Thursday, 25 October 2012

Here and there and everywhere

Maybe, just maybe, this was the first time I felt like a stranger in my own country. Not in a bad way, just that it felt like travelling into a world I no longer managed to manoeuvre with ease.

I loved:
- outdoor play areas,
- the Indian summer we had (it was proper warm, 18 degrees in the late evening and I totally packed the wrong clothes),
- Brötchen,
- people of all ages and abilities riding bikes,
- properly insulated houses,
- renewables everywhere
- Rewe our world sticker book (if you have doubles, please get in touch, Cubling would be happy to trade)

I was a teeny weeny bit irritated by:
- right before left traffic rules and how they really catch you out if you're used to the much simpler and more intuitive British system,
- jam etc in tiny plastic containers
- menus where ever single dish contains meat
- chips being served with large quantities of salt
- kids meals either non existent or served without veg

In Amsterdam, I fell in love with the baksfiets/boxbike. I mean, I like them anyway, but to see them in all shapes and sizes, wow wow wow. I had to be told that you simply cross bike lanes in Amsterdam because if you wait for the bike traffic to provide a gap for crossing, you may be there all day.

Cubling decided she wants to live in Germany now. Not because of the play areas, although she thought the raft pond where you could play on a raft was pretty awesome, but because of the kids' shopping trolleys. Snowflake took leaps and bounces in speaking (both languages), and loves Peppa Pig even more now that she's Peppa Wutz.

And although travelling by ferry makes the journey rather long, it also makes it into an adventure in itself, and on the plus side it's actually much less stressful than flying with kids.

We managed to meet up with more people than expected, and I'm pretty impressed that in spite of our rare visits to Germany there is something like budding friendships going on between my kids and the kids of my friends. So much so that penpals have found one another. Pretty cool, I say.

The best thing for me had to be how Cubling just made friends with kids on the playgrounds without a second thought. She was totally at ease and at home, switching between languages without even a thought. It was both her social ease that impressed me (I would never, ever have spoken to kids I didn't know like that) and her ability to blend in and make the best of everything on offer.

And when we got home, she want back to school and totally enjoyed seeing her Scottish friends again as well. Now I only have to get used to the cold again.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A perfect day for Kite Flying

A windy autumn day. A trip to the Ruhrpott to meet my wonderful friends and let our children get to know each other. A kite. A field between two rivers. A kite that may lift you up in the strong wind and whish above your head. A kite that crashes into a tree and has to be freed by a brave 10 year old supergirl. More tree climbing. Homebaked cake to finish off an a day full of adventure. 

Couldn't help but wonder if today will be one of those days that will be referred to as "I remember when I was a little girl, when we flew the kite in Schwerte..."

Bottom picture by Cubling.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Down to the river we go


Sometimes, the best thing to be done is to just do it, in spite of unwilling kids, and trust your instincts that they will love it. Feet were bared in no time, and feet and hands exploring the river while they watched as the big ships passed by in the early evening sunshine, behind the dyke and beside the willow trees.

Friday, 12 October 2012


I'm not a great fan of homework. At least not for my little big girl who after all is 16 months younger than I was when I started school. Plus I didn't have to be at school all day long, school was out at 1pm for us. Play is how young children learn and it is self directed/free play as well as some directed activities that she should be able to choose to explore the world on her own terms when school is out. Moreover, there is so much that children can learn that has nothing to do with maths and literacy which has to have a chance to get explored too.
So I often don't even ask if she has homework. Some evenings, she'll draw, some she'll watch TV (semi educational because we're a DVD only household, we don't actually have live TV - not by design but by chance and lack of enthusiasm to get a faulty aerial fixed. Also watching DVD is a great opportunity for some, if passive, German input), or play, some evenings I put on music and we'll all dance and sing. All of this while I try and also cook a meal. Sometimes I try to at least have a look at what she did during the day an repeat some of it with her, just briefly as a way of a reminder.
Tonight, she picked up her piggy bank. Or rather, her doggy bank. Without any prompting she decided to order the coins by type and then she went on to count them. With a tiny bit of help she managed to get through them all. I didn't pay much (obvious) attention (apart from offering the help when asked for and secretly eyeing what was going on), and she had to work quite hard in getting her little sister not to interfere with her plan.
Incidental learning taken place:
  • Numeracy and recognising, matching and correctly labelling coins
  • dexterity in building a pile of coins
  • Counting to 94 (quite a feat for her)
  • Social skills of persuading toddler to hand back coins and not to destroy the piles of coins or interfere with the grand plan
All of this in 10 minutes and without calling it homework, learning or even having it directed by an adult. Self-motivated, self-directed, meaningful and fun. I had no input in it other than keeping me (and Snowflake) out of it.
Would you have thought that there are 94 coins lying on that ugly carpet of ours?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

One day

My days go a bit like this at the moment:

6.30am alarm clock. Try and snake my way out of the embrace of the toddler to get up and dressed without having same toddler velcro'ed to me. If this is successful, there's a good chance we get out of the house in time.
Get dressed. Prepare breakfast, pack school bag, nursery bag, make my own packed lunch.
6.45am. wake toddler, get her dressed and give her breakfast.
6.55am give toddler different breakfast
7.05am give up giving toddler breakfast as she refuses to eat, lift her out, carry her upstairs to wake up school girl.
7.15 school girl still in bed moaning.
7.20 pull school girl out of bed and dress her as there's no way she'll get dressed herself. Yes she is 5 1/2. She can dress herself.
7.30 brush school girl's hair. This takes longer than most things in the morning, only beaten by getting dressed, hence the mention.
7.40 shoes and jackets and bags ON and OUT.
7.50 toddler still not sitting in her car seat and still insisting "Snowflake selber, Mami go away!"
7.55 depart
8.00 drop of Cubling for breakfast club
8.08 leave school for nursery (after 5 minutes of "Snowflakes selber, Mami go away!" at the car)
8.25 drop off Snowflake at nursery.
8.35 depart nursery for work (I'm going to be 5 mins late. Always. I can't find those lost 5 minutes ever and if I seat Snowflake, there's a massive tantrum and fight which is no alternative and takes longer than waiting out her Car Seat Climb of Independence and Achievement)
8.50 arrive at work
relax. work, usually without a lunch break.
4.35pm depart for nursery
4.55 arrive at nursery, pick up Snowflake. Snowflake takes about 10 minutes to get into car seat while telling me "Snowflake selber, Mami go away!"
5.05 depart for childminder/after school club. Snowflake cries all the way unable to tell me what is actually wrong.
5.20 arrive at childminder/after school club to pick up Cubling. Cubling refuses to leave, hits me, frowns at me. Nice to see you too.
5.40 finally back in car after 10 mins of coaxing Cubling to leave school building and assault course and 10 mins of "Snowflake selber, Mami go away!" at the car.
5.45 arrive home, get all the bags into the house, accompanied by crying toddler who still doesn't know what's actually wrong, while trying to argue with school girl why she can't visit the neighbours yet again, trying not to coax her into the house with watching the box.
6pm finally all in the house, rush to start cooking but neither girls playing game, continued moaning, crying, tantrumming. Focus on not losing the plot. Breathe. Focus some more. Try playing with one or the other, or cuddling, because maybe this crying is all about reconnecting. Cubling doesn't want to play she wants to watch TV. Snowflake doesn't want to play she wants to cuddle.
6.15 Carry toddler while going upstairs to the freezer (yes, our freezer is indeed upstairs), carry her down, sit her on the work surface to prepare dinner. She wants down. She cries. She wants up. She cries. She wants carried. Can't cook safely with toddler velcroed to me. Offer her food scraps that I can find and let her nibble. Cubling begs for TV. I try to distract with drawing/homework or playing with her sister. If successful, they will play for 10 mins which gives cooking time. If not, it'll be beans on toast with egg.
6.45 dinner time. Snowflake won't eat. Cubling eats ever sooo sloooowwwlyyyy (unless it's beans on toast with egg). Offer Snowflake different dinner. No luck again. Give her toast (again). Let her sit on my lap because she threatens to do a skyjump out of her booster seat (again).
7pm hubby arrives. Breathe. Finish dinner as a family.
7.30 upstairs for bedtime (bathtime? you must be joking!)
Toddler goes willingly. School girl does everything in the world to delay getting changed. Sometimes I wonder if keeping her in her jammies all day may significantly reduce my stress levels.
8pm Stories - dad and Cubling / mummy and Snowflake who also gets milk.
8.30pm kids in bed. Tidy up kitchen, prepare things for next day, put on washing machine/dishwasher or empty the same.
9.30pm sit down, check emails and do online stuff like paying bills.
10pm have shower or knit or read a book or I simply can't manage to move my arse off the sofa kind of thing because I can't decide which anyway and i'm so unbelievably tired that I'm just gonna waste this precious hour. I used to blog, almost daily. How did I do that? I'd like to phone friends, go out, go for a run. Actually, no, I don't. I'd rather stay in and waste away on the sofa. Have I really just said that?
11 pm hang up washing
11.30 or later: go to bed.
half an hour after falling asleep: "Mami!!!!!" Snowflake stands in cot staring at me. Lift her into (my) bed. Nurse.
4am: "Mami!!!!" Nurse. Usually non stop until:
6.30am alarm clock.
And repeat.

I have no idea how people manage to bathe their kids every day.
I also have no idea how working parents manage a 7 pm bedtime. My kids would benefit from more sleep but if they're asleep by 8.30 pm we're doing well.
I have no clue how to finish the day with two happy kids. There's nothing that makes me feel more inept at parenting than failing to get smiles out of my girls in the evening, and to feel that they're happier at daycare/school than at home with me.
Any tips are welcome.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Her Precious

For about a year, she's been in love with 4 strings. Personally, I blame Janosch. I can't be sure though what initiated her infatuation. As any parent of a 4 year old would have thought, we were sure it was a fleeting idea. Just that it stayed, and grew stronger by the month. Her wish so important that for her, it was meant to be a Santa wish. When she finally got a chance to hold a violin and a bow, she touched it with a seriousness and serenity on her face that blew me away. She listened intently to the violinist explaining how to make it sing and then just did it. I'm still pretty much in awe as she got more music out of it than me.

So we entered the quaint and wonderous world of the Glasgow Violin Shop. Out came a girl with such excitement and pride that it made my heart jump. Her precious is kept hidden from little toddler hands and it is brought out with gentleness a few times a day. Her most prized possession is announced to everyone, carried around and she'll even pose for a photo with it (posing for a photo? Unheard of these days). Nobody is allowed to touch it because she is "the boss of the violin". As soon as she holds it in her hands, her face is pure seriousness.

Admittedly, I'm a little bit massively jealous.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Review: Polarn O. Pyret

A little while back, I was approached whether I'd like to review some samples from a Swedish childrens' fashion company which is now setting foot in the UK, Polarn O. Pyret. As ever with reviews, I had a good look first and liked what I saw on the website. My first impression was that here was some childrens' fashion wich was different and struck a chord with me.

When I received the samples, I was rather impressed. Cubling received a sturdy outdoor jacket which will make her snug and warm in the coldest of weathers. Now, admittedly, Cubling is not a fan of bulky jackets. But this one has the right colour (some form of pink but not the type of pink that makes me go eek) and it's fabricated in a way that it allows maximum movement while providing cover, protection and warmths. There's no doubt about it, it's the most cleverly made outdoor/winter jacket I've seen so far, while looking attractive too. I really wish there was more like this for girls, because girls are usually passed off with pretty but not exactly functional coats.

Snowflake received a beautiful Spotted Mushroom print tunic made from a print fabric that I wish I could buy for some weekend sewing. I think it may be some sort of Swedish fabric style because it reminded me of the kind of clothes that a Swedish mum and seamstress makes here in Glasgow. The actual product looks much better than the online image by the way!

If you look a bit closer at the range that PO. P brings to the UK, you will find that a lot of items are unisex, which is so refreshing. That doesn't mean you can't go all girly and all boyish, just that the range doesn't force you to stick your child into pink or blue. The clothes all look like they manage to combine style with functionality, being comfy to wear and allowing children to move as they like without being restricted by their clothing.

Polarn O. Pyret follow strict eco measures in the production process of their clothes, meaning no nasty chemicals are used, and the clothes are hard wearing and should last for years and can be passed on to be worn by a second or third child.

There is also an organic range to choose from. The range is for children from 0-12 years.

You can find Polarn O. Pyret on some High Streets (mostly in departments stores) or order online - and what's best is that delivery is free to mainland UK which means that the price you see online is the price you pay.



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