Teddy is 1!

Where the heck has the last year gone???  As Teddy turns 1 today I am both thrilled to have got him to this point and sad that it has gone so bloody fast.  It seems like only yesterday that I was being wheeled from the delivery unit to the postnatal ward cradling my not so tiny little man (he was 8lb15oz) and wondering if my lady parts would ever be the same again (you can read my birth experience here if you so wish!)  I am now very much the mother of a toddler not a baby and whilst this is exciting it is also rather overwhelming.  He is changing so much every day and if the next seventeen years go as quickly as this one has in no time at all I’ll be packing him off into the big wide world.  This thought terrifies me and I can finally see what my mum meant when she told me that you never stop worrying about your children however old they are.  If only I had a time machine…..

My little boy astounds and amazes me every day.  He is a happy, chilled out little fella who likes to give big open mouthed kisses and twist my hair around his fingers whilst he sucks his thumb (this is starting to become very painful as he gets stronger)  He has just started walking although because he can crawl so FAST he isn’t particularly interested in doing so.  He loves listening to music and playing with his instruments and the piano but he has also recently got into cars and enjoys pushing them around the carpet going ‘brrrrmmmmm’.  He loves toys with buttons, remote controls and phones and will sit for quite a while looking at his books when he has the occasional quiet moment!  He eats everything and anything and throws his food on the floor once he is either finished or bored of a particular item.  He is beginning to use a fork and spoon independently to feed himself which is making mealtimes a whole new level of messy!  He generally sleeps well at night going to bed quickly and easily at 7pm and waking up at about 6.30am.  He has gone down to one nap a day which is a bit of a killer as it leaves me with less time to drink my tea in peace and watch ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ (when the Sky is working!)  He is happy to be left with his childminder and we have not had a single morning when he has cried or been upset.  He loves hanging out in the kitchen, sorting out his cupboard which we have filled with non-breakable items and playing with the dishwasher (he loves the dishwasher for some reason!)  Most of all he loves bath time and could happily spend hours in there if allowed.  He is my gorgeous little auburn haired soldier and words cannot describe how amazing the last year has been! Thank you Teddy and Happy 1st Birthday!!

teddy

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The Ordinary Moments #4

We are extremely blessed to have amazing people on both sides of our family and a bunch of fantastic friends.  Despite living in different countries we stay in touch in all the ways that modern friends and families do through a combination of telephone, Skype, FaceTime, email, Facebook and instagram and therefore do not generally feel that we miss out on events in the UK.  However, since Teddy has arrived I am more conscious of time flying away from us and I feel more keenly the months passing without us having actual physical face to face contact with the people we love.  Whilst all the methods of communication named above have an amazing purpose nothing can beat spending actual time in real life with family and friends and this week has been a reminder of that fact.

Last Sunday the first of our half-term visitors arrived in the shape of my sister-in-law, her husband and three boys aged 8, 5 and 3.  On Thursday we waved goodbye to them as they drove back across Germany and Holland to return home on the Rotterdam-Hull ferry.  We filled the time with ice-creams at the amazing eis cafe in town, a trip to Bielefeld Tierpark (a brilliant free zoo), a day skiing in Winterberg (where two nephews skied for the very first time, the older one skied for the first time since he was 3 and the littlest one finished the day saying he never wanted to leave), a morning wandering around the market (with the requisite hot chocolate obviously….) and an afternoon at the local swimming pool.  Whilst all of these things have been brilliant fun what I have enjoyed most is seeing Teddy interact with his ‘big’ cousins.  He is the first grandchild on my side of the family and so whilst much adored does not have quite the same kinds of experiences that he does when we see my husband’s family where he is number 8 (and boy number 7) grandchild.  Watching his face light up as his cousins let him join in with their games has been delightful and I am already looking forward to our big family holiday in August when he will be with all 8 of his cousins.  As our only child (although hopefully not forever!) he has a very different time at home than when at his childminders (who looks after a number of older children) and I am always quite conscious of ensuring that he has plenty of opportunities to play with other children.  He was in his element throughout their stay and was very bad tempered for the afternoon after they had left as suddenly he was back to being with just boring old Mummy and Daddy (even if Daddy is the best thing since sliced bread at the moment……)

Thankfully, that evening more family arrived in the shape of Teddy’s paternal grandparents.  Having not seen him since early December (other than on the iPad screen!) he had a lovely hour before bed of Nana and Grandad cuddles and even treated us to his first proper steps (if we don’t include the occasional stagger he has done over the last few weeks)  The following day my parents and siblings arrived (and no, we don’t really have a big enough house for all these guests) as we had decided to finish the half-term holidays with an early 1st birthday celebration.  As both my husband and I are from families of teachers everything has to be crammed into school holidays so for most people it was very much a flying visit but a much appreciated one none the less!  

The last week has demonstrated two things; that we have amazing families (which we did know but it is always good to be reminded!) and that face to face time with family and friends is something to be truly thankful for.  It has made me even more excited about our move back to the UK this summer as Teddy will be able to spend more time with the grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins who love him so much.  For lots of people this kind of interaction with family is something that is easy as people live near each other and see each other regularly.  For us it has to be planned and can therefore sometimes be lacking in spontaneity.  However, these ordinary moments of Sunday lunches, picnics, games on the beach etc are what I think about when we are living miles from family faced with making friends all over again.  It is family (and I am including my closest friends in this group) that is constant whilst everything else in our lives is changing yet again and I consider myself a very lucky girl to have such an amazing safety net beneath me in the shape of an amazing bunch of people!

Bonding with his cousins aged 8 months!

Bonding with his cousins aged 8 months!

The Ordinary Moments #3

This is my third link up to MummyDaddyMe’s Ordinary Moments. I am finding that it is a brilliant impetus to keep me blogging but am in particular really enjoying reading other people’s ordinary moments (and other blog posts). It’s so amazing being a mummy but as a first time one it’s sometimes a bit overwhelming and I am finding it so reassuring knowing there are places I can look online for sensible, realistic advice! I finally understand why people get so into blogging as it’s such a fab supportive community and an amazing outlet for thoughts and feelings. I am also loving the fact that if I stick to it in the future I will have a sort of diary of Teddy’s childhood!

Bathtime is something we take very seriously in this house…. If I added up how much of my life I have spent in the bath it would quite probably be a considerable chunk of time. I like nothing better than lounging around in a really hot bubble bath accompanied by a magazine and some music (and a glass of wine or piece of chocolate if it’s a special occasion – like a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday etc) and I relish the ‘me’ time it affords me each evening.

This love of the bath appears to have been passed down to Teddy (could it be the amount of time I spent wallowing in hot water during pregnancy?) and bathtime is quite possibly one of our favourite times of the day. Each day at about 5.45pm we hit that horrible witching hour when my gorgeous happy baby is replaced by a whinging, clingy monster but as soon as we head upstairs and he hears the bath running he transforms back into his funny little self. If allowed, he will happily hold onto the side of the bath watching the water pour in whilst he becomes more and more excited at the prospect of getting in. If we deign to take him back into his bedroom to get undressed he squirms and wriggles until he is released back onto the floor and can crawl back to the bathroom. His latest party trick is throwing things into the bath ready for when he gets in. These can include some of the many bath toys he has but can also mean that anything within reach goes in too (including my iphone earlier this week… aaaggghhh!) Once he is in the water, party time begins and we now accept that we are going to get soaked by his splashing. He happily crawls up and down and, if the water is deep enough, swims around the tub pulling shampoo bottles in to add to his collection whilst chattering and giggling away.

Thinking back to my last Ordinary Moments post, bathtime is definitely one of those little everyday moments that I know I will treasure in the future and I therefore ensure I make time for it everyday. It is very much part of his bedtime routine and has been since he was tiny (even if the first few attempts in the baby bath were a bit of a non-starter – thank God for the baby bath hammock thingy!) As we get ever closer to his 1st birthday I am more and more aware that in no time at all, Teddy will not want me hanging around in the bathroom with him and the only aspect of washing I will be part of will be putting muddy clothes in the washing machine when he gets home from school. Until that day comes, however, I am going to enjoy every bathtime soaking I get but will, in the future, be making sure my iPhone (which just about still works now that it’s fully dried out) is well out of reach…..

"What in God's name are you doing to me????"

“What in God’s name are you doing to me????”


Much better thanks Mummy!

Much better thanks Mummy!

"My favourite place to be….."

“My favourite place to be…..”

The Ordinary Moments #2

Last night I watched the film ‘About Time’ starring Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy (amongst others!)  It is probably the first film I have watched in a while where I felt no need to pick up the iPad or phone and check Facebook, twitter, instagram and pinterest etc etc as right from the very start I was completely enthralled.  I don’t want to give too much away about the plot as I would hate to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t done so you must!) but the general gist is that you must drink in and savour all the little things that life throws your way and not live your life always looking to the future (something that I think we are all guilty of at times!)  I had planned to write about something else for today’s Ordinary Moments post but ‘About Time’ struck a chord with me.  Childhood (and even more so baby hood) is so fleeting and I wonder how many things I miss or don’t give my full attention to because of everything else that is going in my life.  Sometimes I find myself wishing the hours away just to get to Teddy’s bedtime so I can get all the other stuff done that otherwise falls by the wayside (bad mummy…..)  However, how important actually are those things in relation to how my child is changing and developing on a daily basis?  It is easy to celebrate each new achievement but then find ourselves already looking forward to the next one when really we should be savouring every moment with them when they are so little and still actually want to spend time with us (or don’t get the choice not to….)!  

Therefore my ordinary moments this week celebrate a day in the life of my child.  Not doing anything amazingly exciting, not necessarily doing anything new but just being an eleven month old little boy viewing the world as an interesting but sometimes scary place.  It is an absolute honour to be his mummy and help him find his place in the world and I only hope that he doesn’t grow up too fast!  Image

Top Left – “it’s so funny throwing my food on the floor and making Mummy pick it up over and over again!  It’s even funnier when I decide mid mouthful that I don’t want to finish my toast and spit it out…..”

Top Right – “I’m sure Daddy won’t mind if I re-type some of his important e-mails whilst we wait in his office….. The clicking noise I am making is amazing!”

Bottom Left – “I’ve got to keep my fire engine safe and nearby so that I can make a quick get-away when Mummy decides to change my nappy.  If I also hold onto to the play pen really tightly she will really struggle to pick me up….. Hahahaha!”

Bottom Right – “If I fall asleep here Mummy might not bother taking me upstairs to my cot and then I can be downstairs when Daddy gets home from work.  Once he is back I will be wide awake again and ready to play!”

 

“As a mummy……”

I once worked in a school where a number of parents would start all our conversations about their children with the words “As a mummy….” (i.e. you don’t really have a clue because you are not a mummy)  The sentence would continue with (in general) a litany of reasons why they didn’t think I was doing my job properly:

“Why do you only read once a week individually with my child?”

“Why don’t you do PE more often?”

“I think you need to watch my child during break-time because I think they are being bullied.  If you could do this everyday in the morning and at lunchtime I would appreciate it.

“Why can’t you sort out the behaviour of the child that is disrupting my own child’s education?” 

My internal answers would read as follows:

“Because I have to fit phonics, maths, guided reading, snack time, blah blah blah into my day and I have thirty children in my class”

“ditto”

“ditto”

“Um, no. Because I want to go to the staffroom, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and moan about the delusional parents I encounter on a daily basis”

My actual answers were probably:

“I will try and fit in more reading (internal scream)”

“I will try and fit in a longer PE session (but when the **** will I manage it when I have to fit in maths and literacy every day as well as everything else)”

“Of course I will look into that (I will do it a couple of times to cover my back)”

“We are dealing with it as a school (hahahahahahaha along with all the assessment, planning etc etc we have to do)”

etc etc etc etc

Teaching is a hard job.  It is a relentless, tiring existence.  It is also the best thing I have ever done and I miss being a ‘proper’ full-time teacher more than I ever thought I would.  It is AMAZING watching children flourish and grow and it is an absolute honour to be allowed to parent these children between the hours of 8.30-3pm.  However, would I feel the same way if I was working from 8.30 until 6pm for 45 weeks of the year?  I’m honestly not sure but I don’t really want to have to find out. 

The government proposals for an extended school day are, as we have seen, a controversial one and I can, to a degree, see why some people think it will be a positive step.  However, I strongly believe that it will not be right for all children and I think that we would disadvantage as many as we advantage.

I have taught in a range of schools since qualifying as a teacher and have always taught either FS2 or Year 1.  My teaching practices and NQT year both took place in inner city schools in London where the majority of my classes spoke English as a second (or even third) language.  A large proportion of these children came from the large social housing estates located near the schools and a considerable number of these children received very little support at home.  By this I mean both academically and extra-curricularly.  The progress a lot of these children made was entirely down to the amazing staff at school; their parents did not read with them or help them with the minimal homework we set nor did they support the extra programmes that were put in place to support their move into Year 2 (and forthcoming SATs)  In this particular case a lot of these children would have benefited from extra time at school to work on homework, play sports and music and generally do the kind of activities a lot of other children take for granted.  These were children who were living in high rise estates with no real outside space (often in much smaller flats than actually accommodated their families) and who despite living in central London had not seen the River Thames or been on a bus or tube train before we took them on school trips to some of the amazing (and free) places London has to offer.  I left this school feeling that I had really made a difference to their education and hoping that they could continue to blossom as they moved through the primary system.

My next two schools were both in more affluent areas and the difference in parenting could not have been more obvious.  At the first school (a very small, idyllically located village school in Hampshire) I learnt to deal with a different kind of problem parent.  These parents wanted to know why “Edward is only on Stage 3 of Oxford Reading Tree when his friend Johnny is on Stage 5 and I know he isn’t a better reader”.  These parents filled after school time with swimming and French and piano and horse riding and ballet and tennis and wondered why their children were so tired that they struggled to get up in the morning to come to school and then couldn’t concentrate past 12pm.  In a strange way some of these children would also have benefitted from longer school days as they might have actually had a bit of down-time and had some release from the achievement obsessed parents they had been blessed with. 

After two years there I moved to another village school in Wiltshire.  I hate to use the word ‘normal’ but I would describe this school as filled with ‘normal’ families who generally filled after school time with a sensible amount of activity and who therefore had happy, well-balanced children.  The children in my class used to tell me about their swimming lessons and the football and rugby they played but would also tell me about their play dates and how “we got home and had a movie night”.  These children DO NOT need to be at school for ten hours a day and would actually be disadvantaged by doing so as they receive everything they need in a combination of a normal school day and a loving, thoughtful, constructive and fun family environment.

I think that Michael Gove needs to be very careful with his plans for the education system or he (and therefore the Conservative Government) will risk alienating entire swathes of the population.  I can see the benefits for SOME children spending longer at school but I don’t think it should be used as a way for working mothers to receive more free child care and I don’t think that it should be a blanket decision.  It should be the result of a holistic approach to individual children’s needs (just like all our lesson plans are supposed to be!) and should take into account personal circumstances as well as academic achievement.  Without this we run the risk of producing a generation of automatons who will not be able to independently manage their learning or time once they grow up.  I remember vividly which peers of mine struggled with the independent learning required of us at our local sixth form college –  it wasn’t those of us who had been to the local all-comers state school; it was those who had been through selective state schools where the results were amazing but where people were spoon-fed everything they needed. 

We only have to look at the education systems in other countries to see that whilst we send our children to formal school at the earliest we don’t do particularly well in league tables against them.  I have British Army friends based in Germany who choose to send their children to local German schools rather than to the MOD run British schools.  This is for a number of reasons; because the German schools do not start ‘formal’ education until the equivalent of Year 2 and instead encourage play based learning, because it allows their children to learn a second language in a natural environment and because the shorter school day allows children to pursue other interests outside of their academic learning.  Infant children generally finish school at lunchtime and most go home at this point (there is very cheap childcare available in the afternoons if required).  We have to acknowledge that more German mothers do not work and that therefore this shorter working day is less of an issue than it is for many British women but from what I have seen it does seem that it is a more natural, child led environment with more outside play (whatever the weather!) and a smaller emphasis on reading and writing until the children are actually ready. 

I can see both sides to the proposal of a longer school day but it worries me that my little boy might start school in a few years and enter an environment that places too much emphasis on academic achievement and not enough on social skills and being a child.  It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next months and years but I for one will not be willing to work the hours that are being suggested.  As other bloggers have pointed out, teachers already work these hours (and longer) planning activities for the children in their care.  We have to be careful not to place more of a burden on them and as a result stop them having the time to plan creative, engaging lessons that suit all types of learning.  If this happens, I can see a return to the era of the worksheet as getting to the photocopier will be the only planning time they are left with……

PS Starting sentences with “As a Mummy” still makes me want to scream even now that I am a mummy so if I ever hear myself saying it to any young teachers I come across in the future I promise to apologise……

“It’s really good that you feel able to go back to work and don’t feel guilty about leaving your baby”

This ‘helpful’ comment from a SAHM came just before I went back to work.  I mulled it over, went home, burst into tears and spent the next few days worrying that my baby would be utterly traumatised at being ‘abandoned’ by his mother and would think that I didn’t love him enough.  Once I had spoken to my husband (who is happy I am back at work but never put me under any pressure to return so soon) I realised that I had taken the comment too much to heart and that I needed to let it go.

I went back to work last September when my baby boy was just over six months old.  Had I been teaching full-time before his birth and therefore qualified for full (and very generous) teacher’s maternity leave I would probably have left it a little longer and enjoyed a few more months of eating cake and drinking tea.  However, having been out of regular employment since arriving in Germany (bar a couple of weeks of supply) when what appeared to be the perfect teaching job came to my attention I had to make the decision to either remain out of work until we moved again this summer or take the opportunity to get another year under my belt.  With a fairly dodgy looking CV as a result of all the moves I decided to find out a bit more information about what the post entailed and then make a decision.

Having engineered a meeting (in Costa naturally so I could have more cake) with my potential new boss I wrote down what I was looking for in a job so that I didn’t get bamboozled into taking on more than I wanted to.  At our meeting she asked me what hours I could offer.  I took a deep breath and said “two-three days and it all has to be local to where I live”.  The response was positive, we talked a bit more about what the job would entail and it was agreed that contracts would be sent out.  It was the easiest teaching position interview I have ever had!  No lesson observations, no need to produce endless amounths of evidence to prove qualifications and courses attended etc etc etc etc and a month later the job was mine.

My next step was therefore finding childcare for Teddy which is a lot harder out here in British Forces Germany than it would be if I was in the UK.  Having established that only one British nursery did the hours I would need and that it was a thirty minute drive from home I decided to go down the childminder route.  The next few weeks saw a round of visits to local British childminders before I found the one that I thought would suit Teddy the best.  Just before I went back to work Teddy did a number of settling sessions with his childminder which were all fine and which made my actual return to work much easier!  He has been unbelievably settled and has never cryed or been clingy on a single drop-off.  This is partly down to the fact that he has always been a relaxed baby happy to be held and looked after by other people but is mostly down to the incredible care he receives from his childminder.  It has been good for him on so many levels; he is very sociable and enjoys playing with all children and his mobility and speech have greatly benefitted from him being around slightly older children. We also have the option in Germany of sending children to German nurseries. We opted not to do this knowing that we wouldn’t be staying here past 2014 and that there would be little benefit to Teddy in terms of language as we would not be in a position to carry on speaking to him in German once we left. If we were staying longer term I would definitely have considered it as having a second language would be fantastic for him. The German nurseries are also considerably cheaper in that you pay an amount depending on your earnings and even if you earn mega bucks this amount is very low in comparison to the UK.
 

I feel that returning to work was the correct decision for me but recognise that it does not work for everyone.  I have been extremely lucky in that Teddy’s childminder is fantastic and that he is happy to be there; watching his face light up in the mornings when he spots the other children there is fantastic and I think that socialising in this way has been amazing for his development. As a result of our experience, I will try to find childcare for him on a couple of days when we move in the summer as even though I will probably not be working I think it is important that he remains happy to be looked after by other people.

The decision to return to work is a tricky one for all mothers and it is not an easy one to make. We hope to have more children and I know that the cost of childcare for more than one child would make returning to work in the UK nonsensical for me. I am therefore making the most of being able to have the best of both worlds whilst I can. Childcare is very cheap in British Forces Germany (I pay €5 per hour dropping down to €2.50 per hour in the school holidays when I do not need the care) which means that even my part-time salary is worth working for. Having looked at nurseries in the area we will be moving to in August it seems that I will be paying quite a bit more than that and he therefore will probably not be able to do the same number of hours until he starts on the subsidised sessions. I very much feel that I have the best of both worlds. I have Mondays and Fridays at home with Teddy and take him to baby groups or spend time with friends with babies on both of these days. We also enjoy just having a bit of a chill out though and if the weather is truly horrendous are happy just to potter around at home enjoying each other’s company. However, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I get to have grown up time where I can use the few brain cells that haven’t been zapped by child birth and enjoy three days of teaching.

Most importantly (at least in my materialistic eyes) I have my own money and can therefore buy new things that I don’t remotely need whenever I want…… And that is the main reason I returned to work!

The Ordinary Moments #1

About this time last year I was sat at home awaiting the birth of my little boy Teddy trying to find ways to occupy my time other than watching ‘Homes under the hammer’ every day…..  In order to save my sanity I started following more people on Twitter and started to read a wider range of blogs; in particular those written by people either expecting around the same time as me or with little ones.  One of the first blogs I came across was Mummy Daddy Me and I spent some lovely winter afternoons (it basically snowed here non-stop from February through to April) reading past and present posts.  This blog (and also The Adventure of Parenthood) struck a particular chord as both writers were expecting babies around the same time as me.  Once my baby was born I continued to read these twitter feeds and blogs as they coped with all the same things that I was (although with a little bit less “Oh. My. God. I’m responsible for an actual person” as they were both experienced second time Mummies!)  I have really loved seeing pictures of their babies and have enjoyed reading about their adventures and with another move on the cards this summer (to a place where I will not easily find work) I have decided to give this blogging malarkey one last shot (I am notoriously rubbish at sticking at things like this)!  I particularly like The Ordinary Moments feature that Katie at Mummy Daddy Me does each Sunday so thought where better to start…..

Sat here in our study looking outside at a lovely sunny winter’s day I am ever grateful for the life that I have with my husband and little boy.  Our life is a slightly nomadic one having moved locations five times in six years of marriage but it is an adventure and I wouldn’t change it for the world.  My husband has been away a lot over the last year and so my first ordinary moment post is going to celebrate the weekends we have when he is actually at home.  The weekends when the early get-ups can be shared out and when we can either snuggle in bed for a bit longer safe in the knowledge that no alarm is going to shatter the peace or troop downstairs in our pyjamas to grab a cup of tea and eat hot marmite covered toast in front of the TV. When we can meander into town,  buy meat, veg, fruit and flowers at the lovely Saturday market and then go to any number of gorgeous konditorei and cafes for a latte and big wedge of cream filled German torte.  The weekends when the weather is horrible so we can bunker down inside and watch a film while we build endless towers for Teddy to send flying.  The Saturday night comfort food when we can share the cooking and dinner doesn’t amount to a cheapo pizza from the freezer.  Sundays when we stick the baby in the pram and walk to the NAAFI (essentially a British Forces supermarket) to buy the papers before coming home for a lovely pot of tea.  Enjoying the family roast dinners we have started having on a Sunday afternoon now that Teddy eats pretty much what we eat.  The long stream of FaceTime/Skype conversations with relatives all desperate to see what Teddy can do new since the previous week (walking holding onto one hand this week!) as they only see him in the flesh every three/four months.  Sitting down once the baby is in bed to watch Downton Abbey/Call the Midwife etc ready for the start of another week (THANK GOD for Sky+!).

For the next two weekends I will be flying solo and so when I am feeling frazzled I will read back through this post and look forward to the weekends we have ahead of us.

The ordinary moments are quite often the best ones!

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