Sunday, 28 July 2013

Last Clue! Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt
Today the last clue is revealed for the Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest scavenger hunt. It's been two weeks of summer fun and I hope you have also discovered lots of great blogs. Is your Pinterest board now complete? Then submit your board using the Rafflecopter on the MKB web page. You have until the 31st of this month to send in the link to your board. Good luck!!


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

8 Things My Highly Sensitive Child Has Taught Me

Six years ago I had never heard of the term highly sensitive person (HSP). I had heard of shy, introvert and difficult - all labels that have been put on me at some point or another in my life. When I became a mother I was suddenly cast into a world of the highly sensitive child (HSC) and it was a real eye opener indeed. I got to know myself better and more importantly I started accepting me for who I am, instead of thinking I had to change to fit in with a society that favours extroverts. Here are eight things I have learnt from my incredible little HSC.

1. I'm a HSP. 

I can take or leave busy, crowded places
Photo Credit: Michal Zacharzewski
For many years I was well aware that I am an introvert. I don't need to be in crowds, am unsure about going to new places, meeting new people and making small talk. I'm a real homebody and am more than content to stay at home rather than be out socialising every evening (even before motherhood!). Since becoming a parent and it being pointed out that my eldest is a HSC I am able to give how I feel a place and a name. I'm a highly sensitive person.

2. It's ok to be me

My vision board and goal setting for years had involved things like "be more extrovert" "go to networking events" "go out more regularly with friends" "meet new people". Whilst I will always strive to be a better me, I have recently learnt to accept myself and my limitations. I will never be more extrovert. I will never be comfortable being centre of attention in a large group. And that's okay.


3. The importance of me time

Highly sensitive people (including children) need down time, and lots of it. Peace, calm, silence, relaxation: these are not luxuries for sensitive souls. These are essentials. When my first son was born and I was alone at home with him I became agitated if he wouldn't sleep at nap time, if he cried incessantly during the day and I couldn't get a minute to myself I was a big ball of knotted stress by the time my husband came home. I thought I was a terrible mother. By the time my second son was born I realised that I needed a recharge moment in the day in order to cope with the noise and chaos that can ensue with a house filled with very small people. When my children slept I made sure I used those precious minutes to create quiet to clear my head, to reset myself to zero. Sometimes I read, sometimes I wrote. Sometimes I just sat and closed my eyes. No music, no TV, no vacuum cleaners or clattering of pans or dishes. More than three years on, with three little boys in the house, I still insist on quiet time in the middle of the day. My youngest sleeps but the eldest two play in their rooms, or together, and do something quiet like drawing, or puzzles or they create masterpieces with Lego. It does us all good. Without it our afternoons and evenings can be tense!

4. I'm a sponge

Photo Credit: Keith Syvinski 
Not in a Sponge Bob kind of way but in a "soak up the emotions around me" sort of way. When my son was in the peuterspeelzaal (nursery school) we heard from his teachers that if others in the class were crying there would be tears in his eyes. If someone hurt themselves he would be upset. If someone was sad, he would be too. It's a common trait of being a HSC. It's a part of being highly sensitive and I guess until a few years back I never really got why others wouldn't be effected to the same extent as me by other people's misfortune or sadness, by horror events reported on the news. I am often upset, on the brink of tears even, about things that are really not my problem to deal with. Worse still, when I hear about someone else's dilemmas I try desperately to think of how I could directly help them and I take their problem on as my own. Like I don't have enough to worry about with three children.... so I end up feeling frazzled as I carry the weight of everyone's problems on my shoulders. My son has made me realise that I have to set boundaries. I have been busy helping him to learn what he can filter out from his school day, what he should let go of and it helps me in turn.  I have learnt to think more objectively when someone is sharing an issue with me - a listening ear is often enough and people are not expecting me to sort our their personal dramas!

5. I'm a lie detector

My son picks up pretty quickly on people saying one thing but actually meaning something else. He knows when he hears half truths, an incomplete story or just plain old nonsense. He watches faces, he reads eyes. When the sentiment there doesn't match the words he hears he knows it in a flash. It's related to number 4 in a big way and it's hard to fob highly sensitive people off with "I'm fine" whilst there are signs in their eyes that tell a different story. And when I saw how tuned in my son is to the unspoken truth the penny dropped about myself. Some people make me feel very uncomfortable and I am very quick to cast judgement on whether I trust someone or not. My son helped me realise why that is.

6. I'm creative

Creative outlets are essential in our house
Photo credit: Amanda van Mulligen (c)
My son needs an outlet to release his emotions and experiences during any given day. He loves making things, using his imagination, painting, drawing, making things with play dough, story telling and building his own little worlds with his Lego. That means Pinterest is my best friend and I have found that I really enjoy seeking out great projects to make with him (and his brothers). It provides me with a creative outlet too, on top of writing that is, and I realise how much I need that. There has to be a place for all the energy to go that is swirling around my head. I can channel creative energy into making things with my children, because right now there isn't the time for me to do release those creative juices in other ways.


7. Be true to ourselves

My eldest has a particular affinity to nature and things that are growing. One day he came home from school very upset because his friends were trying to kill a worm they had found. He thought it was horrible that they could act in such a way.

As he's got older he has struggled with the behaviour of his peers, trying to be the same as them whilst holding on to how he feels when he sees living things being killed. I see him start to bend to fit in, even though it doesn't feel right to him. Later, when he is lying in bed talking about his day he is able to be open and honest about how something made him feel. He's able to admit that something he or a friend did upset him. I hear him more and more talk about how good he was because he didn't cry, even though he felt like he might. He's already being conditioned to fit in better in a world not designed for highly sensitive people.

This is just one example of how HS boys don't live up to society's expectation of how males should behave. Many boys therefore suppress their natural instinct and feelings. Ted Zeff's book "The Strong, Sensitive Boy" is a great resource to delve further into this topic.

I've learnt how important it is to help my son be true to himself and in turn be true to myself. Sometimes it is much harder to follow your own heart and be true to your feelings than to go with the crowd. It's a hard lesson for a child, particularly one that is so sensitive. It's so important to find the balance between honouring how we feel but not constantly sticking our neck on the line. My son doesn't want to stand out from all of his friends, he doesn't want to be different, and I understand that so it's all about finding the right balance.

8. Embrace nature

Nature blows away the cobwebs, refreshes and revitalises
Photo Credit: Amanda van Mulligen (c)
As I said, my son has an affinity to nature. In fact all three boys love being out in nature. They love going for walks in the dunes, collecting leaves, twigs and acorns in the woods and spotting animals and birds when we're outside. My HSC relaxes in nature. He is given a new lease of life being outdoors running amongst the trees and racing carefree along sandy beaches. He's at his happiest embracing all that nature has to offer. He's taught me that nature is a powerful healer; nature refreshes me, gives me energy and allows me to see things through renewed eyes. It blows away the cobwebs and with life so busy with day to day things it's good to take time out and walk in the woods, sit on the beach, paddle in a lake.



What have I missed out? If you are parenting a HSC what important lessons are you learning along the way?

*I have created a Facebook group called "Happy Sensitive Kids" for anyone who is involved in raising HSCs. My goal is to create a supportive, safe place to share tips, experiences, challenges and the joys of bringing up HSCs. It's a closed group so you need to request membership but it also means that the posts can only be seen my members.*

Monday, 22 July 2013

Monday Coffee Morning - Surprise!

Molly over at The Move to America has had a wonderful idea for a weekly social link up with a 'Monday Coffee Morning' where she shares what her week has in store for her. Nice idea huh? If you want to join in head over to Molly's.

This weeks update is more in time for afternoon tea but the thought is there and it's earlier than last week.  This week is about enjoying the sunshine and getting into the holiday mood. I've just spent the weekend in Wales for a surprise party for my uncle who turned 60 so today is about unpacking, getting to grips with the washing and repacking bags. And writing blog posts evidently.

Airports - not the perfect place for relaxation
Photo: R Mitchell
My head is a little elsewhere after my trip to the UK. Whenever I have been back in recent years I realise how long I have been away and how little I feel I belong there anymore. It's just not home. A cousin asked me on Saturday if I thought I'd ever move back to England. I said no. I wouldn't voluntarily move back in the foreseeable future. So my head is processing that realisation at the moment. I know I feel at home here in the Netherlands, but how opposed to moving back to England I was I hadn't realised. That's something to chew over this week.

I won't reveal the exact words I used but yesterday I sent a text to my husband from Manchester airport telling him that the Brits around me seemed a little stressed. I found it hard work getting to my airplane what with being told off for having the wrong size plastic bag for my liquids at security. I had to put my liquids into a slightly smaller plastic bag that I was given whilst the security officer stood waiting. Baffled is not the word. The few centimetres extra of plastic bag makes what difference? If anyone knows I really am interested in hearing why. WH Smiths has introduced an amazingly ridiculous, annoying self-check out system in their airport shop which means the customer does everything themselves and everything takes twice as long because no customer knows what they are doing and needed the one staff member to authorise just about every move they made on the machine. Then I had to repack my hand luggage to take in the cabin so I could fit my handbag in my carry on because space was at a premium in the cabin as the EasyJet flight was fully booked. Stress, stress, stress. I was glad to be home.

It looks like the rest of the week will be about de-stressing, battling heat, packing and travelling.......
What does your week hold in store for you?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt: Today's Clue

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

Get ready to start exploring!

The Pinterest Scavenger Hunt has officially begun!
This contest is sponsored by Multicultural Kid Blogs to celebrate the official launch of our website.
The Scavenger Hunt will run from July 15 to July 28. Participants have until July 31 to submit their entries, and the drawing will take place on August 1.
You could win one of four fabulous prize packages!
Details about the Scavenger Hunt can be found below.

Today's Clue

Are you parenting one of the 20%?

Now take a look around on this site and try to find the post that fits the clue. Once you think you've found it, pin it to the Pinterest Board you've created just for this contest.
Be sure to pop over to Creative World of Varya for the other clue for today. A full schedule and rules of the game can be found below. Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom for more chances to win!

How to Play:

Create a Pinterest board specifically for the contest and name the board "Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt." Each day a new clue (or two!) will be revealed. Follow the clue to the blog of the day and pin the post described in the clue. (Any image from the post is fine). In the Rafflecopter below, enter the link to the Pinterest board you created for this contest. The Rafflecopter will also have lots of other ways to earn extra entries. The only required entry is the link to your Pinterest board. Please note: You can enter the Rafflecopter at any point during the contest. Obviously your board won't be complete until the end of the contest, but you can enter the link in the Rafflecopter before then. If your name is drawn at the end of the contest, we will check your board at that time. The final clue will be given July 28. Participants will have until midnight Pacific time on July 31 to finalize their boards. The drawing will take place on August 1. Winners must have pinned all of the correct posts to their board. Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 48 hours or another name will be drawn. Good luck, explorers!

Scavenger Hunt Schedule

(Visit the Scavenger Hunt main page for a full list of clues as they are revealed).
July 15
July 16
July 17
July 18
July 19
July 20
July 21
July 22
July 23
July 24
July 25
July 26
July 27
July 28

Final day to enter the contest is July 31, 2013, at midnight PDT. Drawing will take place on August 1, 2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Parenting A Highly Sensitive Child


Amsterdam Mamas has published an article that I wrote on the topic of highly sensitive children. It's my personal story of parenting a highly sensitive child and the journey we have been on over the last few years and in particular the challenges we have faced with his schooling. It's been a bumpy road but I hope my story helps somebody somewhere understand highly sensitive children just a little bit more.

"My eldest son is a highly sensitive child (HSC), and together we’ve been on an 18 month journey of discovery.
After a traumatic entry to the world, my first-born cried a lot – every evening for hours at a time for the first three months of his life. At six months, nobody could hold him except his father or me. Later, he would cower behind our legs if a stranger came near him. If we tried to leave him with someone, he screamed hysterically."  To read more head over to Amsterdam Mamas.


*If this is a topic that resonates with you I have created a Facebook group called "Happy Sensitive Kids" for anyone who is involved in raising HSCs. My goal is to create a supportive, safe place to share tips, experiences, challenges and the joys of bringing up HSCs. It's a closed group so you need to request membership but it also means that the posts can only be seen my members.*

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

My Children Are not Dustbins

I have been really frustrated the last few weeks by the amount of junk reaching my children's stomachs. What frustrates me as much as what they are being fed is the fact that it is completely out of my hands because it is happening in school of all places. My three year old seems to come home every other week clutching a goodie bag filled to the brim with sugar having celebrated some birthday or another or a child leaving nursery school to start primary school. Oh, and did I mention he's only in school for five hours per week? He gets more crap fed to him in those five hours than the rest of the week combined.

But it's not just the goodie bags. He came home yesterday proudly announcing he'd had an ijsje and a cookie in school because two children are leaving the peuterspeelzaal.  He was there from 8.45am until 11.15am. Seriously. How much sugar can a child ingest in those two and a half hours in the morning? If he's at home he has a piece of fruit around 10.30 am. If he's lucky and he nags me enough.

I don't like to whine, but really. Shouldn't healthy eating education begin at an early age? The schools my children attend write a lot about parents providing health snacks for children for break time in the 'school rules' and in their newsletters and ask that parents think along the lines of healthy treats to celebrate birthdays but do nothing to actually enforce these requests. The first whiff of a school trip and fried snacks and sugar bombs are on the menu (courtesy of the school). Practice what you preach. Please.

No thanks - my kids are not dustbins
Photo credit: http://www.montanabvba.be
Children do not need party bags loaded with every type of sweet and biscuit you can imagine. The truth is that most parents I know end up throwing the contents in the bin. My children get much more pleasure out of a pencil and eraser, or a fun pair of glasses and a mini water pistol (like my son got in his goodie bag today) than endless bags of gummy bears, cola bottles and Dora biscuits that their mummy throws in the trash as soon as they have forgotten they even received a goodie bag. Don't get me wrong I'm not anti-sweets but believe in everything in moderation, especially in school!

There are so many better alternatives. Last week a friend of mine gave each kid in my son's class, amongst other things, a tooter to mark her daughter's birthday. The entire class came out at lunchtime blowing them, a cacophony of noise, and they were having more fun than you can shake a stick at. Laughing, smiling faces all round and not a sniff of sugar involved. Another friend made 'watermelon lollies' for her son's birthday and with the exception of one child the class devoured them. We're making little fruit cakes for my son's farewell session at school tomorrow. Small ones, with as much fruit as possible and as little sugar as possible - the fun is in the cake topper photo we'll use. And he'll give each classmate a little bag of 'Forget Me Not' seeds (get it?) with a printed message on it. There is always an alternative to bags and bags of candy.

Rant over. For now. But watch out because well meaning relatives are next on my "my children are not dustbins" hit list......

Does your school promote healthy eating? Is this a cultural thing (my husband says this is the Dutch way...)? Are your children stuffed full of sugar outside your home?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Monday Coffee Morning: A Week of Hellos and Goodbyes

A little on the late side for morning coffee but I just saw this post by Miss Nerris and felt the urge to join in! Molly over at The Move to America has had a wonderful idea for a social link up with a Monday Coffee Morning where she shares what her week has in store for her. Nice idea huh?

So here's what my week looks like. It began with looking after a sick six year old and having to make alternative arrangements to get my three year old to nursery (thank you dear friend - you know who you are). My ill child then perked up no end this afternoon and so will be back at school tomorrow. Normality will be reinstated. Unless my three year old who was complaining of tummy ache at dinner time decides to run with the sickness baton......

It's the last week of school here this week before the six week long summer vacation begins. To add to that my eldest says goodbye to his current school so we'll be busy making mini fruit cakes tomorrow for his farewell 'party' on Wednesday. We'll be popping in to school for that and as soon as he's done with that he runs over to his new school next door to join his future group 3 class for their wisseluurtje (where they meet their new teacher and sit in their new classroom in preparation for September). He's already spent three mornings in his new school but this is goodbye and hello in the space of an hour. Quite the day for my six year old for sure.

Then we have one more full day at school and the whooping begins. Holiday time! No alarm setting on Friday. Nowhere to be. No obligations. Just six weeks before us of family time and fun. Or are my rose-coloured spectacles getting in the way of reality?

So how is your week looking?


The Move to America

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt Starts Today

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt
I am very excited to announce the kick off today of the Pinterest scavenger hunt to mark the launch of the revamped website for a wonderful, informative, entertaining and fascinating group of bloggers spread across the globe: Multicultural Kid Blogs.

The MKB marks a collaboration of diverse blogging talent writing on a whole host of topics with one theme in common - raising world citizens. Bloggers share their ideas on a wide range on themes from languages, food and etiquette to education resources, crafts, activities and art.

So how does the scavenger hunt work? Starting today clues will be revealed that will lead you to a MKB member blog post which you need to pin to your newly created Pinterest board. For more information and specific instructions head over to the Multicultural Kid Blogs scavenger hunt page. There are great prizes up for grabs and lots of writing talent to discover. Good luck!



Friday, 12 July 2013

Are You Up for the Adventure?

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

Are you up for the adventure?

Those of you who have been following our World Citizen Wednesday feature already know how excited I am about our Multicultural Kid Blogs group.
We have slowly been building our presence on the web, first with a Facebook page, then a subscription to all of our Facebook pages, and now finally our own Twitter and Pinterest accounts.
And now, we are officially launching the Multicultural Kid Blogs website, where you can discover our member blogs, learn about our blogging carnivals, find great products and books, and more!
To help introduce you to the wonderful blogs that make up this group, we have created a Pinterest Scavenger Hunt, which will run from July 15 to July 28. You will have until July 31 to submit your entry, and the drawing will take place on August 1. You could win one of four fabulous prize packages!

Here's how it works:

Create a Pinterest board specifically for the contest and name the board "Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt." Each day a new clue (or two!) will be revealed. Follow the clue to the blog of the day and pin the post described in the clue. (Any image from the post is fine). In the Rafflecopter below, enter the link to the Pinterest board you created for this contest. The Rafflecopter will also have lots of other ways to earn extra entries. The only required entry is the link to your Pinterest board. Please note: You can enter the Rafflecopter at any point during the contest. Obviously your board won't be complete until the end of the contest, but you can enter the link in the Rafflecopter before then. If your name is drawn at the end of the contest, we will check your board at that time. The final clue will be given July 28. Participants will have until midnight Pacific time on July 31 to finalize their boards. The drawing will take place on August 1. Winners must have pinned all of the correct posts to their board. Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 48 hours or another name will be drawn. Good luck, explorers!

Scavenger Hunt Schedule

(Visit the Scavenger Hunt main page for a full list of clues as they are revealed).
July 15
July 16
July 17
July 18
July 19
July 20
July 21
July 22
July 23
July 24
July 25
July 26
July 27
July 28
Final day to enter the contest is July 31, 2013, at midnight PDT. Drawing will take place on August 1, 2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Expat Family Ties: Far Away but not Distant


I wrote a guest post for Your Expat Child on the topic of expats staying in touch with their extended family. Geography does not determine the success of a relationship. I know first hand and it's a subject very close to my heart.

"There is a saying that grandchildren are the reward for being a good parent. And many grandparents would certainly agree. But what if many miles separate your children and their grandparents? Does it mean the relationship will be distant too? Can you be an uncle if thousands of kilometres separate you from your nephews or nieces?........"

Head over to Your Expat Child to read more, and whilst you're there, stay a while and have a browse - it's a must read site if you are living or moving abroad with children.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Multicultural Kid Blogs Scavenger Hunt

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

Are you a multicultural adventurer? Do you look back to a childhood filled with exploration and treasure seeking? Are you raising a little world citizen? Well, from the comfort of your tablet or computer you can relive those childhood adventures with a virtual scavenger hunt to win great prizes whilst discovering amazing blogs from around the world  on the topic of raising multicultural children. For more information visit the Multicultural Kid Blogs webpage.

It all starts next Monday.... are you ready?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Anyone Else Have Toilet Monsters?

The toilet paper devouring beast
Photo: Istv├ín Benedek
We have two toilets in the house and they are both ravenous toilet paper eating monsters. To avoid their wrath they must be fed copious amounts of toilet paper per day at random intervals. And our toilet monsters are fussy. They prefer clean toilet paper. Paper that is unused. Fresh off the roll. They like it torn off in very, very, very long pieces, scrunched up and then thrown in for them to munch on.

Funny thing is that they only seem really hungry when my three year old goes to the toilet. And sometimes he tends to feed the toilet monsters more than they can stomach because much of it lays undigested in the toilet bowel, causing a painful and uncomfortable blockage for the toilet monsters.

Anyone else dealing with toilet monsters and toddlers?