FamilyLife.Rocks parenting in germany

Story Stones

I am a very able and workmanlike mum sometimes. One of my latest projects are the so-called story stones.

Paint me another train

The idea is not my own invention tough, I found the inspiration in one of the German parenting blogs I follow. This gift idea for toddlers seemed perfect to me since Florentin is already collecting stones wherever we go. So his interest in the actual material is also already an everyday topic in our family.

Painting stones

First of all you have to collect some rather flat stones. I enjoyed that part of the process, because I had to wait anyway while Florentin was making his own choices on which stones to pick as his favorites at every corner. So why not make the most of the time while we are at it anyway? I mostly picked stones in the size of a walnut, but you should simply choose the size your kid can handle well with small hands.

I then bought a set of acrylic paint because it is long lasting on stones. They sell acrylic colors in different quality and from my experience the lowest quality is absolutely fine for stones.

The next step is to rinse and wash the stones with a certain care, especially when you do so in porcelain sink.

When the stones have dried you can start with the painting. I choose the following pictures and symbols:

  • numbers from one to nine
  • snowflake and snowman
  • boy and girl
  • flower and tree
  • house
  • raindrop and cloud
  • rabbit and bird
  • and some more

Paint me another train

When I was done with the painting I sprayed the stones with fixative to make the colors stay longer. Be careful with the spray and better use it outdoors or with the windows wide open.

Story Stones as a gift

Florentin got his stones for his second birthday. Also his friend Helena was presented with a handful. The two of them were born in the same month. At first the were not very interested. Of course I was sad about the disinterest because of all the work that went into producing them. A few days later I caught Florentin throwing his stones around so I put them away. A few weeks later he asked for them and played very careful with the stones. Since then he puts them in and out of the little sack and puts them in lines. They are also loaded very carefully on little trucks with the help of his toy construction machinery.

Paint me another train

I have a feeling that the motives do not matter much as long as they are colorful and delightful to look at.

Diaper of horror

During Christmas time every family tries to come to a peaceful, happy and cosy atmosphere. We try to achieve this too. But there is a Christmas dread we really fear to face every year: The diaper of horror.

Last year we ended up with an open window during the diaper changing process (remember: December in Germany is cold!) while one of the big picture books served as a frond and me having an asthma attack. We had never experienced such a bad pop smell before.

Horror on Christmas Eve

What happened?

Just one word: smoked salmon.

It has become a very nice Christmas tradition that my mother in law presents us with a big piece of salmon every year. We really celebrate and enjoy the food by cooking several different meals e.g. with ingredients like horse radish or as a fixing with cram and pasta. This is a tradition Christoph and I settled in the last 10 years.

One of the things you have to do as a parent is sharing every piece of food with your kid. So, of course we shared a piece of salmon with Forentin - just to test if he likes it. Of course he liked it - just like he enjoys olives, gorgonzola cheese and other spicy things we always thought kids would even hate.

Unsuspecting the terrible surprise we would encounter in his diaper on the next morning, we gave Florentin more and more smoked salmon…

This year we already tried to think of ways to keep the salmon a secret. But maybe we are stronger than last year and can stand the changing process with a bit more dignity…?

Celebrating advent as a family in Germany

Today we want to tell you about how we celebrate the four weeks of Advent in Germany. Though Christoph and I might appear to be rather seasoned with Christmas stuff this holiday season will in fact be the first time for us as a family to celebrate the holidays. Mostly because Florentin was still too young last year.

We of course look back on years of experience with our family’s traditions, but this time we have the chance to establish our own. Therefore we are somewhat exited since everyone knows the important role that Christmas plays when it comes to childhood memories. Now we have the chance to create these pleasant memories for our son…

Advent wreath

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

Luckily my mom gave us everything we needed to twine the advent wreath. You need a straw wreath, wire, 4 candle holders, some decoration (pinecones) and of course some evergreen.

I was hoping that Florentin would “help” me with the twining, but he developed a fever and just sat there and watched. But I was fine with that because every process is significantly faster when your kids are just standing by instead of giving a helping hand ;)

The advent wreath will be lighted on Sundays after the nap, when we sit together for a coffee break and eat some cookies and Christmas stollen (a typical sweet from Saxony during Christmas season).

Advent Calendar

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

Back in the days when Christoph and I were kids (back in the 70s and 80s) an Advent calendar was a small present to help pass the time until Christmas Eve. Some were simply filled with chocolate but most held only tiny presents or pictures behind each door.

In recent years we often heard from friends with children how big the calendars have become since then. Some contain a LEGO gift or an animal each day and on Christmas Eve you will have a complete farm or the Star Wars Death Star.

We felt that this is too big as an every day gift. So luckily I found a pretty Advent calendar with pictures behind each door. We plan to open the door each day together as a reward for Florentin brushing his teeth.

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

Stars everywhere

“Star” was one of the first words Florentin learned to say when he was a little child. So we naturally looked for stars everywhere in his books, on his clothes and out on the streets (e.g. on advertisements). I still remember how excited he got when we installed a glowing star in his room.

Yesterday we pulled out the box with the Christmas decoration and Florentin was very happy to see the box containing the star again. Last weekend we cleaned the house and decorated our apartment. Here are the results:

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

celebrating advent as a family in Germany

Christmas Tree

This year we will install our first Christmas tree. But this alone deserves an extra article anyway…

Make your toddler sleep

At the age of 6 months a child can learn to fall asleep by itself without the help of breastfeeding, being carried around or huddling together. This is what we learned amongst other things when we sought sleep advice for children when our son was 18 month.

toddler sleeping problems

Toddler sleeping problems

Not so much sleep itself constituted a problem for our kid but the process of actually falling asleep. He just was not able to calm down. Instead of lying down comfortable, cute, and cosy he was jumping around, giggling and doing gymnastics. Every evening one of us had to lay with him for hours to help him calm down. In the last couple of weeks prior to us asking for help this evening ritual usually took around 2 1/2 hours!

We could never be sure when we parents would be able to call it quits for the day and spending some time together as a couple became more and more impossible. As soon as the child would wake up for the first time during the night one of us had to put him to bed again.

The only place for an afternoon nap seemed to be the stroller. I took it as my daily workout to go for a walk after lunch for about 1.5 hours. But that did hardly seem like a long-term solution. Especially since I had to be careful not to cross tracks with an excavator or crane on our way, since this would make him wide awake again in an instant: “craaaaane”

Sleep advice for the rescue

I must admit that the social network and support for families in Augsburg is very advanced. This is mostly due to the fact that the city had an excellent head of the social devision not that long ago. Also the churches play an integral part because of the historic importance of the Religious Peace of Augsburg. Me and the toddler arranged a free appointment for family counseling at a nearby SOS Children’s Village and community center without a problem.

The conversation with the child psychologist and family therapist was very tiring. Since I was there by myself and had to recall exact details about my own childhood, the process of giving birth to my son, and how we organize our family life. These are bold themes to recollect and express in front of a stranger.

The diagnosis of the therapist: our child is in charge of the situation and decides who has to stand next to its bed, when and how long. This is an exhausting position to be in for the child, because it actually wants to behave like a child and longs for direction form its parents. The situation is also tiring for the parents because it is never pleasant to lose control over a situation.

Therefore the goal had to be resetting the family relationships and clarifying who is in charge of the situation.

The path to a better family sleep

We started with the readjustments of the evening rituals when the Oscars were televised. The child had just recovered form a sickness and seemed fit and healthy again. I figured when drama of falling asleep should drags on for hours again I would at least be able to to watch a couple of exceptional dresses.

With this in mind I started the usual bedtime procedure, but was careful not to assume a reclined and sunken position next to my son. He should not get the idea that this was comfortable for me :

  1. Brush and undress in the bathroom
  2. Put on Pajamas in the nursery
  3. Close the blinds together and open window for ventilation
  4. Lay down to sleep, wrap in and tell some recollections of the day
  5. Close windows again, sit down next to the kid singing or humming
  6. Goodnight kiss and leave the room

Said and done according to the plans. As our child was not sleeping in a crib at the time, he was able to walk around when he desired. Therefore he got up after a brief surprise and went looking for me. I put him back to bed and walked out of his room again. We repeated this little game for 50 minutes. Then all of a sudden all was quiet and still while the Oscars broadcast had not even started yet.

On the second day I had success after a period of 10 minutes. The third night our game ended after 5 minuted. One could only start shaking one’s head in amazement!

I think it is important to mention that I do not believe that the tactics applied will work as a blueprint procedure for other children, since there are so many small details you have to watch out for. The child should not suffer during the transition period since it might get traumatized in the worst of all imaginable cases. Should you have a similar problem, then look for the offerings in your city for consultancy. There are therapists you have to pay yourself, but also many community backed or free of charge alternatives. You should certainly consider these possibilities.

For a long stretch our family life had greatly improved. Florentin knew how he could manage to fall asleep all by himself. At first he had about one or two nights a week where he slept the whole night (without crying or whining). But soon most if not all nights started to get very relaxing for me and Christoph.

Back to the start

But then his second Birthday came around and it seemed that all the problems started again on the exact day our son turned two. All of a sudden we were confronted with dramatic temper tantrum coming with a lot of crying and screaming and lashing around. The sleeping drama started again as well. But the difference this time around was: he now knew how to undress. As soon as we would leave the room he would start to put off his pajama and diaper and eventually even pee on his pillow. The mountains of laundry grew to record highs around that time and the process of falling asleep became a stressful one again. We sat calmly next to the door of his room and listened closely for every little sound coming from the inside to immediately rush in as soon as we would hear the plopping of the pajama buttons.

Again, we had to sit for hours on end. The afternoon naps became especially horrible, because when he would finally fall asleep all the other kids would be ready to get up again. All of a sudden all our playdates had to be cancelled.

But with every phase also this particular period ended when our son all of a sudden would fall asleep almost without any hue and cry. Still we experience pleasant and not so pleasant surprises when it is sleeping time. Just today Florentin called for us when we assumed he was already fast asleep. As we went looking for him he stood naked inside the door to his room proclaiming that he had to pee and therefore needed to remove his wet diaper and also his sleeping gown.

As you can imagine we can hardly wait for tomorrow’s episode of “bedtime for our boy”.

Pasta Recipe - kitchen fun for toddlers

It is of significance for me that my children learn about the work that goes into the various products of daily life. This is the reason why I love to show Florentin how things are constructed, crafted or cooked. Last week we had homemade pasta.

Christoph and I have some experience with the pasta making process, since we produced quite a bit of homemade pasta around three years ago when we got the pasta machine as a gift from our friend. But when I got pregnant I became too lazy and I also did nott feel like standing for too long. After some time we put the pasta machine away.

Now we have a toddler who claims his favorite food is “pasta with meat”. This is particularly funny because we mostly have vegetarian food due to the fact that Christoph banished meat from his diet almost 20 years ago. But our son’s urge for pasta is an easy one to fulfill.

Ingredients for homemade pasta

  • 1 cup durum wheat semolina
  • 2 cups flour (or pasta flour)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • a handful of salt
  • water (upon need)

Preparation for homemade pasta

Mix all the ingredients together by hand and then knead and work well. Let the dough rest well packaged for some time. We usually leave it for about an hour or at least half an hour.

Now you need to roll out the dough thinly. We have our hand operated pasta machine for that. But you can also use a rolling pin and some brawn.

Homemade pasta

Homemade pasta

When the dough is thin enough you can cut it in stripes or use a ‘pasta bike’ to make a somehow classical pasta form.

Homemade pasta

Homemade pasta

Attention: Handmade Pasta cooks faster than the one you buy. Something between 5 and 7 Minutes is enough!

Homemade pasta

Pasta family fun

We told our kid that we will make pasta on Saturday. So he asked us permanently when Saturday will arrive and talked about the pasta machine. You can imagine how exited he was when I finally installed the machine in the kitchen. Astonishingly - although he is a very smart kid - he did not understand how to rotate the crank. The result was that the process staled now and then but that could not reduce the fun :)