NEW ZEALAND: The Good Old Days

NEW ZEALAND: The Good Old Days

crayfishOne of my enduring memories of childhood is of trapsing over paddocks, up and down hills, in gumboots too big for my feet picking mushrooms or blackberries. Eventually getting sore heels and aching legs. Eventually filling buckets and ice-cream containers with food.

Probably scrapping with my sisters. Probably moaning about having to do so. Definitely covered in blackberry juice and scratches on blackberry days. Definitely not impressed by having to pick mushrooms, which I didn’t like to eat.

This summer holiday, my boys got to harvest their own food. Not blackberries and mushrooms, though. They got to harvest seafood.

Tuatua (too-ah-too-ah) are a shellfish. The children love to collect them. We go out at almost low-tide or just after low-tide in thigh-high water. We do the Twist. Our feet sink into the wet sand and feel around for something hard. When we find one, we reach down and pick it up with our hands.

Sometimes, we are side-swiped by a wave. Sometimes, we pick up a round hard sea-biscuit instead. At times, instead of the Tuatua-Twist there is a Crab-Bite-Leap with occasional bad-language. There is almost always laughter and a competition to see who can find the most. This year, the boys and their cousins also took responsibility for collecting fresh seawater twice a day, to keep the Tuatuas in, while they spat out all the sand inside their shells. They kept them cool in the fridge and, when they were finally cooked, the children ate them: some with gusto, others not so much. To me, they taste a bit like chewy seawater…

Our eldest son, 12 year-old Joe, with his 13 year-old girl cousin, Billie, trapped their own crayfish.

Crayfish are related to rock-lobster and, in our extended family, are usually trapped off-shore and by boat, or dived for with scuba-gear and tanks. Joe and Billie had kayaked out around a small peninsula and discovered an old craypot on the rocks. They dragged it out of the sea and managed to convince their fathers to repair it. They then kayaked it out again and dropped it on a good rocky spot.

Each day they went out to check their pot, just as the adults do the other craypots. The first day they caught – seawater. The second day they caught – seawater. The third day they were a bit fed up and otherwise occupied, so didn’t go out. The fourth day or maybe it was the fifth, Billie was out fishing and Joe went out alone to see what was there and to bring the pot in for good. He was very excited to discover they had caught a legal-sized cray! Yes, duly cooked and eaten.

In these days where many children don’t know that carrots grow in the ground or that their meat comes from a real animal, I love that our boys are sometimes involved in the process of food-collection and the processes of preparing it for a meal. I know that these are the Good Old Days and these moments will create some of their childhood memories.

Do your children do similar things you did as a child? Are they involved in collecting or harvesting their own food?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in New Zealand and mum of three boys, Karyn Van Der Zwet.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA: The Mouse Trap

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: The Mouse Trap

mickeyAs parents determined to raise global citizens, my husband and I were reticent to channel financial resources toward a Disney-vacation rather than taking our children abroad for enrichment. But, there is something that stirs inside both of us when it comes to celebrating the ephemeral days of childhood that made us reconsider.

Here in the US, a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida or Disneyland in Anaheim, California is a childhood hallmark. In fact, I have met parents, who began planning their Disney vacation the moment they found out they were pregnant with their first child.

And even though a Disney family-vacation can cost upwards of several thousand dollars (with hotels, park tickets and flights), it doesn’t necessarily mean that parents will wait until their children are old enough to fully enjoy the experience nor, in some cases, are even old enough to remember it; tots, barely able to toddle, are a common site at Disney theme parks. (more…)

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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Kenya: Is It Fair To Compare?

Kenya: Is It Fair To Compare?

Two Brothers

As a new mother, I felt disoriented a lot, I imagine like most of you. I mean, who was this wondrous little creature, equal parts mom and dad and maybe bit of a wayward uncle somewhere in there.

New babies are all instinct, nervous system and an unrelenting digestive system.  We, the new moms, eagerly search for any hint of their uniqueness – anything that separates them from other babies and helps us learn about the little emerging person they are.  Are they independent or clingy? A giggler or more serious? An old soul or a new one (if you’re so inclined to think that way)?

And with every expression of something new – a proclivity or an interest or an emotion – I wondered: Is this just typical baby stuff or is it an expression of his unique Caleb-ness.  We found it incredible how much he responded to music and loved to kick around balls with a deftness that seemed beyond his babyhood.  We harbored fantasies related to orchestral and athletic prowess. But, really, wasn’t this stuff universal? Don’t all babies love music and playing with orb-shaped objects?

That was the root of my disorientation: which of this stuff was the embodiment of babyhood and which was the embodiment of this particular baby?  In this one way (and ONLY in that way) I was a bit envious of a friend who had fraternal twins.  At each developmental stage their uniqueness was obvious.  Susie was the shy one who loved to snuggle and Jack was the independent one who never wanted to sleep.

With an only child there is simply no point of comparison. A first born defines what a baby is.  It’s a tall order for such a little guy.

Now here I am with my second boy in my arms. And everything he does is inevitably compares to his brother.  He talks later, clings more, sleeps worse, snuggles more, fears strangers more etc… THAN his brother.  His teeth came in closer together, his fingers are longer, he loves animals more, is less interested in television shows and wants to be carried more THAN his brother.  You’d think I’d finally be relieved by being able to know my baby in comparison to some precedent.

But instead of providing a touchstone to better understand my baby, I find myself wondering if these comparisons are fair to the little guy. It’s as if I can’t understand him outside of his relation to his brother.  Somehow, now that I have a frame of reference, I find myself doing the inevitable human thing of sorting and comparing.  Sometimes it provides a useful orientation, and sometimes I wonder if it prevents me from fully seeing my baby.

I love those boys more than I thought possible. I feel more protective of and endeared to them than anyone else on the planet.  And cliché as it is, that love grows every day.  That love defies an intellectual “understanding” of who each one is as person.  But, knowing your child is the color within the thickly etched lines of that raw human love.  I want to see those colors as clearly as possible.

What do you other mamas think of this? Do you have trouble truly “seeing” your kids not in relation to their siblings?  Does it even matter?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer in Kenya, Mama Mzungu, who writes at www.mamamzungu.com .

Photo credit to the author.

Mama Mzungu (Kenya)

Originally from Chicago, Kim has dabbled in world travel through her 20s and is finally realizing her dream of living and working in Western Kenya with her husband and two small boys, Caleb and Emmet. She writes about tension of looking at what the family left in the US and feeling like they live a relatively simple life, and then looking at their neighbors and feeling embarrassed by their riches. She writes about clumsily navigating the inevitable cultural differences and learning every day that we share more than we don’t. Come visit her at Mama Mzungu.

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USA: Differences in Education Systems, France v. US

USA: Differences in Education Systems, France v. US

differencesThe day I gave birth to my son, HJ, is a day I’ll never forget. Induction nightmare? Check. Post baby snuggles? Check. September 3rd birth date? Check.

Little did I know at the time how much my son’s birthday would impact his development and education but flash forward to 2013 and here I sit, faced with the first of many educational concerns.

Living in Paris meant that on September 4th, 2012, my son formally entered the French education system. At just three years old, he was invited to attend nursery school, or maternelle, which comprises the first three years of schooling. Due to his inability to speak French, my son was invited to attend school four mornings per week from 8:30 a.m. until 11:40 a.m. As he began to thrive in school, his teacher gently suggested that I begin leaving him for one full-day per week after the holiday break in December. By late-January, he was attending school all day until 4:15 p.m., eating French catered lunch in the cantine (cafeteria), enjoying rest time, and thriving.

Combining his easy going attitude and tall stature (95% percentile for height), most parents thought my son was one of the older kids in the class. In order to start school in September, children must turn three by December 31st, and with a September 3rd birthday, my son was one of the younger students. When I would share this with the parents, they’d say, “Wow, but he is so tall!”

Our plans for HJ’s education were that he would be in French school until we moved home, and at that point he’d transition into kindergarten at the local school. When our contract ended sooner than expected, I began the joyous task of figuring out what options we had to continue HJ’s formal education, and the results were shocking.

HJ misses the US cut-off for kindergarten by two days. This means that he has to wait until he is six to enter kindergarten! I neatly placed that reality aside and instead focused on what education he could receive now, at four years old.

My choices floored me.

Option A) the public school offers a “lottery” for kids ages 3-4 for preschool, and the schedule only allows kids to get one of three spots: two mornings from 8-11, three mornings, four afternoons, or five mornings. And all this for the staggering price of more than $6,000.

Option B) the local Montessori school, which has no openings until September of 2014, and again runs mornings only. Did I mention that they also refused to reveal the actual cost of the program?

And finally, Option C) a local Catholic school that offers five all-day classes for  around $7,000.

So what’s the big deal?!

Children in France have access to all-day education beginning at age three for FREE, with master’s degree trained teachers. While every school isn’t as amazing as the one my son attends, the French may be on to something. For two working parents, morning-only, formal education settings are an inconvenience, and for single-income families, shelling out over $6,000 for a few hours a day may be too much.

All around the United States, parents are struggling with making hard financial decisions and I wonder if it seems fair that we have to do so when it comes to our children’s educations?

For us, having HJ evaluated and exploring how he measures up to his peers is one solution. How he falls in the range of social and emotional intelligence will give us a window into how he may fair in kindergarten and will be necessary if we plan on fighting the school district for a spot in kindergarten if it seems logical and appropriate for our son.

The second option is to just ride the wave and instead allow our six year old to join his peers, perhaps giving him a leg up on his classmates. Then I question, “Will he be bored?” “Too big?” At this point I’m just not sure which choice is best for our little guy but it did get my wheels moving, wondering about the significant differences in how each country approaches education. What is it like for children in Germany, or Canada? Do parents struggle with similar issues in Sydney, Australia?

So please, World Moms Blog readers, share your location/country’s educational process! When does school begin? When did your children start school? Anything you wish you could change about your child’s educational experiences?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from Jacki, mother of one now living in XXX but formerly blogging from Paris, France.

hjunderway

Jacki, or “MommaExpat,” as she’s known in the Internet community, is a former family therapist turned stay-at-home mom in Paris, France. Jacki is passionate about issues as they relate to mothers and children on both domestic and international scenes, and is a Volunteer Ambassador for the Fistula Foundation. In addition to training for her first half marathon, Jacki can be found learning French in Paris and researching her next big trip. Jacki blogs at H J Underway, a chronicle of her daily life as a non-French speaking mom in France.

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BELGIUM:  The Balancing Act

BELGIUM: The Balancing Act

balancing actI suppose it is inevitable. After all, people are what they are, they can’t change themselves. And although curiosity was apparently the mastermind behind the murder of someone’s cat, there are many curious people out there.

And curious people ask questions.

Sometimes stupid questions, sometimes profound questions, sometime questions which aren’t really questions but more a judgement on one of your actions and/or beliefs.

And sometimes people ask questions on matters which are none of their damn business.

One of those questions is the oft asked : “When are you having another?” or – since I have two girls: “When are you going to have a boy?”.

The answer usually runs along the lines of : “Oh not just yet! I have enough on my plate with just these two!” or “A boy? With these two… (at which I point at my girls doing whatever they are doing) the poor thing would just get traumatized.”

But I rarely tell the truth: No, never. No we are not trying for another baby. No we are not planning to “gift” our girls with a baby brother.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that I had my two girls in such a short space of time (When n°2 was born n°1 was a mere 16 months old) but I am most definitely done having children.

There are many reasons, finances being but one of them. No, we are not in financial trouble, but face it: raising a child is wickedly expensive. For the past three years we’ve spent a small fortune on day care and let’s not even talk about the price of diapers shall we… Had I been better informed I might seriously have considered buying stock options in Pampers or Huggies. With both kids in school we get a bit of financial breathing space, we can afford to finish our home.

But the main reason is balance.

When you are a mother, whether you have a job or are a stay at home mom, life is nothing less than a big balancing act on a loose rope above a pit filled with hungry tigers and fire.

Our balance is OK, right now. We are not in immediate danger of falling off the rope. Both kids attend school full-time, they are too young to have ‘real’ hobbies yet so no rush, rush, rush on Saturday morning – as yet (Please note: I do not count running after each other screaming bloody murder as a hobby).

Because of their relative closeness in age their feeding schedules (if I may be so blunt) are relatively in sync, meaning I don’t have to provide three or four individual breakfasts, lunches and dinners anymore each day. Lately they’ve started playing proper games together, in which each is an equal player and which do not require constant parental interference, just distant supervision.

We can start going on proper outings without dragging half the nursery and a whole plethora of baby food along, just a change of clothes, some cookies and a water bottle will get us through.

So in short: after four years of clutching desperately at that rope we’ve arrived at a spot where we can breathe freely, where we can relax for just a second, where there is time to be “us” and “just me” again.

The realization that we were as we should be came when we gave away the double stroller without an inch of pain or regret. Just happiness that there would finally be some more room in the garage.

Our family has found its balance and it feels wonderful.

When did you realize your family was as it should be?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Belgium and mother of just two…Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes

Born in Belgium on the fourth of July in a time before the invention of the smart phone Tinne is a working mother of two adorably mischievous little girls, the wife of her high school sweetheart and the owner of a black cat called Atilla. Since she likes to cook her blog is mainly devoted to food and because she is Belgian she has an absurd sense of humour and is frequently snarky. When she is not devoting all her attention to the internet, she likes to read, write and eat chocolate. Her greatest nemesis is laundry.

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WASHINGTON, USA: Under a Cream Cheese Moon

WASHINGTON, USA: Under a Cream Cheese Moon

IMG_1612edPotty training my three year old son has not been easy. He’s been resistant to the idea for quite some time. I chalk this up to two things. First, he has a willful spirit and often rejects my proposals on principle. Even when dealing with treats or play, if it isn’t his idea, he’ll pass. Second, my son verbalizes to me regularly that he is still a baby. (more…)

Tara B. (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Blog!

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