Dealing with a “Peuterpuber”

In American English, there is something called “the Terrible Twos”.  This describes when a child reaches the age of two and starts becoming little monsters that think only of themselves and sees no reasoning.  Often people wonder why it is called “the Terrible Twos” when it is a phase that usually starts a bit before two and ends around four years old.  This is practically the toddler years (2-4 years old).   In Dutch the toddler is called a peuter and often people rightfully add the word puber after the word.  Puber means “teenager”.

Personally, I love the Dutch expression for the toddler phase a lot more than American English expression because it describes exactly what the child is like in this age span, and with alliteration!  These little creatures are adorable little humans that act like hormonal teenagers.

The strange peuter puber.

The strange peuter puber.

So my son is now three and a half and drives me crazy-mad.  My daughter is now one and a half and she is starting to pick up the naughty things my son is doing as she’s preparing herself for her peuterpubertijd (toddler-teenager-time).  I am currently struggling to get my son to eat (with a fork), to stop sucking his thumb, and well, just getting him to do anything and to just doe normaal (act normal).  It is a daily struggle.

Peuterpuber on eating.  Nearly everyday on every hour he complains about being hungry and how he wants to eat.  But by dinner time, he says he doesn’t want to eat.  I’ve tried not giving him food after 4pm to “starve” him a little before dinner which is at 6pm.  It doesn’t work.  He once even got excited after seeing and getting his dinner, and then SUDDENLY said he didn’t want to eat!  His reasoning?  Daddy wasn’t home (and won’t be home until later).  But aren’t you hungry since you’ve been complaining about being hungry the last 2 hours?  Not hungry.

Peuterpuber on sucking his thumb.  He sucks his thumb all the time now.  Before he used to do it when he’s tired.  Then he started doing it when he’s watching TV.  Now he just does it whenever his thumb is free.  This drives me mad since I was never a thumb sucker and it impedes speech development as well as ruin teeth development, especially if he doesn’t stop by 4 years old.  Other people I know whose sons stopped sucking their thumb was after they sustained some injury (wart, blister, etc.) on the thumb.  Sometimes I do wish he gets a wart or blister!  But I wish mostly that he will have the courage to stop by himself.

Peuterpuber on doing anything.  Everything takes longer.  When told/asked to get dressed, he is still not dressed 10 minutes later.  When told/asked to finish drinking his milk, it is not done unless constantly being told multiple times.  With a little sister around, he is always taking things from her and causing her a lot of distress from that or even from giving her too much love like “hugging” her which looks more like a wrestling hold.  I do my best to not constantly get on my son’s case because my daughter does try to use the crying and whining to her advantage sometimes….


This potty reward chart worked for us!

If anything, potty training is something I am proud of for my son.  It was a real struggle that ran for weeks at first, but after making a sticker reward chart for him on potty training, it was like he flipped a switch and completely became potty trained from the start of the chart until the end.  At night we still had him in diapers (which made poop training a little longer because he’d poop in the morning when his diaper was still on), but after about a month of night time diapers, we let him decide what he wanted to wear to sleep.  He only wet his bed two or three times in the first weeks (which he cried over because he felt shameful but we gave him lots of love) and has not done it ever since.  He will even wake up late at night to pee if he needs to. 🙂

Anyway, I am glad my daughter is not a thumbsucker so that is one less thing to worry about my daughter.  Now it’s about time to start the ol’ pot for her.  For my son, I’m planning to try a reward chart with him on thumbsucking.  It worked for potty training, I hope it works for thumbsucking.  I just need to find a good one.  I might even have to find another one for him to eat all his dinner without so much complaining too.  Well, one bad habit at a time!

If you are trying to potty train and looking for a good reward chart, I suggest the one I used which I found on Sherbert Cafe.  The reason I chose this chart among the thousands out there are the lollypops on the path to the ice cream.  Basically my son would put a cool car/plane sticker on the circles, but when he got on a lollypop, he got a sticker AND a piece of candy.  His final reward was not ice cream, but a trip to the local kiddie-gym which he chose as a reward (as suggested by me).

So back to the topic of my peuterpuber.  What I found most important in dealing with a peuterpuber is to really try to keep your cool.  Most of the time they are not really trying to make you mad.  They are just being this way because everything in the world really doesn’t make sense to them.  Often, they have some idea in their head and if something happens to change or upset what is in their head, then the world is just not “right” anymore!  They often find it very difficult to deal with disappointments, change, fear, setbacks, etc.  There is a lot of anxiety!  Keep a cool head and realize how funny they are being.  Keep reminding yourself that it will get better.  And it is also normal to get upset and mad with them because it is not realistic to be 100% in love with them all of the time!  Finally, I’ve realized that a peuter is not much different from an expat.  They are little humans thrown into a “foreign” world where they have to learn the foreign ways (i.e. becoming more independent like getting dressed, eating with utensils, breaking from certain comforts, etc.).  This is probably why many expats feel anxious and depressed often.

And now for the Dutch portion:

mantauIk hou heel veel van chinees eten omdat ik chinees ben en opgegroied met chinees eten.  Onlangs had ik mantau (chinees gestoomd brood) gemaakt .  Ik houd niet van brood, maar dit was ZO lekker!  Er zijn heel veel recepten, maar gebruik ik dit recept van Yi Reservation.  Waarom dit recept?  Omdat het was in metriek stelsel!

Ik wil mantau maken leren omdat ik wil de mantau met chinese kleefrijst of cha sieuw (gebarbecued of geroosterd vlees, namelijk varkensvlees) binnen.  Mijn eerste keer mantau maken was een sucess! Het was zacht en smaakt lekker!  Dus, volgende keer ga ik mantau maken met iets binnen.

So that was a bit about my recent adventure in making mantau (Chinese steamed buns).  I think I might have made more Dutch errors this time, but I’m also very tired.  Time to sleep!  Slaap lekker and Be Happy!


My son’s first traktatie!

In the Netherlands, it is customary for school children (ages 4 to 12) to go to school bearing gifts on their birthday.  That’s right, the birthday child give gifts to the non-birthday children and teachers.  The gift is called a traktatie.

A very creative treat.

A very creative treat.

Working in a school in the last few years, I have usually been at the receiving end as I stuffed my face each week with little cakes, cookies, chocolate, stroopwafels, or the occasional fruit.  (And I wonder, why are the Dutch teachers not going into some diabetic shock?)  Usually, the traktatie are pretty plain, but some parents (usually the mother) will go all out, as you can see in the photo on the right.  That little wonder is an oreo dipped in white chocolate, decorated, wrapped with a sour strip and stuck together via toothpick and icing on a vanilla cupcake.  And you have to remember, they did not make one…they made THIRTY-PLUS  of these cute little sugar bombs, one for each child AND teacher in the school.

Then it was my turn. (Cue suspenseful music.)

My son turned 3 in September and he goes to a peuterspeelzaal (pre-school).  I actually started to stress about this.  What do I make? How many do I make? When do I make it?

So a week before my son’s birthday, I sat down and talked to the teacher.  This was in Dutch of course. 😉

“So, Johan is turning three next week on Sunday”

“Oh great! And he comes here on Tuesday and Friday, so let’s schedule it in on Friday at 11.30.”

“Well, um…I’ve never done a traktatie before. What do I do?”

“You don’t do this sort of thing in America?!?!”


“Nothing happens when a kid has a birthday?!?!”

“Well, I mean, er, we sing happy birthday and maybe there’s cake, but it’s not common to do traktatie in America.”

So the teacher then explained to me that first I need to prepare 15 treats.  The treats needed to be something sweet yet healthy… but fruit, despite being sweet and healthy, is not special since they get it everyday and at school.  So not fruit. Oh.

I thought about it and decided I was going to make 15 banana muffins!  It’s a sweet treat that’s marginally healthy since it contains fruit, but it’s not a fruit!  Then I realized how much work it was going to take and worst of all, muffin/cupcake pans come in twelves.  Which means I had to make two batches which equate to 24, but that would make me have nine extra muffins.  What do you do with nine extra muffins? Not in my thighs that’s for sure.

Then I decided to visit (cue fanfare music) Action.  If you don’t know Action, it is a haven for bargain hunters.  There is something for everyone including your furry friends.   I decided to go check out what they have in terms of a small inexpensive toy as a traktatie and to my great enjoyment, there was actually a section with all kinds of birthday related things like little decorated plastic baggies to put goodies in.  So I shopped and almost went overboard.  I bought bouncy balls, stampers, packs of cookies, mini notepads, party horns, and the little plastic baggies for all the treats to go in.  All of that equate to 45 euro cent per child.


Johan and his birthday hat.

I packed all the little gift bags and the day of came.  I arrived to the school bearing gifts!

After the teachers got all the children to settle down and sit, she pulled out a special chair for Johan to sit on.  They put on a special hat (another Dutch birthday custom, but only done up to group 1, which is kindergarten), sang a few Dutch birthday songs (which often includes many hurrahs), pulled out a foam cake and lit tea candles for Johan to blow out.  Then they gave my son a wrapped gift (which came from a trash can…funny).  My son opened the gift as the rest of the children were hanging off their seats in anticipation and it was a toy car!  This whole time I’m waiting for my cue and finally I saw a nod from one of the teachers and got up as Johan was instructed to give a traktatie to each child.  It is also important to note that it is also customary for everyone to wait until everyone received a traktatie before anyone gets to play or eat anything.  Then when everyone has received something, everyone says or sings thank you to the child.

Yet of course as it was my first traktatie… I made a mistake: I forgot the teachers and interns!  As the children were sitting in the circle, munching on their cookies, the teachers had nothing and were just sitting there.  Thankfully, there were only 14 children including my son so, the 15th bag was for the teachers and intern so they all shared one pack of cookies.  To think that having been on the receiving end for about 4 years, I should have remembered and thought about it.  I really felt ashamed.  Well, I’ll remember next time.

So this wraps up my first time doing this whole Dutch custom.  I hope you enjoyed this read and Be Happy!



Tablet Games for Toddlers, pt 2!

Since my last post on tablet games for toddlers, I have found a few more that I think I definitely worth a mention.  Most are free, or partially free, and others you have to pay for (but I got it free when it was an Amazon Free App of the Day). They are all available at the Google Play Store (Android), but if I know it’s available at the App Store, I will also mention it.  Without further ado, let’s get to the games!

Toddler Kids Puzzles PUZZINGO

Toddler Kids Puzzles PUZZINGO – My son LOVES this one so much that my husband and I decided to buy it.  It is a tap-drag-drop puzzle game with lots of themes interesting to any toddler and child!

The free version comes with two play areas with several puzzles to play with.  After completing a puzzle, you get to play a mini-game.  While puzzling, the game will tell you the name of the puzzle pieces.  For example, if the puzzle piece is a chair, it will said, “Chair!” with enthusiasm.  I do find this rather funny sometimes because the range of words go from simple (elephant, space, etc.) to moderate (gingko tree, a little monkey, etc.) to advance (fusilage, generator, etc.).  I am waiting for my son to say “fusilage!” one day.

PUZZINGO is really engaging, interactive, and fun.  The free version has a lot already; my son played on the free version for about a month before we decided to buy it.  The game costs €11.49, which is pretty expensive compared to other toddler apps, but you also have the option to buy packs if you don’t want everything.  However, if you pay the full price, any updates and new puzzles added will be free for you.

This app is also available in the AppStore.

Beck and Bo

Beck and Bo by Avokiddo – My son’s second favourite app.  This app is much like other puzzle games, but there are no silhouettes.  Instead, the pieces can be placed and moved around a scene to make it  very interactive.  Each time a piece is touched, a voice says what it is.  Within each scene, you can also tap a small polaroid-notebook icon to see a sort of flashcard for the pieces with text and sound.

This app is one of the more difficult ones for a young toddler to learn since there are no silhouettes and they have to figure out that the sun and clouds go in the sky and so on.  It was difficult for my son to play this app when he was 18 months, but by the time he was about 20 months, he could play it. You can also set the language to Swedish, great for Swedish expats or expats in Sweden.

Beck and Bo is a really well-made quality app and costs €2.99.  I was lucky enough to grab it when it was free for one day at the Amazon Appstore.  Unfortunately there is no free version of this app.

Toddler Counting 123

Toddler Counting 123 Kids Free – This app teaches your child to count with colourful pictures of items. I love how although it’s free, it’s very customizable. There are 15 languages to choose from (a variety of Asian and European languages) which not only changes what’s written but also the voice! You can also set to show certain categories, letter case, counting mode (in order, random, etc.), and min/max numbers of items to display. This last option I find very valuable because you do not want to overwhelm the toddler with numbers up to 20 right from the beginning. I recommend starting it slow with 3 or 5, then slowly increase it to 6, then 10 and so on as they get older.

I also like how I can choose the language since I am raising a bilingual child and there are very few quality apps for toddlers that has English and Dutch available. I highly recommend this for any other parents that are raising their child bi-, tri-, or poly-ligual!

The creators of this app, GiggleUp, also has other great apps that are just as customizable and for toddlers as well as pre-schoolers, and older.  They have memory, telling time, mazes, toddler phone, jigsaw puzzles, math games, and more.  I have tried the memory, toddler phone, and toddler sound and I like them all.  You can find a list of their apps here: GiggleUp Kids Apps And Educational Games

The biggest complaint I see about this app and other apps from GiggleUp is that the ads are too big and blocks the screen. I have never experienced any problems with the ads.  I think other parents having problems with the app is because it is being used on a small screen (perhaps a smartphone).  My son plays on a 10.1in tablet so the ads have never been a problem.

Animated Puzzle

Toddler & Baby Animated Puzzle – For a while, my son was really into this app. He does not play it as much now since he’s a bit older now (2 years and one month), thus this app is more for younger toddlers.

Animated Puzzle is more fun (game) than educational since the app does not tell the names of things as the child puzzles around. It is nicely animated and fun with soft magical music.  In a way, it is similar to PUZZINGO, just less circus-y, more magical, and has no voice telling you what something is.

The creators of this app, CFC s.r.o., also have other apps that are generally for older children (pre-schoolers and young school-aged children), however I have not tried their other apps since they are generally for an older age. You can find a list of their apps here: CFC s.r.o.

The free version of this app only has a few puzzles you can access.  I was lucky enough to get the full version for free from the Amazon Appstore’s Free App of the Day.  (Funnily enough, the full version was offered for free the day after I got the free version!)  If you want the full version, you’ll need to pay €1.99.

I hope you find my recommendations and review of these apps helpful in deciding what to get. I was not enodorsed or sponsered to write this. I want to make child rearing just a little easier for parents. I know raising a child is not cheap or easy and we definitely cannot do it alone. Thanks for trying your best for your little one and Be Happy!



Recipe: Chicken and Spinach Cream Sauce Pasta

I would like to share a recipe I came up with that the whole family loves.  That’s right, even the little toddler is eating his spinach!  This recipe is really simple and you can even add extra ingredients, or make it vegetarian by taking out the meat (though my husband says the chicken is the best part of it).  Try it out and see if your little toddler eats this. 🙂

By the way, I’ve never written a recipe before; this is my first written recipe!  I am writing it as I would cook it, so I do a lot of things at the same time.  So despite this being a simple recipe, the directions may not be suited for beginner cooks.

Chicken and Spinach Cream Sauce Pasta

Servings: 2.5 (2 adults, and one 19 month old toddler)

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Made with chestnut mushrooms (kastanje champignons) or “Black Poplar”. Brown mushrooms are more flavourful than normal white (Button) mushrooms so it gives it an extra level of flavour to the dish. You can use Portobello or Crimini if you cannot find Chestnut mushrooms. Toss in the mushrooms when the chicken is almost done, but before the spinach.

Pasta for 2.5 people , approx 300grams (I generally use tagliatelli for this dish, but you can also use farfalla, penne, or something else)
2 chicken breast filets
200-250g fresh spinach (or frozen spinach works too)
250g crème fraîche
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt, white, and black pepper to season and taste
1 tsp. cornstarch (optional)

1. Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, chop the chicken breasts into small cubes, approximately 1.5 cm each.  Season the chopped chicken with a dash of salt and white pepper.  Knead the chicken a little to let the seasoning set in.

2. Wash and roughly chop the spinach.  Set aside.  Finely chop the garlic cloves.

3. Heat a deep wok pan on a medium-high temperature and put the olive oil in it.  Toss in the chopped garlic when the oil is warm enough.  Toss in your seasoned chicken breast.  Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often, until the chicken has turned white all around.

4. By now, the pasta should be finished cooking.  Drain the pasta with a colander and set aside.

5. Add in your spinach to the chicken and stir and toss around until the spinach shrinks.  The spinach will also release its water content; do not drain the water!  Add in crème fraîche.  Stir until the crème fraîche is “melted”.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  If you think your sauce is too watery, you can make a thickener (cornstarch with a little water) and slowly pour into the cream sauce to thicken it up.

6. Put in your drained pasta into the sauce, stir it around for about 1 minute to let the sauce coat the pasta.  Done!  Serve the pasta.  For the little one, chop up the pasta, spinach, and chicken into smaller pieces before serving.

As an optional extra vegetable, you can also add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, paprika (red bell peppers), or mushrooms to the dish.  You can also substitute the chicken with pieces of salmon meat.

Eet smakelijk and Be Happy!



Getting the little one to sleep

Getting the little one to sleep is one of those hot topics every mother (and father) googles about.  The thing is, every child is different.  Perhaps I’m blessed or lucky, and I have heard boys are better sleepers, but I’ve never had much problem with putting my little one to sleep.  Every since my little one was 3 weeks old, he has been sleeping in his own room. By 3 months, he would sleep an entire 12 hours through the night.  He goes to sleep on his own and when he wakes up, he lays around thinking or plays quietly with the stuffed toys in his crib.  Perhaps someone can find some tips from this post as I am about to tell you the things I did or do with my little one.


Sleeping on his tummy and with a stuffed animal?! Well, yes! He’s got the strength and activeness to stop SIDS. Besides, he put himself in that position….

As I mentioned, I moved my son into his own room at 3 weeks old.  There is no magic number on when to do this, what is important that you go with your feeling.  Other than my feelings, I made the decision for him to sleep in his own room because by 3 weeks, he was sleeping at least 8 hours through the night for about 2 days in a row.  I have heard about a child that was moved to her room too late (about 9 months old) and by then it was a struggle!  I think the earlier you can move the child before he or she becomes aware or used to the situation and surrounding is best.  Not only is moving to their own room good for you, it gives the child the opportunity to learn to fall (back) asleep on their own.

I also think early bed times are good for a child’s development and, most importantly, to develop good sleep habits as they get older and start going to school.  When my son moved to his own room, his last bottle was at 11pm.  Eventually, I moved the last bottle earlier and earlier (according to how long he’d sleep through the night) and then his last would be about 7-8pm.  When my son reached 18 months, I stopped the last milk bottle and started giving him milk for breakfast and for lunch or snack.  I stopped the last milk bottle because I did not want him to start relying on it as a sleep aid because milk before sleep is not good!  Milk contains lactose, a type of sugar, and so will rot the teeth and promote obesity.

For my little one to sleep through the night, he had a good balance of nap and play during the day.  People tend to think that keeping babies awake would make them SO tired that they will sleep longer.  Perhaps that works for some people, but I think that a happy, rested and relaxed child falls asleep better than a cranky child!  Ever notice how kids do not want to sleep or sleep worse when they are cranky, sick, been awake too long, or even over-stimulated?  I also think that it takes more energy to try to keep a baby awake, thus making for a cranky parent too!

Visited the hairstylist in his sleep.

Visited the hairstylist in his sleep.

Laying him to sleep was another important thing too.  When my son was younger, he needed to be cradled until he fell asleep in our arms before he could be put down in bed.  Then we’d run the risk of waking him as we *tried* to lay him down gently.  One day, my husband got tired of cradling our son to sleep and noticed his son pushing him away while he was singing the lullabies.  So my husband laid our little one in his crib, tucked him in, said “Slaaplekker” (good night) and walked out the room.  Every since then, our son would go to sleep on his own (day or night), and this started at about 5 months old.  The important part of this story is that it’s important to watch for the signals your child gives you.  Pushing you away does not necessarily mean, “I don’t like you.”  In this case it was, “Alright, enough.  I’d like to be alone SO I can go to sleep.”

Many websites suggests having a ritual or bedtime routine.  I suggest having one too, but something -simple-.  Our routine is simply holding him in our arms, singing him 1-3 songs (depending how tired he is) as we walk around the room, and then laying him in bed and saying “Slaaplekker“.  Simple routines that work are short, sweet, and straight to the point.

Every child is different and so what works for one might not work for another.  The most important message I can say is to watch and listen to your child for signals.  Communication is more than words and listening and watching is just as important as the message. Look and listen for the “I’m sleepy” signals they can be giving unconsciously at first. If you learn to pick up on those signals, your child will learn too and start consciously knowing when it is time to go to sleep and thus learn to fall asleep him- or herself. Good luck and Be Happy!