Crazy over Lego in Legoland Deutschland

Legoland Deutschland resort Park in Günzburg, Germany

One of the highlights of our Summer break this year in the midst of Corona Pandemic is our visit in Legoland Resort Park in Günzburg.It was a looonggg wish by my daughter, she often asked that after she turned 6 years old, she wants to see her beloved Ninjago friends in Legoland.

But because of Corona virus, this trip was postponed many times….

But then, Endlich… FINALLY!

Wearing her Lloyd Ninja mask while we hike through the Pöllatschlucht going to Neuschwanstein Castle

We visited the Legoland Discovery Center in Berlin and for her, it is not enough. She even wants to go to Legoland HQ in Billund! She needed to see a much bigger park and that is why we decided to give it a go. As a gift and before she goes to school, I know she deserved to be here. As a child, she has been a great fan and addicted to playing Lego.She has her Papa´s old Lego blocks and toys so I guess this is really special to her.She has been fanatic as early as 2 years old,playing Duplos, and now more on the complicated ones, like Ninjago and all the Ninjas. She knows every character by heart and all the episodes of the series and film. She is no-princess type of girl and only want Legos, trading cards and ninjago things as gift,nothing, nothing else.

She doesn´t want to wear a skirt, dress or any girly things—but give her Lego t-shirt and costume as she will be so happy!

Driving to Günzburg was easy for us.It took us 1,5 hours from Ingolstadt and we were in time for the 10 a.m opening of the park. I knew and anticipated that it would be packed with children ( and crowds!) since it is still “Sommerferien” here in Germany. Most of Germans stayed in the country ( at least from whom I knew…) during this summer, doing staycation and out of town trips, just like we did.

I have asked few of my friends who went here as well how did it go so I am confident that it is safe to visit the park.And I was not indeed dissapointed….

My daughter had a blast! and so are we..:-)

Greens and beautiful landscape inside the Legoland Resort in Günzburg

Visiting Legoland is only possible if you book your tickets ahead of your visit.It follows a very strict Corona restrictions so there are no tickets sold in the entrance. We booked our tickets ahead including parking fee so we are all settled. A great tip, there are many vouchers in the LegoBrochures and Discount offers from Mcdonalds, so make sure to take notice of those to get available discount in your visit to this park.It was quite a pleasure that we got those since entrance fees can be helfty, especially if you go with big groups! There are also available packages including Hotel such as Legoland Feriendorf, and varied Hotels and accomodation within the vicinity so if you want to stay longer exploring the Park, then it could be a great option as well.I knew friends who stayed there for 2 days just for the children to enjoy all rides and taking their time to explore everything!

Don´t forget, this park is so huge…so make sure to dress up depends on the weather, mostly comfortable clothes and shoes. bringing extra clothes for change is also a good idea since some rides involves water and I am sure that you will sweat a lot!

Speaking of Corona control measures, don´t worry. This park has great control measures and I am really impressed by it. Of course you need to wear masks and practice distance of 1,5meters and everything, but the great thing is that they have disinfection station in every play station. Yes, every station is strictly controlled and monitored.Before and after riding the rides or getting into the play areas, visitors are asked to disinfect.You need to wear masks at all areas, even going to restrooms.

Even if it was a day full of visitors, I find it comfortable enough to roam around since most of the times, we are outside. The park is surrounded with shady trees, enough benches and tables to rest and sit for a quick break and most of all—people are disciplined.

With the entrance tickets, you are allowed to ride and explore everthing. So if you really want to try the all, you need to come here early to avoid long lines. Some rides are age restricted and should be accompanied with either 1 parent or adult.

Everwhere we go we see Lego. Built Lego miniatures and play areas are really amazing! As a parent, I find it really awesome that my daughter can enjoy such beautiful things as a child. I am sure that in the end, it will create great memories to her…

There are many highlights of our visit and we ride everything that she fancied.Our favourites so far is the Lego Ninjago World, where we had a close up encounter with the Masters of Spinjitzu and some Ninja tricks. The ride was so awesome that I ended up enjoying it as well.There´s the Lloyd´s Spinjitzu Spinner, Coles Climbing Wall, a playarea for small children, and of course, a Ninja Kitchen!

Fun fact : I have read that even adults play with Lego and it can do miracles on your stress management. My husband always play Lego with my daughter.He grew up with Lego as well and He is basically transferring all his skills and techniques to my daughter. My daughter can now build a big set by herself and its no surprise to me why.

Here in Germany ( prior to Pandemic), Lego is an important piece of Toy and learning tool for toddlers and kids. It is very famous so almost all children recognize it. I only find a place great if it has a small playarea in the corner or a place where children can have time for themselves. In the Doctor´s offices, Libraries, and even public shopping areas, Lego corner is normal.

I am sure that Lego helped my daughter with her motor skills, creativity and problem solving skills, which are all very crucial factors to a developing brains! No doubt, she spends times building and building and everyday, she surprises us with her wonderful, sometimes “weird” fantasy, and whimsical thoughts about Lego. If you asked me, it´s better to be engrossed with Lego, than getting addicted to tablets and videos!

In every ride station, you need to wear your masks while waiting for your turn. We tried the ride where children are taught to ride a small car and earn a Driver´s License.I saw that the operator really disinfects all cars, including seatbelts one by one before another batch of kids takes it again.They are really doing well in taking care of their guests and making sure to avoid contaminations.

This one is a thrilling experience !

Important note is that the atractions are going to close 1Hour before the park closes which is around 7pm. In some days they are closing early so its better to check in the official Legoland website to make sure of your time of visit.If you want to enjoy everything, start from the backside of the park, normally those rides are not so full in the morning since most people flocked near the entrance areas.If you have little children, there is a free “Kinder-finder-Armbänder” so you don´t need to worry that your child will be completely lost if they got away from you.It is very safe inside the park and especially nowdays with Corona, people are more cautious.

What I have learned through the Pandemic is to take care of your family. We may be restricted to travel because of the virus but there are various reasons and ways to enjoy family time.In Legoland, I have families of different nationalities, having fun together with their children, behaving like a child, maybe reliving past childhood experiences as well.

I grew up not having this luxury. As I scan the views before me, I felt just grateful that my child can experience such as these and grow up a happy, healthy and active child. Probably, in most European countries, Lego is 80% part of every child´s fantasy .It becomes a treasured memory for them…

Restaurants and Cafe´s are spread all over the park so no worries about getting hungry.There are plenty of tables and picnic areas where you can eat in peace with your family without the crowds.We enjoyed having lunch with a view of the rides and we really had a great time.

Plenty of playareas and climbing station for kids as well. They have a big payground as well , when children wants to have a break from Lego rides then they can ” rest” here as well. For Mamas & Papas, this is also a perfect place to sit, check their phones and have a drink!

My favourite ride so far was the Pirate ship and Spinjitzu Spinner. Here in the Pirate boat ride, we ride our boats and we spray waters on others. The park was so beautifully designed and even adults enjoyed it so well!

We booked a hotel in the nearby town from Günzburg since we still have to continue or Romantic road trip to Füssen that is why we did not stress on driving back early. But around 4p.m, my daughter is already tired and wanted to check out the lego shop and told us that she had enough of rides.The line for the shop took as about half an hour to enter the store as well. You might consider to set aside an hour here if you plan to do your shopping before departing since most people do their shopping on the time they depart as well.

For me personally, you can enjoy the park the whole day, but not really exhausting yourself and your child. If you came all the way from far places then I am sure, it is worthy to spend couple of days in this place just to make the most of your trip.

Time flies so fast…not a small baby anymore!
Hang over from Lego ?

After seeing giant Dinosaurs in Dinopark, and nature climbing in Beilngries, this girl is totally , and still very in love with her Lego Ninjago friends!

How was your summer vacation in the midst of Pandemic so far?

If you plan on visiting Legoland, then these important and vital Info might help you plan your trip!

Stay safe everyone..until next time, Tschüss!

Tschüss Kindergarten, Hallo Schultüte!

Tchüss Kindergarten, Hallo Schultüte!

Today is the first day of School here in Bavaria, the southern part of Germany and my daughter finally said Tschüss (Goodbye) to Kindergaten and said “Hallo to her Schultüte”…Sie ist endlich ein Schulkind, finally now that she turned 6, she is finally starting School…

As a parent, this whole new experience is bringing us mixed emotions. Schools are finally reopening—with masks, Abstand ( or distance of min. 1.5 Meters) and strict hygienic concepts and many more other restrictions. For the first time , this is all happening, children are finally back to school, as we also all gone back to work, right on the verge of Corona virus chaos.On the other hand, we are proud parents that our child is having her new milestone, new challenge and definitely making big leaps of growth.But then for the same scary virus, part of me always have this fear and a bag full of worries. Fear of the unknown, because we all know that as long as the virus is still out there, we can never feel safe enough.

But then for most of us, especially in the eyes of the little children…life must go on…

Starting school in Germany with a big “Schultüte” or School cone

As an Expat mama, I am sharing this special post because here in Germany, I have seen something else. Something unique, something worthy of sharing . Something that I have never seen in my homeland or in any parts of Europe. Here, children starts school with a “Schultüte” or simply a School cone! This is totally German, and every single child here who enters the first grade in school must bring one on his/her first day of school. That is why this day is so special and celebrated !

What is a ” Schultüte” ?

Schultüte is actually a “Zuckertüte” or sweetbag ,or rather cone. A paper cone full of sweet surprises, like a big fat Christmas socks that is stuff with gifts! I have read that Shultüte is an old German tradition way back since 1810. First stories about Schultüte starts in Jena, Leipzig and Dresden so mainly on the Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia areas in Germany.But then nowadays, this nationwide tradition is widely celebrated by all children whoare about to start school in Germany.

The school normally starts on the 1st week of September, right after a long Summer break. On the first day, you will notice that the streets is filled with children (along with their parents) carrying this huge cone and their trendy Schulranzen (Backpacks). That is really a lovely sight to watch. Most of the time, parents are as excited as their kids!

Why German Schulranzen is Unique?

The Backpack and the School cone (Schultüte)

Here in Germany, Backpacks or Schulranzen says it all. I never imagined that Backpacks were that important here.I remember when I was young, many children does not need to have new things for school, but here…forget it, Schulranzen is very important, let alone expensive! Every child needs to have a decent Schulranzen. It´s like their weapon for their next battle.

But it looks to bulky and heavy…and how can they carry it while riding their bikes? “

Schulranzen is an important matter for every first grade children here in Germany.The backpack must be for functional use, compact, stable ,and will not hurt their backs ! ( Very important!) It is an important factor when buying one is that papers don´t get bent, and snacks dont get squished! Think about German mentality and perfection in every single thing. To give you an idea what children needs on their first grade, take a look at the photos below. This will give you an idea what you need to prepare aside from the Schultüte on the first day of school! This is the list that we´ve got from the School and bought!

With this, you might have an idea that starting school means you will spend probably hundreds and hundreds of Euros, all for a good start.My daughter chose her own design for her Schultüte, which happened to match her Schulranzen.

For me persoally ,the start of school in Germany is quite special. Yesterday we had a simple mass in the church for the first graders to be blessed, and today, they are rewarded with their own Schültute.They have the whole day to enjoy it. Schultüte is filled with many things that brings every 6 year old child loves. Normally it is filled with things that they can use at school like pencils, small stickers, notebooks, or stickers and so much more.It can be filled with small toys, sweets and many other “wished items”. The list are endless.

Since she adores Lego and Ninjago, we´ve had plenty of ideas what to put in her Schultüte!

The thing is, what I love about it is that it really creates that element of excitement and surprise to children.You can really see their eyes get wide full of excitement! My daughter cannot even wait to unpack it all! I think this is very important on their first day in school, a good start is always better than pressure. Instead of directly going to lessons, the children can still enjoy a relaxed first day of school, and of course, enjoying their hard earned sweet threats from their Schultüte.

Here in Germany, months before the school starts, many shops already sells different kinds of Schultüte. You can also make and decorate your own, just like we did. Many schultüte can also be ordered online especially now because of Corona Virus.For us, I just ordered the materials and we did it together with my daughter.

Personalized Schultüte is far by the best!It is far memorable…

Today I have seen that this event is really celebrated by the whole family.Not only parents are present in school but I saw Grandparents and other relatives who were there to celebrate with their child.It is indeed a big thing here.

Starting elementary school in Germany leaves me quite an impression.This is totally non -existent way back in our times where we started Grade 1.I must say that here, it looks like a birthday, or a big family reunion since parents invest so much on this special day. Most parents even take this day as a day off to be with their child on their first day in school.My daughter already spent 3 years in the Kindergarten alone, but then I know, starting school is a big adjustment to her.

Maybe that is why Schultüte signals a new phase–a new life full of surprises!

A Day to remember

This day is really a day to remember.In other parts of the world, people are starting school virtually, and online learning is the solution, a safer way to learn. But here in Germany, we are moving slowly to make things normal, but with strict caution, especially to not stop children from getting into school, the real way.Many children I see posed on their first day wearing a headset and in front of a computer, well, I am not against it. In the end, we all want the best for our children…

Big Little Steps : First days in Kita ( German Kindergarten)

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Her smile , its priceless!

Milestone Alert : My green Goblin 3-Year old daughter goes to the Kindergarten!

It’s been a while since I’ve written some personal updates about my daughter whom I’ve written a lot about here  in “Raising Natalie “. So I thought that after squeezing some quality time with my ever-beloved laptop which always reminds me of my Expat days in Kuwait since it has Arabic characters in the keyboard, I finally managed to put together this post to celebrate my daughter’s first days in Kita ( or  German Kindergarten). And yes, I called it celebration, because I think, starting in Kindergarten is a great milestone to celebrate just like a promotion or a raise. After all, it’s a signal for growth. Not only for your kids, but for parents as well! Finally, my Third Culture Kid goes to Kindergarten!

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Young, Wild and THREE!

So first, if you are a parent and your child goes to Kindergarten for the very first time, let me give you my warmest congratulations, and say “Well, done!”

I wanted to share our experience how did it go for us with my daughter starting her days in Kita here in Germany. I’ve written before how insane it is here to find a spot for our child to be admitted in the Kita. We literally waited for almost a year! Yes, A YEAR! With almost 10 schools we applied, only 1 responded. Sure thing, as a parent we all have our own preferences for which school we want our children to go, but here and on our case, it’s not just possible. You gotta take what’s given to you. The competition is so tight that you just put your hopes on luck! Anyway, we are grateful for the slot that has been given to us by the local ministry which takes care of these things. It is just in time for my daughter to be readily accepted since she just turned 3 years old last August and her school starts this September.

We ‘re all excited for her! Few weeks before she start, we always talked about Kita to her so she gets familiar with it. When we had our meeting with her teachers, we were asked to prepare the things that she needed like Regenkleidung ( rain clothes) like Matschosen, (which is really a German thing!) a raincoat,rain boots, hat, gym shoes, house shoes and extra pair of clothes(seasonal) just in case she make herself wet or dirty. We brought her some extra diapers just in case, toothpaste, tooth-brush, and her own File folder with her personal identification and a family photo.

Here in Germany, the education system is totally different from where I grew up, or from Kuwait, or in the Netherlands. Here, German focused more on children’s early development through free play, totally opposite from the American system where there is a stress on learning the academics at the very young age! Here, in simple layman’s terms: Kita is a place to play and learn things through play. Social skills are polished by  stimulating the child’s development through unstructured modules. They learn things naturally and reading comes later. I never see any alphabet or numbers on the walls. I remember that in Philippines, Kindergarten & pre-schoolers are taught to read and write, paint, count and so forth and there is a reward system. Like if you behave well or achieve something remarkable for a certain activity, there is always the recognition. Remember the stars on the hand? Over here in Deutschland, those things are not the norm. I think I am the only one whose teaching my daughter to write and count!

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Ich bin Krankenschwester! ( I am a nurse!)

When her teacher saw that my daughter reads the writings on the bulletin board and the names in their coat racks, she was really surprised! To top it off, I already announced to the teacher that my daughter is the only one who just can’t sit. She is so restless that she always wants to be on the go, running, playing and hyperactive. They saw it on the very first day. I haven’t even had the chance to say a proper goodbye because she already run into the playground and her teacher is running after her! We start with her staying in the Kita from 8 am to 11 am for the first 2-3 days, then gradually increase the times she spent there up to 2pm. On the first day, they asked me to leave after 1 hour and stand by phone to wait for any updates. Around 11 am, I picked up my daughter and felt relieved that she was playing by herself, cried a few times but they were able to calm her. I can see signs that she is ready for Kindergarten but the  challenge of Separation and Hunger are two big things she is overcoming slowly, at her own pace.

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Reading books is one way to make her calm.

My daughter is very social and yet uncontrollable especially when she is too absorbed with playing. She’s the explorer type so I know that the hardest part for the teachers to do is to tame her and make her listen. She has a lot of personality and her attitude stands out being the defiant. Oh yes, there were lots of crying, screaming, and defiance on these days and the worst thing is, she doesn’t like to eat or drink during Brotzeit (snack time) or even during lunch. She doesn’t like to be in their group, she refused to stay there in their room and prefer to be in the middle group where she spends her time pretend-playing, and obsessing about dressing up as a nurse and Doctor. By the end of the week, she caught her first virus , also maybe because we are having a terrible rainy-cold-crazy weather these days, so she got  severe colds and when I pick her up, she was already warm.

It was not an easy start  for us. In fact it gets bumpy at the end of the first week. Nevertheless, during the course of the  days up until today, I saw that she made some progress. I was happy today because when I opened her lunch box, only few pieces of cucumber are left, we are making real progress! She sat in the table with her classmates and began eating together.I know there are more challenges to come for her, like sitting in the potty and probably sleeping there, but I trust that my daughter will overcome all these in due time and finally adapt to her new routine.

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First Days in the Kindergarten

As for me, I don’t know about you or for other parents how did it go, but I really felt weird during the first day of my daughter in the Kita. Call me crazy, but I felt sad, disoriented ,and a bit out-of touch. I missed my daughter from the moment I left and my heart was crushed during the time I was going out to leave and  heard her crying. I asked myself if I am a terrible mother? I can’t imagine that my hyper-active kleine madchen(little girl) will be needing me less and less. Its a mixture of happiness for her growth and yet why all these weird feelings inside me!? The separation anxiety is real now!

When it comes to the familiarization phase, it is important to observe and regard the many signs that our children sends out. There is a possibility that children react at a delayed stage (even months later) to an unsuccessful adaptation.

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Big Little : First days in the Kindergarten

As the winds get chillier, and colder, signalling that Autumn is here and soon everything will be in full Autumn colors once again, my daughter is facing the new chapter of her life ; taking the Big Little Steps in the Kindergarten and we as parents, need to moved on as well. This Familiarisation period  ( or Eingewöhnung in Deutsch) might not be easy from the start but I know, soon she will feel secure, safe and comfortable in her new environment. I am relieved that though the teachers barely speaks English, still we found a way to communicate and understand about the matters of her settling-in the Kindergarten.

 

How  about you? How was your own experience when your child goes to Kindergarten for the first time? (If you have a child...)

What were the struggles you’ve met along the way?

 

 

 

 

 

Young, Wild & Three !

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Young, Wild and Three Birthday Party!

Would you believe it, my daughter turned THREE last Saturday!

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Water fun !

Yes, my only daughter, is officially  Young, Wild, and now THREE!

For those of you who have been following my Blog and my posts about “Raising Natalie“, you must have been known her one-of-a kind personality, with all of her adventures as an Expat baby born in Kuwait, spent her first year of life in the oil-rich Muslim country, and now creating a free-spirited toddler hood as “kleine mädchen” in Germany.  Time really flies. I can’t stop her from talking now. She’s a talker, runner, and a rolling ball of energy. She’s crazy about books, cars, dinosaurs, doing puzzles for 6 years old, and read. Imagine the chaos, and the fun she brings !

She’s growing up so fast, and surprising us with her witty character everyday!

Here I wanted to share with you how we create a simple “Rainbow party” for her. I didn’t know where did she get the idea of a rainbow party but when I asked her what she wants for her birthday, she kept on saying “Rainbow Cake”! She indeed has a mind of her own!

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Never Stop Dreaming : The Birthday Girl

We invited few of her friends and since its summer, we decided to make a pool party –right there in our garden. I am so glad that the weather came perfect. Sunny, bright, and lots of sun to keep the kids swirling and playing around. They have enough space to run, dip in the waters, and slide.

I am so delighted that here in Germany ( as same as most European countries) , I don’t have the pressure to throw a big party for my daughter. Birthday parties here are surely a real thing— practical, and much more chill. Shared mostly with family and close friends, and without the fuss of grand, expensive details. I can’t even be more happy how it turned out. Everyone had a great time , especially the parents as well. Almost everything that we did were all hand-made, simple and personalized. If you are planning to throw a kid’s party with Rainbow theme, these things might inspire you.

 

Natalie’s 3rd Birthday Party : YOUNG, WILD & THREE!

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Rainbow Cake  I have baked for the Birthday Girl !

The Cake : Colorful as the Rainbow!

We all know it, A child’s  birthday won’t be complete without a cake!

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Rainbow Cake topped with fresh roses

When your 3- year old daughter demands for a rainbow cake topped with flowers, what can a mother do? I managed to re-create my previous recipe of my Rainbow Cake and enhanced it with fresh flowers as a cake topper covered with yummy decadent vanilla buttercream frosting. It turned out so DE-LISH and just the way I like it. Not too sweet, and not too big.

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It’s all in the layers…

Rainbow Theme Decor

I made these simple rainbow backdrop made of Crepe papers, with colorful tied-dyed balloons  which I hung on the wall of our dining area. It’s so colorful, bright and really make the whole room so funky. I put some balloons in the garden as well, and simple backdrop for  the garden table.We laid down a pump boat, baby pool , slide, tent, and scattered lots of toys for the children to play. Another simple trick was just let the  water sprinkler in the garden run for a few minutes, just enough for the children to shriek with glee.

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Rainbow Party decor made from scratch

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Addicting: Home made marshmallow pops!

Rainbow marshmallow pops

This colorful threats were inspired once again by my daughter. She love marshmallows and I have some left over sprinkles  so I thought its a great  for the kids. I dipped them into melted chocolate and decorating options were endless. This one is super simple, colorful, and best of all, yummy!

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Spell delicious!

Fresh  Rainbow vegetable bowl

Cut some yellow, green & red paprika, carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes,olives and some home-made dips. Arranged them in a serving plate and that’s it!

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Something fresh…

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Birthday spread

Canapes and finger foods

This one is my favorite and definitely a proven crowd pleaser!

I got the idea from my parent’s in law in Holland from our family dinner last Spring .They were kind enough to send me some tart cups since I cannot find them here in Germany. Diced some cucumber and lettuce, topped with salami, bacon, and salmon. I have made some thousand island dressing and arranged them in a layered platter. Looks so good , delectable and taste good as well. I love to munch on these especially with white wine, beer, cheeses, crackers , pretzels, baguette slices and spanish olives.

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Canapes : always a crowd pleaser

 Rainbow Fruit Skewers

In Philippines, we always have fruit skewers topped with marshmallows and hotdogs. Here in Germany,we opt to make it with only fresh grapes, melons, watermelon, and marshmallows. I brought a couple of dozen of them to one of my friend’s daughter’s birthday party and it was also a hit. You can never go wrong with these.

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Fun hitting the Pinata!

Handmade Pinata

I managed to make a Pinata, also using recycled materials of old boxes, cartons and the crepe papers. My daughter loves fishes so I’ve made a figure of a fish and filled it with some gummy bears, candies and confetti.The children had so much fun hitting the pinata!

 

It was a wonderful day all in all. What makes it even special is that my parents in law once again join us so we had some quality family time. Birthdays in Germany are really something and how I appreciate more the fact that you can really have a children’s party without ruining your budget, stressing yourself and the pressure to give a party better than the others, here, it’s all about enjoyment, relationships, and of course, a time to share good food with love ones.

What is important that my daughter had a blast. She got wonderful gifts and I can see that great memories were created from this occasion. For almost 3 hours, she’s running around in her wet swimsuit, having fun, all smiles, wild and free!

She was totally living a Wild, Young & Three moment!

Until then and off we go to our next milestone next month: First Day in Kindergarten!

 

 

How do you celebrate  your child’s Birthday Party ?

Do you splurge or you prefer the simple celebration?

 

 

 

 

 

 

One for the kiddo : Tiergarten (Nürnberg Zoo)

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My daughter is mesmerized by the azure blue waters and swimming seals inside the Blue Salon 

Do you like going to the zoo?

I didn’t know that once you have a child, you will appreciate the Zoo! Second to  playgrounds, the zoo is a place that we have learned to enjoy with my daughter.

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Entrance to the Blue Salon where you can see face to face the graceful swimming Sea cows or Manatee!

I think I’ve only been to a zoo a few times, I can count them, nothing special, more like an educational trip for school, or when I visited the Kuwait Zoo to kill time . The fondest memory maybe is  when my husband is visiting the Philippines and I decided to take a quick look at the nearby  Manila zoo ( because it’s on our way ) but then, while I was busy with my phone, a bird suddenly drop a bomb on my head. Oh yes, I was completely covered with bird poop! What an amazing zoo experience indeed!

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It was nice to meet you Bears!

Anyway, we finally made it to Tiergarten Nürnberg last weekend. This is the first zoological Park that I’ve seen here in Germany.  Last Spring, my daughter had a blast in the Petting zoo inside the Keukenhof Gardens and she can’t wait to see much more. She’s very into animals and she knows each of them by heart, both in English  and Deutsch! From the central station in Nürnberg, we took the Tram # 5 going to Tiergarten and within 10 minutes, we are at the gate of the zoo.It was only 9:30 in the morning and yet the zoo started to get crowded. We decided to come early since she will have her  midday nap and I know she can be a handful when she is cranky.

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Tropical flowers adorn the tropical Manatee house inside the zoo

 

Nothing but nature 

The moment we stepped inside the zoo, I was amazed by how green it is. So many trees and its like walking in a wild jungle park. We had lots of walking to do inside so shades from trees are a heaven! I love that the park has a natural lay out inspired by nature and the animals are kept as in their natural habitat as possible. The zoo was well-kept, maintained, clean, and easy to navigate.

I love walking into their Tropical forest  ( Manatee House) where its a replica of a tropical jungle where you can observe the Manatees  ( Sea Cows ) swimming under your feet.They are sooo huge and seeing them under your feet is a bit creepy. It’s a first time for me to see such animal. I even saw some plants that only grows in tropical climate like what the Philippines have. So many mature stock of trees, idyllic mixed woods and natural landscapes make this zoo one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe, at least from my own impression. Exotic animals live in harmony right next to a range of local bird species and mammals, and the craggy sandstone rock formations make generous natural enclosures for many animals where they can climb and relax.

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Watching the Giraffes having their breakfast

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A camera-shy Zebras

Now I understand why they say that whoever has experienced the wide variety and idylls of Nuremberg Zoo will come back again. The elegant movements of the dolphins and sea lions in the dolphin lagoon, the tropical atmosphere in the manatee house and the feeding of the polar bears in the Aqua Park provide an unforgettable experience.Compared to the Sea Life in Munich where we see more varieties of sea life animals but then it was  in a close area and a bit claustrophobic for me.

As expected, my daughter enjoyed watching all the animals. Too bad that we didn’t have the chance to see all the others and the rest of the zoo. It is a spacious zoo, built on top of a hill, with lots of areas to wander,  so it means lots of climbing. We went to each animal’s places but they seemed to be hiding in their cribs. Maybe its the heat? or napping? I don’t really know why but I find it rather disappointing especially when we are all excited to see the Lion’s den. All we found in the cages are the meat. On the other hand, the Zoo was so large that I don’t have the energy anymore to explore it and see it all. My daughter starts to get cranky and needed to recharge.

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A bird sitting on its nest

 

A lovely Surprise : The Aqua Park and the Manatee House

We chose to go to Nürnberg zoo because we wanted to see the Dolphin and Sea Lion show, and that is something that we really enjoyed. The show runs simulatenously with   feeding times at 11 a.m , 2 p.m and 3:30 p.m . .The open area has wooden benches where viewers can have a full-vista of the show. I must say that the training for the dolphins & seals are incredible and that was one great show! Nuremberg Zoo is very well-known for its sea cows, the manatees and the Dolphin show.  In the Manatee House, these gentle giants can be observed under water. The generous dimensions of the tropical house provide a colourful and diverse environment for sloths, turtles, butterflies, monkeys and numerous tropical plants. Beavers, otters, penguins, sea lions and polar bears are also at home in the Aqua Park, an extensive water landscape interrupted by a variety of small islands.

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A very lively Dolphin show !

You need an ample amount of time to explore and see all 3,295 animals from 292 species that can be seen at the Zoo. Yes, that is a LOT. I read that the zoo moved from the Dutzendteich to Schmausenbuck to make way for the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and during World War II, more than 90 % of the facility was damaged, actually Nuremberg was heavily bombed during the war. I am glad that we were able to see the  Dolphin lagoon and show which is actually the first outdoor lagoon for dolphins and sea lions in Germany. Good thing to know as well that the Nuremberg Zoo participates in 46 international breeding programs and is a partner zoo of the Species Conservation Foundation.

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Dolphin Show

 

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Amazing Dolphin performance!

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Beer garden inside the Zoo

We took our break and had lunch in one of the Beer garden up in the hill. It has a play area beside it so while waiting for our food, my daughter was running up and down again. I find the food simple, nothing special but its a great place to have a breather from walking.

 

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Souvenir shop for the little ones.

There are many souvenir shops, restaurants and adequate bathrooms inside the zoo so I find it really convenient. We got a cute camel souvenir with engravings since it reminds us of the stuff toy we’ve got in the Scientific Center in Kuwait.

If you have an active kids like I do, I highly recommend to check out this place. It’s for all members of the family and a great way to spend the weekend, but like I said, just be prepared to walk and walk.

 

For Admission Fees, you can find more information Here .

Other highlights of a day trip in  Nürnberg :

The Ehekarussell or the Bitter Sweet Marriage Fountain

Kaiserburg ( Imperial Palace)

 

How to find a Kita for your child in Germany | Expat Guide

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Tender beginnings for the  little ones 

Guys, after almost 9 months of waiting, finally, we got a spot for my daughter in a Kita here in Germany!!! 

I know, I know, I heard you, you might say that this is such a normal thing,no big deal, but hey NO! not here in Germany. Believe me, once you got a spot in the Kindergarten or Kita for your child here, you’ve got to be jumping for joy and saying thanks all over again. Because I am telling you, It’s not EASY. It was never EASY.

Okay, maybe I am overreacting, but yes, it is quite a relief when we got the letter from the municipality informing us that my daughter was selected to join a Kita this coming September.It was a long wait and therefore we loooove this  news. A new chapter for my child’s life, and as well as for us parents. Finally,an end to long days and months of waiting.Of course, as a disclaimer, this is purely based on my experience. Maybe someone got so lucky that they immediately find a place for their child in Kita, a case to case basis. But I observed this phenomenon for long months now and therefore have established my opinion about the complicated system for childcare and Kindergarten schools especially here in our area in Bavaria, southern part of Germany.

So how did we got the spot? What techniques did we do?

If you are an Expat parent like me, I am so sure that the moment you moved into a new country and you’ve started to explore your new neighborhood for parks and playgrounds, the next thing you want to establish is joining a playgroup, Nursery, childcare or a Kita /Kindergarten for your little ones especially if you are a working Mama. It is very important to get a support group for your children. This is one of the natural ways in “re-potting the uprooted child”.

“So here’s the truth: Getting a spot in the Kita/Kindergarten for your child here in Germany REALLY ONLY depends on LUCK, or in logical terms-written in the stars, destiny, or some may call it fate, or your blessing!”

What you need to do as a parent ? Here are practical ways ( which I did!) on the course of our application for Kita in a span of almost 9 months;

  1. Do your research. –  I don’t speak German yet but I did a lot of research even prior to arriving here in Bavaria. I made a list from the schools which I saw online even while I was still in Kuwait and then mapped their location once we got here. Depending on the area where you live, find as many Kita that you can in your vicinity. If you apply for 2, the chance is almost zero, but if you apply for at least 8-10, then at least you can have a chance. For complete listings of Kita per area, you can always refer to the information provided online by your local municipality or ask from the Rathaus. For residents in Ingolstadt, there are so many information provided by Stadt Ingolstadt and there is a department who is really in charge of finding a space for every child to be put into a Kita/Kindergarten.There are persons there which main job is this; helping you get that slot for your child ( Freie Plätze in Kindertageseinrichtungen).

 

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My Pre-schooler tiny Goblin

2. Explore and visit the Kita/ Kindergarten in your Area – You need to be out and find the location of the school. As soon as we have the list, we started walking and exploring and visiting the school one by one. It is always good to personally inquire from the staff for any vacancy.

3. Write a formal “Anmeldebogen” ( Application) in Deutsch ( German) and send by post or email– This one is very effective, at least it works for me. Most of the staff I’ve talked via phone always told me that they don’t speak much English so when they read my letter and my inquiry written in Deutsch, I got concrete answers, even quick replies.

4. Follow Up. Every single Month. If you are forceful like me-make phonecalls  to ask for progress. Take time to follow-up. Sometimes, there might be a chance that someone left the Kita or moved away so a vacant space is available. The Kita that we’ve got is the one we’ve got on the opening day and not the first one we’ve applied or visited.Also, take note that depending on your area, you are most likely to get a spot on the place where your local address is linked to.

5.Attend the Opening Day – All Kitas and Kindergartens have an opening day held during the month of January where you can write the application once again for your child at the same time take a tour of the facilities of the school and their profile. This is very important. They have an announcement on this on their websites so pay attention for updates and changes of dates.

In the Kita, it compose normally of 2-3 groups, with around 25 children.During the opening day, I have asked the teachers what are their criteria in choosing a child to be in their Kita and here’s the information I’ve got :

  1. Parent’s status – If both parents are working, single mother/father .
  2. Location of residence, and if you work on certain companies ( like Audi , Schanzer etc.) then you can have some benefits or privileges.
  3. Language of the child/ spoken at home and the age of the child.
  4. Decision by the Municipality ( Department for Children and Families – Kitaplatzkoordinator)

With all these, all you can do is wait for a confirmation from any one of the school that you’ve applied, and nobody knows when will it be.They will give out confirmation around March and have the meeting with parents of the children who were chosen by month of June to prepare them for the  start of semester in September.

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Repotting the Uprooted child

So what are your options if you can’t find a place for your child?

Today, kindergartens here in Germany are an integral, yet voluntary, part of the early education system: Over 80% of all children between three and six years attend a kindergarten in Germany. The state supports parents with monetary incentives, such as tax reductions and child allowance (Kindergeld). The basic concept of Kitas and Kindergarten here are all “play based”, which is totally opposite from the American and English system which has more emphasis on academics. Now, I have written before how kid-friendly Germany is and how it is more AWESOME to be a kid living here. But then have a shortage of Kita really sucks!

Generally, in every area, there’s plenty of Kindergarten to choose from but it seems that it’s still not enough to accommodate the number of children who needs to be enrolled, add the fact the number of migrant’s children and the booming Expat population, especially in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg or in Munich.The staff have always told us that the waiting list is too much and “kein frei platz “( or no vacant space) .Even if there are many options for parents on where to put their child, the competition is still tight.

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Eager to learn..

Here are the childcare options for children ( 3 months up to 6 years old) here in Germany ;

Tagesmutter  ( or Day mother) – yes, you can hire a “Mother“in Germany. The Tagesmutter takes care of 3-5 children in her home, like a small daycare. Tagesmutter take care of your child in their home while you go to work. In most cases they care for additional children as well, so your child is guaranteed to have contact with peers.A Tagesmutter needs to be certified by the youth welfare office and most of them have a Pedagogy background and have a great experience with children.

Nannies-  are also an option in Germany. In contrast to in-home daycare providers, nannies come to your home to care for your child. In-home daycare providers and nannies are not required to be trained early childhood educators.  For a 20-hour week, in-home daycare providers charge an average of 300 to 600 euros per month.

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The long wait is over…

Here in Ingolstadt, in South Germany ( Bavaria) , you can contact the Mobile Familie e.V if you are interested for alternative options. There are equivalent of these services depending in the area where you live.They have the following services available all throughout Germany:

  1. Tagespflege (Daycare)
  2.  Kibeno ( Childcare Emergency Call)- supports parents in emergency situations where a caregiver is needed for the child / child at short notice.
  3. Kinderfrau – ( Childminder) -A childminder regularly takes care of the children in the parents’ household over a longer period of time. The Kinderfrau is employed by the parents.
  4. Au-Pair ( Nanny/Governess) – An au pair lives with a family, supports them mainly with the care of the children and helps in the household.
  5. Notmutter – (Emergency Mother) -An emergency mother takes care of the children of a family in emergency situations, especially when the mother is ill.
  6. Babysitters 

I hope the above information have helped you in a way to have an idea how it goes here when it comes to applying for a Kita/ Kindergarten for your child.

If you have more questions, please feel free to give comments or share your own experience for your child.

For Expat Mamas and Papas who are in this stage, good luck with your application !

 

One at A Time : Lesson from the Daffodils

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Yellow Daffodils from our garden

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head..and whisper to her neighbor, Winter is dead…”

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Dancing Daffodils : Standing yellow and proud. The brave soul who was not afraid to bloom despite the ugliness around her.

I know from the early signs of Spring that it can’t be far behind if there are Daffodils and today, my heart is filled with warm thoughts seeing the mass of Daffodils in our garden,  in full bloom. There are still so many bulbs sprouting from the other bed.This is a new sight for me, since its also my first time to experience Spring here in Germany. Excuse my delight, but yes,I love these pretty yellow thing! What about you?

Nature always have a way to remind me that I am now living in seasons. That just like any wild flower,I must allow myself to grow in all the places  that I never thought to be.My sight seems to have the ability to meet my every day need with effortless perfection. I find that when life gets to be too much heavy and everyday troubles bubble up and over, a time to relax the mind  is much-needed, accompanied by a walk in the fresh air, can in an instant, calm…no matter what the season.

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The first bloom of Daffodils from our garden  brighten up our home.

To tell you, I think there’s just something about Spring. I remember months ago, I planted some bulbs in the garden. I’m no experience gardener but I hoped that it will grow , and hopefully, bloom. After the snow melted from our garden and I saw the budding sprouts pushed themselves slowly, their baby leaves are winding up, greeting the warm sunshine.

I thought it will never come out. I almost give up.

But then one bulb sprout after one another, one at a time.

Two months ago,  I was heavily  burdened with anxiety, with a deep anguish. My feeling like the gloominess of cold winter.As a parent, I don’t know what to do. My daughter have a speech delay and did not say a thing or two in her 2.5 years. Whenever people would ask me if she is talking already, I don’t know anymore what to say. I was in the brink of having her checked-up and getting a professional opinion. She is one happy, very active fireball of energy, a tiny Goblin. She is so active and yet, when it comes to talking, she was lagging behind. The thing is, she perfectly understands English & Deutsch, follows instructions in both language, but no talking. My friends say that for children who were born with multiple languages surrounding them, speech can come late. I used to believe in this too.

But the anxiety continues.It robs my joy every single day. I kept on asking why…and When?

Two weeks ago, she surprised me and my husband when all of a sudden, she just blurted out “Mama“! I couldn’t believe it! Did she just say whaaattt? Then “Papa“follows, and many other words, she sings and reads the alphabet now bilingually, recites the numbers, even perfected the spelling for her favorite animals and colors. Her favorite word so far is “Rot” ( German for Red) . Her vocabulary has grown so much in a span of 2 weeks. I find it so great when she replies now whenever I am asking her simple questions.

I have learned so much from this experience.As a parent, it humbled me knowing that I almost lost my faith in my child.That I need to wait patiently. Raising a child indeed comes One at a time.

Happiness came in when I witnessed this milestone in my daughter’s life.There have been millions of times we have sung the same song, read dozens of books, and talking day after day. But then,milestones doesn’t come in an instant. It’s always One at a Time, one baby steps at A Time.

Spring will come and so will Happiness.

So I’m holding on. I know life will get warmer. The yellow Daffodils in my garden  reminded me to keep the faith. Just as their petals turned up towards the sun, I need to move toward my goal and desires one step at a time-often just baby steps and learning to use the accumulation of time.That when we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things.

My daughter is talking now. Talking too much. It’s music to my ears.

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The Daffodils in my garden are dancing. Swinging when the wind blows.

Fresh beginnings.

New life.

Rebirth.

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Who could ever imagine that out of these wild flower comes a great wisdom.

The Daffodils and other wild flowers, the delicate, intricate, unassuming flowers. Especially the early spring flowers who find themselves among the first to brave the unstable elements. The ones who have the quiet strength to weather the cold winds and last few spits of icy snow as they tenderly open themselves for all to admire.

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No matter what you ask of the Daffodil, it will still wait until Spring to bloom. From this I learned we all open up when the time is right…

Do you like Daffodils?

What do you look forward this coming Spring? Share your comments below.

 

 

Postcards from Kuwait | Atop

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The cityscape of Kuwait on a clear ( dust-free) day .

Before we left Kuwait last year, we were fortunate enough to visit the Kuwait towers.This is a must-thing to do  for us since we don’t know if we would ever set our foot back in this place ever again.It’s several times already for me, a first time for my husband and my daughter. Luckily, it’s just in time for its re-opening after long years of being closed for renovation.This time, I’m more excited for my daughter to be on top of the towers and enjoy the cityscape of Kuwait.

Did I ever feel the heat up in the Kuwait Towers? No, not really. The temperature was good from this altitude and there’s Air Conditioning of course!

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On top of the 2nd spherical dome of Kuwait.

Now a 2-year old have no idea of what’s up there on top.If she love the views, I don’t know but obviously,she’s more interested in walking through the revolving deck and licking the railings.At this point, she doesn’t have any remembrance of this experience yet,but once she grow up, she can see her photos of herself being on top of the most important landmark in Kuwait, her birthplace.A place that she spent her first year of life. This place would always be special for all of us,  and to her.

The view of the Arabian Gulf from above is stunning, the promising skyline of the skyscrapers in Kuwait namely the Al Hamra Tower, the Kipco, Al Tijaria,Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) and others provides a fascinating vista on a clear, haze-free day. The typical  beige urban areas, the nature-less landscape, the tempting Aqua park beneath the towers, and the hustle and bustle of the Gulf road. These things make this area very prominent and touristic attraction.

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Up above, there’s a reflective wall where you can see yourself in a twisted panoramic view. We had fun playing with photos. It looks surreal, like a myriad of reflective glass. This is one of my favorite photos taken here. For me, It’s so different to see this place because my focus is on my daughter. I felt like it had a different meaning for me , regardless of the same scenic views I’m seeing. Like a tower, we’ve managed to overcome our struggles here, sandstorms, the heat and all. We’ve been through ups and downs in our life spent here but in the end, we surpassed it all.Now, these views are all nostalgic memories, a beautiful postcard.

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It’s not hot up in here, Mama !

As for my little Goblin, she’s only 2 but she have collected so many postcards from the top countless times already.She love all the fast elevators and steep views from all her journeys.From hanging out in the highest Rock museum in theMunich Olympic Tower, climbing the Austrian Alps, even napping through the cable cars above and marveled the beauty of the Zugspitze-Arena in Austria, enjoyed the fairy tale journey into the steep magical Burg Eltz castle, making a mess inside the Windmills, learned to step in the steep, claustrophobic Cubic houses and exploring the old ruins of castles along the river Moselle.

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Looking up to the three dominant features of this Tower.

She’s not even three and she have these views already! She have been to places before she even learned how to talk…

As for us, we continue to collect postcards, be it from the top or seen from the grounds.

 

Loved this post? If so, please follow me on Instagram to see more photos like this.

Post inspired by DP Photo Challenge | Atop

Fasching and Kinderball

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My daughter in her first experience of Kinderball 

Did you know that Germany has a version of Mardi Gras?

It’s called Fasching, Karneval, or Fastnacht  which all refer to the pre-Lent season, locally known as Faschingzeit and also referred to as the Fifth Season, mostly in German-speaking countries.  These celebrations date back hundreds of years, rooted in both Catholic and early Germanic traditions.

I notice this from mid- January, when all shops changed their displays from Christmas theme  into a wide, colorful arrays of costumes for young and old, masks, and various kinds of dress-up materials. And no– this is not Halloween.

Although there are carnival observances all across Bavaria, it should be noted that Fasching customs vary from place to place. Franconia (northern Bavaria) is where most of the action happens, but the capital city of Munich (München) has one of the largest Fasching fests in Bavaria – although the Sunday Fasching parade in Würzburg is Bavaria’s biggest. After the crowning of the Fasching prince and princess (das Faschingsprinzenpaar) in mid-January, everyone prepares for the start of carnival in the week before Ash Wednesday.

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Faschingzeit in Germany

Here, Fasching is not that big compared to the ones in the neighboring regions. Most clubs have a Fasching party but I don’t know how does it looked like since I have never been into one. We don’t have those big parades and street party. But they have this big event for the Little ones, where kids and the kids at heart enjoy the festive and cozy dress-up celebration. Kinderball is an event organized by Narrwalla, where kids and their parents are all dressed up in all different costumes. Most of them also have a Fasching event in their Kita and Kindergartens.

 

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Kinderball 2017

If you’re a parent, this kind of event is something that you would want to bring your child to enjoy hours of concert, singing, dancing, entertainment, and socializing. The kids jumped happily and more, interested to see the tricks played by the clowns, the light show, and of course there’s the Fasching songs that makes it so exciting. My Little Pumpkin surely loved this event.

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My Little Pumpkin 

The locals dressed up seriously and it’s obvious that they really enjoy it. Fortunately, it falls on Sunday so most families are there. I originally planned to dress up my daughter in a princess but she keeps on eating the sleeves so I decided to changed it into a Pumpkin where she personally choose. There was a service from the restaurant so Fasching food and drinks flooded the tables.There were cold cuts, sandwiches, different cakes, ice cream, potatoes, sausages and much more.

There’s a nice gallery posted online about this event. You can check it out Here.

What is your favorite costume to dress-up?

 

Light & Shadow play

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My daughter enjoying her shadows  and experimenting with Light and Shadow play

When you have a toddler to entertain, you just got to be creative. And when you have enough sunlight even indoors, you’ve got to soak your toddler in it! That is why I love Light & Shadow play concept for kids. It is just a great tool for creative learning for young, curious minds like my daughter.

One of the things that we have an abundance back then  in Kuwait is the SUN.Yes, too much sun that when I came here in Europe, I find that the skies are always gray and I get a mood boost when I see its sunny. In Kuwait, we were lucky enough to have a bedroom with a sea view. The big windows allows some great amount of sun to penetrates into our room and many times, I would put my daughter to enjoy the sun and  let it create playful shadows on her. She loves it! One of my favorite captures of her is when she was playing inside a laundry basket and the shadows from the sun creates a mask of circular golden tan on her baby skin. She was just  about 7 months here. So young, so free, so playful, and so curious.

 

One of toddler’s fears are their shadows. I have heard of stories where in young children are terrified when they have learned about their shadows. The moment I put my daughter inside the basket, it was amazing! She become so engrossed with the patterns in her skin, pinching it, touching it while it changes when she moves.

In summer in Kuwait, where in the temperature could reached up to 50+ degrees C, there is no way  your babies can enjoy the outdoors. The sun can already be scorching at around 5 am so we go to the beach at early mornings or late in the afternoon in weekends. I guess when you’ve lived in the middle east, you would have a fair share of knowledge why people wear the Abaya & the Dishdasha. It is really for functional reasons. Instead of agonizing with the heat and the sun, why not embrace the fun you can get from it, plus, nobody complains that you can actually dry your laundry within 5 minutes!

 

This post is in response in this week’s DP Photo Challenge |Shadow