Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Christmas

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Christmas is almost around the corner – how did that happen? There are so many things left to do for me, I don’t really know where to start. I’ve spent the last few days preparing for Christmas in various small ways.

The first, very unpleasant thing I needed to tackle was a talk with my brother in law. I told him in no uncertain terms that Christmas this year will have to be very different from the last few Christmases as far as mood and atmosphere are concerned, or it will have been the last Christmas we can all celebrate together as a family.

Christmas in my family has always been rather awkward, marked by stress, fighting and general hysteria. Ever since my mother died, it’s been less than harmonious and I very much need to change that for my own little family.

After last year’s disaster – which involved my brother in law freaking out and causing a terrible scene – I decided that something had to change. Unfortunately, my brother in law has proven impossible to talk to, so I eventually had to come to the realization that I really only have one option: I need to be aware of what I want and then set about achieving it.

I talked to my father, master of non-confrontation, my sister, mistress of suppression and my brother in law, overlord of fury. I made it very clear that I will NOT tolerate this any longer and that my daughter will not grow up to know Christmas as a dreaded time of year, full of resentment and anger. I want happiness, joy and a general feeling of love and contentment, damn it!

Naturally, my wishes were not very well received. My father, who never seems to be able to take a stand in an argument, but rather chooses to unload unto me when he feels the time is right (thereby always leaving me completely burdened not just with my own sadness, but also his), said he just won’t be there if there’s any argument brewing. My sister figures ignoring whatever happened on the last few Christmases is the best way to go and forever excuses her husband’s conduct, putting the blame anywhere but on him. Finally, my brother in law could absolutely not recall what happened last year, so I gently reminded him how he yelled at me for no reason and then proceeded to lapse into silence on Christmas Eve, alternating between staring at the dinner table and poking at his dinner, complaining about the quality of our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. The Lad, the Munchkin and I left the dinner table very soon after the presents were opened that day, as the atmosphere had gotten too heavy to bear.

Honestly, I am weary of all this. So very, very tired. I have now done what I could. I told each and every one of them I want Christmas to be beautiful and special for our little girl and ourselves and that if there is even any hint of a negative atmosphere brewing, we’ll be leaving, going to our place and spending a nice Christmas by ourselves – just the three of us. We shall see how it goes, but I am absolutely prepared to do whatever it takes. If things go South, we’ll head to our apartment and we will celebrate in our own way. I love my family dearly, but I don’t want to take this kind of thing any longer.

****

This year is the first year that our Bean realizes what’s going on as far as Christmas is concerned. Everyone and everything she sees sporting a red Santa hat and red scarf is ‘Santa Caus’ to her and she happily exclaims ‘Chismas twee’ every time we walk past one of the Christmas displays in the city. When she was born, the Lad started a tradition of buying one Christmas tree ornament per year – for us to use on our trees for now and eventually for the Munchkin to take with her when she leaves home. I love this little tradition. The Lad and the Munchkin have already been out together to buy this year’s ornament, or two of them, rather, a Christmas tree and a star made from white porcelain.

***

As far as Christmas traditions go, I am trying to come up with our own ways to celebrate. We’re combining two traditions, of course, so things are a little bit confusing at this point.

I am not quite sure yet how we will handle things. Decorations will go up around the weekend of the 28th. There will be advent calendars. On December 6th,  St. Nikolaus will come and deposit a little something for the Munchkin, as is his habit. We will craft ornaments, bake cookies, hopefully make a gingerbread house and fruit cake (the Lad would love this, as it reminds him of his home), go on Christmas markets and listen to classic Christmas songs (English, not German ones. Traditional German Christmas music is often so depressing). We celebrate and open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve around here – as it’s the German custom I grew up with, we’ll keep this tradition. Honouring British tradition, we’ll also have presents, cookies, a nice meal, lots of snuggling and spending quality time together on December 25th.

As far as what we’ll tell our Munchkin about Christmas, I think we won’t have to prepare ourselves for that quite yet. We’re getting together around Christmas to celebrate our togetherness, to be even closer as a family, take the opportunity to remember how blessed we are to have each other, to take time out to be with each other and just…be a family. There will be Santa Claus in our house and St. Nikolaus will visit us, too, as I honour the sentiment of this tradition.

I am guessing that we will have to explain Christmas and its origins to our Munchkin sometime next year. Hopefully we will manage to convey everything in such a fashion that she will feel completely free to develop her own ideas and faith in whatever she wants to believe in when the time gets there. All I really want is for her to remember Christmas at home fondly, as a time of warmth, wonder and love.

Of Sickness, Sweethearts and Strange Relatives

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I am sick. Again. This time around, I am suffering from a mild case of food poisoning, which is lovely, of course. I do not have a very high fever and can still move around, but the whole thing still is somewhat unpleasant. The Munchkin was stuck in the house with me all day yesterday, as I could not even bring her to Kita, due the poor physical state I find myself in. The Lad has a crazy work schedule and isn’t really flexible that way, so he couldn’t help out, either.

Very unexpectedly to me, the Munchkin was such a sweetie about the whole thing. She was in a brilliant mood, chatted to me in her very serious, very sweet way. I love to observe how her language evolves. She even says things like ‘Sit down, please’ very clearly now. One of her favorite phrases is ‘Mommy, weisst Duuuuu?’ which translates to ‘Mommy, you know whaaaaat?’.  It’s quite adorable, although unfortunately, these words are usually followed by an enquiry about her uncle or aunt.

I wish I felt differently about this than I do, but I just can’t ignore how especially my sister treats my daughter a lot of the time. There’s a distinct lack of respect and compassion. They don’t see each other very often, as my sister and brother in law are very busy and when we do meet up, the atmosphere is always strained and awkward, because I constantly try to shield my little girl from what my sister throws at her (and there is so much). Yet the Munchkin loves her auntie and uncle fervently and I am really worried about the influence they have on her.

For example, even now my sister comments on the Munchkin’s eating and tries to regulate it, while simultaneously feeding her things that we do not usually give to her. My sister will openly tell the Munchkin she needs to learn discipline when it comes to eating, calls her a glutton (and thinks she’s being funny when she does) and on the other hand feeds her cookies, hot dogs and the likes when she sees her. This behaviour disgusts me so much and I do not know how to handle it appropriately. It’s been going on for so long…by now I usually just sigh, tell her I do not want her to talk to my child like this and that my daughter can eat as much as she likes of whatever I offer her.

My instincts and natural ability to exercise moderation when it comes to food was shot to bits in my childhood. When my mother died, my grandmother and aunts wanted to console me, in any way they knew how. Suddenly there were rich meals and sweets in abundance, pretty much every day. This is when the problems started. My father never had so much of a sweet tooth and despised having candy or even things like fruit yogurt around the house. He demonized food like that, which eventually led my sister and me to hide things in our respective rooms. This is something we do to this day when we’re at home at our father’s house.

There have always been remarks on general appearance, clothes and weight, judgmental looks and sighs and the very clear message that I am just not ok the way I am. I do NOT want this for my daughter. I do not want her to think of foods in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, do not want to her to feel disciplined and most of all, I don’t EVER want her to think she’s not beautiful and wonderful just the way she is. Besides, so far the Munchkin is doing exactly what you would expect of a healthy child: She eats when she is hungry and she stops when she is full.

My baby is 2 1/2 years old and already my sister is starting to infiltrate her with awkwardness and weirdness as far as food is concerned. The Lad is furious, he wants to be much more aggressive about this than I am. And as always, it’s me….I do not want to take her aunt and uncle away from my baby, even knowing what this kind of weirdness has meant for me. Talking to my sister about this issue is impossible and I have long since given up. She feels she is entitled to talk that way, because in recent years, she has lost a lot of weight and is now considered to be at a healthy weight.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. After breakfast yesterday, the Munchkin completely surprised me by sitting at our dinner table with me and crafting for 3 1/2 hours straight – Cutting and ripping paper, gluing things, drawing alternatively with pencils, felt tip markers or crayons. I have never seen her so focused on anything for this long!

She laughed a lot with me, told me stories, asked for music – if you must know, her current favorites include ‘The Elephant Song’ by Eric Herman and ‘The Duck Song’ by Bryant Oden, the latter of which I frequently curse the Lad for -, cooked and baked for me in her kitchen and generally stayed close to me, snuggling and doling out kisses. Considering how much our Bean loves Kita and being outside, I am very grateful for how she handled yesterday.

Today I want to try to get some sewing done and complete the Christmas gift list for our little one – we’re apparently in a transitional phase as far as toys are concerned, she definitely needs more age appropriate stuff. I’ll also need to get some paperwork in order.

Speaking of which, I have finally received the document I needed from my professor. This is great, except he signed it in the wrong place, so I’ve been emailing back and forth with the examinations office until they decided to accept the document from him as an exception to the general rule (because my professor is head of the examinations board). Now I have to add a few more documents to complete my application and then hand in the whole lot at uni as soon as I can, which will hopefully be Friday. I am very glad things are moving along there.

The Munchkin went back to Kita today – I just hope the pickup will go smoothly. Off to the sewing machine!

Pictures!

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It’s been a while, so here you go, have some random pictures!

An insanely old fish

A funky fish

Eco-friendly glass cleaner

The cast of Finding Nemo

Lounging

A very young giraffe

Smooches

Now on to some Munchkin pics. You know what to do. ;-)

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Munchkin Update

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

I have to make these updates more frequent. Our Munchkin develops so rapidly, I want to record all the new and wonderful things she comes up with.

Our Bean has just completed a change of Kita classes. After the summer holidays, she was still fine going to Kita, but visibly missed her beloved K, who had switched classes with a colleague. Whenever she’d see her during her Kita days, she’d go to her, snuggle and talk to her and then she had a very hard time understanding she couldn’t go wherever K was going. It was breaking my heart.

The Munchkin isn’t the type to wallow in despair or to sit in a corner and cry. She just wasn’t as happy anymore and always immediately came running to me when I came to pick her up – it’d always been hard to convince her to leave Kita before that point, because she was forever busy doing something or other.

After observing the situation for a while, I scheduled a talk with the Kita manager and requested a change of class – after a lot of hemming and hawing, I suggested the Munchkin could go and visit K’s new class (lots of older kids there) to see how she’d do in this different environment. Our baby loved it! She was so happy to be back with K and soaked up all things new like a sponge. She wasn’t afraid to interact with the older kids or take part in whatever activity they were engaging in (something that still delights all teachers in the new class), very clearly enjoying the possibility to learn from them. After this first day, K made sure our littlest didn’t have to go back to her old class. The manager was still reluctant to agree to it, but seeing how undeniably content our baby was, she really had no other choice.

About a week into this new arrangement, the teachers in the new class approached me to tell me what a sweetheart our Munchkin is. She apparently has boundless energy and a generally very happy and positive attitude. That’s my little girl! Now that she is content again at Kita, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be her usual self.

***

The Munchkin still hasn’t got all her milk teeth, but she started teething very late, so I guess that’s just to be expected. We’ve been to the dentist twice with her so far. She doesn’t like doctors much, but on both occasions the dentist was able to see what she needed to. Things are looking good so far, our Bean has never had a dummy, wasn’t bottle fed for any significant amount of time, doesn’t frequently get sweet things to drink or eat and her teeth have time to remineralize between meals. Everything else is up to genetic disposition, I suppose. We’ll be back to see the dentist in about five months. Unfortunately, I have horrible memories of dentists and have problems whenever I have to see one these days, so I very much hope our little girl won’t have to experience the same kind of trauma.

***

Food is still a passion for our little girl, although her tastes change rather rapidly sometimes. It’s easier for her to indicate to me what she wants now, as she continues to expand her vocabulary. Just yesterday, when I thought she surely wouldn’t want a particular food and hence didn’t bother to offer it, she just asked ‘Munchkin some too’? and proceeded to eat (of course she doesn’t call herself Munchkin, but rather uses her own name).

***

Some favourite phrases at the moment:

‘Eyyyy, top it!’ (where she gets the ‘ey’ from, I don’t know)

‘Munchkin like, Munchkin mine!’ (again, substitute her name for ‘Munchkin’)

‘Munchkin do it!’

“Meine Güte!’ (preferably when I am getting impatient with people while driving, I have to admit)

Honestly, our littlest tries to repeat everything she hears now and gets more and more communicative by the day. She frequently mixes German and English, but knows which language she should use talking to us and talking to her teachers, for example.

***

Favorite activities: Music, drawing, any kind of physical activity like her Kita sports, or climbing structures at the playground, balancing on walls, jumping and dancing. She’s also mastered her learning bike – she was a bit suspicious of it for a while, but decided she wanted to give it another go last Sunday. Within twenty minutes at the park, she’d figured it all out. I was soo blown away by that!

***

Dislikes: The word ‘No’, showers, people crowding around her.

Likes: Pretty much any fruit you give her, veg, yogurt, ice cream, straws, Elmo, elephants, trains, K, her auntie and uncle, blowing kisses, Lola (Lego, a change from ‘Lole’), her play kitchen, music and her learning bike. This list isn’t complete, but it’s a start.

***

As far as her sleeping is concerned, the Munchkin has reverted to old habits. She needs me to help her fall asleep again – and I am happy to oblige. She’ll go to sleep by herself when she’s ready for it.

***

I am off to look for some children’s music that doesn’t make my ears bleed. I managed to find a few artists so far, like Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England and Lisa Loeb, but I am always looking for new stuff. Our Munchkin very much likes ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ right now, we’re trying to expand her knowledge of songs just a tad beyond that. Which reminds me, I have to look into a certain type of book for the Bean. Auuuuudrey???

***

On to some recent pics!

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Belated Munchkin Birthday Post

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Our baby girl celebrated her second birthday on May 13. I am simultaneously excited and sad to see my baby grow up so fast. The heightened awareness of my baby’s fleeting childhood makes me hold on to those precious every day moments just a little tighter. When the Munchkin in the evenings decides that sleeping is not much of a necessity, when she tells me little stories in her own unique way, rests her little hands on my face, touches my nose, mouth, ears and tells me the names of the same, when she holds my hand and asks me to sing, I pull her that little bit closer, she snuggles in and eventually falls asleep. I fear that way too soon, she won’t want or need me to be there for her like that. I just know I will forever regret it if I do not enjoy this kind of closeness while it lasts. I would happily trade ‘me’ time for ten little piggies or an itsy bitsy spider any day.

My little one amazes me to no end. She seems to be picking up new words every day and talks a lot in both of her languages by now, which makes for interesting conversation. So far, she seems to be navigating her way through her bilingual existence quite effortlessly. She strings words together now, making it so much easier to communicate. I just love her ‘Mommy, come. Walk. Outside, okay?’ or ‘Da down. Lole. Play, okay?’ She very frequently ends her sentences with an ‘okay’, nodding her head and looking quite serious, which never fails to make me smile. Of course our Munchkin speaks in her very own language a lot yet, too, but I am assuming that is a normal part of her developing language skills.

Our Munchkin has a passion for food and so far, loves strawberries, apples and bananas just as much as cookies, cakes and chocolate. Her favorite food things at the moment are eggs, cherry tomatoes, salmon and pasta of pretty much any kind.

Our baby is funny, sweet and a whirlwind of activity. She almost manages to get dressed herself and even likes to tidy up after herself. She’s developed a love for books, music and dancing as well as trucks and trains of any sort.

Even though she was quite ill on her birthday, the Munchkin was in good spirits. She was so excited and happy to see her presents and the caterpillar cake. Unfortunately, she had come home with a high fever and severe tummy problems. Within a few hours of her, I was also affected. We only later found out that we’d all in one way or another contracted Salmonella – apparently three other children at our baby’s Kita had suffered the same fate.

The weather on our baby’s birthday wasn’t the best, either – cold and rainy. Between that and our illness, we unfortunately had to stay at home, scrapping all our plans for the day. I was just glad to get through the day with a comparatively cheerful little girl, given the circumstances. Hoping for better luck next year.

I’ll leave you with birthday pictures tonight.

The very hungry caterpillar

Birthday bunting

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I am NOT ready for this

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

About 94 minutes ago, I tucked the Munchkin into bed, kissed her good night and told her that I loved her. She gathered her baby close, kissed her good night and lay back down in her bed. At this point, the Munchkin usually snuggles into my arms and holds my hand, tells me about one thing or another and eventually drifts off to sleep. Today was different. My baby did not ask for my hand and seemed to be content just to lie in her bed. Following an impulse, I asked her if she wanted to go to sleep alone. She said yes. I obliged her, kissed her once more and then left the room. I have since checked on her three times, telling her to call for Mommy or Daddy if she needs anything, assuring her that we’re just next door. We haven’t heard so much as a peep from her. Honestly. The nerve. Where is the calling for Mommy? Where is the ‘I need you with me when I fall asleep’ kind of outcry? I am so not ready to give this part of my baby’s childhood up yet. I cherish the quiet time with her at night, I love her snuggles and adore her stories. I thought there was still time for me to enjoy all that. She’s only two years old, after all. Alas, my baby girl seems to be ready to move on. How I wish I could say the same about myself.

Easter Pictures

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Things are finally slowing down here. After two beautiful days filled with sunshine and chocolate, we’re taking this last quiet (and rainy) day to settle down a bit. In that spirit, here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

Works of Art ;)

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Strawberry Time

Monday, February 15th, 2010

It’s midnight and I still have quite a few things to do before I go to bed, so just quickly today, I want to show you our little strawberry. Thanks again, Audrey, for the hat instructions. Yours looks much prettier than mine, but I think it passes.

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Eye for an Eye

Friday, February 5th, 2010

I am very seriously mad – mainly at myself. The Lad, the Munchkin and I went to see our neighbour yesterday – said neighbour’s daughter wanted a shot at our Wii, so the Lad set it up at their place and played with her. D,  the neighbour, and I sat on the floor in the adjacent room and talked while the Munchkin played around us.

At some point, our little girl found a hand puppet and put it on her hand. She came over to us and showed off the puppet. Suddenly, she took it off her hand and threw it at D. D proceeded to tell her that one does not throw things at people (after I had said that to the Munchkin already, I might add), took the puppet and threw it at my baby’s head!

Luckily, this thing was a soft toy with no plastic bits that could have potentially physically hurt the Munchkin. But the look on our baby’s face was terrible. I was shocked and said as much to D, telling her that we do not deal with these situations in this manner. When the Munchkin throws things, bites or does anything else like that, we very decidedly tell her that we do not want that, that we do not hurt each other and potentially physically remove her from the situation. If necessary, we will do that again and again and again.

D responded by telling me that she has her own rules and that at least with her own children, but also in her apartment, those are the rules that apply. She said that children like our little one would never learn to defend themselves or be able to realize that what they are doing hurts others, if they don’t experience it themselves. To this I just replied that I find this eye for an eye tactic inappropriate and terrible and that I want our child to experience and find different ways to deal with conflict.

Apart from that, though, our daughter is actually in Kita and does experience how other children treat each other. She does learn to stand up for herself, but I DO NOT WANT this to happen by forcefully retaliating until someone gives in!

So I am really mad at myself now. I did not exactly have to start a fight, but I should have been more clear about the fact that D overstepped a line when she treated MY child that way. I should have stood up for my daughter more. She was so confused, she didn’t even know what to do with herself for a little while after that. My inability to speak up about this is symptomatic for my general treatment of situations like that – I never want to make a fuss, want to avoid disruption or fight. It’s awful, when you think about it. I usually end up feeling sick and develop migraines on a regular basis, because I am unable to just be CLEAR about what I want and what I don’t want.

By now I don’t even expect parents in our immediate vicinity to understand our views on child-rearing, much less to support or even share them. We have been frowned upon for babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, cooking organic baby food, respectful treatment of our child and who knows what else.

Naturally everybody has their own thoughts and ideas on all of these things. I don’t expect anyone to conform to our views. What I do expect, however, is the same amount of respect and tolerance that I show others. I would never dream of ‘disciplining’ someone else’s child because I think that’s the way to go!

If you’ll excuse me, I will go and look for my voice now.

Munchkin Update and Pictures

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Our Munchkin is 20 months old – she weighs 11.69 kg, is 83 cm tall, and has a 46 cm head circumference, if you must know – and I am already wondering what her second birthday will be like. Last year, we went to the Berlin Zoo and had a wonderful time. I am wondering whether we should make that a recurring birthday event. The Zoo is one of the very few places here where you don’t feel completely smothered by the city. A walk through the Zoo is a very refreshing change to an otherwise rather hectic city life – a life that the Lad and I seem to have more and more of a problem adjusting to.

Our Munchkin continues to be very active and inquisitive. She likes music and loves to dance and twirl. Her giggles lighten our hearts and her tantrums do not yet last very long. Our little girl likes to lean in and give kisses, and story time with Daddy is an absolute delight for her.

I am not sure where our Munchkin stands in terms of her language development, but she does try to ‘talk’ a lot, all the while mixing English, German and of course words of her own creation. Seemingly our baby should start using her own name and talking in two to three word sentences soon, but I do not see that happen quite yet. So far, I am not in the least worried about her progress in that particular area.

Here are the words she frequently uses these days: Baby, Mommy, Daddy, Nein, Kita, Kitty, Alle, All Done, Open, Book, Cheese, Hi, This, Bye Bye, Brush Teeth, Light, Night Night, Oh Oh, Tea. The Munchkin’s very German ‘Nein’ is definetely the most used word at the moment, usually delivered with a very decisive head-shaking.

It’s very interesting to see how our Munchkin deals with her bilingualism. Right now, she does seem to understand both languages equally well, but her teachers tell me that as a rule, she will respond to requests more readily and more sweetly when they are uttered in English.

The Lad and I both speak only English to her, but German is absolutely the more dominant language in her life at this point. I often wonder whether our little one might develop a preference for either one of her first languages later on.

Anyway, on with the pictures now!

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