Thursday, July 11, 2019

Raising a bilingual child


Research on how many words a child should have by a certain age varies. I've read that most (but not all) toddlers can say around 20 words by 18 months and 50 or more by the time they turn two. Apparently by 18 months many toddlers can even link two words together to form mini sentences already. In my facebook group of babies the same age as Mini and there is a huge discrepancy. Some babies are apparently saying as many as 40 words already whereas others aren't saying any.

Many people believe that bilingual children take longer to talk but I've also read that is a myth so I'm not really sure about that! I've read different advice about at what point to worry when your child isn't talking. I only speak English to Mini. Her Dad speaks German to her but when we are all together, our family language is English. She gets plenty of German exposure from daycare and just being out and about.

At her last doctor's checkup I mentioned she was only really saying "mama", "dada" and babbling. The doctor said they aren't concerned here unless the children don't have 20 words by age two. However she then said that some two year olds aren't talking at all but if they show *understanding* of 20 words that's enough.

A few weeks ago Mini started saying "yea/ja" which is very cute. She's still not saying any other new words (she's 16 months) but she does understand a lot and is able to make her wants known using gestures. If I ask her to point out body parts like "nose, mouth, eyes, hair, eyes etc" she's well able to point to them. She does get mixed up though between "where's MY nose?" and "where's YOUR nose?".

If she wants to be picked up she walks over and puts her arms above her head and makes a little noise to get your attention. Or she'll take your hand and pull you over somewhere to play together. She points at doors she wants opened or things she can't reach. She'll gesture at the stair gate in our house and I'll say "oh, do you want to go upstairs?" and she answers "yea".

I'm fascinated seeing how she learns and the associations she makes. Recently, I pointed out a bus to her as we were passing during a walk and she started doing the arm movements for the "wheels on the bus" song! When we feed her, my husband often says "mmm", like "try some broccoli, mmmm, yummy". And now I've noticed she points to food and says "mmm" when she wants to eat.

I'm excited for when she started saying more words and I'm curious about whether they'll be English or German!

Monday, June 10, 2019

The right to be heard #MicroblogMonday


As an Irish woman living in Germany I was allowed vote in the recent elections. The EU one was open to all European citizens and the local ones were open to all residents of the relevant constituency. I wasn't going to miss the opportunity and I was delighted to vote for the first time here and encourage others to do the same.

One good thing about this political climate is that people have been getting more interested in politics and realising how much their vote matters. To be honest I didn't know all that much about the different parties in Germany and what they all represent so I spent some time reading up on their goals until I felt happy with my choice.

Climate change and saving the environment is particularly important to me and this is one way I felt I can make a difference.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Staying informed


Recently, I came across a story about a girl in England who publishes a 'happy newspaper'. Her reasoning is that there is constantly so much negativity that it's easy to miss the positive things happening. I love the idea. She said that after big tragic events such as the New Zealand shootings, she felt like it would be wrong to publish but she had teachers from there write to her saying their students need some good news to after all they have been through and encouraged her to keep up the paper.

I don't often write about tragic events in the news on this blog, and sometimes it feels a bit insensitive or shallow to be talking about my day to day life as if I don't care about what's happening. The thing is I do care about it all, a lot. Stories such as the recent bombings in Sri Lanka, the Irish journalist, Lyra McKee, being shot during riots in Derry plus some other sad stories involving children, will stay with me and upset me for days. There was a night recently where I found it hard to sleep thinking about a particularly horrific child abuse case I'd read about.

There are times when I'm having a good day but then I read something awful on the news and it makes me feel bad for the rest of the day. It can feel wrong to be happy when someone else is currently going through something devastating. Although, maybe that's not the right way to think about it.. These stories should also remind us how short life can be and how you should appreciate each day you have. And be kind to one another.

I have often considered switching off from the news altogether. All the sad stories just make me feel upset and increase my anxiety. I can definitely understand the phrase "ignorance is bliss" in this case. A few days to focus on my life and loved ones sounds nice. A holiday from it all, including social media to be more present.

However, I generally believe that it's good for people to stay informed about what's going on in the world and not to bury their heads in the sand. Especially because certain events can trigger positive movements when people become activists and get involved with politics or take to the streets.


How do you handle it?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Life lately

I thought I'd share some updates on what I've been up to since March.

St. Patrick's day

I knew I had to celebrate in some way even if only for a few hours! Some friends and I decided to go to one of the Irish pubs in town. Even though a few of them were going to bring their kids along I decided to leave Mini at home as I knew the pub would be crowded and sometimes she just gets overwhelmed in loud and busy places. My husband was happy to stay with her and I enjoyed getting to catch up with the girls over a Guinness or two. I actually rarely drink Guinness! I tend to prefer sweeter drinks like wine spritzer but it was Paddy's day after all so I ordered a pint with some cheese and onion crisps.

It was a fun afternoon. Everyone was in really good spirits. There were a mixture of all nationalities in the pub and I enjoyed mingling. For some reason this only seems to happen at Irish pubs in Germany I find. At the German pubs people tend to stay with the groups of friends they arrived with. Of course I had Mini dressed in a cute green outfit for the day. Hopefully next year she'll be old enough to enjoy the celebrations a bit more.


Daycare adjustment

In March Mini started going to KITA (daycare /creche). In Germany they do a very gradual settling in process called "Eingewöhnung" which typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks. It started off well, the first week there we went for around an hour each day and I even left her a few times. She was happy to explore the new place new but soon it clicked that Mummy was leaving her there and then she started crying at drop off. The very worst day was when she was upset for almost half an hour after I left. It was very hard on both of us. I burst into tears myself and one of the minders gave me a really big hug!

I felt a lot of guilt around sending her there, wondering whether I was doing the right thing. I reminded myself that I knew she was in good hands. The childminders there are lovely and I knew they would be comforting her and distracting her. Thankfully that one day was the worst and it got better from then on. The following day she was upset for around ten minutes after I left and subsequent days only a few minutes max. On some days I handed her over to the minder and she got upset but then I would wait outside the door for a moment and I could hear she had already stopped crying. I was also able to peak into the window and see her playing which helped with the guilt. She is now settled and happy there which is a huge relief! I've been working more hours now and that's been going well too.

Time outdoors

The weather has finally started improving here and we've been able to spend more time outdoors lately. The German winter lasted a long time this past year but now all of a sudden we've started getting warm Summer like days. Hubby and I got a yearly pass to the zoo and have already been there a few times. There are lots of playgrounds and a nice park area so it's a lovely place to walk around even if you don't go to look at the animals.

As Mini gets older she is able to partake more at playgrounds. I can put her into the baby swing or let her play in the sand with a bucket and spade for instance. Of course she still tries to put things like sand and stones in her mouth so I have to keep a close eye on her! One of my friends and I also went to the park for a picnic recently and Mini was happy to sit on the blanket and snack. The weather lately has been a bit like an Irish Summer actually which is pleasant. Once it gets to August/September here then you get this extreme heat which makes being outside during peak times less tolerable.


Watching / reading

Like most people, we are following and enjoying the final season of Game of Thrones! It will be strange once it's all over. I'm currently reading "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty and we've also been watching the TV series. I like the casting, the actors they've picked mainly match my idea of the characters. My book club met recently to discuss out last book which was "A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman.

We've a few trips planned this Summer which I'm looking forward to. Anyway, enough about me. What's new with you?

Monday, March 25, 2019

One year old

Mini has now been in our lives for one whole year.



Personality

Now that she's turning into a toddler we see her personality more and more which has been really fun. She will take our hand and walk with us around the house. She loves getting into everything. If there is an open press, she will crawl over to it and start taking everything out of it as quickly as possible. I'm still working on teaching her to tidy up again after herself, haha! She likes to pick up random things off the floor and try to eat them much to our dismay. She enjoys looking through her books and being read to. She has a great sense of humour too. She often gets the giggles which is the cutest thing ever. She loves playing chasing and peekaboo.

Eating

She prefers to feed herself rather be fed and likes to eat whatever I'm eating. She'll try most things. Sometimes she'll eat a lot and still seems hungry so we keep offering her stuff and other days or times she barely eats anything. Breastfeeding is going well. I reached the one year mark and decided to keep going. The new goal is to make it to two years which is the WHO recommendation. I've noticed many people have opinions about breastfeeding a toddler and aren't always that supportive. A lot of people have already asked about when I'm going to stop. It's a shame that some people feel uncomfortable about the idea of a child above 6 months or 1 year continuing to nurse when it should be seen as natural and normal. When we are out and about I don't tend to nurse much, usually just at home before naps and during the night and more often if she's sick.

Sleeping

Sleeping has improved but it's still not ideal. On a good night she'll go to sleep for the night around 8pm, then wake up once around midnight and then at 5am and be up for the day around 7. On bad nights she's more restless, whether due to teething or something else I'm not sure and she wakes those nights up to 4-5 times. When she wakes I usually try cuddling back to sleep to see if that works. If it doesn't then I nurse. Sometimes if I've just recently fed her then my husband will rock her back to sleep.

She's not saying any new words yet. Besides "dada, mama, duck.." She seems to understand things pretty well though. She points at places she wants to go and she recognizes words we use a lot. I recently tidied away a whole bunch of her old baby clothes and it made me feel sort of nostalgic. Sometimes I feel a little sad that Mini will be our one and only but I've mostly come to terms with it and am happy with our little family of three!

Now she's a toddler she shows her frustration at times. She's not old enough for me to reason with her but distraction usually works well. Or I just let her keep doing whatever she wants to do sa long as it's not dangerous or hurting anyone. Life with a one year old is exhausting but fun!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Working mother guilt


I was planning a post on whether it's possible for women to "have it all" and about the balance between motherhood and working but instead I can't help thinking about guilt. It's my impression that the majority of working mothers feel guilty to some extent. We know logically we are doing the right thing for our family by continuing to work whether it's due to financial or personal reasons but it still doesn't make it less hard leaving your child and hoping they are managing fine without you. I like my job and it has taken me a long time to get to where I am and I also don't feel like being a stay at home mum is for me. There was a stage where, I felt like I was losing myself in motherhood. Right now working part time gives me the best of both worlds in many ways - I can have some time to be "me" again and still retain that part of myself while also having more patience and appreciation for the time at home with my daughter.

Sometimes it feels like it is going perfectly too! I have my office days where I concentrate on work and the other days where I can go to various play groups with my daughter and enjoy family time. However there have also been some weeks where it feels like a total fail. Lately work has been extra stressful and I often have to do overtime then I can't shut it off easily once I get home. I feel guilt at work when there is lots to do and I don't want to leave colleagues in the lurch so I end up staying late to support my team. However when I make that choice then my daughter is missing out on the time with me which I feel guilty and sad about.

Recently some potential opportunities at work have been mentioned but they would mean trips away for conferences or evenings/weekends spent doing further training. Mini still seems so young and I am struggling with what to do. In a few weeks my husband will be going back to work himself and she'll be going to KITA here (daycare). My plan has been to increase my hours at work. The trouble is that I already feel like it's hard managing the work life balance lately and I wonder how it will be when I am working longer and spending less time at home. I hate the thought of barely seeing her all day during the week. However, I know I am very lucky that my company supports a part time working arrangement! Recently I read that quality of time spent with children is more important than quantity and it helps me to think of it that way.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

First Christmas with Mini



Flying with a baby went much better than last time. We choose an earlier flight and made sure she got her naps. On the plane before take off she started getting cranky and hubby and I were worried about how the flight would go but I managed to get her to sleep soon after. She breastfed a little but then stopped and then I cuddled and stroked her head until she nodded off. She then slept through the entire flight to Ireland which was perfect!

She still wasn't a big fan of car journies unfortunately so those were difficult but it wasn't as bad as last time. I ended up often having to let her watch youtube videos on my phone so she wouldn't get upset (Wheels on the Bus / Five Little Ducks / Old Mac Donald). We tried to make sure she got one or two naps each day depending on what was on the agenda and she was generally good humoured. Occasionally she got a bit overstimulated by the end of the day and she was also teething pretty bad so a few evenings she was a bit grumpy and took longer to go to sleep!

Mini is 10 months now and still too young to really appreciate or understand Christmas. We took her to meet Santa at my local shopping centre and she cried when I put her on his lap. Oh dear! However, she loved seeing the Christmas trees everywhere ( I would hold her up to one so she could feel the tinsel and lights) and going new places.


I just loved everyone getting to spend time with her again. She is such a fun little person already. She can say "mama" and "dada", wave and clap. She also already understands a few phases I say a lot such as "let's look out the WINDOW" and "would you like some MILK?" and "open the door!"

For my birthday I got a spa voucher and enjoyed a massage, facial and manicure. It was so relaxing. I celebrated the day by going for afternoon tea with my family. It was the perfect low key birthday for how I was feeling but maybe next year I'll try to organize something bigger. Having a birthday around Christmas always makes it really difficult to plan something as it's such a busy time for everyone!


There were just two things that didn't go so well on the trip. Hubby and I had a fight on Christmas day. I think it was the stress getting to us both. I do some baby led weaning with Mini and she started gagging/chocking on some turkey and hubby freaked out and lost his temper at me. It was scary and upsetting but she's fine thankfully. She had fallen earlier that day and I'd gotten cross at him for not watching her which had bothered him. We have both made new year resolutions to be kinder to one another and more of a parenting team again.

The other thing that bugged me was all the unwanted advice about our parenting we kept getting! People compliment Mini for being a very happy baby but then constantly tell us things like "you'll need to get her used to sleeping in her cot" when they hear we bedshare and that it's a "bad habit" that we usually lie next to her for naps. It made me feel defensive and frustrated as we are doing our best. Mini is a contact loving baby and my husband and I are fine with the situation - it works for our family- so why does it bother other people so much?

It was fun for me to spend time with family and relations again on the trip and the friends who were able to meet me. Unfortunately since the holidays are such a busy time, there were several people I didn't get to see. We're planning another trip back to Dublin in the Summer though. I felt a bit homesick when we were leaving. It's a pity I live so far away but my life is very much in Germany now and I can't see us moving. It was a lovely Christmas and I'm looking forward to when we travel over again to Dublin in the Summer and Mini can experience even more of Ireland and its culture.