Wonderful Women: Raising Children in Germany

This week’s Wonderful Women Wednesday is featuring Sarah, a full time working mum and army wife who has lived abroad for … years and is now adjusting to life back in the UK with her three kids!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

My name is Sarah and I am 44 . I have changed jobs recently during to moving back from Germany after 7 years away. I now work selling animal feed, garden bits and the boots department is my bit.

It’s good to be working with people, but hard work to start at my age .

2. You’re a mum of three kids, how old are they and what are they doing?

I have Taylor who has just turned 18 and graduated from boarding school. It’s good to have her home. Shes a little emotional right now as failed medical for Army and didn’t quite get the great results she needed or was hoping for from her IB exams.

Blake-Louise is 8 and just last week was diagnosed with autism. She struggles with emotional and social situations, and she is also being assessed for a bleeding disorder as she suffers from prolonged nosebleeds quite regularly. She’s holding her own at school and tries to make friends.

Then theres little Paolo who is 5 – he is the sweetest of the bunch. He suffers with allergies, and he carries an epi-pen as he’s had two episodes of anaphylaxis. He also spent his first years in and out of hospital with bronchitis.

Both the youngest only really know Germany so it’s taken time for them to get used to the UK.

3. Did you find it difficult having such an age gap between your eldest and the next two?

Oh boy yes did I!

It was like starting over again and I had to ask my sister things as I’d forgotten some bits! I felt old with the other two and my energy levels now are awful.

Taylor doesn’t (and hasn’t for a while) come on days out with us as a family, as she’s not interested in the same things and often finds it boring.

4. Which stage is harder: toddler or teenager?

Toddler is so much easier I think. As a parent of a toddler you get to have fun, take photos and be a kid yourself again. Don’t always worry about a tidy house , just make memories.

I share quite a bit of stuff about kids on social media and I do think we need to remember in this day and age that they are little and learning all the time.

Teenagers are another ball game! You have a younger adult there who is trying to find their way with your rules. I have brought Taylor up to stand up for herself and now she’s doing it with us.

5. Your husband worked with the PWRR and was posted in Germany for quite a while! What was it like bringing the children up in a different country and how have you found it coming back to England after such a long time?

When we first moved to Germany, I was in a bad place.

My father has passed away in the March 2011 and we were due to move in the July with a 7 month old and a 10 year old. Neither my eldest daughter or myself had been to Germany before.

I felt so down and practically cried on and off for the first 4 months. My husband started work and had the car so that left me to walk everywhere with a pushchair and my 10 year old daughter in tow.

Thank goodness the German people are so kind! Many helped with speaking English when we went shopping. It took a while to make friends as all I did was stand at the bus stop, but I met a lovely lady who came from the Isle of Wight like myself. We remain friends now 8 years on!

Our first winter in Germany was a bit of a shock – the temperature dropped to -21 degrees! Christmas in Germany is amanzing and the culture there is very family orientated.

I soon settled and went to a singing group with the baby, Blake, in the end I was running it for 5 years.

The healthcare in Germany is amazing, too, and they have a separate hospital for children. I had another baby while in Germany and it was the best of all my C-Sections. We spent so many months on and off in hospital with my little boy as he has allergies.

My husband did a tour of Afghanistan while we were in Germany which I found very hard, especially not having any family near. But the friends I made helped me get through it.

Coming back to the UK after such a long time was a wrench. Germany was our home and all my youngest children knew.

My eldest came back early to go to boarding school, so she was used to living back in the UK by the time we came back!

6. Being a mum of three and an army wife must be difficult – do you spend long periods of time managing yourself, the kids, and your job on your own? What have you found helps you to cope with all of that by yourself?

Short tours away I think are harder as you don’t get used to them being away. 8 months with him away with a 4 month old, 3 year old, and 13 year old was tough and I really struggled at times. My husband’s mum and sister came to visit, as the Army paid for them to come to Germany.

No-one, and I mean, NO-ONE, understands how it feels and what it’s like unless you are an army wife, and I stand by that. My sister who has been an army wife gave me great advice…

Count the weeks, not the days. Have one thing to look forward to each week, whether it be treats, or a nice day out. Don’t panic if you miss a call from your man, he will call again. You can’t run your life waiting by the phone.

Claire, Army Wife

Chocolate helps, too, girls!

7. What do you find most rewarding about having three wonderful children?

Hahahahahaha

8. And the most challenging?

Everything is challenging!

Paolo, the youngest, has allergies and we carry an epipen. I have had to use it and it was frightening. I have done a paediatric first aid course, but seeing him have a seizure was heartbreaking. He has spent a lot of time in and out of hospital in his first 3 years of life.

Blake, the middle one, has bleeding issues and we are still trying to get answers. Taylor is my wing woman, so to speak, as it was just us two, butte has been through it, and we have both had mental health issues.

They are all lovely kids, though (when asleep)!

9. You’re also currently going through the motions of getting an ASD diagnosis for one of the kids – how do you manage her additional needs?

Miss B is 8 and a half now and we have had thoughts there’s something not quite right for a while. We started by speaking with our GP as B, after our two pet cats passed away, became obsessed with cats, said she wanted to be a cat and said she wanted to die so she could be with her brothers (the cats).

When speaking with CAMHS and the doctor it became apparent that there were other emotional problems. She also liked to collect things – from a young age she carried around batteries, eggs, and tomatoes. I seem to cope better than my husband does as he is far more short-tempered than I am.

She does not like surprises and so we need to make sure she knows what’s going on at all times. We have, since being in the UK, got her Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) done and are due to get paperwork confirming her diagnosis, which, even though we expected it, came as a shock, as none of our family thought there was an issue. They said she was just naughty, or rude, or it was just a phase.

10. Is there anybody else you’d like to nominate for our wonderful women feature? Anyone who inspires you?

My sister. Even though sometimes I’d like to kick her up the butt, or shake her and say “get a grip”, she has come through so much. Army wife, break up, and her husband had PTSD. She is a fighter – even though she wants to give up, she doesn’t.

Deployment Makes a Mummy’s Girl – Sarah’s Feature in Army and You Magazine

Having previously been featured in Army and You magazine with a short interview on how I managed to study for my dream career alongside being an army spouse, I was contacted again to write a Blog Spot piece.

Never did I think that I would be given the title Best Blog, and I am so thrilled for my personal blog, Someone Calls Me Mummy! Thank you for recognising my little blog!

You can see the post I wrote about my bond with Olivia during Jamie’s deployment below, along with a piece from The Military Husband.

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 17.12.24

Deployment Makes A Mummy’s Girl…

Before Jamie left for Afghanistan, Olivia was a huge daddy’s girl. I mean, to the point that I was seriously dreading him leaving! Of course, the situation wasn’t ideal – I was studying my Bar Professional Training Course in London, working part-time, and not driving. Looking after Olivia was just another part of my hectic life that I had to arrange on my own while he was away.
 
She turned 2 the month after he deployed, and, luckily, I managed to skip out on the whole terrible twos phase (THANK THE HEAVENS). Okay, okay, I didn’t skip it out altogether – it just hit when she was about 14 months old and only actually resolved itself when Daddy went away.
 
Like I said, before he left, she was a massive Daddy’s girl. I simply wasn’t good enough, and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Every new mum feels that way sometimes, but I was convinced she hated me. She did that classic thing where she would be angelic for her Daddy but really misbehave for me. She used to be so clingy for him, and all of a sudden he wasn’t there anymore.
 
When your kids are so young, there’s really no way of preparing them for one of their parents leaving. I couldn’t tell her in advance, and he left late at night so he didn’t get to say goodbye. We simply told Olivia that Daddy was going to work, which was true. That then evolved into laughing that Daddy was on holiday (which may as well have been true, given the 24 hour gym and the cinema room on his camp!) and her simply being stuck with me for the next 7 months.
 
It was rough at first, she asked for him all of the time, again and again, and it was awful having to tell her that he wasn’t here. We were quite fortunate that Jamie had wifi access whenever he was in his room on camp (American camps eh? Super fancy!) and video calling him became part of our routine. She was definitely more accepting of that and stopped asking for him so often. At the same time, she became a hell of a lot more clingy with me.
 
Our morning drop offs at the Childminder became that much more difficult because she just did not want to leave me! That phase of the horrible crying fits at her door lasted for a few months, and eventually Olivia got used to the fact that she just had me around. Maybe she got a little too used to it, though! Now, she’s flipped and is all for mummy, all the time. I can barely go to the loo by myself, because she wants to be with me. 
Deployment changes lots of things, and, yeah, you get used to how it is after a while, but I for one never expected it to change the way our little girl was with us. She still adores her daddy, but it took some work getting her to be okay with him when he first came back, and even now, she’s a mummy’s girl at heart. After all of the trials and tribulations, it really did bring us closer.

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Daddykind Corner: Being a Dad with PTSD

After we did a trial run of the Daddykind Corner with my lovely husband putting up with me interviewing him for the sake of the blog and for all of Daddykind, we present to you….

VOLUME 2!

I am very pleased to introduce our good friend Darren, who has had his fair share of mental illness and has some good techniques and tips for bringing your children up aware of mental health and how to take care of it.

Darren uses his own experience to coach other men through mental health problems and other mental blocks, so he’s pretty qualified to share his thoughts on how you can move on from mental illness and be the best parent you can be.

I’m so thrilled to feature this post from Darren because we all know how dire mental health provision is and how badly it affects men in particular. Please if any mums or dads are reading this and think they need help, contact your GP, the Samaritans or your local out of hours team if you feel you are in crisis.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Yes, of course. My name is Darren, I am friends with Sarah through her husband, Jamie. I served in the military with Jamie for 15 years and was posted overseas on many operations.
I am a father to two beautiful children aged 4 and 2, a boy and girl and separated from their mother whom I still have a fantastic relationship with….for the most part lol…
I was born and raised in the East End of London and I currently coach other men on mastering their emotions.

If you had to describe being a father in one word, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose 1 word it’d be “uncertainty” because I find I’m alway asking myself if I’m doing the right thing for them… whether that be by way of teaching and helping shape their little minds or disciplining them and training them to be good, honest, hardworking people. All that with making sure that they truly love themselves and KNOW from their core that they are worthy to achieve anything they want in life… No one said this parenting game is easy, aye?

How was your mental health after becoming a father?

I thought my mental health was fine… I was they happiest man in the world after my little girl, Evie was born…. However my wife at the time was suffering with and subsequently diagnosed with PND, which wasn’t easy at all, as I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy all the time.

Were things different the second time around?

Oh massively… I’ll be honest and say that I never wanted a second child because I was so in love with my little girl that I couldn’t fathom having to share my love with another baby and I didn’t think it would be fair… I honestly didn’t think that I was capable of loving Mathew in the same way as Evie and subsequently it took me about 3 months to truly bond with him. Looking back it make me sad because I saw him as a burden. But now I understand that you don’t have to love them in the same way as your first and my heart literally melts every time I see him now.

Did you feel prepared for fatherhood and what could have helped you to be more prepared?

You can read all the books in the world, go to all the classes but I don’t think that anything will ever really prepare you for fatherhood. I think that as a dad having a positive male role model in your life can definitely put you in good stead to being a dad, and I never had this, which is why I do my absolute best to be the best man I can be for them because I know the importance of having both parents that want their babies to have the best start in life.

When were you diagnosed with PTSD and BPD?

I was diagnosed with PTSD from m

y military service in 2017 and subsequently discharged as a result and after using the techniques and procedures to keep on top of it I still knew that something was up with me and since have been diagnosed with BPD earlier this year after a friend opened up about her struggles it was like shinning a light on what I was going through.
Whilst growing up, I was a bit of a wild child to say the least and was in and out of care, excluded from school, engaged in dangerous or outright illicit activities at times and had a tough upbringing in East London, so I’ve always known that I’ve struggled with my emotions… something that I’ve got a grip of nowadays (for the most part). But as I grow, evolve and become more self aware over time it’s got to the point where I can’t ignore my problems and my advice to any other men reading this is: do not bury your head in the sand, just be honest with yourself… if you need help then go and seek it because drinking, fighting, drugs, being promiscuous etc etc will only lead to further problems and is just masking the true underlying issues.

What techniques do you use to manage your mental health?

There are many that you can use but finding what works for you is paramount. As a man, one of the biggest things that has helped me has been simply talking to a professional within the specific mental health niche. Because I bottled it up for so long there is only a certain amount you can take before something has to give. 
As I said, knowing yourself is also key… knowing what your triggers are and how they make you feel is also very important so you can counteract them…eg: being a massive introvert (most wouldn’t believe it lol) if I can feel myself slipping back into a rough patch…spending time alone in nature, on my motorbike, by the water really helps me to connect with myself again… it also helps to have a purpose and a goal in life and something to work on that requires discipline and focus. I find that whatever I focus on tends to expand so it’s about knowing how and where to shift your focus.

How has your understanding of your own mental health impacted on being a parent?

It most certainly has made be more aware and I listen more to my children… I’ll be honest I used to “Parent” my children and just try to get through the day making sure they are fed, watered and entertained. I now realise that it’s also key to flood their subconscious with positive affirming messages so that they love themselves. I just want them to be truly happy and not have to have a childhood they have to recover from. 

Who knows if I’m doing it right? One can only hope and time will tell.

Do you think it’s important to raise your children to understand mental illness and how would you do that?

I do think it’s super important that they know about mental health and more importantly that they take control of their own. I would certainly say that trying to go through life without any regrets is something I like to teach my kids… Whether that’s by always trying their hardest at something that they want to do and working hard for their goals or by simply being a good person and trying to never hurt the people around them or in any way compromise their integrity. 

Also, by always being true to themselves and NEVER letting the opinions of others define who they are…. I’ve always said that there is a date you were born and a date you die and that line in-between represents your life. 

So, I encourage them to think freely and live with passion and purpose.

———-

Thank you, Darren!

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What is there for toddlers at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort?

Recently as part of the army’s welfare service while my husband is deployed, we were invited on a free trip to LEGOLAND! So, of course, we went – who would pass that up?! – and we loved it! But with a two year old in tow, most of my day was spent trying to navigate the toddler friendly rides and attractions at LEGOLAND, which was no easy feat.

One thing I will say is that if you are planning on going with really little ones, don’t go in half term! It wasn’t excessively busy throughout the resort but it did make queue times pretty long!

Duplo Valley…

Duplo Train

This very short train ride is the perfect introduction to rides for your toddler! Olivia was itching to get on the Skyrider but couldn’t because of the height restriction, so the Duplo Train was the perfect substitute! You have to accompany your tot but this is a sure win for toddlers going to LEGOLAND!

Fairy Tale Brook

I didn’t get to go on this one in the end and I’m absolutely gutted! It’s a nice little boat ride perfect for all family members, as adults have to accompany guests under 1.3m and there’s no minimum heigh to ride! The ride takes you through a bunch of fairy tales and you get to see loads of fairy tale characters made out of Lego – it sounds really amazing! When we go back again we’ll definitely be taking Olivia on this one!

Brickville

This is a very nice little play area situated quite closely to the Splash Safari and Fairy Tale Brook, and it’s ideal for kids of all ages!

Splash Safari

Oh. My. Goodness.
My daughter spent THE WHOLE MORNING here. She absolutely loved it! It’s essentially a little water park in Duplo Valley with tons of cute animals spurting out water everywhere. It was honestly amazing and she had so much fun! I would say to bring a swimming costume – they have changing rooms next to the Splash Safari but as Olivia is only little I just stripped her down to her nappy and away she went!

Adventure Land…

Atlantis Submarine

This was another one that Olivia loved. The queue time was relatively short (less than 5 minutes one time and about 20 minutes the other time). I bribed her with strawberries to walk nicely in the queue and she did pretty well, but patience is not her strong point! Once we were in the submarine she was so excited to see the “poissons”! When I first saw the sign for a SeaLife centre I didn’t realise that we would be going into a submarine to see the fish! This was the PERFECT ride for little kids to get on and to enjoy themselves.

LEGO City…

Coastguard HQ

This one is suitable for everyone, as adults have to accompany guests under 1.3m and there is no minimum height to get into the boats! However I’m going to guess that toddlers aren’t the best people to be steering the boat around the waterways, so you’ll very much be in charge of the boat ride! And the LEGOLAND website warns that you will get wet on this one.

Balloon School

Unfortunately your tot cannot get their LEGOLAND driving licence just yet! BUT, they can indeed go to Balloon School as long as you accompany them, which is right around the corner from the driving school areas.

Kingdom of the Pharaohs…

Laser Raiders

This one is fine as long as you accompany your tot, however I’m not sure how successful it would be to get your toddlers on here! The laser game requires some precision and usually it’s better if your kids are a little bit older, but I’m sure toddlers would have just as much fun!

Heartlake City…

While none of the attractions in Heartlake City are any good for toddlers, there is a pretty amazing pirate show as well as a very lively and upbeat Lego Friends show that anyone can watch!

Miniland…

Pretty much does what it says on the tin… Miniland is just full of miniature Lego villages, all themed by country! My daughter was fascinated with them, and I was too!
The Lego boats floated through the rivers, and the sheer detail in the models was incredible – Olivia loved walking around and getting quite up close to the models to point out things she could see.

Imagination Centre…

Right at the beginning of the park there are a number of little build and play areas, including a Lego Reef and an Education Centre. The perfect spot to let the little ones have a go at creating some amazing Lego models.

So, that’s my list of everything at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort that your toddler can do! While the number of rides tailored towards younger kids isn’t spectacular, they have absolutely loads of outdoor play areas and other activities that everyone can get involved in, which is pretty unique for a theme park.
Would I go again?
Absolutely! We had such a wonderful day, and next time I hope that we’ll be able to go on even more now that I know which rides are suitable and where they all are!
Thanks for reading, let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed or if you’ve also been to LEGOLAND we would love to see your pictures too!

 

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A letter to my husband…

Dear Jamie,

As you know, you’re currently enjoying your all-inclusive 5* holiday in Kabul, and our daughter and I are stuck at home, trying somehow to cope without you around.

Of course, I’m joking. You would never leave us for a 4 month holiday, you’re actually at work (perks of the army, eh?) but from what you’ve told me about your camp it sounds a lot like a holiday!

Don’t be annoyed, but I thought this would be more difficult than it has been so far. Today marks the two week point, and honestly I’ve been so busy that I just haven’t had time to think about you being away. We get to speak quite often on the phone too, so that makes it a lot easier. But it is still a big adjustment. It is now, and it will be when you return.

I can imagine you’ll find it so much harder to come back, assuming I do have Olivia in some kind of routine by then (I won’t hold my breath on that one), and Olivia, especially, will have changed so much from the baby you left 2 weeks ago. She’ll be talking even more than she is now, potty trained (I hope), she’ll have had her 2nd birthday and she will have grown both physically and developmentally. She’s not far off your intelligence now, so I’m sure when you come back she’ll have far surpassed you on that scale! 😉

I’m kidding, of course…

However, right now, I’m having to deal with a much naughtier little toddler, who is probably testing even more boundaries because she’s stuck with Mummy all of the time. I wonder what goes through her head, and whether she knows when she asks for you that you’re at work. She seems to be coping quite well, it’s more my sanity that’s at risk while you’re away!

Right now she’s upstairs with Amy showing her the “naughty” scribbles she did on her wall, huffing and puffing and chattering away. See? This is pretty normal for her. She’s okay. We both are, really. We just miss you, that’s all.

People keep telling me that this time will go by so quickly, but what I’m really worried about is when I finish my course in June. Having so much free time, I’m sure, will make the time pass much more slowly. I won’t have any more milestone points to take my mind off it. At the moment, all I’m thinking is that I have 3 exams, 1 a week for 3 weeks, and then 3 weeks of teaching, 2 more exams and then that’s it, beginning of June, course done. That really doesn’t seem that far away, and that’s the half way point of you being gone. After that, the only thing I have to look forward to is you coming back! I might need to plan my own little holiday or something with the baby… Not that it will be much of a break, but it will at least fragment the time up a bit.

Olivia’s pestering me to have a go on the keyboard so I’m going to let her touch my Mac (I know right, see? My sanity is obviously gone) and write to you too…

saAS`A` GYTCxzxzxxccvcxzxczzxdsddxxdwdedcwggghgvghgvsmnhgghjkljkljnknn, ngfhghqzfsxbv de HGfcvdfdfdddgfdfsdd 

Translation: love you Daddy, see you soon, stay safe, love from Olivia xxxxx

Right, that’s enough for now and the brat smells so I have to execute a quick nappy change before attempting to get out of the house for messy play – god help us all.

We miss you so much – you’re the piece of our family that holds it all together.

Lots of love,

the Mrs
xxx

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