You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


2 Comments

Trying to be serious in the face of a toddler…

This week as the third birthday draws ever nearer I have found myself being tested more and more by my little girl. The problem is that I am starting to get major fits of the giggles as her actions get more and more common.

The table manners have gone seriously downhill recently when my little clown (who is normally a very neat and tidy eater) starts to play up. I think she was born with a natural gift for comic timing because normally I am pretty strict on table manners and find most bad behaviour at the table pretty disgusting. Unfortunately this little girl is starting to get us on a regular basis with her mix of innocence and giant cheeky grins leaving all the adults at the table chuckling behind their napkins while we take it in turns to scold.

Yesterday my little girl got so upset, due to not having the right toy car, she started to scream (fake sobs I might add) for Teddy. Said Teddy was all of 3cm away from her outstretched fingers when spread eagled on the floor. Unfortunately she had lost the ability to crawl, walk or otherwise shuffle in order to move and grab him. This episode continued all of 5 minutes while Granny and myself watched wondering if we should end the tantrum by nudging Teddy the 3cm distance closer. Granny took pity first but not before teddy had to lie stretching out to E on the ground making grunts of effort too in order to get closer to her.

I have also had my eyebrows and hair styled a few times this week by one little girl who insists that eyebrows should be fluffed up and hair should be a mess in order to look “pretty”. Often this is when I am holding her in place on the loo and so I can’t get away without risking her falling in. Now after about the 3rd “No!” I just start cracking up now making me even less authoritative.

Another new favourite is to pin me down and lick my nose until she gets bored or I am giggling too much to even respond.

The worst incident had to be during one of our walks when I was trying to deal with a toddling M (he’s just started walking) and could see that E’s trousers were starting to fall down. I call over to E asking her to pull up her trousers and instead she pulls them off along with her knickers and goes for a little run. Trying to run after her with M in arms and not collapse in fits of laughter was probably one of my toughest moments as a mum yet.

M has caught on the game too recently chucking toys down the stairwell for attention until I come to stop him, at which point he looks at me with arm outstretched through the bars and lets go of the current toy in his hand. 

“plink, plink, plonk, crash….”

This is all then followed by a big grin and he scampers away giggling as fast as he can go.

Some of it is quite innocent like the fact that E now wants to do things like a grownup. She was given her juice in a plastic wine glass the other day and proceeded to sniff and swirl it around before drinking (once again I swear we don’t actually drink that much!). But other times it is the phrases that come out of her mouth such as 

“Mummy! M is all dribbley; he’s a such a state.”

All of this along with the nonsensical comments and “why?” questions and I feel like I’m going mad.

I mean her imagination has gone into overdrive meaning we have to stop mid walk sometimes to have an imaginary phone conversation on an imaginary phone generally recapping the past few hours with any absent friends or family members.

Oh help me! My house is being taken over my monkeys and I’ve lost all self control. I guess its better to laugh than cry.

 Happy Mothers’ Day!

20140511-073328.jpg

Advertisements


2 Comments

Jinxed

Do you ever feel you are being punished for something?

I stop breastfeeding and guess what happens? My usually very healthy family falls ill! Well except me… I think my immune system was perhaps supporting everyone. Or maybe at least blocking the littlest midget from being a source of illness.

Do I feel guilty? Yes. Did I crack and breastfeed again? Yes, but only once for a little boost.

We spent Sunday in emergency after M went really drowsy despite the drugs for fever. We now have antibiotics for ear infections and ibuprofen to combat the inflammation and fevers.

It has therefore been a pretty quiet in this household over the past few days. Every time I try to do an outing just for some fresh air the fevers spike and then I just end up tucking M back in for yet another nap or E in with the iPad or a book.

M is currently sleeping 16 hours a day minimum while E refuses to sleep more than 12 despite being exhausted. I am knackered too dealing with the extreme moods of an overtired yet bored two-nager.

I am, however, learning new techniques of easy play for my usually totally boisterous pair involving den making and basic drawing or painting as they get slowly better.

So if you wonder what black hole I have fallen down now you know. Off to the docs again this morning. Let’s hope we get some good news.

Wrap up warm and take care. Spring is nearly here!


2 Comments

Green Houses

Nope, not another gardening post but rather I’m going to tell you about the concept of Les Maisons Vertes.

The original Maison Verte was created by Françoise Dolto, a psychoanalyst, and his team in Paris in 1979. Based on his experiences treating children he decided to create a centre where parents and children would be welcomed. The centre would be the ideal place to talk through issues and general worries and thus solving or preventing further problems.

“The important thing is that the child should feel secure and be autonomous as early as possible.
The child needs to be sure of himself, free to explore, and left to his own devices to test his abilities with his peers”

(Françoise Dolto, Les étapes majeures de l’enfance)

The Centres are a space to listen and to chat, but also to meet and relax with other children and adults.

There are currently about 15 or so Maison Vertes in Switzerland as well as others in France, Belgium, Spain, Russia, Japan and potentially others I haven’t heard of. Despite a few differences they all stick to similar principles:

  • All are open a number of half days a week.
  • They welcome young children (0-3/6 year olds) accompanied by one or two adults.
  • You pitch up, without reservation, whenever you like.
  • They are all run on an anonymous basis (only the child’s name is written on the board at the entrance).
  • They are free although a symbolic donation is asked of around 3 francs.
  • The team who work there rotate on a regular basis to it is not them you become attached to but rather the place.

There are certain basic rules too:

  • All children must eat and drink in the designated area.
  • All wheeled vehicles must stay in the marked zone.
  • Any children playing with water (or other messy activity) must wear an apron.

We actually have two in Neuchâtel: one in La Chaux-de-Fonds and one in Neuchâtel town. Our local one is called La Courte Echelle in Neuchâtel town on Fausses-Brayes. It is open Mondays and Tuesdays 14:30 to 17:30, and 8:45 to 11:45 Wednesdays and Thursdays.

IMG_9533

While I despair at the lack of things for young children here in Neuchâtel this really is truly dedicated to them and parents like myself. I love the international aspect of these centres. When you walk into one you will almost certainly hear 2 or more languages being spoken. Sometimes it is simply Swiss languages from different regions but regularly enough there will be other English speakers often not from the UK or the States but rather from Asia or Africa. Who would’ve thought in small town Neuchâtel?

It is a bit like going to someone, who has lots of really cool toys’, house (that is the vibe you get). It is all very relaxed with sofas around the place for parents to sit and chat, or you can sit and have your tea (quatre heures as the Swiss call it) at a table equipped with highchairs. They have free sirup for the kids and you can buy a drink for yourself or bring your own. The drinks are really not expensive though if you do fancy a hot drink (the charge is simply to cover their costs).

la courte echelle

There is a cosy sitting room area too with books and playmats which is idea for young babies. I used to go and sit with M when he was very small (able to breastfeed him discretely with the nursing pillows available) and E would run off and play with the other children of her age.

feeling at home

We often spend a fair bit of time in the soft play room which is always good fun. M spend some time pushing around a giant ball – he’s really starting to get there with the walking. It won’t be long now!

IMG_9540

Then we went to go and play with the cars in the “wheeled vehicle room”. All cars, tractors and bikes must stay in this room at all time. Surprisingly the kids obey the rules well I guess because everyone else is doing the same. It was rather soothing being in there with a little African boy while his Mummy sang to him and M bounced up and down on his tractor.

IMG_9538

It is fairly adaptive for most ages; La Courte Echelle is for 0-5 year olds. E tends to spend an inordinate amount of time playing with the water toys, making cakes out of Playdough or making tea for all the dolls in the kitchen but M was far more interested in the cars this time round.

I never feel hard done by parting with my 3CHF donation when we go and often I give a bit more if I can to support the cause. They suggest a donation of 3CHF but it is means dependant and generally symbolic – if you can’t afford it or haven’t got money with you you can pay it another time. That’s the Swiss for you. I expect in anywhere else in the world this service would probably get abused and then it would have to close. La Courte Echelle has been running now for 15 years and I hope it continues to do so for much longer.


12 Comments

I Love Birthdays!

Well to clarify: I love throwing birthday parties, especially for my children.

Today we had my son’s first birthday party. As with my Daughter’s first Birthday we chose his favourite toy as the theme; everything was based upon his Ewan (a little fluffy purple sheep which plays calming womb sounds and helps him to sleep).

I had so much fun with the planning as I have only ever seen one other Ewan cake, and have never seen a sheep themed party. I decided to stay simple on the colour scheme with white, purple and green.

In planning it was important to take into account the fact we would have many different aged children attending. We needed a space for babies where they could amuse themselves crawling about. As the whole party was about sheep we created them out of balloons by sticking on faces (with googly eyes) and 4 legs with double sided sticky tape.

I then proceeded to make them a pen out of an old cardboard box. This was pretty simple:

  1. Cut out 8 long slats and 24 short ones out of cardboard
  2. Stick 2 long slats and 6 short ones together with glue to create each side
  3. Then jigsaw them together by cutting upward slits on the left hand ends of the horizontal slats and and downward slits on the right hand ends
  4. Taaadaaa 4 sided pen

The sheep pen baby area was completed with some grass effect stuck on the windows (cut out finger painted paper), a picnic on a bathmat lawn, our very own sheep dog and some of you might recognise our flowers from our bee post.

sheep pen

As it was tea time we didn’t go too overboard on the food. Obviously cake is a necessity and its nice to have a mix of fruit and sweets for young children plus some savoury snacks for the adults. Our menu consisted of: birthday cake, cake pops (I couldn’t resist the idea even though I’ve never tried them before), blueberries (purple), black grapes (purple again), purple smarties, sheep-esque marshmallows, purple potato crisps, sausages (everyone loves sausages), and breadsticks (M’s favourite).

birthday spread

I loved doing the cake pops. They were super easy once you know the tricks. Let me outline the bits you need to watch out for:

  1. Once you have crumbled your cakes and are adding the buttercream (or other frosting) add the minimum you can and still make it bind into balls. This stops them being too stodgy.
  2. When you are sticking the sticks in to the balls coat them in your covering (I used white chocolate as I have been advised that this is way easier than candy melts).
  3. Once you have the sticks in your balls pop them in the freezer for 20 minutes before coating them so that they are nice and solid and the stick is well stuck!
  4. Don’t rush to stick the accessories on as they will just slide off if the coating isn’t partially set.
  5. You can use upside down egg cartons to dry your cake pops if you don’t have polystyrene foam. Just make a hole in each egg section with a skewer for your cake pop stick.

Sheep pops

I think it was the actual cake which caused me the most bother although I was certainly happiest with the results out of all my creations to this date. It was only because I didn’t like the first recipe I tried and had to scale up my recipe and then try to figure out how much by and how long it would end up needing in the oven. I got there eventually though.

My recipe for a GIANT Victoria Sponge (which fills half a football):

  • 460g softened butter
  • 460g caster sugar
  • 8 beaten eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 460g self-raising flour

Preheat fan oven to 150°C.
Grease the cake tin.
Mix the butter till it is nice and fluffy and add the sugar.
Beat until the whole mixture is light and then very, very slowly add the eggs.
The mixture will curdle if you add the eggs too quickly or if they are cold. (You can add a tablespoon of flour if it looks like it is starting to split to try and save it).
Add the vanilla once all the egg is incorporated and then fold in the flour.
Bake in oven for 2 hours 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Once it was baked and cooled I cut it in half and filled it with Cherry Jam (more purple) and buttercream and then coated it in buttercream in order to stick on my topping of halved marshmallows. The head and legs were made out of fondant icing (the ears were helped to stay in place with a couple of cocktail sticks).

While preparing this cake I feel like I made a major discovery! I don’t know about you but whenever I apply buttercream I end up with half my cake surface sticking to the frosting on the knife rather than the cake. Ready to destroy my cake in frustration I took a break and thought over the dilemma. Frosting is mainly butter (fat). What repels fat? Water! Aha! I wet the knife and suddenly everything was simples. My cake looked just like one of those example cakes in the Debbie Brown books. Why does noone tell you this?

I love my cake if only for the fact that it felt so easy to decorate for once!

sheep cake

And also because M was absolutely thrilled with it. I don’t think we managed to capture it all in the photos but here is when he first set eyes on it.

Is that for me

E spent the whole evening before bed trying to pick up all the balloons that we had taken down. Try to spot the 2 year old:

Trying to pick up all the balloons

Potentially the only let down was my glass marker idea which didn’t really take off but I can understand it was a little fussy. Hope you like my homemade stickers and party bags in the background though.

cups

All in all a very successful party I’d say.

Hope you have enjoyed your weekends too.


4 Comments

Calling it quits

My little boy turns one tomorrow and I’m still breastfeeding.

birthday

He has been a struggle to breastfeed from day one: he slept the first 24 hours, waking to feed only briefly 3 times. However, he gained weight after the third day and fulfilled the minimum feeding requirements. I was told not to worry, your body is on automatic second time round, and that there is very little you can do wrong; “all will be fine”.

My daughter just fed and fed from the word go. She would latch on and stay put. E woke every two hours for a feed till she was 4 months. It was a miracle when at 6 months she slept 6 hours straight! M was already basically sleeping a full night by then. He never woke to feed and while my initial milk supply was great it soon started to dwindle.

When we weaned at 6 months we did baby led weaning (BLW). This meant we went at his rhythm giving him the same as us minus any salt. M didn’t start slow like his sister but tried to eat full meals immediately. He has always had great hand eye coordination and so it wasn’t much of an issue apart from the fact M decided he didn’t really want the milk anymore.

I felt like I was forcing the milk on him and then he decided to make things even more difficult: he would only eat in a lying down position in a darkened room. Ok, I know I shouldn’t have put up with it but I was so worried about him not feeding I didn’t want to push my luck.

The paediatrician seemed happy with him at his 9 month check and just told me to make sure he was getting his calcium through other sources. Up to then I had been pumping like crazy to maintain supply and also to give him some milk for his time at crèche.

Both my kids do some time in daycare despite me being a stay at home mum. We have a few good reasons for this:

  1. This is how we fought the jealousy aspect with my daughter. Giving her a day with mummy suddenly stopped the tantrums and nasty behaviour towards her brother. I also love having the one on one time with both kids.
  2. It gives our children the opportunity to play with their peers. There aren’t really that many activities you can do with your children where they can play with other kids here. Being a stay at home mum is pretty rare (most mums work at least part time) meaning most kids are in crèche so there isn’t a big enough demand for lots of play groups.
  3. Crèche is where our children speak French. We have a strict English only house as is often the case with those trying to keep their mother tongue pure in a foreign speaking country. Establishing these zones will hopefully mean that our children will muddle their languages less and get a real foot in anglophone culture before they start full time school and get froggied.

So, to up his calcium, I started introducing baby yoghurts and then some formula.

Tomorrow as he turns one M is in theory fully weaned and can have cows’ milk. I should be proud of getting to a year but actually I feel sad and disappointed. I fed E up to 16 months and it felt natural to stop. With M I feel like I’ve been probably forcing it for a while but I haven’t done the same for him that I did for his sister (like with so many other things). Its like I’ve let him down and thus let myself down.

Doubts enter my head: maybe it’s because he took a bottle straight away (E only took one at 10 months); maybe it’s because we offered a bottle too early; maybe I didn’t feed him enough in the first few days… On the other hand my logical side is telling me that I’ve done great. I don’t frown on anyone who has stopped after two weeks deciding its not for them so why am I giving myself a tough time?

I’m totally ready to stop and yet not. I’d love to see out the winter but then I’m really not producing enough anymore for my growing boy. I put him down tonight with yet another struggle to give him any breast milk with the intention that that was my last feed.

Have any of you had such different children leading to similar parenting dilemmas?


4 Comments

Abuse!

Sometimes things get a bit silly here but the kids seem to enjoy it so I tend to just get egged on.

I was attempting to quickly prepare dinner for some guests this weekend while at the same time as making the kids’ dinner. As all mums of small children will know this is never allowed so we develop distraction tactics.

M was giving me the “I’m so hungry, I’m fading away” chat so I slipped him a goldfish nibble. Total mistake! Was he content with just one? No! Soon I had something small and now very dribbly trying to climb my leg and I was unable to move. I caved and gave him another which in turn gave me some short lived respite until it was swallowed.

goldfish

Cue brainwave: I started to lay the goldfish out in a line. Not only would M have to move to eat (taking up more time) but I could also lead him anywhere by means of goldfish bribery.

My initial line went round the kitchen island, just as a improvised obstacle course, to test my theory. Then we took a turn into the hallway towards the kids playroom/study where E was playing happily. It worked as a giggling M got gradually closer to his toys and away from the dangerous kitchen.

M trail

E soon came out to see what all the giggling was about and shrieked in delight at the goldfish trail (starting to eat her way along it too).

Ok, I know it is probably some mums’ worst nightmare (their kids eating off the floor) but we are a pet-free and shoe-free house and they had good fun.

Disclaimers:

  • The floor was very clean pre the goldfish crumbs explosion.
  • No children were harmed despite the abuse during this improvised activity. In fact maybe their immune systems were improved.


Leave a comment

Westside

Nope, I haven’t gone all Rap on you. This is the name of one of Switzerland’s biggest (albeit not saying much) shopping centres. It is really easy to find, just off the ring road of Bern (our capital city), and only 40 minutes drive from Neuchâtel!

We decided to spend our Saturday at Westside doing a bit of shopping, grab a nice meal and most importantly have a good old splash at Bernaqua Water Park.

E at the entrance

It was our first trip to Bernaqua, as M has been too small really up until now, but we had a brilliant time. Apparently they have 18 different indoor and outdoor pools but I think we only went in half of them and we managed to spend about 2 hours there which was plenty for the kids. All the pools are all different temperatures with different attractions and suitable for varying ages.

Our highlights were the kid’s pool area which included a shallow pool (The Jungle) with 2 small slides and various jets and showers and a Pirate ship (Takatiki) complete with cannons that you could use to shoot water at each other. And the raspberry pool (as E termed it) where jets shot up from the floor making raspberry-esque bubbles.

There was also a cinema-style pool (Solaqua) which was filled with salt water and soft lighting showing nature documentaries or cartoons. I love swimming outside when its cold like in a lot of the thermal baths you find in Switzerland. Here they had their “Fresh Water Pool” which you got into in the warmth inside but it lead you outside where they had bubble seats and benches, hot tub, waterfall, stream channel, various massage jets.

We didn’t try out the steam room or the 18°C plunge pool with the kids but we did take it in turns to go down the Canyon D’eaux Vives waterslide! It really threw you about which was good fun and you could collect rubber rings or boats to take down it from the bottom. I can’t wait for the kids to be old enough but we have a few more years yet. They have 3 more waterslides that we didn’t see, one of which you can take kids down accompanied from 4 years, but I expect it is only open in warmer weather. I think we had plenty enough to keep us busy though.

I really enjoyed the fact that the whole place was cash free including the lockers. You paid your entry and then were given a wristband and you simply had to pay the balance on leaving. This made the whole experience at the café, and dealing with any supplementary hours, so much easier.

I should probably mention that the place is not only a water park but also a Spa and a Gym. They also run Aqua fitness classes, baby and children’s swimming classes. I would really like to go back and test their Roman-Irish baths in the Spa and maybe get one of their “Wellness Formulas”.

Roman-Irish Baths

Wishful thinking? It does seem possible for a mum though (funds permitting) as they have a crèche service in partneship with Kinderland just opposite. Kinderland is an indoor play area consisting of 300m2 of fun: from climbing to building or even painting. They take 0 to 8 year olds for a maximum of 4 hours at 3 francs an hour.

kinderland

I will be back at some point that’s for sure. It’s a great activity for any time of year and guess what the Westside centre has its own Holiday Inn so if you are popping through your could stay there on route to wherever you are headed.