Importance of Swim Lessons in The Netherlands

There is a lot of water in The Netherlands between canals, canals, lakes, rivers the sea and pools – loads of pools –  kids learn to swim safely & proficiently.   They have a standardized swimming program where kids receive diplomas A-C over the course of several years.   I have no idea what they do in the US, as our kids were too young when living there to enroll in a learn-to-swim program in our area.  Plus ours had chronic ear infections, public pools were not top choice as each time they were in a pool, they would up with an ear infection.

I know loads of friends kids who can swim – but nothing involves lifesaving skills or sailing under a tarp to the hole etc.  It’s more from point a to b.  I do know from being 3+ years in Dublin, it was really slow and took forever there.   A few parents and I complained about this before.  I understand it’s money-making but our kids took several sessions of group lessons and swam with school and I would say they are not proficient to swim to any of the levels below.  S is much better than M and I suspect will get his diplomas quicker, but with lessons hopefully both will be good swimmers soon.

We are visiting the local swimming pool this week to have our kids do a small swim session to access their swim levels and then sign up for swim lessons.  At nearly 8 and 10, they need to know how to swim.   Hotel pools and vacations will be just that much more fun when they can swim safely – especially the big slides and waves.  Might even do some sessions of private lessons during the vacation weeks, to get them going and into their diploma A.  Also, these lessons will be in Dutch, so need to see how that goes and, if necessary, we might need to take them to Eindhoven to take lessons in English.

A-B-C and 1-2-3 diplomazwemdiplomas-600x226.png

The three key national swimming diploma’s are referred to as A, B and C. They teach water safety to children and aim to instill confidence and enjoyment in recreational swimming and water sports. Most swimming schools offer the diplomas with more advanced swimming lessons to follow, called Zwemvaardigheit 1, 2, and 3 diploma.

For the first diploma (A) the children go through 4 different levels;  ‘bad A1’ for beginners, then ‘bad A2’ and so on up to ‘bad A4’. When children earn a passing grade for each element through level A4,  they receive an invitation (usually by e-mail) for the practice session for the A diploma and in one of the following weeks the children perform the official swimming exam to earn their certificate. Once a child has earned his swimming diplomas, they can take part in water sports such as synchronized swimming, surfing, diving and water polo.

During swim lessons children learn such things as swimming with their eyes open. Diploma exams require children to swim with their clothing and shoes on and they’ll need to perform such exercises as a forward-roll into the water followed by getting out by lifting themselves onto a large floating mattress unaided.

As most accidental drownings occur after a person has fallen into a canal, the exam tests realistic scenarios. For children (and adults for that matter), it is vital for them to to be able to handle underwater disorientation while dealing with the additional weight burden of clothing. During swim lessons children are taught not to panic and to react in a calm, controlled manner to maintain a safe environment while in a water setting.

The certificate A program requires a child be able to swim 50 metres using both breast and back strokes, and swim 3 meters underwater through a large ‘escape’ hole in a canvas panel. The parameters increases to 75 meters and 6 meters under water for the B certificate. The C diploma requires 100 meters of surface swimming in swimsuit and clothing with additional obstacles, the forward roll, and finally 9 meters underwater.

Children who have not earned at least a diploma A are required to wear inflatable armbands in all public swimming pools until they have earned the required certificate.  I’m sure Soren will be very embarrassed being TEN!  Most school and children’s sports clubs in The Netherlands will not let children take part in water activities until they have achieved the A, B and C diplomas.

Update:  Both kids did their assessment today at the local pool.  They’ll both be starting in group two to get proper leg techniques down, then add arms and then will be off and running in no time.   Felt good when we left – signed them up for weekly lessons.   Plus free swim in a few times a week, so I’ll join them in the pool which will only help them along.

Tis’ the day to cut down our Christmas Tree

Every December, buying our Christmas tree is a major event in our house.  Okay when I think about it more, it is ME which makes it a bigger deal than it and I love the memories it brings for me and the kids.  As a child, we never cut down our tress – we just bought  one from the local seller and brought it home and put it up.  I have no cozy memories of tree farms  and I want that for my little ones.


Our first year in Dublin, we set out on an adventure to cut down our own tree and ended up at Slade Valley Christmas Tree Farm. and it was brilliant.  The tree was lovely and I want a good experience again this year with a bit more atmosphere.  You can’t beat a real tree which we pick out, cut down and enjoy in our home.  Plus a real, freshly-cut tree looks and smells great.

Only this year we willtry a different tree farm in the Wicklow Mountains – Wicklow Way Tree Farm in Roundstone.  Their  website looks great, clearly a full campaign was put in place.  If for some reason we could not find it, there are several in Wicklow so I’m sure it would be fine.

While it seems far, the drive from our house was just over 1 hour so not bad at all and we were into the mountains.  There was a bit of snow the night before and much more expected Sunday along with the fact that Nils is heading to the US for a week, we took advantage of this one day we had to get the tree in the mountains.

Once we reached Roundstone it was very easy to find our way – these blue signs lead us right to the farm.



The farm was lovely – the staff was very friendly and informative and the instructions were clear.  Tag the tree, flag down a guy in blue and then relax and warm up while they cut down.  We parked the car and got out wellies on as the ground was very mucky and wet.  It wasn’t even 5 minutes before the kids noticed the white fluffy snow which fell last night and they were off and going crazy in it.



We walked a while trying to find the right tree… kids played with the snow while I keep searching for the right one.  A few measurements and we found one that we all liked.


After Soren watched the man cut down our tree, we had complimentary hot chocolate and minced pies & treats while we waited for our tree to be brought down from the field and a net put around it.


Overall the experience was great – we’d highly recommend this tree farm to anyone who is looking to go pick out your own tree.  The cost was very reasonable too at £8. a foot, you can choose how much you want to spend.

Only problem is that our tree this year is a bit taller than before so I don’t have enough lights to cover it so tomorrow, we’ll go buy more led bright lights to add to it.

Will post a photo when completed with loads of new glass ornaments.

And the final decorated tree.

Camping – 1st time for the kids

Now that the kids are in Beavers and Cubs and I’m hoping as an Assistant in the Beavers group, we decided to join the group for an overnight camp out.

I didn’t take many photos but as Nils was dropping us off, we did get this photo of the three budgies going in.

three budgies on our first camping trip

It was a great time had by all.  It involved an orienteering mission, games, camp fire for the Cubs, sleeping in tents (boys in one and girls in another).  I suspected a few upset kids going to sleep without their parents and in my case without me, but not a tear.   It did take them a bit longer to get to bed, I think the Cub boys were up until 12:45 am or later.
I had my own single person tent which was fine – though if I ever do it again, as i’m sure we will, I need to invest in a proper sleeping mat – perhaps a self-inflating one.  A single foam yoga type mat is just not soft enough.  The seeping bag I had was perfect!  Loads of space, cool yet warm.

While I have been camping many times over the years with friends in New Hampshire, which was really side of the road, Kangamangus Highway camping where it was a booze fest, loads of fun and we would have to put our food in the coolers in the trees to be sure we didn’t attract bears.  Those we we have never camped as a family so it was extra special and fun.   Hopefully we can convince Nils to join us if we make it a “glamping” trip in a cabin??

But the worst part is the One HUNDRED THOUSAND MIDGET BITES ON SOREN’S HEADand Maebh’s face!!! 








Fall in Ireland = Blackberry picking

Back home in New England it’s a big tradition to visit farms, go apple picking, pumpkin picking and leaf peeping and eat all things pumpkin spice in the autumn. It’s the season I miss most!! 

Here, sadly, we might spy a colourful tree and  I freak out. There is this ONE tree near the Dart station which I point out each time I drive by on the way home.   f I remember, I’ll take a photo of this poor one tree.  Weather permitting, we’re going to pop over to the Botanic Gardens next weekend – hopefully some nice leaves will be on the trees/ground.

Soren was at soccer practice, Maebh and I set off behind Deer Park and picked some blackberries.

For some reason, all the lovely bushes along Howth Celtic were crushed down by a bulldozer – not sure why but I must ask Michael next home game.


Sadly all these bushes were toppled and crushed.

I have no idea what to make with them so they are in the freezer until we decide what to do – probably a crumble.



Soren’s hair cut! :(

A week or so ago, Nils picked me up from work with both kids. Unknown to me, he had booked in a haircut for himself – which is fine but for Soren too!  Grrr…. I didn’t want his hair cut off…. still very handsome just makes him so much more grown up.

My “baby boy” is no longer a little guy but has a short haircut!  Thankfully not too short but short enough that it’s drastic enough for me to be slightly shocked. Yes, still handsome but I prefer the longer hair.

But I totally agree that his hair at Christmas was way too long!


Maebh has super long hair and I am certain he’d never allow it to be cut without my approval, so she just had plaits (braids) put in – super cute!


Maebh’s long braids


Lovely long hair


Aviva Stadium: Ireland vs. Uraguay

Yesterday we took the kids to see the friendly fixture against Uraguay as part of the 2018 World Cup series the the Aviva Stadium.   Luis Suarez played for like 10 minutes – probably part of his “contract fulfillment”.

We all first met up at the Bloody Stream for a couple pints then headed in on the DART – Howth to Landsdown Road (super easy!). Funniest thing is Soren was at a playdate earlier so he didn’t join us until the Sutton stop.

I have never been there before so was happy that we all went together.   We will do a stadium tour another time.  The stadium is beautiful, new, loads of bars, food stands.  Speaking of stands and bars – there was a rule you could not bring your beer to the stands!  They loosened up the rule in the second half.  But as I am a self-professed​ beer snob, I would not waste my money. Plus, I had two Hoegardens already at The Bloody Stream.

In order to sit together, we swapped our tickets with another coach, so our tickets were in premium section 324 which was great but the rest if the group was up in 511, we moved 1/2 way thru. There the kids would be with their pals and it made going home a lot easier.

On the DART on the way home, some of the boys were cracking us up climbing the poles and trying to do chin ups, etc. A little brother was the best!!

Great night and all was safe – there was a no bags policy in place but it was outside in the crowds which was my most uneasy period.  I did not see one armed Garda – yes, I still have strange feeling about the fact that most of our police do NOT carry guns!!  A few issues with drunk losers but thankfully that didn’t  escalate.  Anyway on the DART, no worries only laughs at the climbing monkies.

Fun time with a great group of kids and parents and awesome that we won!

Soren’s 9th Birthday Party

As Soren is crazy about football, it was only fitting to have a football birthday party at Dublin Indoor Football.  It is not too far away, various party packages (which are affordable) include time in a party room and time on the pitch.  He has been to parties here in the past and attends a weekly skills training every week here too so it was the perfect place.

Football Birthday Party

Together with Maebh, a few classmates and some of the boys from his football team, they played a couple games, ate pizza and cupcakes.   Nils was the “referee” and another dad helped being a goalie until the kids took over.



And the dab photo!  (I guess it is not ‘out’!)


Oh and the were really loud!

When he got home he went out to play with his present- a large football goal for the garden!


And as a bonus in the evening The New England Patriots won their 5th Superbowl!!