Must must must

It’s autumn holiday in Belgium. Finally, I must add.

Even though school only started the 1st of September here, eight weeks is a long time to keep going. And not just for the children, I can also really feel it. Eight weeks of rushing every morning. Eight weeks of trying not to be late. Of  getting up on time. Of getting dressed quickly. Of eating a hastened breakfast. Eight weeks of ‘we must do this and that’ and ‘we can’t be late’. The boys were really tired and weary last week. They were emotional about everything, got upset over nothing and hardly could get out of bed. I even kept them home a day and they slept and slept and slept. 
Honestly, I could feel it too. My patience was completely gone and all I wanted to do was sleep. I’d even set an alarm in the afternoon to be sure I would not fall asleep and be too late to pick the boys up again…

The holiday is well on its way and we have taken it really easy. We sleep in. Pyjamas stay on half of the day. They boys play, have fun, laugh, run, make an incredible mess, and I play with them or let them play while I read. There is nothing that we have to do. I’ts recovery time and it’s lovely. It also made me think. Why do we do this to our children? Why do they have to do so much? Why are there so many rules? Why does school start so early in the morning? Why are schools so ridiculously strict about being late, even when you have a good excuse? I never had a boss that was as strict as the schools here are. Can you imagine your boss getting upset about you being late because of a traffic jam? Or because of a unexpected sick child? As grown-ups we understand things happen.  Life is hard enough and yes, we know we are in trouble if we can’t pay our bills, but for being late at work or an appointment sometime? That is just bad luck. But I see my children grow up with a fear of being late and with a disliking for rules. They are not even four yet and it’s incredible how many things they already must do.

A solution to this is not easily found. Yes, I could keep them home till they are 6 and going to school is compulsory. Then they don’t have to do anything for the next years, except obey some very important safety rules (traffic etc.). They’d also miss out on a lot of great activities and on making friends.They would have no idea about the school rhythm and this whole discussion will start again when they are six.

What I can do is keep them home from school sometimes, just to recover. So far this often results in a ‘bad day’ together as the boys seem so happy to not have to do anything that they forget about all the rules we have at home. 

So honestly, I think things should be a bit more relaxed in our children’s lives. School could be a little less about rules and more about play. When my boys play ‘pretend school’ together at home it’s all about telling the other one what he must do or can’t do. ‘Stand on the dot.’ ‘Stand in a line.’ ‘Don’t run.’ ‘Don’t touch that.’  ‘Eat your fruit now.’ ‘Go to the toilet.’ ‘Sit down.’ ‘You can only play with that, not with this…’ 

Rules are important, especially for important things concerning safety in the house (careful on the stairs, don’t throw or play with cutlery, etc.) or on the street (never run into the street, always cross with a grown up etc.). But I also think too many rules are simply too much too handle and they will start to do the opposite. And that’s where things can easily go wrong.

Halloween-costumes everywhere

Friday was the last school day before the autumn holiday started and all children were allowed to come to school wearing a costume. The boys were quite excited and really enjoyed going to school looking like a big bird/ vampire/ flying monster with a cape. They drew a lot of attention at 8:15 in the morning cycling to school looking like this:

They were not the only class doing this though, when we walked to school it seemed all kids for all schools were dressed up. We met knights and princesses, pumpkins and dinosaurs, superman and batman, spiders and ghosts. It was great to see so many happy children. It really put a smile on my face (and on many other peoples’ faces).

Music lessons

Last month we started taking our boys to bilingual music lessons. I want them to develop a love for music and I was very happy to have found a music class for children from 3 years old. It is very surprising to see how much children can already pick up. Learning about rhythm and notes, trying out different instruments and learning some dance sequences. It’s absolutely great. There are two side effects to these music lessons though, that are worth mentioning: one very great, the other one…

See, the funny thing is that, since the lessons started, music suddenly is everything for one of our boys. The minute he comes home from school, he grabs his guitar and starts to sing songs and recites all the verses he learned in the last months. He mixes them up sometimes but there are at least 20 different ones in 3 different languages. And sometimes he even improvises and sings about what happened that day. It is really great to see how much he enjoys music. There is a smile on his face constantly when he holds his guitar. (Our other son is a little less interested but will sometimes play along.)

The other thing is that our boys now discovered YouTube… We had to look up some of the songs they danced to in the class and we found them with a video that showed the dance as well. But this also resulted in them realising we have a tablet, which we had managed to hide successfully from their lives for nearly 4 years…

So now we very often have to play the following videos because they want to do those dances. And from one song, they discover the next one and it never stops.. . So yes, I will share the videos here, because when I suffer, you all can suffer a little with me 😉


and the worst song in history:

Back to school

On Monday all the schools in Belgium started again after a holiday of 2 whole months. On the one hand I was looking forward to it, when the boys are in school I have much more time for my work, but on the other hand I was dreading the morning rush. Getting up early is not something any of us is very good at. And I hate being late so there is always this rush of doing too many things in too little time.

Monday went very well though, we had managed to get the boys in bed on time the night before and they were actually very excited. Even breakfast went down without a problem.

Tuesday still went very well, even though one of the boys did not manage to eat his whole breakfast. But the other one made up for this by having three breakfasts 🙂

Wednesday was difficult. They really did not want to get out of bed, so eventually we had to run to school. And this on a day that I don’t have to make lunchboxes for them, as school is finished at 12:15. Wednesday afternoon was mostly spend in bed, by all three of us yes. Zzzzzzz

On Thursday we were late again. I thought we were early but then they took forever to brush their teeth and needed one more pipi. They also cycled to school in such a way that I am sure they are holding the record for ‘slowest bicycle ride ever’.

On Friday I did not want to get up anymore. But I did it anyway, repeating my mantra ‘it’s the last day, tomorrow is the weekend’. The boys echoed my words and together we made it. They were not even the last ones in the class.

Hooray, only one more pick-up and the first week has been conquered. Weekend!

Gift ideas for 2 year olds

After the success of my earlier post about gift ideas for three year old children, I decided to make a list for two year olds as well. These ideas can be used to make a wish list for friends and family that are coming over for the birthday. I again have not mentioned any bicycles, cars or other big toys like slides, sand pits and play houses.

This toys on this list were the most used toys in the year that our boys were two.

  1. The classis Fisher Price register. They can use this for years.


2. Books. Some of the stories that our boys enjoyed over and over again.

3. Duplo. One of their favourite toys in the world. Building, playing, making up stories… Small sets, big sets, there is always something within budget.

4. Play figurines. Perfect toys to take on the road, when visiting friends, in the car, in a restaurant etc. Our boys absolutely love dinosaurs, but there are many sets available like farm animals, wild animals, fish, horses etc.

5. Wooden train set. Another toy that will last years and they can start playing with it from this age onwards. Ikea also has a really nice and affordable set.

Just a last tip: At this age, children usually have many toys already and unpacking presents can be quite overwhelming, especially when they get a lot of new toys. When we celebrated our boys’ birthday I also put some clothes on their wish list, especially items for the season ahead. It was a great way to make sure they boys did not get too many toys and to stock up on clothes as they really could use some new ones. Just make sure you mention the sizes you want, you can never be too specific when it comes to clothes 🙂

 

Father’s Day – some craft ideas

Father’s Day is coming up. Yes, I can just hear you think– Yaiks, there is no time, I am too busy and I have no idea what to make or buy.
We all know how busy we get, so here are some quick ideas to still be able to give your man a present from the children and you.

  • Take a walk to a photo-boot (to be found in metro- and train-stations) and take a (funny) picture of you and your kids together. Either make 1 picture or a set of 4 for in his wallet. Frame it, or not. Just see how much time there is. This idea is perfect when you have a very small child.
  • Get the finger paint out, put your child’s hands or feet in it, put them carefully on a canvas and your are done. Best done before bath time  to ease the clean-up 🙂 Perfect with a very small child and also great gift idea for grandparents.
  • Get the finger paint out for your toddler/ older children and give them a canvas to make their own art. Cheap canvas can be found at any Action shop.
  • Buy some white cloth handkerchiefs for men (Hema has them) and some permanent clothing markers. Have the kids draw on them. Wrap them up. Can also be done with tea towels, t-shirts or an apron, but I find that handkerchiefs are the most likely to actually be used.
  • Design some labels for beer or wine bottles. This sounds more fancy than it is, just cut out some white cardboard or thick paper and make sure it fits around the bottle you have picked out as a gift. Give this paper to your children to be drawn or painted on. When they are done you use sticky tape or glue to fasten is around the bottle and you have a perfect gift.
  • Make cards. Go to Action or Hema and buy loads of stickers and some empty cards. Let the kids design their own card for daddy. They can of course also use their markers, pencils and stamps.

Hopefully this was helpful. Enjoy the fun!

Silence

Sometimes she has a few moments

of quietly floating amongst the clouds

then the noise starts

again

like a helicopter whirring

closer and closer

a crescendo of voices

mom, mommy, mom!

silence

is a twin mother’s

needle in the haystack

 

(c) Carien Touwen 2018

*PS. This weekend I went on a writers retreat and this is one of the pieces I wrote during the workshops.

Gift ideas for 3 year olds

Children usually have a lot of toys already and with a birthday coming up, you usually don’t want to add to the existing pile. For me a birthday is great moment to get rid of some toys that they don’t use often anymore. Either by giving some toys away or selling some on a second hand place before they actually get so annoyed with it they break it. However, there is still the issue of ‘new toys’ because a birthday with no gifts to unwrap is not a real birthday. My family usually works with wish-lists that we make available a few weeks in advance, so people can buy something that your kid can actually use. This also avoids doubles (although with twins, some gifts have to come in doubles).

When our boys turned three I asked around a lot for good ideas and was very grateful with the input I got. So here is my list with suggestions for when your child has his or her third birthday. I am not going to list bicycles, tricycles or other vehicles to ride on as this is very individual, every child is different in his development and it what he likes. Instead I list some smaller gifts that are great to ask for.

  1. Books. This will always be my first choice. It’s really good for children to listen to stories being read aloud. Here are three books that we are currently reading that our boys really enjoy.

2. Marble run. This only works if your child is not putting little things in his mouth anymore, as the marbles are quite small. They are also not able to make it themselves yet, but if you build it together with them, they can play with it for a long time. They simply love seeing the ball run through the maze of tubes.
3. Watercolour paint. They absolutely love this. And so much less mess than finger painting!
4. Guitars. For their musical ambitions.Our boys really like playing them and singing an absolutely not related song at the same time 🙂 🙂  

5. Puzzles. Something to do together first and then let them learn by themselves. Start with 4-6 pieces and work them up to 20-24.