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

Active toddlers : Taming the tiny Goblin

 

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My 2-year-old daughter is a  hyper-active Goblin.

Let me define to you what hyper active means in a toddler-friendly vocabulary.

Not that she’s medically diagnosed with hyper activity disorder type— NO, she’s just super active.She has this thing like a green-blue-yellow-purple goblin inside her that makes her moves so fast, so lithe, always on the go and full of energy. She’s a picture of  curiosity,touching, exploring, wiggling, running, climbing hyper-type of toddler. An active fireball monkey disguised in an angelic face. I remember so well that when I was pregnant with her, I always hide my bump in my desk at work because she makes my bump looks like there is an alien about to pop.  She gets hard numerous times in a day and my bump looks scary. Maybe that’s the reason why she’s in transverse position and  did not rotate even though I was induced for labor for almost 3 days!

She started cruising early , learned to walk at 10.5 months I think, and already attempting to run. She climb out of her crib and fell once so we immediately switched her crib  into a bed. Back then in Kuwait, we live in the 7th floor, she loves to climb the flight of stairs by herself automatically. I know that she’s a climber when at 11 months,she mastered climbing the steep Dutch stairs.

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I thought only boys are active. I am mistaken. What I read online was a LIE.

My little girl has the stamina, speed and enthusiasm of a toddler-athlete. Always on the go.She runs everywhere.She can’t sit still for longer than a minute especially during feeding so a high chair for us is a must, but not too long.Later on, I saw her standing on her chair, she managed to remove the strap, I don’t know how, but she did it. She runs like crazy the moment I let go of her hand and start looking into my purse for my keys. I dropped my iphone three times already and changed the screen because of panic that she might be ran-over by a car or that she bump into something. She can dance and jump in muddy puddles the entire day and still jumps around once we get inside the house.

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Whenever we are out, I am always doing ‘the check’.  I  look out for doors that can she can open, handles that she can turn, open stairs, glass doors, and especially breakable, fragile items she can run into. As of this stage, it would be a disaster if I go grocery shopping without a stroller, alone. I am afraid that I might pay for damages for broken things. In a restaurant, my eyes scanned the area for any possible  danger zones, or things that she might find ‘interesting’, like a table already set-up with knives and cutlery. She can easily get loose if nobody’s watching her. One time I caught her licking the knife!

 

My real definition of horror: She managed to run so fast while I am closing the door while we need to get into the elevator in our building. She’s on  top of the stairs, scaring the horror  out of her already-half-traumatized mother. I screamed so loud and  cut my lips when I tripped myself running like amok  to grab her before she make the next move. I was shaking after that incident and never leave her loose in the hallways. EVER. Not again!

The moment you take a walk with her, she zoom like a fireball, cruising like a maniac and touching everything that goes on her way.  Leaves, walls, garage doors, trees, plants–anything.We have a garden but when I let her play there, she  climbs the gate leading to the main side street and crawl to the holes in the hedges where the cats go. She’s a pure genius! She can even roll the lawnmower If i will just let her. She loves anything that wiggles, ran after a dog, and count all the cars in our neighborhood plus I need to say the color of each cars.

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Breaking-Free!!!

She climbed out from her crib at around 9 months, you see that photo above, yes, that’s her trying to do acrobat stunts, testing how sturdy her crib was, or was she looking for her Poo bear that fell out. She has a very strong grip of things that she stayed in this position for a minute I think. One time  that I let her be alone, she’s already on top of the table, dancing, and playing with the roller shutters.

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Going into a friend’s house can be a daunting experience, especially if they don’t have kids like her or they don’t know my daughter’s personality. Our decors and furniture now were set to minimal. Nowadays, we can only eat in peace out in a restaurant if there is a play area nearby. Nearby means it’s beside our table–that is why we love dining out in our local restaurant here that has a play area, like for example in Dinea in Galleria, or doing some shopping in DM where in they have a play area right inside the shop. Total lifesaver!

Honestly, I love to but I don’t really feel comfortable leaving her to be watched (even for a short time) by anyone who doesn’t know her REALLY  well. Even friends who we regularly see don’t necessarily realize the speed at which my daughter can do, and how quickly she can get herself into precarious situations due to attempts at climbing,  investigating, or get herself drowned because she wanted to dive right into every fountain she sees.

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We’ve enrolled her in a dancing class and guess who becomes famous the very first day? Yup! She doesn’t need introduction because everyone knows her name in an instant. We became the center of attention from other parents and kids because we ‘make the best  moves ‘ all the time!

Does this sounds like your kid too ?

If this looks like your tot,  here are some practical things we do to handle the worries and anxieties and embracing the energy of my  hyper attached tiny Goblin. I realized that not all mothers do the “check”as I did, only those parents with an active child. So here it is:

  1. Treat your child like a dog! – We  make it a point that she goes out at least an hour everyday and let her loose in a place where in she can climb, run like crazy and just burn her energy. This way, she can sleep fast because her energy is depleted.
  2. Avoid putting yourself and your child to uncomfortable situations– Make playgroups outdoors, as much as possible in places where your child can have more freedom of spaces where she can be herself without damaging yourself and your child be branded as ‘misbehaving’. I try not to bring her to functions where in there is limited activity or crowded places that she might easily get bored and create scenes. I am so thankful that here in Germany, we have play grounds ( Spielplatz )  in almost every corner. We avoid libraries and crowded malls.
  3. Choose activities which feeds her curiosity and the ones you can comfortably handle – We are engaging in Creative Dancing Class or Tanzmaus. Here in Germany, there are so many activities that are suitable for active kids to satisfy their energy such as gymnastics, swimming etc.Find one that suits your schedule best.
  4. Embrace the positive side of being an active child – Her hyper activity makes her personality so different, so unique and special.She is the perfect companion in my Wandertags. She loves nature and being out so you can count on her being out for longer hours. Give her a box of Duplos, Legos , wooden blocks, and books and even by that she can still rock! I can’t count numerous times that we got comments from strangers on her being so friendly and sweet, she could be active, but she’s not the annoying-agressive type.
  5. Remind yourself that toddler stage is temporary – Every child will outgrow toddlerhood . Eventually, you won’t be running after your child anymore. You will realize that time flies so fast that your adorable munchkin no longer asks for your company and becomes independent. I know things will change for her this year that she’ll be in Kindergarten soon and she’ll have more educational  and social interactions.

My life with my active toddler had been a roller-coaster ride for the past 2 years. Our long haul flights together are as unforgettable as it could be and she is such a jet-setter! I know that it’s still early years of her toddler life, but the wisdom of just being around such a positive energy  is both challenging, yet the most fascinating joys of motherhood.

Have you ever been around with active kids?

 

Photos in this post are from my Instagram feed. If you’re on Instagram, follow me for more Expat life stories ! Thank you and see you there!

 

 

Throwing stones and your worries

Why is it so fun throwing stones into the water?

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The water glistened like diamonds against the sun.

Throwing stones into the river – a toddler’s perfect, guilt free way of destruction. A harmless way of destroying something without any permanence…

Yesterday was another lovely, peaceful day, of course its ruhetag (rest day) here in Germany so naturally, everything comes in a slow pace. So unlikely from the routine that I got used to in Kuwait that Sunday is the start of the week. I love Sundays here because If I am lucky, my daughter lets me sleep in a bit, at least until 7 am. After breakfast and doing some much-needed chores, we decided to take the toddler a spin and have a walk. In Germany, all shops are closed on Sundays so the only place to go is nature. The weather was nice, and the sky is clear  so we walked into the woods. The snow have melted and the paths are all muddy-ice and it was really difficult to push the stroller, good thing I wore my hiking boots. We came to the river banks and have a pit-stop. The view was so beautiful and refreshing. The calm waters, glistening like diamonds, the silhouette of winter flowers and moss-filled branches of bare trees against the sun, almost kissing the waters. I gather some stones and started throwing it into the river. My husband followed along and brought my daughter. For the first time, she was able to start throwing stones into the water. It’s like magic, her laughter filled the air. The splash of waters, her fidgety moves while gripping the stones from her bulky mittens, she was having so much fun!

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Choose the block, a heavy burden or stone in your life that you want to throw away.

‘Seems like we  never outgrown the habit of throwing stones into any bodies of water…’

I am an adult and I still love throwing stones into the river, ponds, beaches, creeks, and even to any body of water that is near to me. The urge is there, as always. It’s automatic once I see any water. I find it very entertaining.

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The art of throwing stones into the water , the art of letting go.

Throwing stones is perfect, soul saving interaction with nature. Pattern making is built into the human psyche. If we see something beautiful, we want to participate in it without tearing it down. Ripples from rocks skipped across the water are reaffirmation of our existence in the world, without doing the world any harm. This urge would stay with us for life if we do not turn away from it in our cynical self-absorption. Nature is out there, and out there includes us.

But why water?

I guess throwing rocks into water is relaxing because there’s no pressure trying to hit the target, and the splash and ripples satisfy our need for sensing predictable causal effects.This is so true with kids, my daughter is a perfect example who enjoy this. From splashing in the tub during bath times, up to making messes in the sand pit, even playing with water during painting time.

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A toddler’s fun of throwing stones into the water

People don’t often think about it, but we are not so far removed from our primal instincts as we like to think. “Modern Man” is but a thin veneer, and a fragile one at that. Have you ever watched a toddler destroy a tower of duplos and Legos after you’ve just built something? My daughter always do this, she just love to tear down anything that I am trying to build. At a young age, we have been inclined to disrupt something, knowing that no harm is done, permanently.

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Stones in the water

You might not realize it but throwing stones can be therapeutic. When you pick up a stone, you release your  worries and throw them as well into the water.I felt all kinds of emotions that I wasn’t expecting as I launched more and more rocks into the river. There were a few moments of sadness, of anxiety in the mix but they didn’t last. Most of the time, I felt really joyful.

If you have the chance, try doing it and watch how your mood changes. I was not even aware how time flies, as I keep on picking up stones, and at the same time taking some photos, time was on my side. My husband said that it’s also one of his favorite thing to do when He was a kid.We never never outgrown these things. It’s in us all along.

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Throw your stress into the waters

I am happy to find wisdom such as this in ordinary circumstances.When I look at the vase full of the stones that I gathered from the river, I remember not much of the walk through the river, but the fun that my daughter had, and mine as well.

I guess we’ll be frequenting to do this again especially in summer.

How about you,do you like throwing stones into the water?

How was your experience?

 

If you enjoyed reading this post and got time to kill, you might want to waste more time checking out what I recently discovered as fun thing to do when the weather drops here in Bavaria. Check out these posts  in my Sunday Wandertags;

Walking on a Frozen Lake

Enjoying Solace in Neues Schloss

Chasing the Fog

 

 

 

 

 

Too beautiful to Smash | Names

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My daughter’s beautiful  Hungry caterpillar Smash Cake, too beautiful to smash!

Thinking of what to name your child is probably one of the most memorable part of Parenthood. After all, the name that you will give to your child will be something that your child will bear forever. So when we thought of a name to give to my daughter, we have chosen “Natalie”.  Although it literally means “Christmas Day” while she was born on a hot August afternoon in Kuwait, her name is special for us. So on her first birthday, we made sure that her name is written on her  first Birthday smash cake.

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar Smash Cake for my daughter Natalie

My daughter loved the books by Eric Carle’s The very Hungry Caterpillar and she was so delighted when she saw her cake. Her eyes showed so much excitement all the more when she was able to touch it, poked it, and eventually smash it .I chose this theme because she is totally in love with the caterpillar character and by now, she even memorize the whole story. She had a caterpillar Tutu dress,a huge Hungry caterpillar cake made by a Dutch Artisan baker,and a garden of Oma & Opa decorated with the caterpillar balloons and buntings. We even had a giant strawberry Pinata to complete this theme.

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar 1 JAAR Birthday Cake

Someday, when she is old enough to see the photos of her birthday, she will learned that out of millions of kids named “Natalie”, for once, she had a special Cake and a smash cake with her name in colorful yummy fondant letters celebrating her wonderful milestone of her first 1 year of life.

A beautiful cake, a smash cake too pretty to smash, a special name, one milestone, and a yummiest cake for her 12 amazing months, 365 Delightful Days, and 8,760 Adorable Hours and 1 Perfect Year!

This post is in response to this week’s  Photo Challenge |Names

Walking in the Red Light District with a Baby

Now who among you parents out there would bring out your little ones in the Red Light District or locally known as “De Wallen ” in Amsterdam?

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Red Light District in Amsterdam or locally known as De Wallen

Nope, it’s not the Disneyland of Amsterdam, and if its your first time to see Amsterdam sure thing it has many attractions  that might catch you off guard! I have written before how to enjoy the free things in Amsterdam but this one is totally different. Different in a way that the Netherlands is a country more than sex & drugs! You really need to see the country for you to have an impression since what you read in the internet is not always true. This country is totally laid back and relaxed, highly tolerant and the Dutch people are very liberal. No wonder that Dutch Teen pregnancy rates the lowest in world standing, and as what the experts and studies shows,  Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world.

Okay, I’m sure most of you who have traveled in the Netherlands specifically in Amsterdam knows the “Red Light District “that I am talking about. But for those of you who are clueless, here’s a brief description of what Red Light District is all about. Before I had our trip, my vision of the Netherlands is mainly of Tulips, clogs, cheese, canals, and beautiful architecture of the leaning gabled houses. Even the taste of Poffertjes and Stroofwafels are unknown to my taste buds so imagine my surprise when my husband & I with our 1 year -old daughter took a walk along the streets near the Zeedijk up to the Oudekerksplein.My husband is Dutch and visited Amsterdam frequently but He rarely went to the Red Light District. So for people who think that Dutch people are fond of taking drugs and fooling around in the RLD, on any given day, then you are completely  wrong!  I noticed that this place really thrives on tourists and visitors and not the locals!

We decided to pass by the streets of the Red Light District in the morning, where there are less crowds. We had previously explored the city and thought of having a break from the Museums since my daughter easily gets bored and in dire need of playtime.So then we found ourselves strolling through the alleys where its best known to be a public display of prostitutes and marijuana! Yes, prostitution and drugs is legal in the Netherlands! It is also came as a surprise to me knowing that the Netherlands is the first country to legalize gay marriages. The red-light district in Amsterdam  consists of a network of alleys containing approximately  three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who display their goods and offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights. These “kamers” are the most visible and typical kind of red light district sex work in Amsterdam and are a large tourist attraction. I have read about it but seeing these girls , totally made up as early as 10am in the morning  still gives me a different experience. In the broad daylight,they all looked bored and there’s so much in their stares, some are just playing with their phones and fidgeting with their shiny underwear.

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Street sightings in Amsterdam

De Wallen, together with the prostitution areas Singelgebied and Ruysdaelkade, form the Rosse Buurt (red light areas) of Amsterdam. Of these, De Wallen is the oldest and largest area.The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum,brothels, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops that sell marijuana, legally. My 1-year-old  certainly had no idea what these are all about and doesn’t pick up anything about what is in the billboards and signage. Taking photos of the ladies is highly prohibited and the whole area is on surveillance of camera so every visitor is expected to be discreet.

So, am I a bad mother for dragging my innocent daughter into this place?

After we’ve seen the Miffy  (or Nijntje ) exhibition in Museumplein, then we took her into a place full of things she doesn’t even have an idea of what it is. Well, as shocking as it may look to the world that a toddler can have a glimpse of ladies parading their almost naked bodies, I find the whole experience normal.Just like in other cities. Of course we didn’t get inside of those Sex museums or lounge in the Coffee shops, we merely passed by to take a look. Strolling around the Red Light District with a toddler was peaceful, calm, and safe. The only disturbance we’ve had is my toddler’s whining and wanting to run all over the place.

Although the Red Light District is for adults, its  only after dark that there are throngs of people just walking around to soak up the atmosphere, I too, as a visiting tourist have spent some good times just watching the world go by.Most of the tourists there are actually not there to indulge in those activities,they’re just there simply to watch. I found it a very  relaxed friendly place. Although I don’t recommend to go in there at night , and yes, not even with a baby with me.

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Street art in Amsterdam

Amsterdam city centre has a romantic image. I truly enjoyed the cozy strolls along the city center and now I know why Amsterdam is such a vibrant city. The city is gorgeous and a place for kids to enjoy. Sure it has its seedy and naughty parts of the city but its a beautiful place to explore and I am even grateful that my daughter experience the benefits of traveling at such a young age. The neighborhood is full of interesting shops, pubs, fantastic restaurants, leaning gabled houses and the city’s most charming canals. It is the same location of the Nieuwmarktsquare, the gothic Oude Kerk  and just a stones throw away,you will be in Amsterdam’s Chinatown, the Zeedijk (also home to an impressive Buddhist temple). It is unbelievable that after a few minutes strolling along the RLD, you will be in another place, a totally different atmosphere.

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Dutch Gezelligheid

Our trip to Amsterdam became a memorable one, and not because of the things we’ve seen in the Red Light District, but because, it is a beautiful city that is rich in culture. More than the bike culture, Amsterdam will always be special for us. It was our first trip as a family and I am sure, I can tell stories to my little girl that during the first year of her life, she had been there…through the secrets of the Red Light District!

If you want to visit Amsterdam and have a look in the RLD, this page might give you some interesting information.

Would you stroll along the Red Light District with your baby if given the chance?

 

 

My tiny human’s Little feet

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My Tiny human’s footprint in the shores of Arabian Gulf

One of the things I missed from living near the beach is having  lazy early morning beach walks. Unhurried, calm, serene and the most special thing, barefoot. Away from the chaos, and free from the hustle and bustle of the city.With the wonderful backdrop of the beach, my thoughts oftentimes drifts away and going places as the gentle wind touches my cheeks while holding my daughter’s hand.

There’s something so therapeutic and calming whenever I step on the soft, ticklish sandy shores along Arabian Gulf.  I’ve always been a beach girl  and you can imagine my glee when the day comes that my tiny human finally put her tiny toes in the shores and feel the waves and sand…for the first time. She loved every second of it. It was such a precious moment. She left her footprint, a precious mark —unscaled and raw . This tiny foot mark that I have excitedly captured in photo before the waves swept it away . Looking at her tiny feet made me realize that she had a big world ahead, waiting for her to explore, and that she had to stand firmly on a big feet in order to thrive.

But right now, she’s still so tiny, her feet still so fragile, yet so special.

That once in her life back in Kuwait, she had walked baby steps there, watched the sunsets, and sunrises too, played  barefoot, and waddled her tiny  feet in the shores…making memories.We  made thousands of  footprints in the beach… a beautiful chapter in our Expat life.

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My tiny human’s little  feet over mine.

With the beach front far from where we live right now, she now walks on different grounds. She’s stomping happily on pebbles & cobbled stone pavements and running though the lush grass fields. She’s making her own stride,taking her time to feel the ground,and walking confidently in her own feet. She even learned to jump into muddy puddles and walked on the crispy autumn leaves. She’s still making foot prints, leaving traces of her childhood-in her own tiny world.

As I’ve said before; the Littlest feet makes the greatest footprints in our hearts.

Do you like walking in the beach with your little ones? How was the experience?

This post is in response to this week’s Daily Post- Photo Challenge |Tiny

My Adventure on cycling with Toddler

My husband is Dutch and you would probably known why & how  Dutch are naturally born cyclists. I mean, they learn to cycle the moment they learned to walk and run. Believe me,there’s no kid in the Netherlands without a children’s bike! Maybe not everyone has a computer but really, statistically speaking, every single person has a Bike. A humble Dutch Bike.

There is no such a thing as cycling culture for Dutch, It is their #1 CULTURE! It’s no surprise that they are the  Cycling capital of the world  especially  Amsterdam. If you are a tourist, please,please think twice before you hop on to that bike. Amsterdam is one hell of a crazy hub for cyclists.They rule this city and you as a tourist is a liability in the road. Your selfie stick & bike is not just a perfect combo during rush hours. But if you wanna piss off the Dutch, go on. If you’ve visited the Netherlands, you know what I mean. For me,one thing that lingers in my memory about Amsterdam is Bikes. Millions of Bikes.

There is not a single space or place without a bicycle. There are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands and in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike. They don’t cycle for recreational purposes only–They cycle for life!

No wonder that the Dutch people are on top (3 km) in cycling kilometers per day while Germans cycle only for 800 meters average daily  compared to other European countries. The Dutch also have the least deaths (1.6) per 100 million kilometers. They don’t even wear helmets! You can check out these surprising statistics Here.

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A Family that cycle together, stays together.His, hers, and Mine.

So, being married to a Dutch, this is a major culture shock for me. The things is, I’ve never  heard about or seen  a Bakfiets before, so I was really ogling the moment I saw it. Not that I wanted to have one, but the idea of transporting another human (let alone babies & toddlers!)   with that box-type cargo thing attached on the bike looks so strange to me,so crazy,so genuine & yet very interesting.Knowing you can also put your bag of groceries and your pets, your plants etc. in there, then that made me smile.When you’re in Holland, you will cycle…because that’s how they roll.

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My new found Love-Affair with Toddler-Cycling.

Eventually, cycling is also part of our little family now. I learned to cycle when I was about 13 (or something I can’t really remember), but it was just for recreation, a time where you just want to experiment new things in your teenage life. After years & years, I have never ridden a bike.The next time I rode a bike was when I was in the Netherlands and cycle for about 25 km and my ass really hurts. It felt strange, but once again, exciting.My daughter who just turned 2 last August got her walking bike and I could see that it’s in her genes too, loving her bike for the love of it! When we moved here in Germany, I was also surprised that Cycling is also a great part of the German culture, almost similar to the Dutch. Here they have the Anhänger (or kid’s chariot) and the Kid seat (Kindersitz) attached to the bike when cycling with babies & kids.People cycle with their kids, to go to work,doing errands,even when it rains! Trust me, if you move to Germany, you will buy a bike!

My husband got me a bike as well. Hoorraayyy!  I am a trying-hard Expat Mama who wanted to integrate and fit in as much as possible so I was really thrilled when we got my new bike. Deep inside I was horrified,nervous and saying prayers. Can I really do it? Can I really ride my bike with my daughter on my back, with me? What if she fell? She sits and I cycle? I tell you, it’s no joke! It scared the hell out of me. But at the same time, challenged me.

I just got to do it, and go for it.

It’s not easy at first. But it felt good. It actually felt great. Toddler-Cycling is possible and very safe. I think it really creates a special bond between families. Responsible Cycling  as a family is one of the things I love here in Germany, and why not, it’s so much fun.

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Our bicycles- meet Helmut, Helga & my daughter’s bike-Heike

I have never realized that Cycling could be so much more than just cycling itself. When I saw how Dutch people and the Germans now go on with their life through life in two-wheels, I was really  impressed. Cycling is healthy, pollution-free, natural, and very environment-friendly form of exercise and means of transport. But more than all of these, It’s a great lifestyle. No wonder these countries have high quality of Living.

Who builds a bicycle road on a 32km-long sea dyke? One akin to a really, really long Severn Bridge, made of earthworks, tumbleweed and gulls, with a six-lane highway? Yup, only the Dutch ! To make cycling safer and more inviting the Dutch have built a vast network of cycle paths.These are clearly marked, have smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights for those on two wheels, and wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking. As a first-timer & a tourist in the Netherlands, I find these things really delightful. Here in Germany, there are enough cycle paths for anyone to cycle until they drop. It’s a cycling paradise as well. I am so looking forward to explore so much more of this country through cycling. I am excited to cycle more with my daughter and indulge in this new lifestyle that we’re having. A lifestyle with our humble bicycles.

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Exploring Germany on a bike with a Toddler.

Germany & the Netherlands have  decent infrastructure for cyclists since there is a remarkable variety of people cycling, of all ages and from all walks of life. I saw old couples riding side by side on e-bikes on long bicycle roads between country towns. There are people in normal clothes riding in astonishing numbers in the cities at rush hour. There are parents with kids, sometimes one on the front, one on the back, even kids sitting on Bagagedrager  and holding nonchalantly on to the cycling adult’s shoulders. There are children cycling unaccompanied to and from school, and cycling and playing in the streets, even in busiest cities. Children who goes to Kindergarten (or Krippe) and Pre-schoolers are riding their Bikes. I saw ladies in skirts & heels cycling in style..so fashionable. I was really dumbfounded, why this can’t be done in the Philippines?! This could be a part of the solution of the worst traffic in Metro Manila. If only the government is willing to invest in the cycling infrastructure….If only they could also fall in love with Bikes &  have a steady love-affair with bicycles.

Do you like Cycling?

What  activities do you share as a family?

 

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Parks & Playgrounds in Ingolstadt

To tell you frankly, I didn’t appreciate parks & playgrounds until I had a child of my own!

If you have an active toddler like mine, I am so sure that playgrounds have become your best friends. Either indoor play yard or an outdoor sandpit, it always saves your day. It’s one happy place where your kids just let go of their  steam and for a moment, you’ve got the chance to inhale and breathe. I know I’m not alone in this,but when your child is happy, you are happy too!

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Sandpit, play area & wasserspielplatz in Baggersee

There are play areas for Kids..Everywhere!

As a new Expat, you search for grocery shops or bakeries, but for me, one of my early priorities is to look for playgrounds for my daughter to play. Well, Germany is famous for its abundance of outdoor activities and play areas for kids & toddlers. I must say that being a kid here is awesome and has a lot to offer. I was really surprised to find that in almost every neighborhood, there are Spielplatz or play areas for kids. Isn’t that amazing? In the Bike shop, supermarkets and groceries, in Biergartens and restaurants, they always have a  play area where kids can play. There are trampolines & rockers along the busiest shopping streets . Some even have a changing area where you can breastfeed, feed or change the diapers for free!

The one in dm-drogerie is our favorite because you can shop while your kids play. Great thing about dm is it’s absolutely free and very convenient. Did I mention that even in the Rathaus ( or the Town Hall) they have kid toys placed in the walls along the corridor. Very kid-friendly especially during waiting time.

It’s beautiful, natural, safe ,full of creative spaces, and best of all, it’s all FREE!

 

Life being an Expat is challenging. You’ve got no friends yet,you barely speak the language, you don’t even know your neighbors, but your child is screaming out for tiny humans company. A bored child is a whining child so the best thing to do is take her out! Searching for parks & playground is also a perfect chance to get acquainted with the new neighborhood and making new friends.It is actually easy to make friends when you have a kid,it’s less intimidating. The moment kids starting to play with each other, it’s easy to start a conversation. This works well for me so I’m sure it can work with you too.

So here in Ingolstadt, we have discovered quite a number of  parks and playgrounds which has helped us a lot in trying to integrate in this new culture. Here’s our list for our favourites ;

Klenze Park

Klenzepark is a huge oasis for kids (and for adults too). This place has a large field and beautiful park I must say, with trees surrounding it and has luscious  rose gardens with fountains. It is the site for the 1992 Bavarian Garden Festival and has a unique open air museum of German fortification architecture. It will host the 2020  State Flower Show so that’s something to look forward if you love nature & flowers.  Ideally located along the  Donau river, it’s a scenic place where you can take your kids for a lazy stroll, cycling or play in the playground.With the view of the historical Neues Schloss and with the love-lock bridge, this is our favorite spot so far.There is a fountain  (Wasserspieltplatz) with huge rocks where children can enjoy playing in the water especially in Summer.The whole field is also surrounded with small water canals where children (and adults!) splash their feet in Summer.

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Wood basics playground – Eliminating all plastics .

Just beside the Wasserspieltplatz is the Natural Playground. It has  wooden slides, climbing areas, rockers, swings and fun activities for kids. In the center is a sand pit where toddlers & kids  playing in the sand. .It’s very accessible by bike,by walking or by bus. There is an ample underground parking and comfort rooms.Inside the park are Biergartens, cafes, and museums.

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Wasserspieltplatz & Fountain in Klenze park

Luitpoldpark

Luitpoldpark is ideal for all ages and the entire family as  well. There is a forest where you can take your kids to have a short trek, stroll and have quiet walks with all the towering trees above you. This is a secluded place to jog, run and or just taking your dog for a walk. In the center was a playground with slide, rockers, and sand pit where your child can play while parents can have a picnic. I have seen many families having their birthday parties here and meet-ups.Adjacent was a football field where bigger kids can enjoy a football game as well. There is a small hill that is great for toddlers to climb up and run.

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Sun rays peeking in the trees

 

Further down Luitpoldpark is the Biotoperlebnisfad and the Nazi victims memorial park. The paths are ideal for skate boarding, cycling plus  exploring through the woods can let you learn more about the trees and its history &  age. If you like Forestry & Foliage, then this is a great place for you.

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Learning about the Trees in Luitpoldpark

 

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Playtime in a windy day!

Fort Haslang Parks and Playground

We discovered this playground by chance. While we are looking for a Pediatrician for my daughter, we decided to let her play a bit and we found this play ground nearby. It has a scenic field full of short shrubs and flowers, a cycling path with apple trees and forest flowers and in its center is a play ground with sand pit, slides, rockers & plenty of space for children to run around. A bit further is a place for bigger kids where they have ramps for bicycles, ziplines, and table tennis areas. This playground has benches for parents too. Surprisingly, almost all parks & playground in Germany always have an area for parents to sit, drink their coffee and a trash bin. You won’t even need to worry about where to throw the soiled diapers.

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Picking summer flowers in the field of Fort Haslang Parks & playground
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Fort Haslang playground

Wildpark am BaggerseeOberschüttweg

This beautiful wildlife escape is just 15 minutes away from our home. Ideally situated near the Dam and you will have  scenic views of the River Danube and lush forest, a lake, and a Lakehouse with lots of Biergarten & cafes. Discovering the beauty of Baggersee last Summer was one of the highlights of our first Summer here. This place is best for campers during summer, and ideal for cycling. It has 54km stretch for you to cycle til you drop. If you have a kid’s seat attached to your bike like most Germans does or an Anhänger ( Child chariot), then you can easily explore this place thru cycling while having panoramic views of the Auswaldsee.  The Wildpark & Baggersee play area are absolutely free. The wasserspielplatz for kids is one of my daughter’s favorite and I like that it has an active water pumps where parents can do some activity and exercise.

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Wildpark 
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Building sandcastles and playing with sand 

Biergarten Künettegrabenalong Jahnstraße

This Playground is adjacent to a Biergarten. Yes, in Germany, there are Biergartens which has a playground beside it. It has lovely views of the winding bridges, old fortifications, and the ponds filled with ducks.  Go here early in the morning and you can enjoy the peace & quiet. Perfect for nap times too.The playground itself is frequented by pre- schoolers  on their outdoor walks & play times because it is surrounded with trees, and has lots of creative games areas. There is a sand pit, water pipes, slides, swings, turntables, see-saws and table tennis & basket ball courts. They have swings made of old tires.While your kids play, parents can have a happy hour in the Biergarten as well or just feed the ducks!

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Up close with the wild deers in Wildpark

Zoo WassersternGerolfinger Str. / Aloisiweg 19

This small Zoo is a one of a kind attraction for kids. It is a non-profit zoo which houses different animals which look more like a private collection. The place is a combination of a Botanical Garden and a zoo. There are reptiles and birds on the ground floor, an Aquarium and sea animals in the basement and wild birds, monkeys, and birds like parrots, owl and other birds located in the garden. It is frequently visited by Kindergarten students, visitors, and people with disabilities. Ideal for a family getaway on weekends. There are tables & chairs for parents to rest and a changing room for babies.

 

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Climb steps in St.Anton Spielplatz

St. Anton play ground & Park-Münchnerstr.

This playground is very close to the Haupbanhof and just across the St.Anton Church . It is in front of a Pet Zoo shop and has a shady park & play area for the little ones. We love to walk going here. It has a huge field where people do yoga, train their dogs, or just have a lazy weekend picnic. It has a pebble & sand pit, rockers, slides, and a wooden climb & maze paths. It is one of our favorite playground because it is shady and quiet. It is surrounded with ample trees as well.

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Close to nature

I am so thankful that we live in a place where these playgrounds and parks are accessible. As a parent,there’s a lot more to write about playgrounds here in Bavaria, they are really something to be proud of. We keep on discovering new ones each day. Play areas doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. In Germany, the approach for more green, natural, simple & safe play outweighs farther the confines of an indoor play areas.

How ‘s it been Expat Mamas? How was your move so far?

 

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Toddler Tantrums & Terrible Twos!

As we all know, Little Miss Independent is happiest when she can call the shots, but when she’s not allowed to do it..There she goes!

Screaming bloody horror .

 

Nowadays, she behave like this for some moments in the grocery shop, she hates it! in  the mall, in the bathroom , while changing her diaper that becomes a daily battle, during dinner that could last up to an hour, or even just watering the plants.She wants to do it her way. Her own way!

This is the aftermath of our struggle. Her. on the floor.

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The point of No Surrender ,normally last for the next 40-60 seconds of bloody murder screaming and crying as if the whole world is falling apart. #RaisingNatalie

 

While we’re at our Creative Dancing Class, everyone was leaping and smiling with glee. Our teacher was teaching new moves so the tiny tots can imitate.My daughter ran out from the circle and ran over to the corner where the costumes and sticks are stacked. She began to climb one chair and pull one stick, then another. Call me helicopter Mama, but of course I ran over to get her & return all the sticks. Those are sharp and could hurt her.

“Not a toy “,  I said.

Then she ran to the couch and throws all the pillows all over the place.Then she just dropped there on the floor, screaming in horror and crying out up to her lungs.I tried to pick her up but then she kicked me, whining, and she keeps on wiggling so I let her go and leave her alone in her performance. I tried to ignore the stares of the other parents.

Whew, when did she become  so strong?

This is the time for Tantrums &  Meltdown they say.

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Life with Balls -Freeze the moments when she’s sane! #ToddlerLife

One moment she’s an adorable sweet little munchkin. All smiles and kissing you all over. Rubbing your hands and back , cuddling you. But now suddenly..she began to transform into a brat, from throwing toys and food, into banging her head on the floor.

Oh ok, pretty normal. Development stage.

There is HOPE and these things too, shall Pass.

 

 For those who can relate–

 

“You get two big windows of opportunity in your life to do stuff like build castles, lick pebbles, watch Super Simple songs and Baby Shark Shark, and just plain play: the first when you are a child, the second when you have ONE. Don’t get too busy or wrapped up in the grown-up stuff to miss it.”

How was your life with a Toddler? Have you had times like these? X

My daughter’s Love-Affair with Pretzel

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Lekker..pretzel – new Toddler addiction | by Justbluedutch

Toddlers are notorious picky eaters. My daughter is one. But recently, we found something. We’ve just moved to Germany, and surprisingly, my daughter fell in love with this dark brown, crispy, salty crust, and inside a soft dough bread. It has a plump “body”, and thin, crispy  crossed “arms.” Locally known as ‘Pretzel’or here in Bavaria, it is known as “Brezn, Brez’n, or Brezen“. Well who doesn’t? It’s delicious, especially when its fresh & warm.Typically German thing and its so good. Breze are part of a typical snack German culture and even on any meals.Additionally it is irreplaceable as side dish with Weißwurst and Leberkäse.

Maybe she’s fascinated by its unique shape and color. But one thing for sure, she loved its taste. This has been part of our morning walks and whenever we are out in the park. We go to the nearby Backerie {Bakery}, our favorite was one from Backhaus Hackner ,   and we’re all set! She can finish one big Pretzel in one sitting and could asked for more.

I noticed  that even from one bakery to the other, there are slight variations of the pretzel shapes, and of course, taste. For example, in Bavaria, the arms are shorter and attached closer to the top (thin part) of the pretzel. In Swabian the arms of the pretzel sit very low on the body.

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A Pretzel a day makes one fine Toddler’s tantrums away. | by Justbluedutch

Pretzels today continues to be formed by hand as has been done throughout history. Bakers spend years perfecting the pretzel-forming technique. First, the dough needs to be rolled out. Both ends of the strand are held up, and through a quick swing, the center of the strand is twisted. The ends are then pressed onto the body of the pretzel. This process, when perfected, takes only seconds, but it needs a lot of practice to get it right.

I personally also liked it. The first time I have tasted it is when we are on holiday in Trier and I was curious to know how does it taste. In Philippines, I can only remember that Pretzels are very tiny, chocolate-coated crispy biscuit and not as bread like this. Here, I have seen both young and old eating Pretzel daily. With beer, White sausages and often with herb butter on it.

Germany is a land of Breads and as part of getting to know its rich varieties here, I was surprised to learned that Pretzels were invented by mistake! { A great story!}  Now it’s not a new thing  that many dishes  were created out of a mistake but indeed, pretzels has been one of the traditional German food for ages and until now.

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Freshly baked Bavarian Pretzels

If you are curious like me, you can read about Pretzels and its history and although in other regions of Germany have their stories of how it was invented, the Laugenbrezel is accredited to the Bavarians. The story goes that one fine morning of February 11, 1839, Anton Nepomuk Pfanenbrenner, the baker for the Munich Royal Café, was preparing some sweet pretzels for his guests. He wanted to brush the pretzels with sugar-water, but accidentally used the Natronlauge, the sodium hydroxide solution being used to clean and disinfect the bakery kitchen countertops. The baker decided to bake the pretzels anyway.

Lye can be toxic in high concentrations, but is also commonly used for curing foods like lutefisk. Most bakers use food-grade lye, which is the chemical equivalent of drain cleaner, but is produced and packaged in a clean, regulated way.Since the lye dip is heavily diluted and the pretzel is baked after dipping, it won’t kill you.

The pretzels came out of the oven with a unique brown crust, soft center, and delicious taste. His guests were very pleased and he became the “pretzel hero.”That’s where it all began.

There are so many varieties of Pretzels that we are excited to try. There’s the New Year’s pretzels, sweet pretzels, Oktoberfest Pretzels {Wiesnbrezn }   which are baked larger than the original size,and lighter in shade and the special Lent Pretzel (Fastenbrezeln)  which are baked during the 40 days of Lent. For sure I’ll be writing about these things soon.

Have you ever tried German Pretzels? How was your experience?

I would love to hear your  story in comments below.

If you like this story, then you might also love to read about fascinating facts about Arabic foods we like when we are living in Kuwait or follow our Expat Life stories Here.