31 Dec 2014

My December

Another month ticked off, and what a big one it’s been, what with Becky’s 4th birthday and Christmas all within two weeks of each other. And today is New Year’s Eve, and another year is wrapped up. Scary, how time flies, and this is even more pronounced by how quickly my babies are growing up.

But enough of that sentimental stuff, here’s the round-up of my December highlights in pictures.

 1. Becky putting the “finishing touches” to our Christmas tree. She
     did it with such care and attention, and you could feel her
     excitement about the festive season ahead.

2.  Becky and I getting into the Christmas spirit with suitable head
     gear and lots of cuddles.

3.  Becky excitedly opening her birthday presents at her Nanny
     and Granchy’s house. She’s a very lucky girl and got so much
     stuff; we’ll need an extension soon at this rate, what with all
     these toys.

4.  My gorgeous birthday girl. Four years old. That’s taking
     Mummy some getting used to. It seems like only yesterday
     that she was Alex’s age.

5.  A beautiful winter’s day spent going for a long walk, just the
     hubby and I, in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, where his parents
     live. We were soaking up the gorgeous scenery and talking
     about all sorts of stuff, like we used to BC (*before children*), 
     when this was our regular walking spot, which was lovely.

6.  John and Alex sharing some big chuckles. This picture makes my
    heart melt.

7.  Taking Becky ice-skating for the first time. Becky enjoyed it very
     much, but I LOVED it. Brought back my inner child and I was on
     a high all day after that. Clearly I need to get out more.

8.  Alex turning five months this month and more and more
    developing his own little character. I just adore him.

9.  And finally, Alex inspecting and taking a shine to his Christmas
     present. He is becoming so aware of everything and so much
     more dexterous. My boy. *Sigh*.

I was going to do a round-up of my highlights of this year, too, but then, the main highlight of 2014 was undoubtedly Alex’s birth, and nothing else comes even close, so I’m leaving it at that and look forward to hopefully lots more highlights for us as a family in 2015. Happy New Year!

30 Dec 2014

A Winter Day Out

After having had the most relaxed and loveliest of Christmasses, mostly spent indoors with too many treats and Christmas TV, it was time to head outside and dust off the cobwebs.

So yesterday, on the glorious – and gloriously cold – day, we decided to head to a nearby mansion estate and deer park and make the most of the crisp, fresh air and soak up some winter sun, even though temperatures had hardly risen above zero.

It was exactly what we needed. We went for a long walk across the expansive estate gardens and fields, and even managed to get quite close to a herd of beautiful fallow deer who were just chilling in the grass and were totally unbothered by the gaggle of humans ogling at them.

Becky loved it, as well as making the most of the play area, and even Alex seemed to enjoy himself, tucked up warm in his snow suit and in my baby carrier, taking in the scenery with a curious expression. Too cute for words.

Naturally, we took the opportunity to take a few family selfies – which proved a bit tricky getting all of us and our varying heights into the picture. But luckily John managed to get a few shots, and even if we all look a bit silly / weird, we had lots of fun doing it.

24 Dec 2014

Our Merry Little Christmas

This Christmas will be extra special. It will be the first time we will be spending the holidays as a family of four, with Alex the best Christmas present I could have ever wished for.

We normally alternate each year between spending Christmas with John’s family in Wales and my family in Germany, but this time, with Alex still being still so young and overseas travel a bit of a pain, and also because it kind of feels right, we have decided to spend Christmas day at home, just the four of us, our little unit.

And I couldn’t be more excited.

Whilst it’s always nice to spend Christmas with our families (and we will be going to John’s parents on Boxing Day anyway), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day belong to us, and it’s something we have never done before. Not like this anyway.

Four years ago, when Becky was first born, we had a taster of Christmas on our own, but with a then just over ten day old baby that had colic, wouldn’t sleep and just screamed for more than 18 hours a day, it all seems like a big blur and the memories of us merely functioning – or rather not - don’t really count as a proper Christmas experience.

But this time is different. We all are – dare I say it – in a good and happy place (I hate saying things like that out loud. I’m terribly superstitious and am always scared that I will jinx things, but there you are, I will feel the fear and say it anyway), and sitting here in my warm living room, Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, with a cup of hot chocolate, listening to Alex making the funniest noises and Becky playing princess and fairies with her dollies, I feel as content as I very rarely have before and very Christmassy indeed.

And what I am most excited about is spending quality time as a family, and starting and making our own traditions.

In Germany, our main Christmas celebration happens on Christmas Eve, so today will be all about making Christmas Eve a little bit more special for Becky and including some German traditions before the “big day” tomorrow.

With Becky being aware of Christmas now like never before, and this being Alex’s first Christmas, I know that this year is the year where special and treasured memories will be made. And I couldn’t be happier.

Merry Christmas!



21 Dec 2014

The Christmas Card Scrooge

I love Christmas, and everything about it. Honesty, I do. Especially now that I have kids, I experience the magic of Christmas with new vigour and through the eyes of the little’uns, and it’s lovely.

But when it comes to Christmas cards, I admit, I’m a real Scrooge. I just don’t get it. The hundreds of manically scribbled down cards with some half-hearted wishes or illegible signatures (hardly the meaningful messages of Goodwill), the stress of not forgetting another random person that needs to be on the all important Christmas card list, the pressure of getting them written and send off in time for the Post Office deadline, and not to mention the considerable expense (and investment of time, time that I don’t have) of all of it.

I hasten to say, that while I do appreciate everyone who sends me / us Christmas cards, I can honesty live without them, too. Because firstly you have to find somewhere to display the tons of cards you receive (my shelves, window sills, alcoves, fireplace etc. are already full, thank you very much!), and then you have to dispose / recycle them afterwards. It’s just not something I need to get me in the Christmas spirit.

I know, I know. This is controversial stuff to say in a country that is obsessed with sending cards of all kinds on any occasion. But my excuse is that I’m from Germany and there are clearly huge cultural differences at play here. For in Germany – and you may or not be surprised by this *snigger* - we don’t do Christmas cards. Well, we might send the odd card to an auntie or other relative who lives a million miles away, but we don’t engage in competitive Christmas card sending.

And as much as I have become “Anglo-filed” since living in the UK, this is one German tradition I will keep to. Therefore, I have chosen to donate the money I would have spent on buying and sending cards to two of my chosen charities, which makes me a lot happier.

Only problem is, that Becky has started to bring back a ton of Christmas cards from nursery, and the greetings cycle is continuing the next generation down. Uh oh. And as much as I’m tempted to ignore the cards, one does not want to appear rude, no?

What’s a mummy to do? Reluctantly off to the shops and get some ruddy Christmas cards. Grrr. Now, where are all my pens …

17 Dec 2014

Party Time

I feel like I’ve lost the best part of a week to birthday parties, Christmas madness and general illness, and every time I want to sit down and write a blog post, something else pops up and prevents me from doing it. Time is definitely not on my side and I still seem to have quite a lot of Xmas stuff to get and organise. Urgh.

We’ve all been a bit under the weather the last few days, but poor little Alex has caught it worst and is currently fighting his first big cold, including chesty cough, gunged up nose, runny eyes and trouble breathing, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Neither do I, for that matter. I feel very sorry for him.

It was Becky’s 4th birthday last weekend, and it’s fair to say that our little lady had a fab time and was spoilt rotten by all.

We first spent her actual birthday with my parents-in-law, where she was showered with all our gifts, including the obligatory “Frozen” paraphernalia, dressing up Princess costumes, Barbie dolls, My Little Pony dolls and ponies, games, hairdresser kits, a Micro Scooter, and various other items of clothing, toys and games. It’s fair to say Becky is one lucky girl.

Then, the next day we held her actual party with her little friends, and again, she had a lovey time. We first hired a play gym with bouncy castle, which was followed by a little celebration in the adjacent party room. It was lovely to have all of Becky’s little friends together, and Becky thoroughly enjoyed being the centre of attention. And of course another ton of presents!

As if we didn’t have enough of parties already, the day after we were invited to the 4th birthday extravaganza of Becky’s friend Laylah, which – as kids parties go – was also a brilliant do and one to bear in mind for next year. Laylah’s parents had hired a hall and a children’s entertainer, who was brilliant, and between magic tricks, jokes and a bit of ventriloquism, there was also a disco to keep the little ones entertained. And at the end, instead of party bags, there was a candy cart where the kiddies could pick & mix sweeties as they pleased (well, within reason and parental supervision, of course).

Now I’ve got a whole year to think of a good idea for Becky’s next birthday. #Nopressure

Below are just a couple of snapshots of Becky on her big day.  I just realised that most of our images from the party include other children, so I won’t be posting them on here, but you get the picture from the shots below that Becky loved every minute.

      Opening all of her pressies on her birthday morning.
Party Outfit Number 1.
Party Outfit Number 2.

12 Dec 2014

My Big Little Girl

Becky will turn four this weekend. How on earth did that happen?

In what feels like the blink of an eye she’s gone from my tiny baby to this beautiful little girl; smart, kind, fiercely independent, determined, curious about the world, creative and so so incredibly witty and funny.

I could not be prouder of her. She is everything I ever hoped for in a child, and more, and sometimes I look at her and I can’t quite believe that she is mine.

4 –it feels like another big milestone. My little girl is growing up. Not such a little girl anymore.

And ever since Alex came along, she’s now our “big girl”. The big sister.

4 –  already 4! It’s scares me a bit how quickly time flies.

But then again, as "grown up" as she is and thinks she is, and acts, she is still only 4.

She still needs her Mummy – less so, admittedly. Or differently, that’s probably more accurate.

But she still needs Mummy.

My guidance. My love. My attention.

She needs Mummy when she’s feeling unwell or is ill.

She wants Mummy when she cries.

She calls for Mummy when she’s scared in the dark or had a bad dream.

And more than anything, she loves Mummy cuddles and kisses.

She’s Mummy’s girl.

She may be growing up, but however old she will be, she will always be my little girl.

10 Dec 2014

Can A Child Have Too Many Toys?

When my parents were over for a visit recently, my Mum kept commenting on the amount of toys Becky has, mainly with a disapproving tut and the words “It’s just too much, it’s not good for a child”. This was also frequently followed by “When I was Becky’s age, we only had  …” . Bla bla bla.

Yes, that was in post war times, and surely this isn’t comparable with a 21st century childhood.

But whether I like it or not, my Mum’s words have kind of stuck with me. Has my Mum – a former teacher – got a bit of a point? Can a child be spoilt for choice, and can a too vast amount of toys actually be overwhelming and counterproductive? Does a frequent stream of new toys actually diminish their novelty and “specialness”?

In comparison to Becky’s peers, I don’t think she has an extortionate amount of toys and gadgets. I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle ground. She has enough toys, dolls, games, ponies, Frozen paraphernalia (!), dressing up costumes, puzzles, play dough, paints etc. (not to mention games on the iPad) to give her a good amount of diversity, but her room and play room do not (yet) resemble a toy store. I do try to stay on top of things a bit, and regularly put away the stuff she has outgrown (though I will have to wheel these out again soon as Alex is getting bigger and more curious and interested in proper play and toys) to keep some kind of overview and manageable level.

The main “issue” with Becky’s toys, if you will, is that her birthday is also in December, and between Christmas and her birthday and everything John and I, my parents, John’s parents, her godparents and other friends buy her, a lot accumulates at once. I tried holding back a few toys before to distribute throughout the year, but it kind of didn’t work. And of course we do buy her things outside of birthdays and special occasions, too.

Last week the toy question once again popped up (and my Mum’s words were ringing in my ear) as I was doing some birthday and Christmas shopping for Becky. The picture above shows the amount of stuff I bought just within one short shopping trip, and although these items will be divided between her birthday and Christmas, more things have and are still arriving from what I’ve ordered online. That will be quite a considerable pile of presents.

Is this consumerism gone mad? Am I actually setting a bad example?

I admit, I love buying Becky presents, and I always light up when I see her excitement at receiving a little treat or gift. The anticipation of how happy she will be, her smiles and squeaks, how she will impatiently rip open the wrapping paper or carrier bag, how proudly she will take her favourite items to nursery …

After all, for a 4-year-old, her toys are her world, aren’t they? They are the main possessions she can truly call her own, apart from clothes and everyday items obviously, so they are significant.

But I am also conscious of the fact that we are very lucky to be able to buy her all this stuff, and I don’t want her to take this for granted and expect presents all the time and become blasé and spoilt about them. As clichéd as it sounds, there are so many children who don’t even own half the amount of things, and I do want both my kids to grow up with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the value of something.

And whilst I won’t be going on a toy-buying strike any time soon, I do want to try to keep a degree of moderation on the amount of toys she has and receives going forward and make each one count (it’s probably too late this year now, so call it a New Year’s Resolution or whatever).

Of course you can’t quantify your children’s happiness in the amount of toys they have. But the important thing for me is that both Becky and Alex grow up knowing that material things aren’t the key to happiness, and that being healthy, kind and loved is far more important. And that’s a lesson for life.

*This is a link-up with "Brilliant Blogposts" over at Honest Mum's blog, which you can view here.

8 Dec 2014

Homemade Christmas Gifts

We normally alternate between spending Christmas at my parents' in Germany and John’s in the UK. This year, we would have been due to go to Germany, however, with Alex still being so small and my parents having just recently visited, we have decided to leave it until next year and to spend Christmas Day at home and Boxing Day at the in-laws. This should be really nice and hopefully a lot less stressful than travelling with the kids at peak Christmas times and unpredictable winter conditions.
But I still have a bit of a dilemma. My parents are insisting that they don’t want any Christmas presents, and even though they say that every year and I still buy them bits (and they are secretly pleased), this time they are pretty adamant that they really don’t want us to go through the effort and expense and that they don’t “need anything” (Hmmm. They are getting to that age where I keep hearing “we don’t need anything anymore”. Slightly annoying!).

I feel guilty about not being there at Christmas, so despite their assurances, I do want them to have a little something from us. So I thought of making a few personalised bits with the kids, which I'm sure they would love. As always in these situations, I consulted Pinterest and found some pretty great ideas, some of which I will try to do over the next few days (yes, best get a move on before I miss the postage deadline), and some that are just great to consider for next year, when it’s not such a last minute project.
I will definitely do this with the kids' hand and foot prints, I think it’s such a nice idea.
I’ve been meaning to do bits of Christmas biscuit baking anyway, so this will definitely be on my list also.
I think these snow globes are so pretty. Not sure I’ll manage to accomplish them this year, but will come back to it for next Christmas.
Such a simple, but effective idea – dried fruit Christmas ornaments.
Tempted to do this one for us – it’s too big and fragile to send in the post anyway, no?
Finally, some salt dough ornaments for the tree – I would probably paint them all nice and colourful with Becky. Lovely!

4 Dec 2014

The Big Breastfeeding Barney

The news earlier this week that London mummy Louise Burns was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby in posh hotel Claridge’s, has yet again highlighted society’s hostile attitude to breastfeeding.
Claridge’s has defended its actions and issued a statement saying "We are saddened to see what is being discussed and we feel we need to clarify that breastfeeding is of course embraced at Claridge's. All we ask is that mothers are discreet towards other guests."
From what I can see, Louise Burns was pretty discreet. But even if she wasn’t, is it really reason enough for people to be “offended” by a baby doing the most natural thing, feeding when it’s hungry, a prime instinct, and its mother tending to this need? One thing’s for sure, if she hadn’t, that baby would have caused a much bigger scene and much greater offence by screaming its little lungs out!
Some of the people who were seemingly “offended” by Burns and her baby equated breastfeeding to pooing, stating that the latter was also natural, but that we don’t do that in public.
Really? Is breastfeeding an innocent baby really the same as pooing?  I find that quite a sad and disturbing outlook.
We are surrounded day in and day out across all forms of media by breasts and bums and far more nudity that many people care to see, but that hardly causes a stir. Is a baby being breastfed really more offensive than that? What about Page 3 girls or Miley Cyrus’ bits and Rihanna’s boobs and Kim Kardashian’s, well, everything that’s on display all the time? It seems that everyone wants to see breasts all the time, until it’s a feeding baby, then it’s an “offence”.
I’m by no means a militant breastfeeder or campaigner. I actually just think every Mum should feed her baby as she deems right and what suits her, whether that’d be breast or bottle. Myself, I exclusively breastfed Alex for the first three months and for the last month I have been combination feeding, having introduced one to two top up bottles a day, and that works just fine for me.
Personally, I’ve never been one to breastfeed in public, and I always try to avoid it as far as I can, preferring to feed Alex at home just before I have to go somewhere or timing meetings and appointments roughly around Alex’s feed times. But that’s just me and my individual choice.
I’ve never felt that comfortable with breastfeeding in public, and when I think about it, it’s probably because I don’t want to expose myself  *no pun intended* to negative reactions or comments (although I am certainly able to defend myself, I  just can’t be bothered with the aggro). And also, truth be told, I like cuddling up with Alex on my sofa, just me and him, getting comfy and relaxing, and not necessarily being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of restaurants, pubs or other public places. And I know that he feeds better in a calm environment.
However, I have no problem with other Mums breastfeeding in public, and in some ways, I envy them that they don’t get as flustered as I do.
The other issue, of course, is that there are very few public places that offer “discreet” and private rooms where women can go and breastfeed if they so wish. Trust me, I’ve searched for and checked out a fair few.
Those “progressive” places like doctor’s surgeries and shopping centres sometimes cater for breastfeeding Mums, but even they leave a lot to be desired. Most of the times you’re either in a “family room”  - read tiny booth with a hard plastic chair and nothing else, too small to fit yourself and the baby in comfortably, let alone possibly also a pram and extra child - or in a bigger, communal space, with a row of multiple plastic chairs like in some dodgy self-help group, an overflowing bin and a grubby hand basin. And that’s the good examples.
The majority of breastfeeding “rooms” are either directly next to or even in toilets, and you’re surrounded by the smell of faeces, full nappies and sanitary towels. Yum yum.
Would any adult like to eat their breakfast / lunch / dinner in a toilet or toilet environment? Of course not. So why should babies?
Is it so difficult to create a nice environment for breastfeeding Mums, maybe a nice comfy sofa, friendly interior and – hell – even a water cooler and some music, so Mums have got a choice and an alternative to be more “discreet” and “private” as to not offend anyone.
It’s no wonder that most breastfeeding Mums either opt to feed their baby exactly where they are, even if it’s like in Louise Burns’ case in the middle of a posh hotel – and as is our legal right - or like me, don’t even venture out until the baby has been fed to avoid the situation altogether.
But really, it shouldn’t be Mums who have to change where and how we’re feeding, it should be society realising that nurturing a baby, whichever way, is never an offence.

* This is a link-up with the Brilliant Blogpost linky hosted by Honest Mum. Check it out here.


2 Dec 2014

My November

I can't believe it's the 2nd of December already! Where does time go? No, seriously, where does it go? 

November seems to have come and gone in a blink of an eye. I don't know whether that's because I'm on maternity leave, but the weeks are just flying by. I was looking through my camera and Instagram snapshots and decided to do a bit of a round-up of my November and its big and small highlights, so here goes (a bit late, I know). 

1. Enjoying my maternity leave and precious one on one time and
    cuddles with my baby. 

2. Becky demolishing a huge candy floss during our visit to the
    German Christmas market. 

3. My parents coming over to visit and my Mum and Dad doting
    on their grandkids. Here my Mum is baking with Becky. 

4. Alex keeping his head up higher than ever before during tummy
    time and staying like that for an impressive while without
    complaining and moaning. Another little milestone. 

5. My best and oldest childhood friend Meike and her partner
    coming over from Germany for a weekend visit and realising just
    how much I miss her from my day to day life. And our constant
    giggles and laughter. 

6. Enjoying a day out at Blaise Castle with the family during a
    glorious winter day.

7. All four of us cuddling up on the sofa on a rainy and cold Sunday and watching "The Wizard of Oz".

8. Becky going to see Santa and - warily - telling him what she
    wants for Christmas and that she's been a good little girl. 

9. Finally, launching my blog, Fairies and Pirates, after deliberating
    for months whether to do it or not. Glad I did. 

1 Dec 2014

Making Your Parents Grandparents

My parents came to visit from Germany for a few days last week, and seeing them with Alex and Becky has made me realise just how immensely precious and meaningful the fact is that I have made my parents grandparents. Never ever have I seen them happier than when they’re playing with Becky or cuddling Alex, proudly looking on at THEIR GRANDCHILDREN.

It has both warmed the cockles of my heart and pained me to see how much they are doting on Becky and Alex. Because we live in different countries, they don’t get to see them that often. I try to go back to Germany two or three times a year, and my parents come over once or twice, but it will never be enough to make up for the times that they don’t get to be around them, and I know that they miss them terribly and miss being a bigger part of their every-day-life, which makes me feel terribly sad and guilty, guilty that I have chosen a life so far away from them.

While they were here, my parents tried to soak up every little minute with the kiddos, every little one of their characteristics and personalities and every little detail of their appearance, filling their memories and camera to last them until next time, whenever that will be.

Being an only child, I’ve always been acutely aware that you are your parents first and only shot at all major life experiences. First smile, first steps, first school, graduation, job, wedding etc. – as their only child, your parents will only ever experience this once, through you, and with that comes a degree of responsibility, a sense of having to grant them these moments.

At least this is how I’ve always felt.

Therefore, I’ve always been a bit of a good girl because of it, I suppose, even at my most rebellious as a teenager, I’ve always felt a sense of not wanting to let them down completely and not abuse their love and trust in me – basically not to screw up my life and shatter their hopes and dreams for me.

So I’ve always tried to make them proud, had the good grades and ambition, did the piano and violin lessons, went to uni, did an MA, had “nice” boyfriends, got a nice job and good career, had a lovely wedding  – you get the picture. And these were all momentous experiences in themselves, which I know have made my parents very happy and very proud of me.

But having given them grandchildren is the culmination of all of this and I don’t think this can ever be topped with anything else. And even though I can’t change the geographical distance between us, I know that I have made my parents happier and more fulfilled than I ever could have done with anything else, and for once that makes me proud and happy.

It gives me a sense that I’ve done good. 

Quite a lovely, liberating feeling, actually.
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