20 Dec 2016

When we went to see Santa ... again

The kids with Becky's school "pet" Pecky, which she's taking everywhere, as it's her turn to write his diary. 
On Sunday we ventured out for yet another meet-up with Santa, visiting a zoological conservation project where Santa held residence in a very lovely and atmospheric yurt.

We had never actually managed to visit the place before, so it was as good a time as any to do so for the first time, when Santa was there. The kids were very excited; I’m still surprised that Alex is taking Santa in his stride and is neither particularly bothered, nor particularly scared of him, which is good, as Becky at his age was absolutely terrified of the big man, wherever we took her, and was always crying her eyes out if he even came near her.

As we’re approaching the final countdown to Christmas, it was nice to be out and about as a family and leave the pre-Christmas stress and craziness behind. We had a little wonder round the area and saw cheetahs, chimpanzees, wolves, reindeers, meerkats (my favourite!), mongoose lemurs and more, and then we stepped into the yurt, where Santa took time to chat to Becky (and Alex, though he kept wondering off and marvelling at the Christmas lights and decorations), who sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer” with and for him – very confidently, I must add. Maybe she will actually be a popstar when she’s older, which is her biggest dream right now!

It was a lovely day out, which we ended with a huge hot chocolate topped off with cream and marshmallows. I just love Christmas. Such a magical time for kids - big and small! 
Five more days to go, peeps!

From one raindeer to another.
Hiding in a woodland den.

I love this picture of Becky and John. They are best buddies.

Gratuitous shots of mongoose lemurs and a meerkat, because they are just so cute.
The kids meet the big man. 

18 Dec 2016

So My Little Girl is 6

So Becky turned six earlier this week. Six! I honestly don’t know how this happened. While she will always be my little girl, she is growing up so incredibly fast. Four years felt like a big milestone, like a departure from toddlerhood, and whilst five years also seemed like yet another step up, six feels on another level altogether (I guess I will say this every year, but it does feel so momentous every year!).

Everything, from her looks through her demeanour, her interests, hobbies to friendships and overall skills and abilities have developed so much over the past 12 months; a lot has obviously most certainly to do with school and the fact that she is now in Year 1, which seems to accelerate everything somehow. 

She is a bubbly and extroverted little girl, and she has lots of friends whom she socialises with regularly, and these friendships are getting stronger and stronger as time progresses. When we had her pyjama party last week, it became so obvious to me how many beautiful relationships she has formed with so many different girls, and each friendship has its own dynamic and foundation, which I think says a lot about the type of character and personality Becky has, and how open, adaptable and friendly she is as a person.

She loves going out on play dates or birthday parties and her social calendar is considerably more packed than mine - we’re at various celebrations or other social gatherings nearly every weekend, which she absolutely enjoys – especially dressing up in pink party dresses, getting her hair and nails done (by me), acessorising and so on! She’s a typical little big girl.

She’s so funny and has us in stitches most of the time; the way she says things or asks things – she’s very dramatic and a bit theatrical; in fact, I think she would do well at a stage school or theatre group or so, which I will have to look into (I wonder whom she's got that from *ahem*). She’s also very confident and chatty – our little chatterbox, as we call her, and even though she can drive us nuts by just never shutting up, we wouldn’t have her any other way. She’s so incredibly eloquent though – I marvel daily at the wealth of her vocabulary, the sophisticated words she often uses, her grasp of language generally (she can do a mean American accent, which is hilarious!) and how articulate she is for a 6-year-old.

She continues to learn and speak German, and even though English will always be her primary language and the one she uses most frequently and naturally, she has days where she puts real effort into speaking German back to me or consciously asks how you say something or other in German or how it's pronounced, which I think is great. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on her, but at the same time I am keen for her to be bilingual, so I’m trying to strike a balance between teaching and facilitating German, whilst also ensuring that we still function as a family unit and that John, who doesn’t speak German, is included in everything and doesn't miss bits of conversation or so. 

It was parents evening at Becky's school recently, and aside from the huge praise her teacher had for her academic achievements  - she said that Becky is doing really well with her reading and writing, as well as Maths (apparently she always asks to be given new Maths challenges, which I’m astonished about as I always hated Maths; one thing she definitely hasn't from me)  – she also said that she wished every one of her pupils was as enthusiastic as Becky; that Becky is always up for every new thing, never moans about not wanting to take part in something, always gives everything her best shot and will try and try with determination until she has mastered something, which I think are almost more important life skills and character traits than any other academic accomplishment. She also said that Becky is always kind and polite and treats everyone in the same respectful and friendly manner, and I can’t express the sense of pride I feel hearing this.

Lots of people frequently comment on what a lovely child Becky is - of course I know that, but I’m obviously biased, so it’s nice to hear it from others, too, especially teachers and her friends’ and peers’ parents etc.

She has always been confident and outgoing in her personality, but physically she had a tendency in the past to be a bit more timid and a little scared to push herself. This has really changed over the past year, and whilst she is still considered and careful in what she does, she has become a lot more daring and courageous, which is brilliant. She’s learned to ride a bike without stabilisers in the spring, and since the summer she has been learning karate and recently had her first grading and she's now a red belt. How awesome is that?

To me, Becky is perfect, and I love her more than she will ever know. She’s the funniest, kindest, cleverest and most beautiful girl I know – and best of all, she’s mine!


12 Dec 2016

Becky's 6th Birthday Pyjama Party

We held Becky’s 6th birthday party at the weekend. It was a pyjama party for a total of nine girls (one unfortunately couldn’t make it in the end) at our house, and I’ve been agonising over it and planning it for what seems like ages. I just wanted to make it as special for Becky as I possibly could. I think I just about pulled it off, and everyone had a good time (and the house only got trashed a little and I only needed one large glass of wine to recuperate!).

Last year I hired a village hall and a disco dance kids entertainer, but I wanted to do something different this year; firstly, because I’m a little wary of having to go bigger and better every year (I mean, if we’re going through such an effort and expense when they’re this little, how are we going to top it every year until they’re 18 or so?), but also because now that Becky is older, friendships have changed, progressed and evolved, and instead of having to invite huge heaps of kids from school just to cover everyone, there is now a clear gang of girls and strong friendships that have a lovely dynamic, which I hoped would work well in a smaller environment. And that was definitely the case.

Because Becky’s birthday is in December and it obviously gets dark very early, I thought a pyjama party would be perfect – cosy and comfy and girly and pink and all the fluffly attributes you can think of. Becky loved the idea, so we went ahead with it and send the invites out.

We decided to get everyone over from 4pm to 7pm (a long time, I know!) and do party games, disco dancing, manicures, glitter tattoos and watch a movie, and we did just that.

The girls were very excited from the moment I sent the invites out, and Becky didn’t stop talking about it for weeks, she was so looking forward to it. I must admit, as the anticipation was rising in the run-up, I did feel slightly nervous whether I could live up to all the girls’ expectations, but they seemed happy and like they had a lovely time, which was a big relief.

As a little gift on arrival, I had bought each girl matching fluffy socks and a glow stick to get them into the spirit of the evening. In my head I had the image that all the girls would wear the same cosy socks and find it funny -  I just didn’t make provisions for the fact that some girls were clearly quite attached to their own socks, and a couple politely declined the offer and insisted on wear their own, which still makes me chuckle. You can plan so much, you can pin so many Instagram worthy ideas, but you can never quite predict how it’s actually going to work out when you’re dealing with kids, and especially strong minded little girls. So about two thirds wore matching socks, and the others just wore their own, hehe (but they received the socks in their party bag anyway, so it’s all good). 

We started off with disco dancing, then played musical statues followed by pass the parcel and charades, which was really good fun. The girls were so brilliant, and such good sports, up for everything, and they were actually a real pleasure to have around.

We then stopped for some refreshments and to refuel before the second part of the party began. In terms of food, I went with the usual party favourites of mini pizzas, cocktail sausages, sausage rolls, crisps, jelly etc., but I also added a few girly and fun elements, like a cupcake fondue. I basically filled a muffin baking tray with icing, which Becky and I had coloured into pink and light blue (like Rainbow Dash, which was on Becky’s pyjamas), and a load of different sprinkles, hearts, butterflies, hundreds and thousands, popping candy etc. I also bought mini muffins (I think you’re supposed to use fairy cakes, but I found that mini muffins worked better, because of their domed shape). The girls then dipped the muffins into the icing and sprinkles they fancied and devoured the cupcakes. 

I also made some fruit skewers, which I had only really done to have a healthy option that looked nice – but it went down surprisingly great with the girls, who all had some. I also filled a candy jar with lots of rainbow coloured candy, and made some glitter jelly, which they also loved. Then they all sat down for a floor picnic and chatted and giggled while munching away. 

For the cake, I went with a very talented local bakery called Tesco’s (!), which delivered a fab My Little Pony Cake. I have given up on the idea of baking my own cake – I just don’t have the time, and also, even though I am a good baker, and the cakes taste nice, I am absolutely hopeless using Royal Icing, so the cakes I have tried to make in the past are always a visual disaster, so I avoided this altogether by just buying one.  Who cares – the girls certainly didn’t, they loved it. 

At this point I had planned to do some more party games, but I could tell that the girls were getting increasingly impatient for the movie, nail painting and glitter tattoo part of the evening, so we dimmed the lights, put on the movie, distributed the jelly and popcorn and started our little nail bar. (I had planned to do hot chocolate and marshmallows, too, but I got so caught up in the pampering of the girls, I completely forgot – ooops. But they didn’t even notice, I don’t think). 

I have to say, I think this was the girls’ favourite part, and if I ever do another party at home again, I will probably do the nails and glitter tattoo again, as it went down a treat and was a lovely activity to do with them. Each girl had pulled out a number from a little sac I had prepared, to keep things fair and square, and while they were waiting their turn, they were watching the movie and huddling together and cuddling up on the sofa, which was so sweet. When everyone had their glitter tattoos, we sang Happy Birthday to Becky and cut the cake, after which all the girls wanted some more glitter tattoos, so we went into round number 2 (and 3 for some).

I have to say that considering there were eight girls together, there were no arguments, nothing like that, everyone was so brilliant. I can’t get over what a lovely bunch of girlfriends Becky has. 
So, all in all, I think it went well. Juggling all activities and the girls on my own (John had gone out with Alex for the duration to keep him out of the way so he wouldn't annoy the girls) was quite full on, but in parts the three hours also went by really quickly. 

Did it get noisy and messy and chaotic at times? Of course it did, but that's to be expected and comes with the territory when you do a birthday party at home and the kids stuff their faces with E-numbers and ride on a sugar high. But I had made provisions for it; I had moved anything breakable from the living room, covered up our white wool rug with blankets - and that’s about it. Our ground floor area still has the laminate flooring and tiles in the kitchen that the previous owners have put in (we’re planning to install a nice wooden floor at some point) and our carpet on the stairs also needs replacing, so there wasn’t much to trash anyway and I was quite relaxed about glitter and sweet remnants that were stepped on, as well as any drinks and jelly spillages - you have to be. 

I think all the girls enjoyed themselves, and Becky loved having all her little friends over. That’s another year ticked off – until the next birthday party. 


4 Dec 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

This weekend we kicked off December and the festive period by visiting Santa on the Avon Valley Railway, which runs a traditional old steam train. We’d done this three years ago, when Becky was Alex’s age, and she loved it, and we knew that Alex, who is obsessed with trains and planes would love the experience, too. And Becky did anyway, because she absolutely loves Santa, Christmas and everything to do with it.

It was a cold, crisp day and, as expected, Alex absolutely loved the train. He kept going “choo choo” and he was bouncing up and down in his seat and looking out of the window, seeing the beautiful countryside go by. We picked a late afternoon slot, so it was slowly getting darker as we were doing the six mile round-trip, which only added to the festive atmosphere.

About 15 minutes into the journey, Santa’s helpers came to give everyone a mince pie and ginger biscuits, followed moments later by the big man himself. Becky was her usual chatty self, and straight away started telling Santa all sorts, whereas Alex wasn’t quite so sure what to make of that man with big white beard and the red get-up. He didn’t cry though, which we were chuffed about, he just looked a little suspiciously at him – though he was soon appeased by the lovely present he received.

Afterwards we drove over to Bath and visited the Christmas Market there. It’s such a beautiful city with such a gorgeous setting, and even though it was absolutely brimming with people – as we expected it would – it kind of only added to the atmosphere, as by that point it was already dark and all the Christmas lights, together with the lit up Cathedral culminated in a wonderful Christmas display.

All in all, it was a brilliant way to kick off December and get us straight into the Christmas Spirit. We have a few more Christmas trips and bits and bobs planned, and I can’t wait to spend this special time with my favourite people. We’re not going to Germany this year for Christmas, as we alternate each year; instead we will be staying at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then going to Wales to see John’s parents on Boxing Day and stay there for a few days. Whilst I love going home to Germany for Christmas, I’m also excited about the prospect of staying home, in our home, and making our very own Christmas traditions as a family of four. Just our little unit – which is also kinda special. 


My November 2016

So, we’re already well into December, and I hardly managed to post in November. In fact, I’ve hardly taken any pictures throughout the month, it appears, so this post is very very short, and I’m only really including it to keep the continuity when I look back on the year that was. 

Apart from the usual things that are going on, some of which I have already touched upon before, we spent most of last month moving, redecorating, painting, disassembling and reassembling furniture in what has been the much anticipated (at least by us) and talked about (on here) room swap extravaganza. It was so much work, and quite a lot of upheaval, much more than I expected, if I’m honest, and we spent literally every weekend and every spare minute on this.

It felt almost like moving house all over again – but now its done, and we are all in new bedrooms and office set-ups, with Becky now having her big Princess bedroom and Alex now being in his own little space.

I’m really pleased with how they all turned out – I’m still putting the finishing touches to them, like sourcing accessories etc, but I will do the grand reveal on here soon.

So whilst it’s been very very quiet on here during November, December will hopefully be a different story, as we have lots planned and going on, what with Christmas festivities and Becky’s birthday and party etc. I’m determined to make the kids’s Christmas as magical as I can - also because I feel a little bit guilty that November was a bit of a wash-out in terms of activities, because we were so all consumer by the renovations - so we have a few things planned and I’m looking forward enjoying this special time through the eyes of my two beautiful two-some and as a family. 
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