Saturday, 29 January 2011

Skiing as a family

Today we went skiing again (as a family).

Last Saturday I had a bit of an epiphany about skiing.
For those of you who are new here, this is my first season of skiing (if you ignore some cross country stuff I did in Australia a looong time ago). Last week the sun shone, the snow was nice (there is probably a technical term, but for me it was just nice), and I was able to stop and go when I wanted to (not always, but mostly). My ski instructor is the perfect mix of kind and pushy, and I look forward to my weekly lesson with him.

But more than that it was beautiful and peaceful, and a snowy mountain was a wonderful place to be.
I went up and then down, and all was right with the world.
I got it.
I had a moment of insight as to why people like skiing.
Skiing was fun and beautiful and fast and cold and outside and, well, fun.

After my lesson I achieved a major goal I had set for myself. My entire small family of four caught the chairlift up the mountain together. We skied together.
Well sort of together.
Actually at the top of the mountain the girls shot off with DH in hot pursuit, and I skied down more slowly. But I skied the most simple of blue runs at our favorite ski resort without an instructor.
I did it.
I fell down once becasue of a stupid mistake, but I still did it (and I am even getting pretty good at the falling down part).
I skied with my family, and it felt good.

Fast forward to today.
I had another lesson (my 5th), and once again the snow was nice, and the sun shone.
I skied well. For someone who hasn't done this a lot, I think I am doing pretty well.
I felt good and had fun.
For two weeks running I have had fun skiing.
It isn't all fun, but I so get it now.
I am a total convert.
I like skiing.

And today the impossible happened.
Again my family caught the chair lift up the mountain together, but today I kept up.
Today we really did ski together.
We stopped and watched each other ski, and I marvelled at how it is possible to feel so close to people who are not right by your side, but who are sharing the same expereince as you.
We all skied at different levels (and always will), but this is something we can enjoy together as a family.
We caught the chair lift togther and talked.
We skied down a hill, and stopped to watch each other, or simply admire something beautiful.
We shouted to each other to encourage or tease.
We were fast and we were slow.
We fell down.
We laughed.
We flew.
We skied.
I am now officially part of a family who skis, and I love it.

Friday, 28 January 2011

More heart craft (blue of course)

Today we made more blue hearts for Valentines Day.
We made blue floating candles with added glitter.

We love making candles, and although this does involve hot wax, it is a really simple and fast craft, so (with a bit of caution) a wonderful activity for a 3 and 5 year old.

We started by melting wax pellets in a double boiler, and once the wax had liquefied we added the dye (blue).  Today we used actual proper wax dye, but a piece of crayon in the desired colour works just as well. Once the liquid wax was an appropriate shade of blue we added glitter, just becasue we like glitter.
I poured the wax into the heart shaped moulds. The girls don't get to do this part, because hot wax is hot. While the wax was cooling we cut some wicks, which I rolled in the remaining liquid wax. I left the wicks to cool, and becasue they were coated in wax, this made them easy to push into the partially set candles. Normally the girls do this part, but today friends dropped in to visit, so I added the wicks while they played.
The girls popped the candles out of the moulds, and were thrilled with the result.

Of course they were so excited about their new floating candles that they decided they couldn't wait until Valentines Day, so we had them tonight at dinner tonight.
Never mind - we have plenty of time to make more, and Sofie has even requested that the next batch are RED!
We are loving coming up with heart themed crafts right now.
Some other places that I have seen inspiring ideas are Pink and Green Mama and The Enchanted Tree.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Heart crafts

With Valentines Day rapidly approaching, I thought it would be fun to do a couple of heart themed crafts with the girls. I have to say that the over hyped commercialism of Valentines Day leaves me decidedly underwhelmed, but the girls look forward to a special day to give out hearts they have made to people that are an important part of their lives. So that is how we celebrate. We spend time making things and talking about the people that mean the most to us.

As ever when I am embarking on a craft project with the girls, I usually have a good idea of what we need to make the item I have in mind.

As ever when embarking on a craft project with me, the girls have a totally different idea of what is needed to make something completely different to what I envisioned!

We started with something super quick and easy. I helped Emily cut a heart shape out of cardboard, then she ripped up pieces of tissue paper and rolled them into little balls. We used Valentines colours like pink, white and red. We used blue. It goes without saying that Emily loved all the ripping and scrunching (and blue)!

Then she used pva glue to stick the scrunched up balls onto the cardboard heart. We stuck a hanging loop on the back, and that was it. Emily was thrilled with the result, and I guess I can always come up with another craft to use all that pink, red and white tissue paper....

Then we decided to make a heart lantern to decorate our table on Valentine's Day. We cut out a strip of blue cardboard (by this point I had totally given up even suggesting any other colour), and used the craft punch to punch heart shapes along the top and bottom. We stuck blue cellophane (ok, technically they are sweet wrappers from last Christmas) over the heart holes, and wrapped the whole thing around a glass tea light holder. I didn't get a good picture, but it looks really pretty in the dark with the light shining through the cellophane windows. It would probably look even nicer with white card and red cellophane hearts, but what do I know of such things.
So there you have it.
Does anyone want to pop over and join us for our blue themed Valentines Dinner?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I took the girls skiing

Oh dear, my poor neglected Blog.

Lots and lots to Blog about, and many half written posts, but that's about it right now.

So in an attempt to do better, here is what we got up to today.

Today was a bit of a milestone in our lives (more in my life really). I took the girls skiing on my own, and we all skied together! I took my kids skiing, and we had a great time. This time I was not the one left at the bottom of the slope, while everyone else skied off.

We only went to a super small local resort with one really easy blue run, but we all went up and down enough times to be tired. No one broke anything, and there was only one spectacular fall (which may have been mine), but help was on hand (my five year old may have offered to help me up).

It was a huge achievement for me, and the girls and I had a lot of fun. I know they won't always want to spend an afternoon skiing with their Mummy, so today was very special.

At the end I was exhausted, and as we were about to head back to the car Sofie said, 'but Mummy aren't you going to take any pictures?'
So I dragged out my camera to take photos of the girls being silly (or cool if you are 3 and 5 years old).
 In the following photos the girls are not wearing helmets. They always wear helmets when they ski, but we were at the bottom of the run and they wanted to take them off so I could take pictures of them wearing their new balaclavas, which they think are the absolute height of fashion!

This is Emily's favorite photo from today, becasue you can 'clearly' see her new blue ski poles. Her long running obsession with blue continues.

And after an afternoon on the mountain she might be too tired to ski anymore, but that doesn't mean she is ready to take her skis off quite yet.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Nothing much, but quite a lot

The title of this post best describes our afternoon.

This afternoon we had nothing planned - absolute bliss. I did ask the girls if they wanted to ice skate, but they were a bit luke warm about the idea, and frankly I am not hauling everyone (plus a mountain of gear) to the ice rink for just luke warm.

So we stayed at home. Bliss.

We watched the snow falling outside, and talked about how lucky we are to have a warm, dry, cosy home (me), and how great it will be to ski this weekend on all the new snow (the girls).
Sigh (me).
But I am sure that deep down they are grateful for their warm home, even if they don't always show it...
I guess I should be thankful they are grateful for their skis (which they always show).

We played with shaving foam (inside snow), and the girls loved it. I have done this with Emily before, but this was Sofie's first time, and once she worked out what to do, she could not have been more enthusiastic.

 I put large blobs of shaving foam on the kitchen table, along with plastic animals, assorted cutlery, medicine spoons (somehow so much more exciting than regular spoons), paint brushes and egg cups, and left them to it.
 Seriously, this kept them happily entertained for almost an hour, and although it looks messy, it takes no time to all to clean up.

They sung, they danced, they created, they explored, they smeared shaving foam everywhere, and they were happy.
Then we read stories, played dominos, and did lot of somersaults on the new gym mat.

The girls went upstairs to dance in their bedroom while I cooked dinner, and finished the day with a maths lesson in the bath.

Sofie: Emily, if I have 2 pet dolphins and then I add 2 more pet dolphins, how many pet dolphins do I have?
Emily: A crocodile.
Sofie: No Emily. I don't think you are really trying.

Such wonderful, spirited, funny, joyous little girls.
What a gift to spend an entire, uninterrupted, afternoon with them.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The conversations you dread

I know a lot of parents dread the day their children ask them about awkward topics like; where meat comes from, or sex, or terrorism, or same sex marriage, etc.
Not me. I am actually pretty ok discussing stuff like that with the girls (at an age appropriate level, answering the specific question, divulging only what is actually required at the time, etc, etc).

For me the conversations I really dread go a bit like this.

Sofie (age 5, but still my baby - at least according to me anyway): Mummy, can I have a new bag for gym?
Me: I guess so. Is something wrong with your old bag?
Sofie: No, not really. I just thought it would be good to have a bag like V.
Me: You mean a bag with the thin straps that are uncomfortable and fall off your shoulders?
Sofie: Yes. F has one too. Infact Mummy, everyone has one of those bags except for me.
Me: Really? Why it seems like only last week that I saw L and N with the same bags they have used since the start of term. The bags that are nothing like those other, impractical, poorly designed bags.*

*Sofie may only be 5 but she totally gets when I am being sarcastic.

Sofie: Well ok L ad N have different bags, but the other kids don't, and I would like to have the same as them.
Me:Seriously Sof, how are you going to carry all your stuff to to gym in one of those silly, flimsy, sport bags?
Sofie: I'll just hang it over one shoulder like this Mummy (she gives me a demonstration of carrying an imaginary, poorly designed, bag).

And then come the words that made my blood run cold.

Sofie: I really want one of those bags Mummy. They are super cool and trendy.

Super cool and trendy??!!
What is that all about?
She is five years old.
What ever happened to 'comfortable, practical and functional?'
Even as I thought those words I felt old.
Sensible, but old.

So just as I was about to launch into a tirade about how bad carrying a bag on one shoulder is for her back, and how ridiculous it is to worry about what others think, I took a breath.

I remembered how important this stuff actually is for kids.
I remembered what it felt like to be the only one with the 'practical and functional' bag/shoes/jacket.
I realised that deep down Sofie isn't actually overly bothered about having a new bag, but she has noticed that her friends have a different one, and she has openly talked to me about it.
I know that one day the things that make her different will be important, and I want her to know she can always come to me about these things, even if she knows that I think they are silly (because I am sensible and old).
I believe that by listening to her now, she will learn that whilst I may tease her along the way, I will always take her concerns seriously (once I am done teasing).

I recoil from words like 'cool and trendy'. But at the end of the day it is just a bag.

I skipped down the street, holding Sofie's small hand in mine, and jeering 'do you think I'm cool and trendy Sof'?.
The answer was an emphatic 'no', but said whilst laughing loudly, so I think we are both know we are ok with each other right now.
Yes, it is just a bag, but sometimes it is the little things that are actually so much more.
The lines of communication are open.
Tomorrow Sofie will get a new bag.
I will probably tease her a lot about it.

Oh, and as if that conversation wasn't enough, today Sofie looked at some ski photos from yesterday and announced she is definitely going to marry L - her best ski buddy.

Don't get me wrong. I love L (and his whole family), and couldn't be happier at the thought of Sofie marrying him, but it is the criteria on which she has chosen her future husband that worries me somewhat.

Apparently just because he is a 'mean ski jumper', he is now officially the 'coolest boy in the world' and this make shim perfect future husband material.

I guess there have been marriages based on flimsier criteria, right?
And for a five year old, he is seriously good.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A skiing post

I am sure that some of you have noticed the total lack of skiing related posts thus far this season, and have probably heaved a collective sigh of relief. However fear not dear blog readers - please allow me to present the first of what will undoubtedly be many ski posts.

Last year I often bemoaned the fact that I couldn't take lots of ski photos becasue I didn't ski, so thus photography opportunities were limited becasue I was stuck at the bottom of the mountain.
Ahh, how naive I was.
This season I am learning (very, very slowly) to ski, and photo opportunities are even more limited, simply becasue I can barely ski and breath at the same time, never mind take photos too. Plus carrying expensive camera equipment around when you are likely to fall at any given moment is not a good idea.

So we have skiied a few times this season, but don't have mnay photos. Here is a selection from today, most of which were taken by DH on the nursery slopes, where the kids had a great time playing on a small jump.

The jump itself is serious business if you are only three.

But once over Emily was thrilled.
Off course just getting over the jump wasn't enough for very long. Soon we needed to 'fly'.

And even Sofie, who decided that the nursery slope was boring, couldn't resist playing on the jump.

We skied with our regular ski friends, and this proved to be a huge boost to Sofie's confidence. She skied a lot, and really attacked and enjoyed some of the harder slopes that she has shown no interest in up until now.
Having her best ski buddy at her side saying wonderful things like 'Don't worry Sofie, we are the best skiers in the world' really seemed to help. By the end of the day we had to physically remove the girls' skis to get them leave the resort. I love how skiing always makes us looks like such great parents, as we chase our children, shrieking ineffectually, and attempting to stamp on their skis to get them to stop skiing.

We might not all be good skiers, but it doesn't mean we can't have fun anyway.
And of course when  the going gets tough there is always Prosecco!!

It has been a good day.
A very good day.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

I am here - really I am.

After  lovely week away with family in the UK, we returned to Switzerland last weekend. I have been a little slow updating things here, but will hopefully be a bit less hopeless at Blogging once we all slip back into our regular routine again (and I get the laundry pile sorted!).

We had a wonderful trip, and a fantastic time in England. Both DH and I have realised how much easier it is to travel with the girls now they are a bit older, and we were blessed with punctual flights, and a pretty straight forward trip. We arrived at the airport in matching outfits (just the kids, not DH and I), complete with dolls and trolley cases.
Even Emily who struggles with travel becasue it involves things she doesn't like (change, variables, unknowns, lots of people, etc) coped well. It helped a lot that she knew where we were going, and even though we couldn't predict the colour of the hire car (something which troubles her greatly), she was happy to arrive at Nanna and Grandad's house, and see that Nanna had remembered to make her bed with the exact same bedding she used last time (yellow Winnie the Pooh covers), and her plate and bowl set were ready and waiting (also Winnie the Pooh), and that many of her pictures were stuck up all over the house, plus there were Hula Hoops (the salted snack food) available in a bowl that had been conveniently placed at three year old level. It pretty much ticked all the right boxes, and I am eternally thankful that the girls have such wonderful (not to mention indulgent) grandparents.

Seeing our family was wonderful. We spent a lot of time just being at home and together, but did manage to drag ourselves out and about for a couple of trips.

If you are in the Kent area at all, Sofie and Emily highly recommend Wildwood park. Beautifully laid out, lots of interesting information about each species, fabulous natural enclosures, and endless space for running and climbing.

No matter what the weather is like (cold and rainy actually) a trip to the beach is always exciting. Although the girls were disappointed that I hadn't remembered their swim suits. Seriously, they thought they might actually want to swim! Sofie had a good go with paddling, but once on the beach no one was actually keen to remove any of their multiple layers! We will save the swim suits for Summer methinks.

Undoubtedly one of the nicest parts of our trips to England is the way it allows us to hopefully create a 'bigger picture' for our girls. I love being in the house that DH grew up in, and the girls are thrilled to sleep in Daddy's childhood bedroom. All over the house are pictures of their Daddy as a child (and aunts, uncles, cousins, etc), plus pictures of DH and I from a time long before they were born (DH and I were together for 13 years before Sofie came along).

We go on adventures and stop at places that DH visited as a child. I took the photo below from Farthing Common - a place that DH remembers fondly, as they often used to stop here for ice creams after family trips out. I love that I and the girls can share these memories with him (although technically the girls were actually asleep in the back of the car as DH relayed this story to me, but you know what I mean).

I can see that Sofie in particular is fascinated by all of this, and it is beginning to weave a long and connected story about where they come from, and what being part of a family really means. I want them to know that whilst on a day to day basis our immediate family is small, they are both part of something so very much bigger. Something good and strong and wonderful.
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