Monday, October 13, 2014

In awe of the little ones

It's pretty amazing when a baby starts doing things that indicate it will not stay a slobbering short-sighted wailer forever. Sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking... they are all greeted with pride and wonder, but discovering language has to be the most exciting development of all. Seeing a child grasp the power of words, even before she has many, is just awesome.

Molly is nearly 21 months old and words are finding more and more importance in her world. She has her favourite labels for her favourite people. Mama! Tata! Elzie! But she has also mastered the art of copying sounds.

Molly, can you say sausage?


What about chicken?


The truly incredible thing though is seeing how Molly is making sense of her trilingual context. We are so used to Elsie switching from one language to another - coming home from school and carrying on her play in French, then welcoming her Daddy home in Polish and telling me about her day in English. With Molly though, at her tender age some words are already very ingrained in one language or another and the amazing thing is that she translates without seeming to think about it.

Molly, can you say water?

De l'eau!

Molly, powiedz jablko


Sunday, September 14, 2014

13 September

It's our pride and joy. It's what we spend much of our time talking about, planning and experiencing. No, not the kids, the garden.

13 September 2013

13 September 2014

13 September 2013

13 September 2014

13 September 2013

13 September 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The power of speech

Molly is 18 months old. She has burst into our lives and made us sit up and take notice.

Molly has a new word. She could have chosen no, non or nie. Instead she found her own way of telling us to get lost. Nuurr.

'Come on Molly, time for a new nappy!' I say, cheerfully. 'Nuurr!' comes the response, followed by a cheeky grin.

'Time for your pyjamas Molly', we coax. She looks at us with a degree of pity in her gaze. 'Nuurr' she disagrees, confirmed with a strong shake of the head.

'Molly, come and brush your teeth.' Marek suggests, showing her the brush. Molly flashes us a big smile and runs to the opposite end of her bedroom. 'NUURR' she shouts, ending with a squeal.

The next six months could be fun...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Elsie the wit

'Fankoo mummy' says Elsie quickly, not paying attention.

'THank you' I correct, exaggerating the amount of tongue between my teeth. 'Th, th, th' I repeat.

Elsie brings her lip under her top teeth. 'Fffffffff' she says. 'Fffffffank you.'

I try again. 'Stick your tongue out.' Elsie obliges. 'Now trap it between your teeth. Th, th, th...'

Elsie gives it a go, but once she starts to think about the word and not her tongue in a strange place in her mouth, her old habit creeps back. 'Fank you!'

'Try again Elsie, tongue between your teeth.' I encourage. She's done it before, why has she forgotten?

Elsie is bored with this exercise, and suddenly an idea strikes.

'Dziekuje!' she says brightly, her eyes shining with her brilliance.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

1 June, a date of note.

A year ago, the view out of our window looked like this:

I just took this picture out of the window - exactly one year on.

It's a pretty radical transformation when the two images are put together like that. Very cool. You know what the other cool thing is? It's exactly three years since Mum had her stem cell transplant. The fact that she is still around to witness our taming of the wilderness outside and my descent into full-blown infatuation with gardening and generally growing things, makes our successes all the sweeter.

Two other things that have grown like weeds since this time last year are also celebrated on this day, Dzien Dziecka, or children's day. It's not a Belgian holiday but celebrated in Central and Eastern Europe: it's a communist hangover but I like it.



It makes me so happy seeing these two growing up and growing together. The whole job of preparing little people for life is a daunting business but seeing one make the other laugh brings the fundamental important core back into focus.

Let's end with a Proust quote for my old Dad, even though he got Molly in an arsenal top this year and last. Bringing together gardening, counting blessings and living in the happy moment... 

Soyons reconnaissants aux personnes qui nous donnent du bonheur; elles sont les charmants jardiniers par qui nos âmes sont fleuries. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Friendly flowers


'Yes, Elsie.'

'Look at those flowers.'


'Those two. They're cuddling each other.'

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Elsie has allergies. Six. She can't eat dairy products, eggs, soya, peanuts, kiwi or mustard. She also seems to be allergic to cats judging from her puffy eyes and swollen lips after a recent visit to a cat-infested home.

She has always known there are certain things she can't eat, and since she has been able to talk she has been amazingly good at telling people what she can and can't eat.

Taking her into a specialist shop last week, my mum asked the owner for help finding the rice-based desserts. The owner looked at Elsie, whom she recognised, and said 'go on, you know what you can eat' and Elsie led them both straight there.

If she sees something new the first question is always the same. 'Can I eat that?' It's not permission she's asking for, it's an ingredient list.

At Easter I was grateful we were in Poland. Grateful for the relative lack of chocolate bombardment, the chocolate eggs and bunnies and lambs that crowd in on you, the cadbury's creme eggs. Still, well-meaning Aunts thrust chocolate bars and even a chocolate rabbit into the girls' hands and Elsie's hopeful questioning eyes had to be met with a head shake.

We made her vegan cake so that she had something to eat when the piles of cheesecake and egg-filled szarlotka were placed in front of her. We agreed with all the relatives that she was very well-behaved and took on her challenges with a degree of maturity that was beyond her years. I ignored the slight ache in my heart and told myself she has never known any different and therefore needs no additional sympathy or indeed pity. I ignored the voice that said I should have found time to buy her vegan chocolate.

First day back at nursery she was excited about all they had done. When I brought her backpack into the kitchen so I could empty her lunchbox, she took it from me excitedly and rummaged around for a brightly painted paper bag, with a couple of dyed plastic eggs around the handle.

'How beautiful!' I exclaimed 'did you paint these?' Elsie nodded proudly and then opened the bag and showed me the contents. 'We found these eggs in the classroom. You and Daddy can eat them because I can't.' There was no sign of sadness or pity in her enthusiasm to share her hoard. And yet I had to blink back the tears.

As soon as the girls were in bed I went out and bought organic dark chocolate. The kind with no milk, no soya and just sweet goodness. I melted it and cut out Easter shapes. Eggs bunnies and lambs. Tomorrow in her lunchbox Elsie will have a special treat. Just for her.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Never compare your children

Elsie used to rub her feet together while she was feeding, sleeping, resting... Molly sits with her feet neatly crossed at the ankle.

Elsie only ever sneezed five times in a row. A-choo, a-choo, A-Choo, ACHOO ACHOOOO! When Molly was tiny, she always made an 'oooh' noise after a sneeze, whether it came out properly or not. Ach-oooooh. Usually followed by a grin.

Elsie hated tummy time and screamed until we turned her the right way up. She never crawled but insisted on us supporting her while she walked and ran about from such an early age that by the time she got to 11 months she was walking on her own. Molly loved tummy time and quickly got the hang of rolling, pushing up and then crawling, although she insisted on sticking one leg out and alternating her knee with her foot, only bringing both knees in to squeeze through tight spots. At 11 months old she just started walking with the aid of a toddle truck. Her walking was stiff and awkward, unlike her crawling which was faster than most people can run.

Some things I remember Elsie doing only when I see Molly doing it - like dropping her plate on the table so it spins... or outraged mini tantrums when something is taken away from her or someone dares to tell her 'no!' But usually Elsie's explorations and Molly's achievements awaken a sense of wonder, a sense that this little unique person has figured something out all by herself and done it in a way that nobody else has ever done before.

I always assumed I'd have a boy and a girl. I have a brother. Marek has a sister. That's how it goes. Having two girls though has really made me experience the obvious truth that there are not just girls and boys. A child is a being, finding her way through life and bringing her own perspective to a path well trod by other boys and girls. These two little people came from the same parents, are treated as equally as possible and yet are more different than I ever could have expected.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One year, One month, one week and one day old

Dimpled hands that reach round my neck when I lift her up.
Wide beautiful eyes that are stubbornly refusing to go totally brown.
A big sister she adores and a double-handed wave that she saves for her favourite people.
Stubby sturdy legs that carry her tottering forwards, faster and faster each day.
Wild hair that she brushes from her eyes and pulls clips from as fast as they are placed.
Infectious giggles, one word (DOUDOU!) and many other copied sounds.
A comforting thumb and a love of nesting her head under my chin.
I don't want to forget.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What's that? A being?

Elsie hands me the book, snuggles up and I start reading.

It's one of her bible stories for kids. We are looking at a picture of a group of people including Noah, who is about to start building the ark, on God's instruction. She stops me. 'Where's God?' I hesitate. 'God isn't one of those people. You can't see God.'


'Er, well Elsie. Some people believe that God is, er, well not a person, but a being...'

'What's that? A being?'

I am so ill prepared for this conversation. I try a different approach.

'Do they talk about God at your school? Do they talk about Dieu?'

Elsie thinks. 'It's like "Mon Dieu"!' She says. 'Yes' I nod, 'Mon Dieu means My God.'

'Mon Dieu!' she shouts, triumphantly. 'Tu ne peux pas faire ca !'