Monday, 31 August 2015

Now We Know Our ABCs

We are only now coming to the end of the six-week Summer holidays. School will resume for Number One next week. Lately I have been reflecting on Number One's development. He has made such progress in the past few months. I can hardly believe the change in him. Last September he could write his name and that was it. Now, 12 months later he's reading whole books in German and in English and can write in both print and cursive. 

It was a tough year for him and it has made me determined to have Number Two better equipped for dealing with school. Number One had been keen on learning but we didn't want him to be bored at school, so we followed all the advice from teachers and kindergarten not to teach him to read or have him learn the alphabet. He'd learn all that at school, they said, and in the end he did. But it was a very steep learning curve, not made any easier by the fact that many children in the class could read and write on starting school.  I feel that he'd begun to lose interest in learning before school had even started.

Number Two has been following his big brother's progress and is very eager to learn, always spotting letters from his name and from other words he recognises. So we've decided to go against the advice and go with what our child wants to learn. I've rooted out all the ABC books I bought when Number One was younger. But best of all, I've bought us a brilliant new alphabet poster and matching mini poster that are perfectly suited to bilingual children like mine.

Love Your Lingo is an Australian company founded by an Irish woman called Una. I am ever grateful to Helen, The Busy Mama herself, for mentioning Una in a post and helping me discover these brilliant ABC posters. They cost around €20 each (the pricing is in Australian dollars and worked out at just over €19 the day I bought mine online). 

The alphabet posters and mini posters are of excellent quality and are highly unlikely to get ripped to shreds, the fate of most posters that some into this house. The illustrations are clear and the words chosen to represent each letter of the alphabet are ones that children will quite easily recognise. But for us the fantastic thing is that the words chosen begin with the same letter in German and in English. So B is for bath / Badewanne, L is for lion/Loewe and T is for tower/Turm. I am over the moon to have discovered these. It has made such a difference to Number Two's confidence with letters already.
The Little Linguist's Alphabet from Love Your Lingo covers English, German, French, Spanish, Portugese and Dutch.
As I was re-visiting our alphabet books, I found this one which I had forgotten was multi-lingual. Wenn Raketen Träumen (When Rockets Dream) is a brilliantly imaginative ABC book for space-loving boys like mine. We came across it by chance a couple of years ago in our local newsagents and only discovered when we got home that it was multilingual.
Each page depicts the rocket dressed up as something different, with D for Dragon/Drache, F for Fish/Fisch, P for Penguin/Pinguin, etc. Some are a bit tricky to name, like C for clown's nose/Clownsnase. 
The relevant word is written in the top left-hand corner of the page in seven languages, making it a great book for lots of families.
The boys had great fun spotting the rocket in each of the drawings and naming the creature or object he had transformed into. 

Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray is a beautiful book to look at but not terribly helpful for small children. Number Two loves the facial expressions and cheekiness of the dog, but he is not overly interested in the story because the language used in much of the story is too advanced for his age group. A for Apple, B for Bake and C for Cool are fine, but Q for Quietly determinded is a bit out of his vocabulary. 

I'm excited to see how longs Number Two's interest in reading and writing keeps up. What was your experience with your children? At what age did they develop an interest in letters and reading?  
The Twinkle Diaries

Sunday, 30 August 2015

No Sign of Summer Ending

Warning: Some readers may find the graphic photos of real Summer, including sunshine, outdoor swimming and ice-creams upsetting or traumatic. These are not holiday snaps. They depict real life. Read on at own risk.

It is the evening of Sunday the 30th August. Many of you will be reading this while suffering from a combination of End of Summer Blues, Sunday Night Angst and Back To School Mayhem. I on the other hand live in a place where Summer starts in May, ends in late September and the schools don't go back for another week. I am a lucky lady in lots of ways. 

As I type, it is night-time but still terribly hot and sticky. I may be far from home and away from my family and old friends, but at least I have the luxury of sunshine to buoy my spirits. Oh, and flea markets too. Today there were two in our village but we only made it to one. The heat got too much for us in the end. Even though it was only 11am it was almost 30°C. 
Number Two getting his wallet out to buy that warrier in the crook of his arm.
The boys are developing a good understanding of money and are not at all shy when it comes to asking what those toy soldiers, Lego pieces or Playmobil figures cost!
Number One enjoying a well-earned ice-cream after we'd had a good root around the flea market.
This afternoon it was 37°C as we drove to a local bathing lake to swim and cool off. It was well-needed, let me tell you! It certainly does not look like Summer is going to end any time soon.

 Afterwards we came home and munched on our home-grown cherry tomatoes, straight from the vines, and figs fresh from the tree and warm from a day in the sun. 

We are going to have a tough time adjusting when next Sunday night rolls around and there are school bags to pack, alarm clocks to be set and lunches to be made despite Summer not having ended. So chin up you lot - at least you don't have to iron those uniforms in thirty degree heat. 

My Sunday Photo, 30th August

The gardens at Monart Spa, Co. Wexford, Ireland.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me

About a month ago, as I was sitting in Frankfurt airport waiting to board the flight to Dublin, I had a quick browse of Twitter and saw that the very talented Nicola from Simply Homemade Mum had tagged me in a get-to-know-me kind of post. I promptly replied that I would love to take her up on it, began a draft there and then, boarded the flight and never got round to finishing it till now. So, sorry Nicola! You've been on my mind, but my wifi situation in Ireland was, eh, let's say suboptimal. 

Nicola set me ten questions, some of which have proven to be quite challenging for me. But I have enjoyed taking a bit of time to think about myself. So, read on and get to know me better.  

What did you want to be when you were younger?
My earliest career-related memory is of wanting to be a secretary because I loved playing with the filing cabinet in the study. I suppose I about 4 or 5 then. It seems that even then I was tuned into the fact that I have good organisational skilks because now I am a project manager and have been for almost ten years now.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I am a pretty good go cart driver, given that I have only done it twice. In fact the only trophy I have ever won in my life was in a go cart race. This has earned me huge brownie points with my sons.
What do you love most about blogging?
I suppose it is using the writing as a creative outlet and taking the chance to share my recipes, photos, renovation projects, parenting woes, etc. I really like the interaction with other bloggers too but unfortunately I don't have as much time for it as I would like to have.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? 

That is a very tricky one for me. I think it would have to be an island somewhere. I love the sea but I love the mountains too. Here in Germany we are a day's drive from the sea but close to the Black Forest. At home in Ireland (yes, I still call it home) we are a 15 minute drive from the sea and I do miss that here. Years ago I was in Tasmania and I felt at home instantly because of it being a small island too. There is something very special about islands, I feel.

Do you believe that everything happens for a reason, that it’s fate?

I think I do, in a way. I believe you have to make choices and live with them but that whichever way you choose, a path will open up. One of my favourite poems is Robert Frost's The Road Less Taken (I wrote a post about it a few months ago). It is all about chosing your path in life. 

What makes you smile? 

Oh, that is a difficult one to answer. A lot of things make me smile. My three children make me smile an awful lot, but simple things like the smell of the garden after a shower of rain or seeing the first Spring flowers starting to grow often bring a smile to my face too.

What is your middle name? 

I have three! Mary Julia Emir. Hah, and you probably thought Fionnuala was a mouthful in itself!

Spring, Sumer, Autumn or Winter? 
Spring closely followed by Autumn then Summer then Winter. 

What song reminds you of a happy moment in your life? 

The Divine Comedy's Frog Princess always reminds me of heaps of fun times with my oldest pal, Emma.

What would be your perfect meal?

Tapas or a Middle Eastern mezze platter meal at a large table, outdoors in the evening with plenty of friends, wine and candlelight.  With all the children tucked up in bed and sound asleep, needless to say. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Actually, there is an eleventh thing too. ..
I am thrilled to have made it onto the longlist of parenting and diaspora blogs in the upcoming Irish Blog Awards. If you're a first-time reader here at Three Sons Later, you are very welcome. Feel free to nosey around, get to know me and if you feel like it, leave me a comment or send me a message. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, 28 August 2015

6 Reasons We'll Never Tire of Holidaying in Ireland

It goes without saying that visiting my family is the main reason for us to return to Ireland as often as we can. But more and more, we have been treating our trips to Ireland as real holidays. I want the boys to really know the country and how it ticks. So apart from the amazing people, here's what we love so much about the place.

1. The beaches - in Germany we live a day's drive from the beach, so a visit to the beach is a real highlight for the boys. No matter what the weather is like, we take a spin to the beach and walk, potter, build sandcastles, the boys invariably get wet socks and we have tons of fun. 

2. The food - we love our grub and really make time for eating out while we are in Ireland. There are so many fantasic cafes and restaurants now compared to fifteen years ago. Particular favourites of mine are The Brown Hound Bakery in Drogheda and The Kitchen restaurant, also in Drogheda. McCormack's Cafe in Westport is brilliant too for real homemade food. Harvest Home Bakery in Trim is a tiny, cosy, old-fashioned Irish bakery. Have the pear and almond pie or berry and almond pie and a cup of tea. 

3. The meat - Irish beef and lamb are fantastic. The rashers are the best in the world. But the absolute best thing is black pudding. From Clonakilty to Kelly's of Newport, there are dozens of brands. We've tried many, but always come back to Kelly's. It is melt in the mouth crumbly and delicious. 

4. The scenery - usually when I see spectacular scenery I think "Wow, isn't this amazing? It must be brilliant to live here and wake up to this every morning". But Irish scenery has a different effect on me and The Bavarian. As we drive through Connemara, Sligo, Mayo or even the lush, rolling landscape of County Meath, we see the beauty of it all and it makes us sad not to wake to it every morning. 

5. The fishing - OK, so this is maninly a reason The Bavarian has for coming to Ireland again and again, but Ireland has amazing fishing opportunities, be it at sea, on lakes or on rivers. We were lucky enough to see the row boats setting off on Lough Mask on the final day of the World Fly Fishing qualifiers and it was quite impressive, I must admit.

6. The history - Ireland is the land of saints and scholars but also of ancient burial tombs, Viking settlements, Norman invasions, piracy, plantations, the Battle of the Boyne, the Great Famine, and rebellion against Great Britain. You can't go far in Ireland without coming across something of significant historical value. The opportunities to visit battle sites and castles, hear stories, or experience what life was like in times gones by are endless. 

I know I am *slightly* biased in my opinion here, but if you ever get the chance to visit Ireland, do.

You Baby Me Mummy

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Bedtimes and Backaches - A Nurofen Express Heat Patch Giveaway

Bedtime on holiday can be a huge ordeal. We moved around a lot on our recent trip to Ireland, so I speak from experience here. The strange beds, the lack of blackout blinds, the overtired baby from a day of action, the older kids who feel they should be allowed stay up late, the parents feeling they should be allowed a little more relaxation time than on an evening at home. It all adds up to cause a little extra strain on us all, mentally as well as physically.

On a good day the exhaustion levels are high and the boys all fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows. On the not so good ones, tempers are lost, tears are shed and all too often I end up spending part of the evening leaning over the side of the travel cot trying to get Number Three to finally doze off. 

Glad as I am when he finally sleeps, the resulting pain in my lower back is not a nice finish to the evening. That's where Nurofen heat patches come in. Stick one on, lean back on the sofa with a cuppa or a glass of red and the back pain just eases away.

The patch itself is about the size of the palm of my hand. This is the topside. The underside attaches to the skin.
What I love about these patches is that they are easy to use and they don't interfere with my breastfeeding because they are non-medicinal. They attach really well to the skin but are as easy to remove as a normal plaster. 

If you'd like to try them for yourself, why not enter my giveaway and be in with a chance to win a Nurofen-sponsored TLC pack including Nurofen Express Heat Packs? 

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

[Disclaimer: I was provided with some Nurofen Express Heat Patches in exchange for writing a review. All opinions expressed here are my own].

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A Bedroom for Number Three

A couple of months ago we moved Number Three from his Baby Bay at the side of our bed into his own bedroom next door. I say his own bedroom but in reality it is the bedroom that Number Two moved out of last September when we bought bunks for Number One's bedroom. The idea at the time was to let the two big ones share a room and then have months and months to create a nice space for Number Three to call his own. 

As the months passed, however, the vacated bedroom became a dumping ground for the older boys' cast-offs and the growing baby's cast-offs. Even now with Number Three sleeping in his cot there, we regularly call the room Number Two's room, out of habit. With Number Three turning one year old next week, it is high time to transform this muddle into a cute, personalised room for a cute little toddler. 
One tidy piece of an otherwise unorderly jumble of a room
 The room is my favourite one in the house because of its unusual shape and the beautiful original wooden floor. When the house was built back in the fifties that room was off the landing and had a door to another room. The family who owned the house before us changed the layout so that both rooms could be accessed from the landing. That involved cutting a slice off this room and installing a plaster board wall at a diagonal to the other walls and creating a narrow alcove that would make a great bookcase. To add to the curious shape of the room, it is situated under the eaves, so the ceiling is slanted on one side. All in all, the room is quirky but difficult to arrange furniture in. 

When we moved in, we put a lot of effort into the room for Number Two, who was a small baby at the time. Apart from a small pencil drawing of aliens on the wall by the door, the wallpaper has lasted well and I still really like it. Th basic colour scheme was green and yellow. We could stick with that, but I really would rather that we put a fresh stamp on it for Number Three. As a newborn, he was given a present of this gorgeous David Fussenegger blanket by a friend of mine and at the back of my mind that was the solour scheme I was planning on using for his room. Then he got a christening gift of a beautiful keepsake box and I fell in love with it. My ideas for the room began to move towards a combination of the the blanket and the box - blue, green, yellow and maybe a hint of pinkish-red.
The David Fusenegger Blanket
The Keepsake Box
As I tidied the room earlier today, I noticed that we already have a lot of primary colours in the room in the form of toys, books and curtains. The thought struck me that maybe it would be best to go with that as a colour scheme - striking primary colours, clean lines, a simple look. 

But does this work as well with the natural wood floor and furniture as it would against white? My gut feeling is that the colours and style of the blanket and keepsake box would look great with the wooden features, which I am definitely keeping, and better suit the quirky shape  of the room.

Hmmm, I think I feel a mood board coming on.

What are your thoughts? Has anyone got an amazing bring-it-all-together idea for me? Because I just do not have the time for Pinterest at the moment, much as I would love to click my way through stunning toddler bedrooms for the rest of the day. 

Home Etc

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A Post-Holiday Thank You

Huge thanks to all the lovely people who kept reading my blog despite my absence!  It has just made my day to see that there were still so many views over the past few weeks while I was on holiday.
The Boyne Valley, Co. Meath
The beach at Easkey, Co. Sligo
We really enjoyed our four weeks touring Ireland and catching up with family and friends. Highlights included organising a big family photo, going on a spa break with my mother and sister to Monart (swoon!), spending a luxurious night in Lough Rynn Castle, re-visiting West Cork, Sligo and Connemara and taking the children to many places I had been as a child. 
The Model Railway Village, Co. Cork
Newgrnge Passage Tomb, Co. Meath
A garden in Co. Sligo
Posts will follow on many of these since I was, by and large, delighted with how well we were treated, how good hotel staff ad tour guides were at their jobs and at the delicious food available in so many cafes and restaurants we ate in. 
Lough Rynn Castle, Co. Leitrim
Monart Spa, Co. Wexford
A final special word of thanks has to go to Lufthansa and to my wonderful children. Doing anything outside of the home with three children aged seven and under can be quite taxing, but Lufthansa managed to make our flights over to Ireland and back again enjoyable. With free toys, juice and cake for the kids and a newspaper, coffee, cake and prosecco for the mama, the flights come in second to Monart in terms of the "me time" I had on holiday. Thanks too to Number Three who slept for an hour on each flight and to Number One and Two for not squabbling and for let me enjoy the aforementioned luxuries. 
My favourite airline

[Disclaimer: Nothing in this post was sponsored or paid for by others. I am honestly thrilled with how my holiday went and want to share it with you.]

The Twinkle Diaries