Sunday 31 May 2015

The Importance of Time

Recently Number One got a black mark from his teacher. Nothing unusual about that. It happens regularly for talking in class, dawdling with his exercises and all the usual misbehaviour of a bored six year old. Generally he doesn't take offence. But this time he was angry about it. 
Number One has a very strong sense of justice and if he feels he has been unjustly treated, he can get quite irate. The black mark he had been given was for leaving the classroom to look for his teacher. She hadn't come back to class after the bell rang at the end of lunchtime. He didn't see why that warranted a black mark.
My initial reaction was to defend the teacher. "You can't just go wandering round the school. The teacher will come back when she's ready".
Over the next week or so my mind kept returning to that conversation. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with what my son had done. If it had been my son who didn't return to the classroom after the bell had rung, there would have been trouble. The teacher would have gone to look for him and would have reminded him that when the bell rings, class resumes. He'd have got a black mark for that too. Why, I asked myself, should there be one rule for the teachers and another for the students? Isn't a child's time as valuable as a teacher's?
We are all familiar with bosses who think their time is worth more than ours or queue skippers who feel that for some reason or other the queing system doesn't apply to them. Most of us hate that behaviour, so why do we persist in treating our children's time as less important than ours? How often have you told your child to hurry up or to stop playing because you have something to do or somewhere to go?  I know I do it more often than I'd like to. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that we as parents take our children's precious time and use it whatever way we like and that's not really fair.
In a post I wrote back in February, I mentioned how I was reminded how easy it is say "yes" instead of "not now". The situation with Number One and his teacher has given me another jolt and made me think twice before telling my children we don't have time for whatever it is they want to do. Quite often we could make a bit of time. 
So the other morning when Number One wanted to listen to his Famous Five CD before school, I held back on saying "We don't have time for that before school". Instead I let him eat his cereal at the coffee table and listen to his CD. He listened as he ate and when the time came to switch it off, he didn't complain. He put on his shoes, jacket and schoolbag and went off to school happily, having used his pre-school half hour they way he wanted to.

The Twinkle Diaries

Thursday 28 May 2015

Happy Campers?

Number Two wants to go camping for his birthday. He always comes up with slightly odd birthday wishes, but we go along with them because he is such a wonderfully imaginative and adventurous boy. 

At long last, after a lot of humming and hawing, we've decided on where to go camping this summer - Frankisches Seenland - a lesser known area of Bavaria. Our spot is booked in the campsite on the edge of the lake. Our good friends are joining us. We've checked out the fishing possibilities. Now all we have to do is get our gear together and hope for good weather.

The first time we went camping with teh boys it was to a paintball event in France and it was a huge success, despite a huge amount of rain on the second night. So the bar is set fairly high now. Fingers crossed it'll be a success time time too, our first camping trip with three children

Last time round, we were pretty minimalist in terms of equipment - tent, sleeping bags, coolbox, a too-small fold up table - since we weren't sure if the boys would enjoy it and whether we'd ever go again. 

This time we'll be bringing a lot more. There's the canoe for a start. Plus wet gear, fishing gear, nappies, sun cream,.... Time to start a 'Pack for camping' list I think.

If you've any tips on camping with small kids, do let me know. I'd love to hear them. 

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Breath Holding Spells - Frightening but Harmless

Imagine this scenario. Your one year old falls off a small chair onto the rug in the livingroom. He starts to cry. You pick him up and console him. You look away for a moment and then notice he has stopped crying. Oh good, he's stopped crying, you think. You look back, about to tell him everything is fine, but then you notice his face is frozen in a crying expression, mouth wide open, lips turning blue, no sound coming out. You give him a gentle shake, call him name, "Come on love, cry, cry, CRY!". He close his eyes and his little body goes limp in your arms. Your visting friend calls emergency services. You are in a panic and then the baby wakes up again, is limp, crying and seems tired.  Ten minutes later the ambulance team arrives. The one year old is back to normal and is telling you he is hungry. You have no idea what just happened, but you do not want a re-run. The ambulance team checks him out, says it was probably a reaction to the fall and tell you to keep a good eye on him in case he's concussed. You feel terrible. If you'd kept a better eye on him he wouldn't have fallen and none of this would have happened.

Four months later you are in the supermarket buying a carton of milk for the bedtime bottles. Your 16 month old and your 3 year old are with you. You have just come back from a business trip. Your husband is on a business trip.  You are flying to Ireland alone with the two children the next evening. You have an evening of packing ahead of you. The 16 month old wants you to buy biscuits. You say no. He opens his mouth the cry but no sound comes out. His lips go blue, his eyes are rolling back in his head. The check out lady calls an ambulance. The child wakes up. You feel foolish. If you'd just let him have the biscuits none of this would have happened.

So what did happen? My son suffered from so-called breath holding spells. After the supermarket incident the ambulance team took us to the hospital where my son proceeded to have two more attacks. Luckily the doctors were there to witness it. At that stage they didn't make any diagnosis but kept us in for observation and performed several tests including an EEG the following day. Based on the results the pediatric neurologist diagnosed my son with breath holding spells. When I asked what we can do about that, I was told, in a nice way, there is nothing you can do. 

The general advice on breath holding spells is to ignore it, let it happen. What? What? How are you supposed to ignore it when your child literally goes blue in the face and faints? "The nurses say to blow into the child's face but I don't know if that really helps" the neurologist said. "Eventually he'll grow out of it". Right, we'll just wait it out so, is that it? I thought to myself. That is what we had to do, frightening though it was. By the time he was two, the spells had passed and haven't returned. 

The good news is that these spells don't seem to have any lasting effects. Blowing in the child's face does help. It startles the child and seems to snap them out of it, if you catch them in time.

Son Number Three, at the age of 8 months, has started these spells now, so it seems I have another few years of it ahead of me. I am calmer now since I know what is happening and that it will pass, but it still makes me a bit panicky when I see that crying face with no sound. Sometimes the sound of a crying baby is a much better thing than no sound at all.

Have you experienced this? What helped your child?

My Chair Addiction

I'll just come right out and say it: I am addicted to chairs. Well, to salvaging chairs really. The Bavarian is going to lose the plot some day if this continues. But I fear it will.  

Only the other morning he had to talk me out of picking up another. Luckily for him, he was driving. If I had been, I would have stopped the car for a snoop around. He spotted my glance veering to the kerb where someone was obviously clearing out their cellar. "No. We don't need it. We've no room for another chair". He put his foot down this time and I managed to cope. It was raining after all and the chair wasn't anything special. 

But I have gathered some beauties over the past few years. It all began with my blue Thonet chair. This is one of my absolute favourites. I bought it at a flea market for €1 in 2006 along with its twin. Their rattan seats were burst in the middle and needed replacing. I severly underestimated what it would cost to repair and at the time couldn't afford to have it repaired by hand. Naively I assumed that buying ready-woven rattan would save me money and be easy to attach to the chair. I was a fool. The ready-woven rattan was not the answer. 
The Bavarian tried and tried to get me to part with the two broken chairs. But I had fallen for them badly and insisted on keeping them. We moved flat in 2008 and the chairs came with us. We moved to our house in 2010 and the chairs came with us. Finally, in the summer of 2011, one of the chairs got sanded down, given a wooden seat and a few coats of smokey blue paint. It is very fragile and I often find myself sitting on it when guest are here for fear that someone who doesn't apprciate its fragility will plonk himself down on it and crush my poor darling (oh yes, and hurt themselves too. That wouldn't be nice, no). 

The other Thonet chair is in the guest room having suffered a botched atttempt at re-doing the rattan seat. I hope someday to be able treat him to being repaired by a professional.

This red chair was grubby and covered in dust and cobwebs when I spotted it on the side of the road but I knew it had potential. As I was taking my "before" photos with the intention of renovating it, I had a closer look and found that all it needed was a good clean. The paint wasn't even chipped. Four years later it is still going strong and is currently Number One's favourite chair.

The pale grey chair here on the right is actually one The Bavarian himself brought home for me. A true act of love. He spotted it left out for the rubbish collection when he was on his way home from work one day. It was dark brown and covered in paint splotches, having presumably been used by someone to stand on while painting a ceiling. Some paint stripper, a good sanding and a couplpe of coats of pale grey paint later, it is one of our family favourites. It is a really solid, comfortable chair to sit on.

Each of the three plain wooden Ikea chairs in the photo above have been retired from service and a range of salvaged, renovated chairs have taken their place. The table too has been replaced with a flea market find.

 This armchair is another family favourite. Just look st the size of it! It is so cosy and comfortable. As soon as you sit down on it, you long for a cosy fire, a good book and the sound of rain pelting against the windosws. On the rare occasions when I feel I can just sit and do nothing, this is where I sit.  
It has been cleaned but is in need of a new cover. I find this one quite ugly but I still haven't decided on a fabric. Our siting room is so mismatched that it doesn't really matter that this chair goes with nothing. The sofa needs re-covering too, so I am hoping to match up the two of them - one uni-coloured and one patterned. 

The dining room chair in the photo below was yet another salvaged item. It was in bad need of sanding and polishing and the cushion was way past its best. This is what it looks like now. I chose a fabric which fits in well with the colour scheme in our bedroom. The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the light in our room is not great, unfortunately. 

I'll be posting a tutorial soon on how to revive a tired old chair and this is the one I used for the photos.
The original cushion

I'm not quite sure where this addiction of mine will end. It would be wonderful to have the resources to give up the day job and spend my days refurbishing. Who knows, maybe one day. 
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Tuesday 26 May 2015

Sew-Your-Own Card Tutorial

I've joined up with to bring you a tutorial on one of my favourite crafts, sewing machine embroidery. Click here to get view the full tutorial. 

I'll be sharing some more elaborate designs soon, so check back in a few days to see how creative you can get with sewing machine embroidery.

Monday 25 May 2015

Our Trip to Playmobil Fun Park - A Review

For a couple of years we've been promising the children that we'll visit Playmobil Fun Park in Zirnsdorf, Germany, just ourside of Nuremberg. At the weekend we finally went. 

Now, I am not an amusement park person, never was and never will be. But I can honestly say that this was fun for all the family. We spent seven hours in the park and would have stayed longer if we hadn't been exhausted by all the excitement.

From a quarry to a knights' castle to a lake with a huge pirate ship, from dinosaurs to the wild west, there is something for everyone. As well as those main attractions, there are playgrounds, cafes, kiosks, a beer garden, a Playmobil discount shop and an indoor play centre and climbing garden, so even if it rains, you can still have a good day out.

We were so impressed, we even made a couple of  little videos for you!

Opening Times & Admission Fees:
The park is open daily from 9am till 7pm and costs €10 per person. Children under 3 years of age have free entry. 

Age Group:
Our children are under 1, almost 5 and almost 7 and there was something to suit each of them. I would say 2-10 years is the age bracket that the park is best suited to. For parents who like to join in on the fun or who have clingy children who need some encouragement to start playing, it is absolutely no problem. The Bavarian and I had a ball playing with the kids, especially at the tree house, the castle and the pirate ship. 

Family Friendliness
Everything is family-friendly. I was impressed with Centre Parcs but Playmobil Fun Park really topped that. 
On admission each child is given an armband that you write their name and your mobile number on in case they get lost. The speaker system throughout the park is good and we heard several announcements for parents to come and pick their lost children up. There were staff members readily available all over the park to answer questions or help if a child got lost. (Ours didn't, thankfully). Plus there were signposts at every junction to show the way to the various activities, cafes, etc. You really cannot go wrong there. 

There are plenty of toilets around the park, so you don't have to go far when your child inevitably needs to wee. They have special low down toilets and wash hand basins for the children. Everything was spotlessly clean. But what really amazed us was that there were tumble dryers where you can dry your clothes if the children get wet in one of the water features. On top of that you can hire out spare clothes from the information centre to keep your little ones clothed while their clothes are in the dryer. What an inspired idea! 

Towards the end of the day The Bavarian had a chat with a nice lady from the information desk. We wanted to let her know that we'd noticed that the beers were from local breweries and the staff were mostly local too. We liked the philosophy. According to the lady, it is a Playmobil policy to keep things down to earth and accessible for everyone. That means there are plenty of picnic areas for those who want to bring their own food and drink. For those who want to purchase food and drink at the park, the prices are kept at a normal level (around €2.30 for a coffee, €4.50 for a pork chop in a roll, around €2.50 for a slice of cake, ice-creams and soft drinks cost the same as at a regular shop). In addition, your entrance fee covers pretty much all of the activities. The only money we spent on top of the €10 per person entry was for ice-cream, coffees and lunch. We brought water, apples and biscuits for snacks for the children. 

What to bring and when to visit:
We visited on a Saturday at the beginning of the Whit holidays when some parts of Germany start two weeks off school. There were plenty of visitors to the park, but it didn't seem overly busy or crowded. We didn't have to queue for anything and we got a parking space in one of several multi-story car parks next to the entrance gates (€4 date rate for parking).
As well as water and snacks, we brought wellies, rain coats and waterproof trousers for the boys. They only used the waterproof trousers on the boating lake and they did need them there. We saw a lot of children get out of the peddle boats with wet bums and legs from the splashes. At the raft pond where the pirate ship is moored we didn't bother with the waterproofs. If they fell in, they'd have been soaked to the skin anyway. The water was only 60cm deep and there are life jackets available, so we weren't too worried about anything happening to them. We were with them all the time anyway. 
There is plenty of walking to be done if you want to see everything, but there are no long stretches at a go. I would recommend bringing a buggy if your children are three or under. Our older two are too big for a buggy but they were ehausted by the end of the day from the excitement and action. 

The Verdict:
All in all, it was a brilliant day out. Every one of us had plenty of fun and we would all go again. I would consider it good value for money, especially considering that you can bring your own food and drink. I am quite sure this was not our final visit.

[This trip was entirely funded by me. There was no sponsorship involved. All opinions are my own and those of my family].

Ours Is The House Where....

Ours is the house where the floor is covered in a fine layer of sand but the beach is a seven hour drive away.
Ours is the house where stalks of rhubarb double as swords and saucepan lids as shields.
Ours is the house where chicken drumsticks are held by the bone to be eaten the way knights do at a feast.
Ours is the house where a pram is a battering ram and a baby becomes Sir Baby the Knight.
Ours is the house where a soother clip is used as a mace.
Ours is the house where the big boys are storm troopers and the baby is Darth Baby.
Ours is the house where every surface is strewn with Lego and hoovering is a tricky business.
Ours is the house where the bath get used as much for sailing pirate ships as it does for bathing grubby boys.
Ours is the house where wedges of tomato become viking ships with cucumber sails.
Ours is the house where bedtime stories of dragons, knights and sea monsters get made up and told in gory detail.
Ours is the house where stones and shells are kept like treasures in little boxes.
Ours is the house where imaginations run wild.
Ours is the house where three boys live.

Mums' Days

And then the fun began...

Playmobil Fun Park - A Few Impressions

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of the fun to be had at Playmobil Fun Park. I'll be posting a full review later today.

Friday 22 May 2015

The Untidiest Room In The House

I threatened a while back to write this post. I was joking at the time. But the more I looked around me, the more I noticed that there is tough competition for this title.  We have a kitchen, a livingroom/playroom, four bedrooms and two bathrooms plus a cellar that I try to avoid because of the piles of needing-to-be-sorted-out stuff that have gathered there. 

After much deliberation, the title of untidiest room in the house goes to....[drumroll please]...the master bedroom. For once the children cannot be blamed for the mess, at least not directly. It would be nice to think that two grown adults could keep one room clean between them, but sadly no.

Let's quickly take a look back in time to when we had a toddler and were in the process of buying a house. Oh, the thought we put into the colour of the walls,  how to arrange the furniture in our room, the effort I made to decorate the room in such a way that it was tranquil but low maintenance!

Four years and two more children later, it is a different story. Let's take a moment to appreciate the fine layer of dust on all glossy surfaces. The attention to detail here is immense. The dust has been allowed to settle to perfection, giving the impression that the room hasn't been used in several years, despite being inhabited permaently. 

If we were to look under the bed, what might we find there? A long lost soother perhaps? Maybe some socks encased in a soft greyish white cloud of dust mixed with stray feathers from the pillows?  

To the untrained eye, the carefully chosen narrow dressing table could easily be confused with an ironing board, piled high as it is with clean but crumpled laundry.

As for the not-so-clean clothes, they are artfully draped over chairs, hooks and bedposts - handy as padding for when Number Three pulls himself up to stand.

It doesn't look likely that this disaster area will change any time soon. By 8am the door is closed on it and we can ignore what lies behind it until nighttime when we fall into bed, not even seeing the mess that surrounds us. 

Friday Frolics

Thursday 21 May 2015

If you're looking for me, I'll be in the shed!

If you're looking for me anytime soon, I'll be in the shed with a sander in one hand and a jar of paint stripper in the other. There's a lot of restoration work to be done round here before Number Three turns one at the end of the summer. 

I've been hoarding some salvaged stuff and flea market finds so that I can make him some hierloom-looking presents for his first birthday. 

We have had the rocking horse since Number Two was a baby. It was put out for the bin by someone with no sense of nostalgia at all. At least that's what I think. I mean how could you dump this gorgeous little fella? 

While Number Two still fit into it, I hadn't the time to do it up and once he grew out of it, poor horsey was sent to the cellar and forgotten about. He very nearly got taken to a flea market to be sold, but we hadn't the heart to do it when it came down to it. 

So, today I stripped off the plastic seat cover and the old, rotten padding and then began sanding the flaky varnish off. I also put paint stripper on the face (God that sounds awful. I feel horrible just typing that sentence) and sawed off the plastic handles. Operation restoration has begun in ernest.

Number Three's bedroom is decorated in greens and white, so I want to go with something that will fit in with that when I finally get round to painting the rocking horse. I think I may go for a medium grey with white patches, a darker grey mane and a green bridle.  Hmm, I feel a mood board coming on. 

Part two of the birthday present is this little toy shop. I really should have put something into the photo to show the scale of it. Size-wise, this is made for toddlers to stand at and play shop. It is from the 1950s, according to the family I bought it from. They only wanted €10 for it. I was thrilled, especially when I saw that the clock actually works. I kept smiling to myself this morning in the garden every time I heard the ticking when I switched the sander off.

Colour-wise I am not sure yet what I will go for. I definitely need to look around for some inspiration. I am considering painting the background a darker colour and the shelves themselves a lighter colour and I will probably add some text to the front panel. It seems a bit bare to me as it is now.

I am so pleased to finally have found the time to get started on these projects. For me, the first blow is half the battle. Once I get started on a project, I usually manage to keep up the momentum till the end.  

As I said, I'm still undecided on the final look of both pieces. I'd love to hear your ideas, if you'd care to share.

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