Global Parents: Joanna and Kristian

Let us introduce you to Joanna and Kristian. They reside in the famous university town of Cambridge, about an hour outside of London in the UK. It is here that they raise their beautiful children: their little girl named Xanthe who is just shy of 2 years and their young son named Luka who is 3 1/2 years old. Joanna, who is English, works as a Search (Recruitment) Consultant specializing in the Non-Profit sector. Her husband Kristian, who is Canadian, is a Marine Scientist running an organization called ICRAN (International Coral Reef Action Network).

We asked Joanna about what an average day is like out in their corner of the UK:

Tell us, What beautiful names! What's the origin?
Thank you! Xanthe comes from the Greek meaning 'Golden'. It is my middle name and my own father, being a classicist, discovered it. He and my mother met and married in Turkey, and in fact, it is where Kristian and I were married too! Luka's name is more commonly spelled with the letter 'C' but his version is the Eastern European version. Kristian's family is originally from Hungary. It occurs to me now that my children will always have to explain or spell their names!!

What does the morning look like around your house?
We get started anywhere from 5:30 to 7:00 am. If the kids get up earlier we usually start them with some milk before they get dressed for breakfast. During the week I usually get the kids started while Kristian gets ready for the day and then while he takes them down to breakfast I get myself ready. At the weekend, it can vary.

When you mention milk, what kind of milk do your children drink, and is there anything special about the breakfast routine in your home?
No, there is nothing special about our breakfast! We give Xanthe cow's milk and Luka drinks a fortified milk. Both kids were breast fed for about the first year, Luka exclusively and Xanthe a mixture of breast and formula.

Any reason why Luka is drinking fortified milk?
Yes, Luka has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease which affects the lungs and digestive system. He is asymptomatic at present but takes medication such as additional vitamins and an enzyme to ensure he absorbs fat from his food.

Can you tell us more?
Luka is on a high fat diet which means that things like chocolate and crisps have never been off limit. The weird thing about this is that as a result, he is not hugely interested in it! We do a lot of exercise with him which is good for his lungs so there are a lot of blowing games in particular. I don't think it is hugely different from other boys but we make sure he does something every
day. There are other things that we have to do (like clinic appointments every 3 months for check ups). CF is a bit like diabetes in that you cannot tell that the child has it so he seems completely normal. We give him an enzyme in capsule form before he eats anything with fat in as one of the effects of CF is that it is difficult to absorb fat, extra vitamins and a prophylactic antibiotic. The main concern is not getting lower respiratory infections and lots of physical activity is important - but that is not difficult with a boy.

Do your children go to school most days, or are they home schooled, etc?
Luka goes to nursery on a part-time basis and Xanthe goes to a childminder, again part-time.

Any special means of transport to and fro?
My husband takes our daughter to the childminder on the back of his bike, I take our son to nursery - I walk and he goes on a "likeabike" (bike without pedals). We try to use bikes as much as possible, otherwise it is a car!

When you speak of a bike, is it anything in particular like you might find in Amsterdam, for instance?
It's a straightforward bike with a bike seat. We have looked into the Dutch bikes with the pods at the front but they are so expensive here and we don't like the burleigh/wagon system where you pull them behind as there are not sufficient bike lanes and I know a couple of awful
stories. I think we will end up getting a Dutch bike as I hate the fact that I have to drive to pick the children up but they are very expensive and rare enough for it to be almost impossible to get one second hand.

Is Cambridge bike friendly?
Cambridge is very bike friendly with lost of bike paths and routes. However, you do also have to use roads at times.


Does Cambridge make any special effort for public things to do with kids on a regular basis (like a great children's museum, or town square, or great parks)?
I don't think anywhere in the UK, other than maybe London, has as much to do as some larger US cities. Cambridge is ok - it has some good parks and swings, a good arts theatre with children's programmes at times, children's cinema and during the year, especially in the summer, there are one-off events. What is better is the heritage houses, like the National Trust, which have great facilities, swings, farms and fantastic children's programmes. I love to be outdoors with them, enjoying all sorts of activities!

Hey, are there any special toys or books your children love that other parents may not be familiar with?
This is a tricky one! Luka is into Playmobil (airplane, knights, pirates, etc.) and Xanthe actually enjoys it too although they have very little bits! We have a huge trampoline in the garden which they both love and spend a lot of time on when the weather is good. They read all sorts of books - the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffer series are very popular here in the UK - and I tend to get lots of books that I had as a child.

We like to sometimes stereotype English children here in the USA as being well versed in foreign languages - is it true with your children that they can speak several languages without any effort?!?!
No, sorry to disappoint!!


What's the afternoon routine like around your home?
I collect the children from their respective daycare at 1 and 1.30 (except on a Tuesday when I work all day when I pick them up at 5.00 and 5.15, and on Fridays when I don't work).

Anything special for an afternoon snack?
My son usually has a glass of milk, my daughter has some water and then we have anything from bread and butter to popcorn, fruit, crisps, dried fruit, etc.

Any naps?
My son no longer has a nap. My daughter sleeps in her cot from about 1.30 to 3.30 pm.

What's the routine for evening meals? Anything special on the menu?
Nothing special or especially different I suppose. Full spectrum of meat and fish and vegetables (when they'll eat them!!). The norm is usually water or watered down apple juice. Let's just say we eat alot of Pasta!! Of course, Luka will have extra butter on his vegetables or extra olive oil on his pasta. For some reason, they like frozen peas and sweet corn, and prefer their vegetables raw or al dente if cooked....hmmm.

What's bedtime like - any special routine?
Although it is meant to be calm, it involves quite a lot of jumping on our bed, running around and laughter. We tend to give them a bath first, then milk in our room while we read stories, then bed. Our kids are in bed between 7.15 and 7.30 usually. Our son has 2 stories in his bed before having lights off, and our daughter is put into her cot with her doll.

Any ideas you had in the past that are coming back to remind you or haunt you now that you are a parent? Any special insights or comments from elders that you think about anew now that you are a parent?
I never thought I would let my children sleep in our bed but they do on occasion when they are restless! I have huge respect for my parents as I now realise how all consuming (and difficult) parenting can be! And I now understand why one or the other of them would roll over when we would wake up and get into bed with them in the morning. They were obviously trying to get a little extra sleep! Who knew...? We're still learning! It's the most all consuming, exhausting thing but also the most rewarding thing one can do obviously. We have learned that consistency in the way we deal with the children is very important - and to take time to stand back and enjoy one's children, that's important too! Sometimes you can be so involved in the day to day that you forget to enjoy them!

Thank you so much to Joanna and Kristian for allowing us a small glimpse into their life as parents. If you know of someone anywhere in the world you'd like us to focus a few questions on, we'd be happy to oblige - even if it is yourself. Our aim is to try to create a sort of informational resource based on the varied ways that parents might raise their children - not just in different cultures, but even in different neighborhoods, or different family structures. It's all interesting to us here at Nonchalant Mom. So, let us know with a quick email (put 'Global Parents' in the subject heading) and we'll follow up. The more the merrier!