Monday, 28 October 2013

Terrible Twos - definitely not a myth!

Wow. We thought earlier this year that Lydia's behaviour was typical of a two year old, with the odd tantrum causing some considerable frustration and embarrassment whenever it occurred in a public place. But just recently Lydia's rebellious side has kicked into overdrive.

Saw this on the Internet - perfect description!

When she is nice and playful, it's an absolute joy to be around her, but when she is being obstinate and uncooperative she is absolutely unbearable company. She has taken to telling us off, threatening to put us in the corner (for no reason), complaining whenever the slightest thing goes against her, not complying with even the most simple of requests from us, and generally doing the opposite of whatever she should be doing.

From what I have read on the Internet, this is typical two year old behaviour, in the vein of the oft-quoted "Terrible Twos".

We thought we had already gone through this earlier this year, but this latest wave of opposition from Lydia shows us that this stage is not over yet. As I said above, when she is nice and well-behaved it is so much fun, her cheeky, playful, chatty demeanour bringing huge smiles to our faces. But, the other side of her (Mr Hyde) is an absolute nightmare!

With Lydia, the problem isn't the classic toddler tantrum; thankfully that is fairly rare. However, it's the general refusal to do anything we ask her or simply not listening to us. Particularly frustrating when we are near a road and she refuses to stop when we tell her to.

I had a look around the Internet for any advice, and I came across an article on a website called "Parenting My Toddler". This articles gives a few good explanations for why toddlers can be so uncooperative - basically as part of their development at this stage they want to have their own independence by making their own decisions. This is definitely true of Lydia. Although there is no miracle cure to stop the confrontations and conflicts, the article says it helps to narrow down their choices; for example, offer them a selection of things to do instead of just openly asking them what they want to do. This way, they get to make the decision themselves.

I'm sure certain areas of conflict - particularly getting ready to go out - are unavoidable. If we ask Lydia to put her shoes on and she refuses, then we're pretty much faced with a potential tantrum. I wonder if this could be eased by offering her a choice of shoes to put on and letting her pick the pair she wants to wear?

Hmmm. Maybe it could work. I'll try putting that into practise and see what happens.

As many articles I have read say, there is no way of stopping the tantrums and obstructive behaviour entirely, as this is all part of their natural development. Some articles say we as parents should concentrate on the positive sides of the toddler phase, such as when the child comes out with a hilarious or unexpected phrase, or the extra cuddles we get as a result of their dual need for us as well as independence.

I know every parent goes through this with their child, and I guess we will just have to grin and bear it. What scares me is that some articles refer to it as the terrible twos AND THREES... please don't less this drag on for another year! :(

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Run Forrest, Run!

On Tuesday 8th October I ran the furthest I have ever run in my life.

I managed 10.2km in 1 hour 17 minutes, which included some pretty tough inclines. I'm not someone who is particularly fit, given that I rarely do any exercise, so for me this was quite a tremendous feat.

Back in May this year I bought myself a new pair of trainers, having decided after two jogs in April that I ought to replace my 10 year old pair that were falling apart. The plan was to jog two or three times a week, to build up some fitness and generally be healthier (it's important for me to make sure I'm around - and mobile - as Lydia grows up).

Unfortunately, I didn't really keep it up.

My new trainers stayed in their box until early July, when I managed to go for two jogs in the space of two weeks. After that, summer got in the way and I kind of forgot about exercising (save for one game of squash in September).

Following one or two jibes from my wife, I decided to start again in October, and have now managed two jogs in two weeks again, including the personal record-breaking 10km run. Truth be told, that run took it's toll on my legs, as by the end of the run I could barely feel them or my feet. Strangely I felt as though I could have run further as I still seemed to have some energy and breath left in me, but my legs gave out on me.

It took a few days to recover before I was walking normally again! I followed this run up with a 6km jog a week later, although I think I didn't stretch properly as my right calf was pretty sore during (and after) this run. Despite this, it was still my fastest 5km ever.

That night I had a scratchy throat, which slowly evolved into a full blown head cold over the next couple of days. I'm still suffering today so I don't think I will be able to make it three consecutive Tuesday jogs. I might have to delay to tomorrow, see if I'm feeling better.

Given my past uselessness on the willpower front, I am determined to make it work this time. If I can at least manage one jog per week that will be a good start. Then I can slowly crank it up to the two/three per week that I am aiming for.

Of course, this is all speculation at this point, and it remains to be seen how well I hold out during the cold winter months... that will be the real test of my willpower! Thinking ahead, I don't know how people manage to jog on the extremely cold winter days with icy roads...?

Monday, 7 October 2013

A little bit of both

I wrote recently about giving Lydia egg and soldiers for the first time (see "Egg & Soliders", as part of my mission to replicate some of the fond memories I have from growing up in England, as I felt getting her involved in British things would help her appreciate her Anglo origins.

Well, she also stays in touch with her Swiss side as well.

We recently had a fondue meal with Chris' parents, and Lydia loved it. She particularly enjoyed dipping the bread in the cheese and giving the pot a good stir!

Living in Switzerland she is bound to pick up the local habits, and appreciating cheese-based meals (fondue, raclette, etc.) must be built into her genes.

It's my job to stick up for the British part though, leaving me scheming of other traditional British meals to try...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Lydia Da Vinci

Lydia likes to draw, she likes to colour in pictures, she likes to paint. She also likes to glue shapes onto paper, and she likes to cut paper into pieces. In short, she seems to quite like arty things.

At two-and-a-half her artworks cannot really be regarded as masterpieces, but she is at least showing signs of progression. Here is an effort she did recently at the crèche during some circus-themed activities they did:

She seems to have managed a nice mixture of colours there!

One thing we have remarked with her is that she has, for the last few months at least, exhibited a drawing style of small circles and shapes, accompanied by squiggly lines that are her imitation of real words. Most other kids do big shapes with their pencil running wild over the paper, but Lydia spends her art time neatly drawing little circles and sort of peanut-shaped objects. It's a curious trait, but I'm hoping it means she will quickly jump to drawing real objects (as that's much more fun!).

Just in the last few weeks or so, she has started to draw little people. You have to stretch your imagination a bit to see them, but she does a circle for the head, adds eyes, a nose and a mouth and then draws legs and arms as well. She even recently started adding moustaches to them! Here is one of her recent men:

As I said, you have to concentrate to see the man, but in the circle at the top we can see the face fairly well, then the legs coming off the bottom. OK so he doesn't have a body, but it's not a bad start for one so young!

I'm looking forward to all the future fun that this can bring because art can be drawings, paintings, collages, crafts, basically an endless assortment of things to do, and this will be particularly handy when the cold, wet winter months set in.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Expats Unite!

I wrote a while back about the good people at Geneva Family Diaries taking an interest in my experiences since I moved to Switzerland (see Expat Dads Who Blog - Part I, Part II and Part III), and my blog was also mentioned during a World Radio Switzerland segment about expats who blog (see World Radio Switzerland).

But I'm not only interested in sharing my own story. I also like to find out how others have coped with becoming an expat, how they fared in moving to another country and what they did to overcome any obstacles. As someone who likes to travel, other peoples' stories about their new countries can be a great way to get tips on places to visit. It's for this reason that I am a member of sites like Expat Blog and the English Forum.

While both these sites are great sources of information, I recently came across another site that is more of a global community for expats from all over the world, where people can share their experiences and organize social gatherings, among many other functions.

This website is InterNations.

They have excellent, informative country (and city) guides that provide a wealth of information, covering everything from settling in your new country, driving rules, what to do to find a job and life in general. As well as this, they have forums that cover cities and countries, and discussion groups to provide social interaction on an unlimited range of topics. I only signed up to the site in August this year, but I'm already enjoying interaction with my fellow expats.

My long term goal - as with the other sites mentioned above - is to make new friends in Lausanne and Switzerland in general, outside of my Swiss wife's circle of family and friends. I truly believe that InterNations could help me achieve this, fingers crossed! :)

I would recommend any other expats, wherever you may be, to have a look at the InterNations website and see if it is something that would interest you, even if only to serve as a forum for football banter!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Egg & Soldiers

It's a simple yet classic British dish, that requires very little culinary skill but still delivers a tasty result. There are only a couple of ingredients and the whole thing can be ready in 5 minutes.

The dish in question?

Egg and soldiers.

Strips of toasted bread that you dip into a boiled egg. Simple, yet delicious. This was a cherished childhood memory for me, as I fondly remember having egg and soldiers as an occasional lunchtime treat.

Following on from my desire to make sure I pass on my heritage to my daughter (see "Instilling Britishness") I decided to make this for Lydia for the very first time. As you can see from the photos, she liked it!

She finished off the whole egg and all her soldiers, and she seemed to enjoy every bite.

An easy meal to make that children really love - if you are stuck for ideas and don't have much else in the fridge / cupboard than egg, butter and bread, you can't go wrong with egg and soldiers!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Nati almost there...

I've written articles in this blog about my past trips to watch FC Lausanne Sport play (see "Following FC Lausanne-Sport to the Final" and "Allez Lausanne!"), both of which resulted in me witnessing a disastrous result for the team I was there to support.

Well, this time I made the step up to watching the national team, nicknamed the "Nati", as they battled for qualification to the World Cup tournament in 2014. The match saw Switzerland playing host to Iceland in Qualifying Group E. The Swiss were flying high in their table and at the time had the best defence in international football in 2013. Pretty impressive.

I travelled with friends to Bern to watch the match, and after a nice pizza and a couple of beers, we took our seats to watch the match unfold. Switzerland were comfortably top of their group and favourites to defeat Iceland, who trailed the Swiss by 5 points in the group and had already lost to the Nati in the reverse fixture back in October 2012.

However, things didn't go exactly according to plan.

The expectant crowd had barely settled into their seats after the national anthems when Jóhann Gudmundsson struck first blood for Iceland to stun the Swiss crowd into disbelieving silence whilst the travelling Icelandic contingent were roared into life.

The lead lasted all of 12 minutes, as Stephan Lichtsteiner equalized for the Nati, and the match swung back in the hosts' favour as Fabian Schär and a second goal from Lichtsteiner made it 3-1 to Switzerland at the interval. They were playing well with plenty of style, swagger and intent, and fully deserved their lead at this stage.

A beer at half time was happily consumed amid a buoyant Swiss crowd, with their team on course for victory and another 3 points to cement their lead in the group.

Less than 10 minutes after the restart, Blerim Dzemaili made it 4-1 to Switzerland from the penalty spot, and the Swiss were in dreamland.

Indeed it seemed that some of the Swiss players were still dreaming as only moments later a goal from Kolbeinn Sigthórsson reduced the deficit to 4-2, and give the visitors a glimmer of hope.

Still, at 4-2 up you would expect Switzerland to hold on for the win. Then again, football is a funny old game.

Instead of tightening up the defence and killing off the game, the Swiss players suddenly forgot how to play. It looked like they were doing a post-match warm down exercise as they could barely keep hold of the ball and were hopeless going forwards. Iceland, buoyed on by Sigthórsson's goal and their vociferous supporters, pressed the Swiss and relentlessly surged forward, hitting their opponents with some fluid attacking displays.

Their pressure was rewarded as Gudmundsson scored his second of the night with a little over 20 minutes left to play, and suddenly the full comeback seemed on.

Could the unthinkable happen? Could Switzerland really throw away a 4-1 lead?

Yes. Yes they could. And they did, as the man of the moment Gudmundsson finished off his hat trick in style, smashing in the equaliser in added time.

The final whistle blew and it ended 4-4, as Iceland deservedly took home a point.

It was practically the stereotypical game of two halves, with Switzerland dominating the first half and Iceland running the second.

As it turns out, second placed Albania lost their game against Slovenia, so gaining 1 point from this match meant Switzerland maintained their 4 point lead in Group E, but it was undoubtedly 2 points dropped.

Full credit to Iceland for taking the game to their opponents, but it was worrying to see the Swiss switching off for half an hour or so where they really struggled. They simply got complacent and practically treated the game as though it was over, even when Iceland scored their third goal. If they do that against other teams, particularly the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany, then they would end up being completely slaughtered.

All in all, I actually quite enjoyed this experience, which gave me a far better impression of Swiss football than the last two debacles I witnessed.

It was a match full of action and goals with plenty of attractive football to keep the crowd entertained. Obviously I supported the Swiss so was naturally very disappointed at the end result, but I can imagine this would have been a cracking game to watch as a neutral.

I saw signs of how Switzerland play, and - barring the disastrous second half - think they might be able to surprise one or two teams at the World Cup next year (provided they seal qualification in the upcoming matches, of course).

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A fun family weekend

This weekend my parents come over for a visit, and we had a great time. Luckily the good weather continued as it was sunny and warm, making it much easier to find things to do!

On the Sunday we decided to have lunch in one of my favourite restaurants in Vidy (see "Restaurant les Berges de Vidy"), and I enjoyed their delicious filets de perches for the umpteenth time. My mum opted for the "salad de soleil", which turned out to be a salad with sunglasses sitting on top! How random!

After lunch we had a stroll along the lake in Vidy, taking in a pit stop at the playground for some fun before both Lydia and I had a go at climbing a tree. From my point of view it was an incredibly uncomfortable branch to sit on, but I stayed up long enough for a photo or two.

We continued our stroll and we all decided to paddle our feet in the water to cool down. Lydia took this one step further and began walking out into the lake until her trousers were soaked! She probably would have carried on even further if we let her, but as we didn't have a change of clothes that would not have been such a good idea.

All in all, a very nice weekend spent with my parents.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Birthday Treat

This year I turned 31. That officially puts me firmly in the brackets of a thirty-something. Earlier this month I filled in a survey online and noticed that my age bracket was listed as "30-50". That, my friends, is middle age.

I'm not quite at the point of having a mid-life crisis, running out and buying a motorbike and then taking off on a Europe-wide drive to nowhere in particular. I am, however starting to take stock of what I have in my life, and just how lucky I am to have it.

First of all, I'm married to an amazing woman in Christelle. She has stood by me and supported me for the last eight years. She has pushed me to be the best I can be, and helped me grow from a shy, ambitionless boy into the man I am today. I know I am not yet the finished article; I still have plenty of growing up to do, but I feel confident knowing that Christelle will be there to share the journey with me.

Then there's Lydia. Words cannot describe how lucky I am to have a daughter like her, so cheeky and so funny and yet so intelligent. She has never been an easy child, and - as I have said many times before - there were countless moments of frustration and exasperation on both her side and ours as she grew from a helpless baby to a near-independent toddler. I swear, if she could change her own nappies she would have moved out by now. Yet every second I have spent with Lydia is another cherished memory, and I would not have them for the world.

I have an amazing extended family with my own family in England and that of Christelle's here in Switzerland, and I know I can count on them all in times of need. My parents have always supported me in everything I have done, and I cannot begin to imagine how I might have turned out if they had not instilled me with such a strong sense of right and wrong, respect and manners. I am lucky to have them in my life, and even though several hundred miles now separate us I feel closer to them than ever before. And as for Chris' family, they could not have done more for me since I moved here, making me feel welcome and showing me their country and their culture.

To make things even better, I have a nice apartment, a car I like and a job I love. What else could a 31-year old man ask for? Well, maybe a little win on the lottery couldn't hurt, but aside from that I really feel like a man who has everything.

So what do you get for the man who has it all on his birthday?

Lydia knew how to answer that question, as she made me a present with her own fair hands (see photo).

She painted a canvas herself and stuck down shapes over the top, creating a colourful piece of art work. This was a lovely present that she was so happy to give me, and it really made my day.

Although she had a little help from Christelle's parents, they included photos with the present to prove it was really Lydia who made it (the little photo hanging under the canvas in the photo). Next step for me is to find the perfect place to hang this in our apartment...

My happy birthday was further enhanced by a lunch at one of my favourite restaurants, the Restaurant des Berges in Vidy. I love this place because they serve delicious filets de perches with fries and tartare sauce, and they are right on the edge of Lac Léman in Vidy allowing for a gentle post-feast stroll by the lake. To top all this off, it was brilliant weather with hot sun and blue skies.

I had a wonderful birthday this year, and couldn't be happier with where I am in my life. The mid-life crisis will have to wait until another year.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Lac de Moron (almost)

This weekend our usual mixture of scenery, picnic and good friends was on the cards, and we decided to go somewhere different that we hadn't been before. For this reason, we ended up heading to the Lac de Moron, which straddles the Switzerland-France border in Neuchatel.

We headed for the Lac des Brenets, where we had planned to take a ferry ride towards Le Saut du Doubs. We eventually made it - having lost our friends Sandrine and Brian who we were trying to follow, leading to a fair bit of guess work and the use of a temperamental Google maps - and parked our car. I couldn't help thinking that things would be so much easier if I hadn't lost my TomTom...

Anyway, we bought our tickets and patiently waited our for the ferry to show up. When it did - exactly on time - we climbed on board and Lydia seemed absolutely thrilled. She loved looking out the window and saying "woooow" at pretty much everything! She also went out on deck to enjoy the view, playing with her friend Matys the whole time.

The trip lasted for about 15-20 very pleasant minutes, and once we reached the end of the lake (where the water continued as a small river) we disembarked for a little walk in the woods. There were plenty of great views of the Saut du Doubs river from here, including overlooking a waterfall. The only downside was that some of the paths are really not made with pushchairs in mind, so be prepared to flex your biceps to control the buggy on the way down!

We didn't make it as far as the Lac de Moron before decided to have lunch, so we settled for a picnic in a clearing in the woods.

After lunch, with full bellies and tiring kids, we decided to head back towards the ferry, meaning the Lac de Moron would have to wait for another day. Before we got as far as the lake we had an ice cream to cool down, given that it was a very hot day. Having made our way back down it was clear that Lydia's decision to not have a nap was taking its toll as she became rather grumpy for the boat ride back, before then falling asleep in the car on the way home.

Our return drive was another adventure, given that we ended up taking an unplanned detour through France, which was made all the more stressful for me as I didn't have my passport with me. Eventually we got home, tired but happy after a pleasant day out.

I would recommend this for those who like nature as it is a very nice area, although I cannot comment on the Lac de Moron as we didn't actually get there in the end. The Saut du Doubs is a picturesque river though, and the little trip on the ferry was very enjoyable.