who he is and open to changing and adapting the environment and activities as required, rather than having pre-conceived ideas about what it means to teach a child with Down syndrome.

Mummalove-Kindy-1Preparations for Nicholas Starting Kindy

In the leadup to starting at kindy, Nicholas’ teacher (and Co-Director of the centre) and I had a few informal chats about Nicholas’ development to date and how I thought he would be best supported. She was keen for me to be involved in choosing who the extra teacher (or ‘inclusion support’ teacher) would be for Nicholas’ class. As the Universe would have it, I happened to ask a good friend of mine, who is also a teacher, if she knew of anyone who would be interested and she said, “Are you kidding? I would LOVE that job!” And thus we now have three amazing teachers in the classroom. The teachers and I agreed to ‘wing it’ to a certain extent, and just continue to talk openly about Nicholas and his needs throughout the year. It’s been great to have such a fluid environment, to adapt and flow as required to ensure it’s a warm, nurturing and stimulating classroom for both the teachers and students.

The inclusion support teacher in Nicholas’ room currently works 9.30am until 1pm on the days he is there. Nicholas is far too independent to want someone hovering over him (and ‘inclusion support’ isn’t really about having a one-on-one aide anyway), but it is great having an additional adult in the room to assist managing the needs of 22 children, especially when Nicholas still needs help with toileting (he is not yet toilet trained), an extra set of eyes to ensure he is safe (and not wanting to leap down the fireman’s pole solo) and, when required, to help the other children know how best to include Nicholas in play if that’s not happening spontaneously. While he loves all the teachers, he quickly worked out who has the authoritative voice and must be obeyed, and who he can bat his eyelids at if he wants to get his own way 😉

Nicholas and I talked about starting kindy quite a bit in the leadup, so he was very familiar with ‘kindy’ and was attempting to say the word. On the day before he started, we drove to the centre and had another chat in the carpark about the fact that he’d be starting there the following day. He was rather perturbed when I then drove off and he didn’t get to stay! He was certainly very ready by the time he started and happily kissed me goodbye when it was time for me to go.

Gung-Ho Start to the Year

Nicholas also attends an Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP) pre-Prep at a local special school one day per week in a small class of five children (with varying diagnoses) and two teachers. While it is a different day and group of children to last year, he has been attending the same ECDP since July 2015.

We chose not to ease Nicholas in to kindy gradually and he started his five-day fortnight doing full days from the first week, which he seemed to cope with perfectly well. Although he doesn’t have daytime sleeps at home anymore, he is offered the opportunity to nap at his mainstream kindy. In the first week, he crashed on his little bed in the afternoons (generally no longer than 45 minutes, based on the time available) but he hasn’t been napping since. We didn’t notice any excessive tiredness from him being at kindy, but the busy weeks have certainly made for a very easy bedtime at night.

He is quite a busy boy, now being at kindy at three or four days per week!

Communication with Other Families

According to the teachers, Nicholas has transitioned quite easily into the kindy class and has developed some lovely relationships with his new friends. Naturally, some of the children are noticing differences between themselves and Nicholas and it has been really important to me that we keep lines of communication open between us, the teachers and the other families open from early days. I think it’s perfectly normal for children to be curious and we want to be able to answer questions in a positive way. After the first week of kindy, we sent home a letter to the parents of children in Nicholas’ class introducing ourselves and talking a little about Down syndrome*. We also personalised a social story* about Nicholas (thanks to the Coburn family for letting us plagiarise share that resource) to be read to the children to help facilitate further discussion and understanding. We live in a world with people of wide and varied nationalities, religions, abilities, skin colour and interests, and we firmly believe that all children, even those considered ‘typical’, benefit from inclusive education and realising from a young age that it’s okay that we’re not all the same.

(*Please see Resources at the base of post if you’d like to download a copy).

Communication with the Teachers

Having an open and honest relationship with Nicholas’ teachers has been so valuable. Whenever the teachers have identified a potential challenge, they have adapted the environment or tried new methods to see what works, and chatted to me about everything along the way. For example, as Nicholas is currently finding it difficult to sit still and concentrate when a story is being read to the whole class (but not during other group times on the mat), they have explored using chairs around the circle so that some of the kids (including Nicholas) are on chairs instead of on the floor, which seems to be helping. Another option suggested was having stories in smaller groups.

Similarly, whenever I notice something working particularly well at home (such as playing ‘following the leader’ if I’m having trouble getting Nicholas travel in the direction I need him to), I let them know in case it could also work well in the classroom.

The Centre has recently started using a password-protected online portal to allow even more enhanced communication between staff and parents, and it’s wonderful to read little stories and see photos from Nicholas’ day. For a child who has limited speech, it is so beneficial for me to be able to prompt a discussion from what I have read on the portal.

Our First Term

It seems hard to believe that next week will be the end of Nicholas’ first term at kindy and we’ll soon be stopping for the Easter holidays. That time has flown!

From my point of view, I think the introduction to kindy has been an incredibly positive experience. Nicholas’ teacher said that she has been really happy with his transition into kindy, and that she really couldn’t have imagined a better start. According to our friend and inclusion support teacher, Nicholas is showing great independence in the classroom and has naturally developed some beautiful relationships with his peers.

Nicholas was away from kindy for a day recently when he had to attend an ophthalmology appointment. It was funny arriving back at the kindy the following day to hear his friends saying, “Oh Nicholas, where were you?” His teacher agreed that it just wasn’t the same without Nicholas in the classroom, which was lovely to hear.

At the end of the day, Nicholas LOVES being part of his kindy. He will often talk of particular friends and teachers in the morning before kindy, and it’s common to hear a “woohoo” from the back seat as we drive down the street towards the centre.

I do miss my little friend hanging out with me as much during the week, but I know he’s busy having loads of fun at kindy and our days apart have made our ‘days off’ and weekends together even more special. I’m pretty sure Nicholas thinks I’m a celebrity, the way he introduces me to all of his friends and excitedly says “Mum!” repeatedly when he sees me in the afternoons at pickup time. He sure knows how to make me feel loved.

We know that our beautiful boy will flourish in such a loving, warm kindergarten environment, with capable teachers and delightful little friends doing fun and exciting things together every day. We also hope that the other children, families and teachers are learning from what Nicholas has to teach them too. I may be biased, but he has a way of brightening the day of anyone who is lucky enough to meet him.

It warms my heart to see Nicholas reach this next milestone. We may have stepped outside our bubble, but a beautiful world awaits outside the comfort zone.

Mummalove-Kindy-1-2

Resources: 

Kindy Social Story 

Download (PDF, 1.28MB)

Letter to Kindy Families 

Download (PDF, 1.2MB)

Stuffing Fear in my Pocket and Saying Yes to Adventure

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An email landed in my inbox.

It was an invitation to a small breakfast hosted by Kellogg’s in Sydney, with flights and accommodation covered if I wanted to attend.

My initial response was, “Who, me? Really? But what can I bring to the table? What if I don’t have anything to say? What if they find out that I’m a complete fraud?” I was terrified.

But I decided to take a deep breath, stuff all that fear deep into one of my pockets and be one of those people who says “yes” when opportunities arise. I decided I’d show up just as me.

And, you know what? Showing up as me was okay. As it turned out, the team at Kellogg’s just wanted to have conversations with some humans. And human, in all my imperfection, I can do.
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After leaving a very warm Brisbane, I arrived into Sydney a little before 9pm to rain and flashing skies and, as I waited for a taxi, I heard an announcement that they had ceased flying in and out of the airport due to the electrical storm. Phew, just in the nick of time. As my cab neared the city, the light rain turned in to heavy rain and the car started being bombarded by hail stones. I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally, and safely, pulled up beside the theatrically inspired QT Hotel and I could check into my very funky hotel room.

To a mother of small children, I’m pretty sure heaven looks like a beautifully decked out hotel room with a deep bath, free movies and a king size bed that I don’t have to share 😉

The Kellogg’s breakfast was held the following morning at the light and airy Mecca Cafe in Alexandria and I arrived (with my newly-formed-in-the-lobby-bloggy-friend from Where’s My Glow) to an array of fresh coconut and beautiful juices, fresh flowers and delicious food prepared by the team at Mecca.

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Over the course of the morning, I was able to have conversations with the Head of Innovation, the Head of Nutrition, the Product Development Manager, Senior Brand Manager and National PR Manager at Kellogg’s – some of the real people behind the big corporate brand, who are actually really passionate about what they do. We sampled a few of the new products Kellogg’s have recently launched, but my fave was the Breakfast Toppers – think small packets of muesli, with ingredients such as fennel and coriander seeds, puffed quinoa, almonds and pepitas, perfect for mixing through yoghurt and fresh fruit. We had fun making our own breakfast parfaits and having a little food styling session after breakkie.

In the Love household, we really do try to stick with whole foods and avoid packaged products, so I must admit I arrived at the Kellogg’s breakfast feeling really skeptical about cereals. Although I was raised on Special K for brekkie as a kid, we aren’t much of a cereal family, especially given Ben and Nicholas avoid gluten. We tend to have anything from avocado toast, to eggs, smoothies, and maybe pancakes and bacon on weekends (with, inevitably, everyone wanting different things), and Sam will occasionally have GF muesli or Weetbix (or Nutrigrain, as a holiday treat). At the end of the day, though, I would much prefer them to go out into the day with something in their bellies, and cereal is often a quick and convenient option. And I live in the real world, not a perfect one, so my ideal dietary guidelines don’t  always go to plan.

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It’s hard to know what to believe with the various diets, fads and trends we hear about and obviously I want to fill my children’s bodies with the best possible nutrition. While I still wouldn’t rush out to buy my children the more sugary cereals and I’ll continue to be a conscientious label reader, I came away from breakfast feeling like Kellogg’s is listening to what Australians are looking for, and trying to make changes accordingly. I was interested to hear about their future product plans and as well as some of the science behind their product decisions. Since returning home, I have noticed a few more gluten free options appearing on the shelves, and I know they have rejigged some of their well known products to reduce sodium and sugar content. I also loved hearing about their social justice endeavours to supply breakfast for kids in need, given that 1 in 7 children apparently start the day without eating anything. As an added bonus, I also had a lovely breakfast and met some lovely bloggers.

Less than 24 hours from when I first left for Sydney, I was back on home soil, in balmy Brisbane, ready to cuddle four boys and work out what the heck we were going to have for dinner. Back to reality.

I don’t want to pretend like I’m used to companies flying me places and letting me stay in swish hotels. Because I’m not. But I’m really glad I swallowed the fear and said yes.

What does your family have for breakfast? Are you a cereal eater?

*Photography supplied by Kellogg’s. Kellogg’s generously covered flights, accommodation and breakfast for my trip to Sydney. However, I was under no obligation from the company to write a blog post following the event. All opinions stated are my own.