Category Archives: Isabella Daisy

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Ski girls

Our German daughter

March 13, 2018
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We’ve been living in Germany for 3 three and a half years now. I was expecting by this point I would be fluent in German, but alas this is not the case. I can get by. Mostly I work every day in English so it doesn’t help my German. Admittedly I learn mostly new words from my experiences with my daughter’s world.

Yes, it’s her world. German is now I guess her first language and she is very happy now in the local German Grundschule (Primary School) . She is doing well at school and much happier than at Kindergarten I would say but that possibly could be that it’s taken so long to settle fully and feel integrated for her.  She is learning to read well, doing well in mathematics and seems to have no problems despite starting school a year early in Bavaria life. She is a member of the School Choir also. Outside of school, she continues with Ballet, Piano, Swimming, Rainbows, Athletics, Science Experiment class and Trachtenverein (Bavarian dancing). Winter is coming to an end and she is now ski-ing Red runs with no problem (most likely faster than us already), and cycling long distances with her new bike. We even ice skated together this year now my knee is better (but we both need more practise). Life here is definitely good.  I still continue to be amazed by all the opportunities we have here to be surrounded by beautiful landscapes and do fu activities. Someone once asked me what Centre Parcs was like and quite honestly, its like living in a Centre Parcs here in Munich but with the added winter sports.  Like.

schuetute

Crafting the Schuletüte

June 20, 2017
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Last night I spent my evening crafting a Schuletüte at Kindergarten (and very much burning my fingers on hot glue!)

schuetute

schuletute

What? Why? Well it’s tradition here that a child starting school carries a Schuletüte to school on their first day of school. The Schuletüte is a very large decorated cone in which family, friends and neighbours all put treats for the child, which usually includes sweeties and gifts such as rubbers, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and even an alarm clock – all in preparation for school start.

I have yet to really find out what happens on the first day but one little girl is very much looking forward to it and is very excited to be starting school in September. It’s a true rite of passage here in Germany and the whole family celebrates this day.

Children in Bavaria start school mostly in the September after their 6th birthday. However children who have birthdays between September and December are what is knows as Kann-kinder which means they can go to school if they are deemed ready. Isabella falls within that category and has been ‘approved’ to start this year. More importantly, despite most of her class starting next year, she wants to go this year.  And so the preparation begins…

Too Kool for Skool (yet)

September 7, 2016
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Almost two months into my new job and our new phase here in Germany and I have to admit that it isn’t so scary. I’m lucky – I work for a good employer who allow me the flexibility to work from home when it’s needed, and I have great colleagues both here in Germany and beyond, around EMEA and the US. Our Nanny is super lovely and B enjoys spending time with her.

It’s a strange week as all of B’s age friends in England have been starting school, while B has still 2 years officially before she starts school here in Germany, although being December-born she could go next year if she’s ready. I’m not sure I see any advantage to rushing to school, but she shall start Vorschule (the year before school they have special classes each day to help aid concentration and learning to sit still) where she is likely to receive German lessons also. We shall then see how she is getting on before we make any decisions. In so many ways she is growing up fast and yet in so many ways she is still my baby, probably emphasised by my greater absence in her day. We so much look forward to evenings, weekends and holidays so we can spend full days together. Our relationship is still strong. I make time for special time together – last week we went into the mountains with some girlfriends which was awesome. We had lots of fun and it was, as always, great to watch her with her friends.

I will be very interested to see the differences between B and her friends in terms of their development now. In Germany the focus is on learning through play.  Children learn from each other, experiment more and are allowed the freedom to make mistakes, assess risks themselves and learn how to be part of a group. They start school after their 6th birthday when they are so ready to learn that they pick it up really quickly (or so I am told). In England the system is more adult-led. Play is supervised more closely and school starts at 4 where a structured learning environment is created. All the children I know love it so I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way, just different ways.

Bavaria is changing somewhat after the shootings in the Munich shopping mall. Oktoberfest this year is a good example – no bags allowed in and it’s a gated event rather than just wandering in from the underground stations. It’s a bit frightening but I guess no more than my time in London.  For me, I’d rather head south to the mountains for a relaxing day than into the centre. We swam in a pool by Kochel am See at weekend – it was truly wonderful, including the water slides – B’s favourite. It’s almost the end of summer now though and the leaves are starting to turn. Autumn is a wonderful season here so I’m looking forward to some forest walks. Perhaps we’ll sneak in a trip to England before winter is upon us and Father Christmas starts preparing his reindeer.

Snowy Road

The path ahead… 2016.

January 10, 2016
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And so 2016 – it’s the New Year and for us a very important one. It will be a year of decisions about our future and what’s best for our little family.

It’s funny I would never have ever considered living in Germany – it was only chance that the right job came up for S and it seemed like an opportunity for us to experience something new. We had thought that me getting a good job here was going to be easier but senior roles are few and far between and many require fluent German. That said, I am so much more confident with my German now and only have about another 2 months of school before I should be just speaking it as much as possible. Hopefully this is all a positive step to finding that job.

Meanwhile, I still believe that our location in the world is fantastic. Even on a rainy day I know that soon the winds will push the clouds away and the pure blue mountain sky will be seen once more. The air feels good. The views are beautiful. The people wonderful (mostly). We are happy.

I still remain concerned at the few opportunities women have to keep careers and raise a family, but that for Isabella is a long time away and perhaps there will be positive change by then. What’s important though is that the same sense of community that exists here in our little village remains.

B’s now riding her bike with us, taking proper swimming lessons and continuing her dancing at the local Trachtenverein. She has music lessons at kindergarten and I am teaching her to read and write, the later of which she is already progressing well. She starts her skiing lessons in a couple of weeks’ time too. It’s amazing to watch my baby grow up into a beautiful young girl, and most definitely one with opinions! Her English buddies will all start school this year so it will be interesting to see how different approaches to education manifest should we stay here. For now, I am not worried about the “play’ approach here as it seems to be developing B’s physical skills more when she’s naturally more of a thinker so I think it balances well.

Princess Cake

Ta da… the Princess Cake! B is 4!

January 10, 2016
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Two days, burnt cakes, hands stuck together with marshmallow…

but I did it.

Thank you internet for the help. (http://pagingfunmums.com/?s=princess+cake&x=0&y=0)

I first made the marshmallow towers. This was sticky. I used 2 child beakers and a tupperware as moulds. I melted the marshamallow and added the Rice Krispies my parents had brought from UK for me. It was the stickiest, gooiest thing ever and I thought I was going to end up stuck to the towers too. I left these to set overnight. I got onto thinking about stacking the cakes and that I didn’t have any dowels… googling skewers suggested not using them so I found some good wooden chopsticks instead. Hurrah.

I remembered I hadn’t bought ice cream cones so went searching for them – in December! – None in the supermarket.  I remembered a great ice cream outlet nearby and explained to them I wanted to buy some empty cones – they gave them to me for free!

IMG_3341I rolled them in royal icing and dipped them in hundreds and thousands – then left them to set overnight.

I baked my two chocolate cakes – actually I burnt them! And so back to the shop for more eggs and I baked them again. This time they were good.

The next morning I made up some chocolate buttercream for the centres. I sliced the cakes into two (whoops – a bit wonkily) – I was at this point thinking this most definitely will be a cake wreck. I added the butter cream and left the cakes while I started on the base.

Of course I was using a bigger base then the instructions and so I didn’t have enough green. I used jam on the board to stick the fondant – and of course it went everywhere. Okay – this isn’t going to be a perfect cake. I was feeling a bit disheartened. I carried on. I cut a path and filled it with the hundreds and thousands. Next I needed to cover the cakes in fondant. I was very worried.

I rolled the light pink fondant and actually didn’t do too bad a job at cake covering and so I also covered the next cake. I cut the chopsticks down by sawing them to the size I then placed the cakes on the base.

I rolled the darker pink fondant into strips and  used a cookie cutter to cut out the squares for the turrets and the armaments. These were tricky to attach to the cake. I used water only to attach pieces together so lots of holding and repositioning until it was dry/stuck.  I used some lilac fondant to make the  windows and made some brown fondant for the doors.  I also made some flowers and stems from pink/purple and green fondants to decorate although I didn’t do too much as I knew I had the playmobil as decorations. When I was happy with it I arranged the playmobil bits (shrubs, fountain, princesses, etc.

Actually it wasn’t a wreck – it actually looked okay – and the next morning when B saw the cake she was amazed! She loved it. Success. Now I have a year to think of a 5 cake!

 

To be proud

October 22, 2015
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Whilst becoming a “proud parent” is said to happen at the birth of one’s child, I was thinking of the things that make me really proud of my little girl. Sure I am proud of the fact that she’s smart: she could count to 20 in two languages before her peers in her class could manage counting in their mother-tongue, proud of the fact she knew her alphabet at 2, and of her inquisitive mind and constant desire to play with numbers, making up sums from everyday things and some not small numbers either, and the fact that she’s so interested in books. However there is one event that happened recently that I am most proud and every time I replay it in my mind it really makes me that kind of proud that feels like you’re glowing.

Since moving to Germany, the culture transition has been hard for Isabella. Here turn-taking in playgrounds and queuing isn’t really a thing. It’s all part of learning social skills and holding your own in the playground, learning how to stand up to others and join in with the other kids in a more rough-and-tumble way. Some would argue that this approach isn’t so great, but there are benefits as sometimes in life you do need to stand up for yourself, push yourself to the forefront and learn how to deal with all sorts of personalities. And so, I have taken the view that it’s important skill-building for a successful life in Germany; admittedly, more difficult when you are thrown into it without any understanding of the language and what the other children are saying. And of course I am also proud of Isabella for taking this on too. But that’s not it.

We were at Oktoberfest waiting for a “turn” on the high swings. Each time it stopped, B and I raced up the steps to grab a swing, and each time we were pushed and shoved out of the way (by parents too might I add) and back down the steps we descended with our disappointed faces. This must’ve happened about 3 or 4 times and I was getting a bit angry myself, though Isabella not so. I thought as a parent I should explain to her what was happening and as I told her that people were pushing us out of the way as that’s what they do here in Germany, and sometimes people aren’t so nice to each other, she simply explained to me “Mummy we want to be nice so we won’t do that,” and then it dawned on me what a beautiful girl I had before me.

Whilst there are skills to be learned in the playground, I am not going to teach my child to be pushy and rude to get what she wants. She may not get everything she wants this way, but she will have a life full of friends and happiness, and all the success that follows.

Three is definitely the age where you really begin to be proud of who your children are becoming as they start to share their own thoughts and show their true selves, rather than imitating the world around. I look forward to finding out so much more about who Isabella is.

It’s Ada Lovelace Day

October 13, 2015
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It’s Ada Lovelace day again today and what I only just realised is that my daughter shares the same birthday as Ada, albeit 194 years apart. Still, I like that fact. It somehow gives me hope for her.

Hope? I hear you wonder – what are you talking about – women are equal to men nowadays. Well, thats not necessarily the case. We all know that around the world the view of women does differ radically, and that in the West we are the lucky ones. But even in the Western world where we expect equality this is not the case and it’s not necessarily men who are being sexist. So many times I hear parents including mothers telling their children what is for boys and what is for girls, reinforcing the gender stereotypes. And the effect? Each year the percentage of females in the technology workforce is declining, yet plenty of women who at school are great mathematicians.

I’m shocked that here in Bavaria women are expected to choose between career and childbirth. Women who go back to work full-time are frowned upon. I really hope by the time Bella is grown up this view is changing and I for one am going to try to teach her she can be and do anything. She already has a good head for numbers.

It’ll be no surprise to most people who know me that I made sure Bella had cars and building blocks, train sets and books on diggers and fire engines all through her life. What’s actually more surprising to me is that apart from her beloved cars – she is also obsessed with her dolls and princesses and has the pinkest room I’ve ever seen (much to my dismay!) But thats not a bad thing either – I said I wanted her to be anything she wants to be – perhaps one day she is a Princess but the next she’s lining up her cars in a traffic jam (thats what growing up near the M25 does). She tells me she wants to be a Doctor (only because she heard bus drivers don’t get paid as well – there’s that numbers head of hers) and I really hope she has the freedom and courage to follow her dream whatever that may be.

You can read about Ada Lovelace here

Eins, zwei, drei, tanz!

July 17, 2015
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I thought it was time to write an update about how we are adjusting to life in Germany, specifically Bavaria. We’ve been here now for 9 months yet it still feels like we’re new here. I guess thats partly because we still have the language barrier. I’ve been going to school to learn German for 3 and a half months now and I certainly have learnt a lot, but its a complex language and doing an intensive course is very rushed from one new grammatical rule to another. Just when you think you have the hang of it, they throw another rule in – its a very complicated language. Still, its enjoyable learning and feels very satisfying when I manage to use it in real life.

Bella’s settled into her new kindergarten well and I had her first review a few weeks ago – in German might I add – somehow between me and her teachers (who don’t speak much English) we managed to communicate for a full 45 minutes – we were all very happy about that. Their view is that she’s very good with her head – memory and telling the time (although only hours) already, but needs more confidence with her peers. That I would agree with. I think life in Germany is very different to England in terms of social behaviour. In England, we tend to step back more rather than push ourselves to the front naturally. We always knew that this was something we wanted her to learn to do here. Outside of Kindergarten, we have done many things. We used to do some classes at Gymboree, – one was an action class and the other a art class. Bella became too old for that. We then tried swimming but they don’t really teach swimming until age 4 and Bella has already become quite confident in the water so I ensure I take her myself every week. Now its summer this is great as there are fantastic lakeside swimming areas. Last weekend we went to Lake Starnberg and all swam in the lake then had a lovely picnic – no scotch eggs or sausage rolls I’m afraid but we did have some yummy salmon quiches.

IMG_7896

Bella also takes part in Bavarian dancing and has performed already at two occasions. Her first event at Baierbrunn Dorfest (village festival). I really didn’t think she would do it but she loved it and has been dancing ever since – in the lounge, in the bathroom, in the garden, etc. The next week she danced at Johannisfeur – a festival to celebrate Midsummer. After the dancing, the children all carried flame torches to light the bonfire. It was such a lovely occasion attended by all from Baierbrunn and Buchenhain.

IMG_7769Fire

If you ask Bella where she prefers she will say Germany. She remembers England and some things from her life there – she of course misses her friends there, but she has new friends and more space to run and play. She has her new pedal bike and family and friends often visit. She is happy. That makes me happy.

Now she’s settled and happy, I’d like to go back to work and have something for myself. That is our next challenge and possibly one that will determine whether we stay here in Germany or whether we look to move back to the UK (or somewhere else) in the future.

Indepedence

Watching your child can be the hardest thing of all

January 22, 2015
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When we decided to move to Germany we were planning to make this a forever move – unless of course things didn’t work out in which case we would “cross that bridge when we come to it” as my mother always said.  That is, we were jumping in with all our 6 feet. That’s why we considered a fully German kindergarten for Bella in order that she fully integrates and learns German as fast as she can. That way when it comes to schooling we had both the options of International School where she would be taught in English or the German schools which may stand her in better stead for a German university. After all, she will have lived most of her life here and want to stay here forever.

We went to see an International Pre-school locally too which was great. The children were encouraged to speak English and in many ways it seemed just like a very much smaller version of the nursery Bella attended at home. In fact, she was so comfortable she went off to play with the children immediately and didn’t want to leave.  It was a hard decision for us, as sending her here would have been the easiest thing all round. In the long run though, with 2 non-German speaking parents, I’m not sure it would have helped her integration. Her English was already more advanced than the other children who were mostly English as a 2nd language and just learning colours, etc. so we didn’t feel that it would have helped her English either.

And so a couple of weeks ago Bella started her German kindergarten. Everyone says how easy children adjust – especially at that age – but I don’t think they realise quite how stressful it is for them too. Yes, I’m absolutely sure we chose the right kindergarten and that Bella will adjust to her new German life – but this will take time. Right now Bella is lost without being able to talk to the other children yet she is a child who seeks company and yearns to communicate with others. She’s lonely, desperate to play with the others and get involved. This means she does try to play with the other children and on the outside she looks like she’s adjusting well, but in her head there is a lot going on. For us, we have moved country – for Bella her whole world has been replaced by a new one, just as she was making sense of the old one. As a parent this makes me sad – how do you explain to a 3 year old that this will be a good thing for her future when all she cares about is NOW. At a time when she’s also exerting her independence it’s hard for a mum to watch and allow space for the child to work things out too. Of course all I can do is be here for her and help her in her difficult journey –her new life. Thinking about that makes me realise that actually that’s what being a Mum is all about. That’s what my mum (still) does for me – sometimes when you feel helpless its just about being there.

Potty Training – the beginnings!

October 11, 2013
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Stuck inside for a few days while potty training doesn’t seem so bad as its raining outside anyway. So how is it going? Day one we started after her nursery and nap – so not until about 3:30 and of course we had a few accidents so no stars on the star-chart. to be honest having never done this before I think i needed time to work out what works and what doesn’t – and Bella was just mortified about wetting herself. Luckily she had already done a number 2 at nursery while in nappies. So Day 2 I chickened out of putting her straight into knickers and let her wear nappy over breakfast, changing her straight afterwards. While this was the least messy option, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do as it meant she’s already had her main morning wee and then held in anything else until at least 11 o clock. We had a  few accidents but did manage to get 3 stars which is great. I love the star chart as even when it feels like lots of accidents you can celebrate the successes at the end of the day . No poo at all. I do really think she’s holding it in.
Day 3 and we had our first poo – IN THE POTTY! Yay!   Two stars for that alone. So far half way through the day we have 4 stars and a couple of accidents. Way to go Bella!

I’ll be truthful and after the first day I really wanted to give up. Bella seems mortified when she pees (or poops) and asks for cuddles while she’s on the potty (from monkey and me)… however, my logic tells me that its normal for her to feel like this and so we carry on for a few more days.

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