The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Month: January 2016

Puddle time

It has been raining a lot recently. Every day is grey and wet. The main beneficiary of this situation is Mtoto. He probably thinks puddles were invented for him. Big ones, small ones, deep ones, shallow ones, he’s in them all.



The other day he was out in the rain with a pal who had less appropriate puddle-jumping footwear – Mtoto wears his fleece-lined winter boots. Mtoto’s friend kept finding puddles and shouted to Mtoto that he should jump in them. Mtoto duly obliged. Cue glee all round.

I’m all for encouraging Mtoto’s love of puddles. It means that he’s excited to go out in the rain – whereas lots of children get conditioned to dislike the rain. Just think about all the negative connotations us adults give to rain, “bad weather”, ” mucky rain”, “a terrible day” and so on. It’s hardly a surprise that our kids don’t like wet weather!


Tall tall Duplo tower

Guess what we made today? Yes, you have probably already guessed from the headline – a Duplo tower.

In the past, this would have been a normal day at “the office”, but since we moved onto regular Lego when Mtoto turned three the Duplo has hardly had a look in.

After two days of full-time stay-at-home fathering, plus every spare hour spent on voluntary work, I needed a slow start to the day. We spent a good chunk of time reading and laughing at Mr Men and Little Miss stories this morning, then after breakfast we got down to business.

Duplo bricks are great fun for toddlers, but compared to Lego they feel quite basic, clunky and uninspiring. But that was what we needed today – some mindless ground.


Of course, things don’t always turn out like that. First we both built towers as tall as Mtoto. It was satisfying but not challenging. And the need for mindless activities evaporated into a new challenge – a tower as tall as me.


Once that was done, we realised that the sky, or rather the ceiling, was the limit. After one false start we did it, with a tower just short of the ceiling. Considering that I’m working largely one-handed, it felt satisfying to complete the challenge.


The tower was approximately 130 storeys high and rather bent up top. And that was the basis for some interesting conversations about buildings, gravity and balance – after all, every day is a school day.


Finally we went online to learn how tall Duplo towers get. While the Lego records are frequently challenged and well-documented (over 35 metres tall) you have to dig around a bit for Duplo. On the record setters website some guy has a tower around 2.6 metres tall, which is similar to our tower. But that’s only the half of it. On Ben Akrin’s  blog, Ben shows a tower he and his kid made that was over 5 metres tall and he includes a great video of a tower being knocked over – Mtoto loved watching it!


We spent the rest of the morning playing train tracks, Duplo, animals and Winnie the Pooh stories. And this afternoon we are going on an adventure.

Oh and our tower came down, gleefully pushed over by Mtoto.

Cloud in a jar

Today Mtoto and I became home scientists and we made our own clouds. Really we did loads of things but this was our special experiment.

I found the instructions for this in a book, but there are loads of examples online, it turns out.

We used:
An empty gherkin jar
Hot water
Ice cubes
Food colouring

We got the hairspray especially (around 4 CHF in the Coop) but everything else was in stock already. We usually buy our food colouring from our local Migros.


I boiled the water in the kettle and got the ice cube rack out of the freezer. I poured lots of water into the jar and added way too much colouring. Really you only need the water to be 2-3 cm deep and it doesn’t have to be as hot as boiled. You also only need a few drops of food colouring.

I sloshed the water around in the jar, then put its lid on upsidedown. Once I had shown mtoto how to get the ice out of the tray he loved taking responsibility for that job and he carefully placed each cube on the upturned lid.


Then I removed the lid and I sprayed hairspray into the jar and put the lid back on.

Mtoto was amazed by the clouds and loved watching them swirling around in the jar. Some escaped and we were both excited to see the clouds rise. Mtoto was soon in charge of spraying the hairspray into the jar, though I had to help him by holding the can.


We talked about safety issues such as not spilling the water and not spraying hairspray near anyone’s faces.

It was also a great opportunity to talk about how clouds form and Mtoto does ask a lot of questions, so it was a satisfying experiment. So satisfying that we repeated it to show L when we had the play dough out after dinner tonight.

In case you’re wondering, adding hot water to the jar crests warm moist air, which rises and is cooled by the ice above the lid. Then it needs a surface to condense onto to become cloud droplets and the hairspray provides this. As the warm air rises and the cool air sinks, it makes a swirling effect.

It wasn’t clear what the colouring does – perhaps it helps make a colourful contrast between the water and the cloud.

I am the crazy man skipping down the street

We were skipping along the road. We didn’t have skipping ropes so Mtoto said we had to wave our arms about in the air, as if we had skipping ropes. So this is what we did.

Of course, I have one arm in a splint at the moment, so I must have been quite a sight as I leapt about, waving one arm in the air. Especially to the man who came out of an apartment block and almost collided with me.

Momentarily, I stopped jumping and waving my arms around. But then I realised that I didn’t care what this man thought of me but I do care about having fun with Mtoto and feeding his imagination. I gave the man a smile and then I carried on with my crazy dance down the street.

In Geneva we never get tired of the mountains

Today we had lunch with some friends who live on the 9th floor of an apartment block in Grand Saconnex. I spent a lot of time looking out of the window to the snowcapped Jura mountains. Wow!


There’s something that you should know about living in Geneva – in 17 months I haven’t met anyone who has become tired of looking at the mountains. Sure, people miss where they came from and lots of people move on, but those majestic mountains stay.



Mategnin is one of those places that you would probably would never know was there, unless you looked for it. Around 10 minutes walk from the end of the 14 tram route at Meyrin Graviere, Mategnin is a Pro Natura managed nature reserve.

We have been there several times, me and the boy. We have seen Great White Egrets, Grey Herons, Teal, Mallards, Nuthatches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, mice and more.

Despite the delightfully long boardwalk, the semi-hide and the information signs, Mategnin isn’t ultimately a destination in itself, but somewhere we go when we are going somewhere else, like Meyrin, CERN or PrĂ©vussin.

So it was today, when we were off to see friends for lunch over the border at Prevussin. We stopped off in Mategnin and saw Jays, Mallards, a Grey Heron, a Wren, Robins, Chaffinches and a Nuthatch.
Once we were out the other side of the boardwalk we enjoyed the “no unicorns” sign, which must mean that unicorns are allowed everywhere else, right?

We also saw a car from Andorra and an old Prefect car in Meyrin, adding to the oddities of the day.