22 Jun 2016

Thank you Teacher!

There's only a few weeks left, and Becky's first year at school will be coming to an end. A whole year and Reception stage all ticked off! And whilst I'm once again baffled by how fast time has flown by, I also can't help and reflect on the journey Becky starting school has been - for her, and for me.

One of the things that strike me most is just how naive I was about the impact school would have on my little girl. I mentioned it before, but in Germany primary school doesn't start until later - kids are usually seven, six at the youngest - so my daughter going to school at the tender age of four seemed awfully premature. And it took me a while to accept it and get my head around it. But more importanty, I completely under estimated the role of the teacher in all this.

I hold my hands up - and apologies in advance to any primary school teachers reading this - when  I say that I didn't think reception was "real" school. Naively or ignorantly, I thought that all the kids would be doing is play all day, albeit in pretty school uniforms,  and learn the odd letter or number now and again, but that in essence it was just pre-school in a different setting.

How wrong I was! As the weeks went on and Becky picked up more and more letters and phonics, started to write her own name and by now whole sentences, read actual stories and books by herself and added and subtracted number constellations that I certainly can't remember doing until I was about 8, I have been completely and utterly converted.

How stupid I was! Becky's progress has been staggering, despite the fact that both John and I work full time and really only have the weekends to properly go through her reading records and homework with her. Thankfully she is bright as a button and seems to be picking up things independently and soak up knowledge like a sponge.

I have realised just how important Becky's teacher has been in all this. What an amazing and important job she's done. And I take my hat off to her.

It's not just the academic side that has truly impressed me. After all, Miss R has had to teach twenty-odd young children between the ages of four and five  - and often at completely different spectrums in terms of their emotional and intellectual development - the same curriculum. She's had to progress a whole class while treating each child as an individual, which in my book is truly heroic. And thanks to the wonders of Tapestry (the online school diary where teacher document each child's progress), I have been able to get a great insight into everything she has done and her lovely relationship with Becky, who adores and idolises Miss R.

More importantly, she has been a great role model for my daughter, my little, innocent, impressionable and sensitive Becky, and that's even more significant to me.

She's been kind, she's been patient, she's been lovely, funny and warm, and she is the person that has shaped my daughter's perception of school; that crucial first impression that will coin her whole academic career from here on and define whether she loves going to school - which she does - or not, and for that I am very grateful.

School takes up such a huge chunk of our formative years and I am glad that Becky's first experience of it has been a positive one, with lots of academic achievements, but also lots of fun, friendships and laughter.

I have always loved school; I was a very acasdemic child, and some of my best memories (and friendships) date back to my school years, and I always wanted this for my children.

So thank you Miss R for being a great teacher and for guiding my daughter (and in many ways me, too) through our first year of school. We've certainly learned a lot!

*Linking up with Mummy Fever and #ShareWithMe

17 Jun 2016

The Fear

This week has been once again filled with more tragic news of horrible acts of hatred, mass killings and pointless violence, here in the UK and across the globe. Not a day goes by without wars, killings, acts of terrorism, racism or other heinous crimes dominating our TV screens or making headline news in the papers. It seems like our world has gone bonkers. And it worries me. A lot.

Since I've become a mother, these kinds of things really affect me. A lot more than they used to. I've always been a bit of a worrier and overthinker, but now, even more so than ever, I feel a level of fear that I have rarely felt before.

I worry about the kind of world my two precious little kids are going to grow up in. What kind of future lies ahead. And what I can do to protect them from the evils and dangers out there. How little I can realistically do to protect them. And sometimes the fear can be overwhelming.

It's not the kind of world I want for them.

It's not the kind of world I grew up in.

And it's not the kind of world I understand.

So how can I guide Alex and Becky through it? How can I ever explain it to them?

Luckily they are too small yet to process or make any kind of sense of what they might pick up here or there. But at some point they will start to ask questions, and I don't think I will have the answers.

Since I've become a Mum, life seems so much more precious - my kids' lives, but also my own and John's. And I worry that something could ever happen to either of us. Because what would happen to my kids? I have to be there for them, therefore I have to keep myself safe as much as them. Because when you become a parent, it's no longer just about you. It's about the little people you've created. And you suddenly have so much more to lose than ever before.

I worry as much about the little and silly things as over big things. I worry about the what if-s and the what if not-s.

I panic when I lose sight of Becky for a second in the park, paralysed by fear that something could have happened to her, that someone could have hurt her and I missed it and failed to protect her.

I worry about things like flying or traveling, about being in crowded places and I hold my breath every time I go into London, a city I've always utterly adored, or use the tube and thank the heavens every time I make it back into my little village, safe and sound and into the arms of my kids.

If I could, I would never leave them out of my sight, I would never part from them and cocoon us all into a little bubble. But of course that's not possible.

But how do you handle The Fear?

I guess the best we can do is try to live the most normal life we can, a life full of love and laughter, as much as this sounds like a cliche.

So I have to try and not let The Fear take over, as hard as it sometimes feels, and instead live a more conscious life, enjoy it and love, hold and cuddle my babies more than ever before, and raise them with a strong sense of love, safety and respect instead of hatred, fear and intolerance.

Because you never know what the next day will bring. Because life is precious, and it can be over in seconds.

* Linking up with Mummy Fever and #ShareWithMe


15 Jun 2016

Siblings June 2016

By now I have given up on trying to pose my two lovely kiddies for the monthly #Siblings entries, because it's just impossible to get these two monkeys - and in particular one extra little monkey - to stand still long enough. So instead, I'm rolling with these candid shots, taken a few days ago during a nice summer day's walk through our village.

Becky insisted on holding Alex's harness backpack and walking with him, though it actually looks like she is walking a doggy, which makes me chuckle, only that this doggy was less than cooperative and just didn't want to listen.

Both continue to be close, and they've started to have little "insider jokes", if you can call it that and ganging up against Mummy and Daddy. It's quite funny, and they are thick as thieves most of the time.

With Alex being so physical and bashful, he has started to initiate a lot of play fights and rugby tackles Becky lots, which they both love - until Alex goes a bit overboard and ends up being too rough and hurts Becky, which then ends in big drama. That is usually the pattern - Becky, even though she's the bigger one, ends up crying because Alex has hurt her, which is quite ironic.
They also think it's hilarious to chase each other around the house, which always has me close to a heart attack, because I always expect one of them to bump themselves badly, but they are almost unstoppable when they are in fits of giggles.

On the other hand, Becky is really tender with Alex; she'll help him put his shoes on or take them off, she'll make sure his food is in reach and even cuts things down for him now and again, and she is generally very good at sharing, most of the time anyway.

They are really quite alike in so many ways, least in their looks, and yet so different in others - I am forever fascinated with the sibling dynamic. And I couldn't love them more if I tried.

* Linking up with the Siblings Project

13 Jun 2016

Alex, 21 and 22 months

This is it. This is the picture that I look at and it really hits home that my little boy is growing up. He looks so long in this! So tall and lean and boyish. He's six weeks away from turning two years old, and he suddenly seems ever so big and developed.

I didn't do a separate post last moth, but have combined his 21 and 22 update - mainly, because I ran out of time, but also because his bigger milestones are now a little bit more apart, and I think from now on, once he turns two, I will be doing less frequent, but maybe more detailed updates.

The good news is though that there is plenty to talk about today, because my little Alex has come on heaps and bounds since my last report. Firstly, there's the speech. While he isn't talking yet, he is slowly building his vocabulary. In addition to saying "Mummy", "Daddy" and "Bye bye", he can now also say "car", "cat", "Becky", "mine", "digger", "purple", "cheese" and "shoes", and he is very good at repeating anything and everything you say with the exact precise intonation - even down to whole melodies. The other day Becky was singing a Katy Perry song, and Alex was repeating the melody, and did that really well at that. In fact, he has said lots of other words as one-offs, however has not repeated them again, despite lots of encouragement, but I'm sure that he's storing them somewhere, deep down in his ever developing brain. I have a feeling that once he starts talking properly, he will also be a bit of a chatter box like his big sister.

He's so much more physical than Becky ever was. He is an absolute whirlwind, has so much energy from the moment he wakes up, and he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake, wherever he goes. He bashes and pulls things down, and if he wants to know what something is or does, he hits it first (much to my dismay; a couple of lamps, clocks and other paraphernalia have already been trashed). He also climbs on everything and anything, launches himself off everything, constantly climbs on me or John (or the sofa, the chairs, the tables, shelves ... ) and is generally super bashful.

It's quite hard work, a lot harder than it was with Becky in that respect, as you literally can't leave him out of sight for one second. He has no sense of danger or risk, and even when I get cross, he thinks it's funny. Everything is a game and fun to him, everything is playful, and he just does not see any boundaries. The naughty step is not working either - whereas with Becky it worked a treat! He just sits there, patiently, for as long as we put him there. He never tries to escape, which is good of him, but he also does not seem bothered, and he certainly doesn't learn a lesson. Hmm. This is a bit of a problem, I'll be honest, because how else do you teach him boundaries and discipline him when necessary?

I'll be the first to admit that he has me wrapped around his little finger though. I absolutely adore him, and when I look into his big, bright, blue eyes and his massive smile and giggle, I can't be cross for long. He is so tactile, too, and so cuddly. Again, so much more than Becky was at this stage - she was always a lot more independent - and he loves cuddling and kissing me. And I'm a sucker for it! Any opportunity for a cuddle, and I'm right there! He's just so lush.

His personality, too, is gorgeous. He is genuinely funny and hilarious - he is such a joker and clown, and he often has us all in stitches with stuff he "says" or the faces he pulls or the things he tries to do.
On a developmental note, he has started to show an interest and awareness of when he does or needs to do a poo; I hadn't even contemplated thinking about potty training him until much later. We potty trained Becky shortly after her second birthday, but with him being a boy and having heard that boys generally are behind girls in such matters, I didn't think this would be on the agenda until he is at least three. However, he is able to let me know when he's done a poo, and the other day at nursery he also did one and then went to one of the nursery girls and said "poo" and pointed at his bottom, and then went over to the potty and sat on it (albeit fully clothed, but it does show that he is aware of what the potty is for and can put two and two together). So whilst I don't intend to start with potty training in earnest yet, I might start encouraging more signs and seeing where it takes us. Not sure I like this though - another sign he is growing up, too fast for my liking, and I'm not sure I'm ready for this yet. But I can't keep him in nappies and small forever, can I. Or can I? *contemplating face*

He had his first hair cut a few weeks ago, and he instantly looked a lot older. He's lost his baby locks now, which I'm a bit sad about, but then again, he looks so so cute with his proper little cut. It's growing super fast though, so I think we will have to introduce regular visits to the barber - he won't mind, he was very fascinated with everything that was going on and the lady who cut his hair.

So that's it. My baby boy is fast heading for his second birthday - and I'm definitely not ready for that. I think I'm a bit in denial about that. I haven't even started thinking about a party or celebration of any kind - I just can't believe it's round the corner.

I often get asked / told that surely the older he is, the better / easier it gets. But I don't see it that way. The second time round, I didn't mind once the hardship of the early newborn days, the lack of sleep, the double challenge or two kids, the constantly being on call and all the rest of it. I've loved every second, and even though each new stage and each new age brings with it new, exciting times, I am also so sad that the baby days are well and truly over.

I wish I had a time capsule and could just press reverse or repeat and do it all again.

3 Jun 2016

My May 2016

The second half of May descended into chaos a little, as we are still undergoing major digging / landscaping work on our garden, and as if that wasn't enough, we also had some other house things going on, which just added to the general mayhem, and between work and the kids and life generally, there was very little time for anything else, so blogging has taken a bit of a backseat, unfortunately. I know I said it before, but I'm determined to get back on track - I just need to organise my time a little better (*she says optimistically*). But there's always something, isn't there? 

But hey, I digress. It's time for my highlights of last month: 

1. John and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. We have been together for nearly 17 years now, which is certainly quite an achievement - but mostly, makes me feel extremely old. How did that happen? Seems like just yesterday that I met him in the university student union! 

2. We made the most of the warm weather on the first May bank holiday and ventured out into the woods and a new adventure playground, which was lots of fun. 

3. Alex had his first hair cut, and he suddenly looks so grown up. Like a proper boy! And I'm not ashamed to admit that I kept a couple of his blond locks and put them in his memory box - like the soppy cow that I am! Does anyone else do that? 

4. I had the massive honour of being asked to be Godmother to my best friend's baby boy. It is so lovely, as she is my oldest and closest friend (despite the geographical distance!). She was also a witness at our wedding and is Godmother to Becky, and I am now the same to her on both counts, which is really special. They asked me in a really lovely way, too, by sending a picture of my friend's son (I've deliberately cropped him out of the picture for his privacy, btw) holding up a sign that asks in German: "Do you want to be my Godmother?". So cute. And how could I resist? We're going over there this month to the combined Church wedding and Christening  - Can. Not. Wait! 

5. Becky managed to raid her money box after we recently introduced pocket money and count all her pennies and pounds. And she had enough to buy herself her desired Pinkie Pie bedroom (she had changed her mind from the original Monster High Doll). She's now saving for her next toy. Go Becky! 

6. This month we've had illnesses on and off - I've had tonsillitis, Alex and Becky both stomach bugs, tonsillitis, too, random fevers and temperatures and so on. John seems to be the only one who is still standing tall for a change - but the bugs are sure out to get him, it's only a matter of time! *Evil laugh*

7. John and I went on a very rare date night. It's not often that we have a babysitter, but we have now found a really great one, one of Alex's favourite girls from nursery, so it's someone who we trust and know the kids love, too, so we are determined to make this a more regular thing. Because boy, did it feel lovely to have a nice meal and adult conversation (and stay out past 11pm, go us!) sans kids. 

8. The huge mountain of soil John has dug up in our garden. He is sifting through all the rocks and concrete that is underneath and in between the soil to level it all, ready for turfing. Even though we both hate gardening, this has become a real labour of love (hate?) and he's working really hard on it so that eventually we'll have a lovely garden to sit and play in. 

9. There's a little miniature train track in our village, run by a group of pensioners, which opens every Bank Holiday, so we went there this bank holiday just gone to check it out, as we'd never managed to before. And it was lovely, so very cute, and Becky and Alex both enjoyed the - very impressive - ride! 

The other big event that happened is that Nanny from Wales managed to visit us for a brief overnight pitstop. She normally is never able to, as she cares for John's Dad full time, but as he is still in hospital John picked her up one evening after visiting hours and drove her to ours, so she could see where and how we live and see the kids etc. It was lovely to have her over. I would have posted a picture, but something tells me she wouldn't be best pleased with me if I did, as she never likes pictures of herself, so I just stick to telling the tale instead. Because who wants to get on the wrong side of their mother-in-law, ey? 
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