Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Babies, summer, mojo

My baby is growing up. Jack left nursery school for the last time today. We went to get him a uniform for next year, when he's starting in primary one. It was a shock seeing my little baby in uniform. He only just turned five! I know it's trite, but time goes so fast. It goes even faster when they start skipping grades. (He skipped one when he was three.)

He's obviously ready. He's teaching himself to read, and he's been able to do maths to a reasonable standard for a while now. Marie is also demanding she be allowed to go to school now, but she has to wait until September 2010.

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Summer is here, and the weather is making me drowsy. I feel like it is taking my writing mojo. I think I will have to write at night, or drink more alcohol or something. Perhaps I should take questions from the floor. Perhaps not.

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I've noticed I should do a couple of updates.
* My computer seems to have survived. Big relief!
* May is doing well after her surgery. She likes the result, and is up and about. She is in quite a bit of pain, but I suppose that was to be expected.

Monday, 29 June 2009

General alarm!

A piece of advice: do not act silly with a toddler in your lap, a glass of wine in front of you, and your laptop (!) open in front of that. Bugger.

I love that laptop. It's my friend. I've only had it for a few months.

I'm keeping everything I have crossed that it's ok. I'm leaving it to dry out until tomorrow, then I'll see if it's still working.

We are not amused.

Busy summer

You know how in February you're thinking "I wish I was going out" or "it's been a while since..." and you get really bored with the sheer drudgery of life? (No? Well, I do.) Then in summer, everything is just the opposite. In-laws coming to stay, parties to go to, children to ferry around. Lovely. Tiring. Better than dull.

I forced the in-laws to come to my choir concert at the weekend. They were hardly going to say no. They were staying in our house and everyone else was going. My poor father-in-law was so jetlagged he could hardly stay awake.

I did love the concert. Cute little church, songs about nature and flowers, the loveliest people in the audience and the choir. The children got to go on a nature walk first, and there was a little party afterwards. The perfect thing to do on a Sunday morning.

Choir is my very own thing. I can be an adult, speak with other adults, leave my children in the care of very responsible non-choir members - it's a winner. Also, I don't know how this happened (because it sure doesn't happen in all choirs, and I know) but all the people in it are just lovely.

Then at night we all had a barbecue and I was out until the wee hours, so now I'm thinking I may want to proofread this later. I do like being busy. Now I just have to get the occasional hour of sleep.

What do you love doing to bring you back to yourself? For me, it's choir and exercise just now.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Goodbye

My grandmother died in the night. She had a good, long life, and lots of family. She was sick the last few days, but then died in her sleep. Four of her five children managed to be there.

All week, I was sure I was seeing omens. All the deaths. Then yesterday evening, a dead blackbird in the garden.

It's not sinking in.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The age of obituaries

I'm getting all freaked out by the news. All week the news in Belgium has been of people dying. First, there was this Belgian politician who fell off his ladder in his orchard. Then there was a TV presenter who killed herself. Then we get Farah Fawcett, and then Michael Jackson. All week, all we have been getting is obituaries.

At first, I had this vague feeling that something was going terribly wrong. Having thought about it, though - this was to be expected, and is bound to get worse. With the complete overload of celebrity culture, we are now reaching the time when all these celebrities are going to start dying. If thousands of people are famous, then it's news every time one of them drops off their perch. We should be expecting the age of fame to be replaced by the age of the celebrity obituary.

It will be interesting to see how the media respond to this, though. Are they going to stop the presses each time? Are personal tributes going to constitute half of the news? Perhaps a separate section will be added to radio and TV news programmes: after the sports news, but before the weather, we will get the celebrity obituaries. That's when celebrity culture comes to bite us all in the ass because it will be too depressing.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Oh the drama

So we had some high drama over at casa de Mwa today. Summer has finally arrived (26 degrees and I'm already too hot - pathetic, I know) and Jack's long hair was getting too annoying. He was all itchy and sweaty. I offered to cut his hair, and HE AGREED (this is important) so I got the clippers and the scissors out and made him all pretty and ready for summer.

That's what I thought, at least. Apparently, I had made him hideous and he could never go to school again. There were tears. Blame was apportioned (to me). This was all while he was home from school for his lunch, so were kind of on a drama-clock. He was so worried he was going to be laughed at, it was just awful. I managed to calm him down with stories of when I was bald (I was for a bit - it was a fashion choice and I stand by it), and a cola lolly.

He was still shaking when he went back to class, but of course no one laughed at him. Most of the kids never even noticed he got his hair cut because they were too excited. They were about to go play with water guns in the playground and they were all getting into their bathing suits. Which five or six year old is going to take a break from that to laugh at a boy's haircut? A boy's very short and normal haircut at that.

The only comments he got were from adults and they all really liked the haircut. He has now decided he likes it a bit anyway, and I have been forgiven.

I think we're going to have some issues with him when he's a teenager. He's not even five yet and we already have fashion dramas. Actually, if anyone out there knows of a way to make a child worry less about being laughed at, please share! I have tried all kinds of reasoning with him, and nothing has worked so far.

Of course, now that I cut Jack's hair I have to cut Babes' hair, too. Bum. We have a standing argument where he wants me to cut his hair and I tell him to go see a hairdresser. He always, always, always finds a cunning way around this. Only this time he didn't need to, because I provided it for him. Sigh.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

One long holiday

I met one of my ex-colleagues today and was chatting quite nicely until I got that killer line again: "You're still at home? That's nice, you have an eternal holiday." I don't understand why that line is always necessary. I get that all.the.time. Yes, I am at home with the children. Yes, I was sitting next to the playground reading my newspaper. Does that an eternal holiday make? Not quite.

I am so tempted to go back to work in September. I have been offered the perfect job. It is part time, it is doing what I want, and it is two streets away. It's perfect. I would love it. BUT! Big but(t)! (Hihi.) It would involve sticking Marie in the creche more than she's ready for, and letting Jack go to this after school thing where they basically dump them in the playground and then... nothing. Which I'm not doing.

When I was teaching a couple of days a week, before I had Marie, the hours at work felt like the holiday. I got to interact with adults. I got to teach interesting stuff. I got to take BREAKS. Don't get me wrong - I feel privileged and happy to be home with the kids. I wouldn't have missed out on this for anything. However, it is not all a happy holiday, and it can be tough going sometimes. The reason I was at that playground in the first place was because I was slowly losing my mind at home...

(Yes, I realise this is a standard SAHM blog post. Humour me. It's what's on my mind today. I should have kicked the guy.)

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Surgery and chickens

Today, I spent most of the day in hospital with my friend May. I mentioned before that she was getting a tummy tuck, and today was the day. I picked her up at seven outside her house, in plenty of time to get to the hospital. On the way I ran out of fuel but we were still early. That's when being overly punctual comes in handy.

At the hospital, May was registered and shown to her room by a couple of very unfriendly hospital staffers. Luckily the nurses were much nicer. The surgery was scheduled for half past twelve, so we had a lot of time to kill. It seemed like I was more nervous than her. When I went to get some lunch, she even fell asleep.

I had to have a little chat with the nurse. The other day, May told me quite matter-of-factly that the last time she had a general anaesthetic, they couldn't get her to go to sleep at first, and after the surgery they couldn't wake her up. She woke up with a nurse literally sitting on top of her, shouting her name. I'm having a hard time accepting anyone would have elective surgery after that, but there you go. She also shared with me that she saw chickens everywhere afterwards and told her (then) husband to get off the floor.

Apparently, the first bit of information was to be shared with the nurses, the second wasn't (oops), but both are allowed on my blog. (May is a big supporter of my new blog life. All day, she went "This would be so funny on your blog" every time we laughed about something.)

The surgery kept being moved to a later time. This surgeon apparently makes everyone come in at the same time in the morning, and then he just picks and chooses who he will operate on throughout the day.

Eventually, a nurse came to do some kinky stuff. She shaved certain areas and did an enema with a crane driver outside the window looking on. (Yes, I was told to blog that, too - the woman has no shame.)

After that, I tried out the remote controlled bed while May was in it. This was entertaining for a while. I did not know you could practically fold it in half, with the person still inside it. (Straight back, bum low, knees high - very funny.) Also, these things can go really high up. Of course, the control freak in me was loving using my friend as a marionette.

After one o'clock, they finally came to take her to surgery. First, she was fitted with some very becoming anti-embolism stockings and a backless gown. The upside was that this left her bum free for a shot of happy drugs.

The surgery itself took forever, but now I've been told it all went fine. Another friend is with her just now, and tells me May is in quite a bit of pain. She's going to be fine, though - so I'm happy. I spoke to May on the phone, and she doesn't sound very happy at all, but then who is when they've just had THAT done to them. (We've all seen it on TV, right?)

Tomorrow, I will be there for the start of visiting time.

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The kids were with my lovely sister An and her man today and obviously had the best time ever. I keep being told about playgrounds and ice creams and trips on public transport. They were only there for less than 24 hours! And it was An's birthday. (Happy birthday!!!) They're so going there again. After I get to have her for a bit to take her out for a nice birthday dinner.

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I just got a phonecall from May, on her mobile, to tell me that her boyfriend, who is overseas and in the military, can only come to visit tomorrow because today there wasn't enough space in the hospital parking lot for his plane or helicopter. Methinks she is high on drugs.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Sunday's finally over (just)

What a fucking waste of a Sunday. I hate days without a plan. I like predictability, routine, and a really solid PLAN! I will put up with unscripted deviations, but they need to involve friends, alcohol and food. In fact, I love that kind of interruption of my routine. BUT! Hanging around the house? That I loathe. (At the weekend only. I can really enjoy a spot of gardening during the week.)

The lovely Babes goes out to work all week, and sees lots of adults and has lots of planned things to keep him occupied. At the weekend, he can faff around for hours, baking and playing with the children. I appreciate his need for this. I do. And I appreciate and love him for doing it. But fuck me, it's boring.

I want fireworks, I want outings to the zoo. Even a little outing to the park will do, as long as we can take the kids' bikes and a picnic. As long as there's ... A PLAN! (You're getting the general idea, I suppose.) All week, I do housey things, in the understanding that the weekend will bring escapist delight.

Now, I know I can make this happen. And I do. I have a weekend strategy which I use most weeks. I get up and go "Darling, I am going to [Someplace] with the children and [Names of family or friends]. Would you like to come?" And he tends to enjoy these outings, so we're all good.

Today, somehow, I forgot to put my weekend plan into action, and what do I get? Boredom, that's what. I ended up doing the bloody washing. I kept going back to bed with a book, just to stop myself scratching my own eyes out. I changed my clothes three times. It was positively mind-numbing. I managed to escape briefly when I went to the bakery for some bread. At least the other three inmates had fun.

Now I should go to sleep because I just noticed I have to get up in five and a half hours. You know, I have a solid plan for tomorrow. Until four thirty I am doing exactly what I did last Monday. Bliss. And after that, I'm going to see my lovely sister An (the one from that lovely picture). I know it's going to take me hours to get there because of all the roadworks, but at least I have a plan. Which is going to make me very happy.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Elephants

You know that feeling when thoughts invade your head? And they bring elephants and they build camps, and then they have fires and cook over them, and you know they're never going to leave until they've won?

My head's like that today. The thoughts are of the shitty kind, and they've brought elephants. I hate it when that happens.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

56 star tattoo

Did you hear about this Flemish girl?


This 18 year old has been in the news over here because she claims she went to have three stars tattooed on her face, and came out with 56. She says she fell asleep and the guy kept going. I'm too stunned to even comment.

Extra:
This is the guy who tattooed her:


He says the girl agreed to everything and is crying wolf now daddy is angry.

At least the kids seemed to enjoy most of it

Whatever you do, do not have a three hour birthday party for about a thousand five and six year olds. I only invited about ten, but that didn't include my own kids, and then I forgot some children, and then some brought siblings, and Jack's cousin was unexpectedly able to come. I ended up with seventeen kids there! Seventeen! 17! Aaaargh!

Luckily, I had been smart enough not to invite them to our house. There's this place in our street, right next to Jack's school, which has an indoor play contraption. They do pancakes and ice creams, and I am so grateful they exist I'm considering lobbying for a national holiday in their honour. And this being Belgium, they even serve beer! (I only had a couple of small ones - I didn't think the parents would appreciate it if I was legless when they came to collect their children, even though it would have made the whole process more bearable for me.)

There were tears. There were bodily fluids. There was fighting. I had to interfere when the boys complained that the girls wouldn't stop kissing them (yes, still that old problem) and when the girls complained that the boys wouldn't stop trying to pull down their underpants (that's a new one to me). I'd like to say my children were good as gold, but I caught Jack pinning a girl to the wall and Marie hit a kid three years older than her over the head.

All the kids got sticky and disgusting, and they ALL wanted to sit next to Jack. Three girls cried because they couldn't sit next to him, so they had to take turns sitting opposite him. What saved me were the mothers and my lovely sister who stayed, and Babes who was there most of the time.

When I got home, I was completely wiped out. I came in, sat down on the sofa, and promptly fell asleep. Luckily I have a star for a husband. Babes cooked dinner and put the kids to bed. I only had energy left to eat some of the delicious macaroni and then lie on the sofa to watch a movie I'd seen before (Imagine Me & You* - very sweet movie indeed).

I have a renewed respect for nursery school teachers, mingled with a hint of fear, because you must be at least slightly deranged to do this job. And if you weren't to start with, it's only a matter of time once you're in the job.

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*I was looking up this movie to put a link to it, and typed into Google "about you and me", and the first answer it gave was the correct link for "Imagine Me & You". I didn't know Google came with mind reading capabilities these days. Too freaky!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Just when I come out of the closet as a lousy housewife ...

... I discover the joy of baking. I never got why anyone in their right mind would spend time and effort making something you could just go and buy in a bakery. Especially here in Belgium - bakeries are all over the place and so good. Now I get it.

The only reason I started was because I've been trying to throw out less food. I've been making soups and stews with leftover vegetables and meat. This time, I had some stale bread.

The ingredients looked unpromising at best: stale baguette left over from Sunday's barbecue, some eggs, some milk, raisins and cinnamon. However, mashed together they took on this beautiful consistency and smell (probably helped by the cinnamon).

After chucking it in the oven, the whole house smelled wonderful, and the cake started to rise. I went to check on it every five minutes or so, and every time the cake had risen, and looked slightly more golden brown. It was too exciting.

It's not so good for the diet, though. So far, bread pudding is all I have eaten since last night. Even Babes and Marie like it. Jack is refusing to eat it, because he watched me crumble the old baguette into the bowl last night. His loss.

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This afternoon marks the start of Jack's annual birthday season. His birthday is always in the last week of the school year, so his party always gets moved up a week or so because otherwise too many of his friends can't come to it. Also, the family have trouble making it to his actual birthday because they are all so busy wrapping up the school or work year.

So this year, just like the previous years, he's going to end up with three birthday parties - one for school, one for the family, and then one for the grandparents who can't make it to the family party. I think on top of that they celebrate the actual day in his class. It's all too much, of course.

I just wish I was having a good hair day for this first party, and that Marie hadn't wiped her spaghetti hands on my favourite jeans last night.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bread pudding

Just had to show you this:



That's the first time I've ever baked anything in my life!

Clean cleaner cleanest

I am not a very good housewife. The mothering thing I do with gusto and pride. The housework - not so much. I will cook, but use every shortcut in the book. I will iron, but only if Babes doesn't have a shirt left for the morning. Cleaning - great, but only if we're going to have visitors. The weird thing is, I quite enjoy it all. I get engrossed in menial tasks, and I will forget about the rest of the world. I will use it for meditation (seriously - ironing meditation is marvellous), and feel happier with the world afterwards. I just never seem to be able to get started.

My friend May and I have this arrangement where she sometimes wants a little extra cash, and I get so behind on the housework I want to tear my hair out. She happens to be a great housewife. The universe seems to do that sometimes - bring people together who can help each other out. As I'm typing this, she is vacuuming the stairs. I have been spurred into action to tidy the place and start the laundry. This always happens when she comes, because otherwise I feel too awkward with her cleaning and me sitting doing nothing. Except for that one time when I fell asleep. Woops. And except for just now, because I couldn't help going online for a minute.

I should be getting on with the laundry.

--

So now the house is nice and clean. Well, was, because the kids have been running around and I'm cooking, and life happens, right? I'm planning on doing a whole lot more laundry now, in my sparkly house. Except tomorrow I can't. And I'm not sure about Friday...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Happy Mondays

I'm quite happy today. I shall list the reasons I should be having a crappy day:

- Marie is sick (again). Green snot and teething.
- So still no sleep.
- Also no gym today, as I obviously can't take her to the creche.
- I was told yesterday that my haircut is "not so successful".
- The rain is not stopping.
- I am worried about my grandmother after seeing her on Sunday.
- I forgot to invite one of Jack's friends to his birthday party and have probably offended her mother.

The haircut comment really was my fault. I was saying to a couple of friends that I still wasn't too sure about it. They were being all careful and aah-ing and um-ing (comments like "it's a bit messy"), when another friend walks up and did the "not so successful" thing. While that was perhaps not entirely called for, I think I might owe him an apology for calling him a "mushroom head" (his hair was looking a bit large on his smaller head).
I was tired. I was offended. I will apologize.

I shall now list the reasons why I should be having a good day:

+ I quite like rain, and the clouds are not too dark.
+ Jack and I went to the park on Saturday, and by the end of it he could ride his bicycle all by himself. Starting and stopping and all.
+ On Sunday, my grandmother came to my house. The children played with her, we ate together, and she obviously enjoyed it.
+ I am reading this book:

(Is too one for the happy list.)

+ Marie is having a good nap.
+ She's also being lovely, in spite of being sick.
+ And she's talking so wonderfully, it's quite entertaining to be around her.
+ I am having a warm mug of tea.
+ Tonight, I'm going out for a meal with a new friend. (An old new friend - we have known each other for a few years now, but we've never done anything on our own.)
+ My sister is nearly finished with her endless exams, so we'll get to see each other more soon.
+ I am fixing the birthday party faux pas today. Luckily I noticed it on time.

You see how the good list is way longer than the bad list? Good day. I'm off to read my lovely book with another mug of tea.
Y'all have a good Monday now!

I NY

Quite a few years ago - I think it was in 2002 or 2003 - I decided to enter a whole lot of online competitions. This was before the whole world was online, entering online competitions. It was the first and only time I did this, but I won a great prize that day: a plane ticket to New York.

So off I went in November, on my own, for four days in the big apple. Before I left, I'd booked a "room" in a hostel on The Bowery. It turned out to be a cubicle with a two foot wide berth, but I didn't go there to sleep anyways, so that was fine. When I went to put my luggage away, I was told to go right at the top of the stairs, because to the left was the homeless hostel. All the inmates of that place mingled in the reception/sitting room, and it was a really nice atmosphere because real New Yorkers were staying in the hostel to the left, while young travellers were staying to the right.

I loved the feel of New York when I was there. I'd been told before I went that it was a dirty and dangerous city, and that the people were not very friendly, but I did not find that was true at all. I was told by a lot of people that it was because of 9/11 that the whole city pulled together, and also that Giuliani had cleaned up the city. All I know is that I felt safe, even at night in ABC city and on the Subway, and that everyone I met was genuinely friendly.

While I was there, I wanted to get all I could out of the experience. I made my jetlag work for me and got up before six in the morning and got to bed by nine in the evening (figuring these might be good hours to keep for a girl on her own in NY). I walked absolutely everywhere, only using the Subway once, and then only because that was another NY experience I wanted to cross off my list.

I spent the better part of a day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Did you know they have a whole Egyptian temple in there? I was gobsmacked. Every hall I went into was more amazing than the one before. By the time I got to the Flemish masters, I was so tired I just skipped them. This means I have to go back sometime, of course. I spent at least half a day in the Museum of Natural History.

I ate my way through New York: a real New York diner for home fries, a jewish one for Matzoh ball soup and a turkey sandwich (more like a turkey tower - I think there was a whole rafter in there (I looked it up: a gaggle of geese, a rafter of turkeys)). Then of course I had to eat in China Town, where I had the most amazing meal ever for about two dollars as I seem to remember. Little Italy was MUCH more expensive, but then I only went there for dessert. Every day. Sometimes twice. Cream cakes and eclairs. Mmm. Oh, and then there were the bagels, of course.

I also drank my way through New York (not quite what you think): I discovered that if my feet needed a rest, no one would bother me if I sat reading and writing in Starbucks for a couple of hours, having bought only one bottle of water. (I should look up that travel diary sometime and see if my memories match what I wrote.) Actually, I also met up with some Flemish friends who also happened to be in New York one night and that night we drank more than just water. We went to a very hip wodka bar where all the waitresses were impossibly pretty in little black dresses. I just sipped a glass of Margaux - mostly.

Of course, I did the shopping districts, cool little cafes in Greenwich, Manhattan, not the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island (another thing I have to go back for). I saw huge birds of prey in tiny city parks and hordes of joggers in Central Park (I looked it up: gaggle of geese, horde of joggers), I heard only Spanish in my Subway carriage, and every possible other language in the world out on the streets. I went book shopping and gawked at diamonds in Tiffany's. Overall, four days well spent, I would think.

One morning, as the guidebook suggested, I was first in line to visit the Empire State Building. I rode the elevator up, and when I got to the top I was happy I bought a woolly hat in Greenwich Village. Even though it was a very warm November day, it was still November in New York, on top of the Empire State Building. (How cool - I know.) That is where I bought the only souvenir I brought back: an I NY mug for Babes. He's not been yet, but I will take him sometime and he's definitely going to it. That mug is sitting next to me just now, waiting for another batch of tea. I never really got the point of souvenirs until just now.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Forget about Friday

The sun is out for the first time this week, and it's not raining for five minutes. Which should be great and I should be out making the most of it. But I am TIRED. Now I started this blog thinking I am relatively witty and entertaining (not to mention modest and self-effacing), but no sleep makes me cranky and uninspired.

Marie decided a couple of months back that sleep is not the greatest thing ever and now she keeps waking up in the night and crying/moaning/talking. Which wakes me up. And that makes me TIRED. It started when she was sick. I would rush in there and take her temperature, drug her, change her nappy, give her a bottle. Half the time she would end up in bed with us watching the TV until her temperature went down enough for her to go back to sleep. (I know - very clever of us. You see where this is going.)

Fast forward two months and she is still miffed that we don't want to get up a couple of times a night to give her extra bottles and let her watch TV. I have decided to go in there once, to feel her forehead and make sure she doesn't have a temperature. I will tell her it's sleeping time, and then I will leave her to it. Only she's not entirely with the program and tries to get me back in there roughly once an hour in the middle of the night. She's not even that upset about it, she just moans at me. I hope she stops this soon.

She's getting plain old cow's milk at night just now. Perhaps I should change to a thicker kind of formula to make her sleep better. Any other suggestions? (I'm not willing to try drugs or alcohol. For her, I mean - I'll happily have a beer.)

She's in the creche today, and Jack is at school, so I think I might just catch up on a couple of hours of sleep.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Navel gazing

Recently, I was flipping through a friend's magazine and found it filled with adverts for wonder diet pills. What amazed me most was this picture:


I prefer the 'before' picture. She just looks happier there. Being naturally thin is fine, but how much effort must it take to stay that shape if that's not what your body wants to do? And how many pills, probably. Did Stacey really need to lose 31 pounds? With good diet and exercise, Stacey might have been happier to lose 10 pounds and still be allowed the odd slice of cake.

Body image has been on my mind recently, what with trying to lose a bit of weight myself, and also because a good friend of mine is about to go and have herself some plastic surgery. (I'm worried about her. I do understand, though - if something bothers you enough to make you unhappy, you may as well change it and be happy.)

I have The Belly Project in my newsfeed. It's a website, started by a midwife and a sex educator, which shows all kinds of bellies, and which aims to make women realise that bellies are all different, especially after bearing children. It's fascinating. I was thinking of those pictures the other day, when I heard on the radio that in Madagascar (I think it was there, but I can't find this information on the internet anywhere) the concept of beauty is very different. Women with large bellies and stretch marks are considered very beautiful there. I suppose there thin women will feel left out and will go on fattening diets.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Normal services temporarily interrupted

My dear internet - there is going to be a post here today. It's just that I'm having a bit of a "discussion" with the old husband to see just how personal I can get.

Have you had this problem? Please tell me how you sorted it! I am to-and-froing between "I'm talking about his life, too, so he should have a say" and "to hell with it, I'm allowed to say what I want on MY OWN BLOG".

So, that's where I am today. Any opinions or advice very welcome. Actual post coming soon...

Update: The hubby won. But only because he is wise and because he was right. (I hate it when that happens.)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Happy days

Of course anyone within earshot of the internet already knows about this, but I have to add how happy I am for Xbox and ET. Just have to. As it's been my main only thought all day.

Because it's been my only thought all day, all I will add is a conversation by Jack (4 1/2) and his cousin (6) at the weekend.
Jack: something something "... praying ..."
Cousin: "What's praying?"
Jack: "I can show you. Let's go upstairs and pray."
... and off they went.
I fought the urge to stop him and give him a lengthy Q&A accompanied by spiritual and philosophical musings on the sense or nonsense of prayer in various religious and humanistic traditions.

Honestly, tomorrow I plan to have other thoughts, too. Go Xbox!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Too sexy for their hair

I've been needing (badly needing) to go to a hairdresser for a while now. Today, I finally got the chance. This, I can tell you, is a treat for many a woman, but it acquires just a little more importance if you don't often get gratuitous pamper-time. And if you are prematurely gray like I am.

Anyways - I went to a local hairdresser and I was told there would be at least a two hour wait. This would not do. I then drove into Antwerp, thinking I'd go to some funky hairdresser and get the best haircut ever. I went to this place I know from a few years ago (when I was still funky and young). I walked in there, and straightaway I got the "up and down" look. I should have turned around and left at this point.

I told them I wanted a colour and a cut, and they sat me down. At this point, I asked some advice on which colour and which cut they might think was suitable. The rolled eyes! The "don't you know what you want"s! I even got two "you're not the type of person to want this"es when I mentioned a style I like. (Those really pissed me off.) I was getting a tad crabby by this point. The guy started to put Vaseline around my hairline (prevents my skin from becoming all brown) and got a girl to come with a colour chart.

Then, together, they started badmouthing my old hairdresser (the lovely Toni) who used to work there. I told them I wasn't sure which colour I wanted, and could they maybe advise me on my new hairstyle, and maybe the colour as well. They told me that colour has nothing to do with hairstyle, and they'd just make my hair a chocolate colour if I couldn't be bothered to pick a colour. The girl walked off with a huge speechbubble over her head saying "whatever, old lady" to get the hair colour.

By this time, I was fuming. I told them I'm a customer and I want some advice, so could they please at least be polite. The girl's reply? "The customer may be king, but we are the emperor." (I kid you not.) Now both of them were telling me that something personal must have happened to me before I walked in the shop, and they can't help it if I have personal issues. Yes, seriously. My hair was all brushed out by now, and my head covered in Vaseline, but I just walked out. I told them they should not treat people this way. I don't think they got it.

One good thing that came out of this: not much further into town, I found my lovely old hairdresser Toni, who gave me a great haircut, and never once implied I wasn't cool enough for his shop. I think I know why he left the other one, though.

(Also: While I was getting my hair coloured, the girl from the other shop walked by and laughed at me!)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Sisters


That there is a picture of my sister and I. I am on the left, my sister is sitting on my lap. I ADORE this picture. It is one of the few where we both look happy, and - even better - happy to be together.

Tonight she came to my house for tortillas. We had a wonderful, cava-fuelled time. She's recently been crocheting around pictures she loves (as seen in the picture above). We were talking about the time that picture was taken. Both of us had to dig around in our brains to find a time when we actually got on. In the end, we decided that we did present a unified front to the outer world, it's just that in private, we made each other's lives hell. I used to think what she did was much worse: she used to kick me and mess with my mind. Now, I realise what I did was at least as bad. I used to just ignore her and treat her like a lower life form. (And kick her, too.) For a little sister, that kind of treatment cannot be good.

When we were around eighteen years old (she's only sixteen months younger), we went on a family holiday to France. There, somehow, we started to fight first, and then to talk, and all the old hurts came out. I still love the memory of that holiday, even though I've never had a holiday that involved so much crying and so many upsets. Since then, she has become simply the best friend I could have in the world, and there is nothing I don't share with her. It's such a waste that we couldn't be each other's allies growing up. Especially in the tougher times we could have helped each other through.

When we visit our parents, we still sometimes fall into our old patterns - get annoyed with each other, stop trusting each other to be kind. I do the same when I go there on my own: I revert to my eight year old self and get hurt by small comments, feel unable to stand up for myself, get too vulnerable. I suppose as long as I can't fix that for myself (and she for herself), we will keep having the same problem. Until then, maybe we should see each other all the time on our own, and be more careful with each other when we go to see the folks.

Don't you just love that photo?

Friday, 5 June 2009

Relief!

I had a great day! It was always going to be, because I finally got out of the house. Jack went to school and Marie went to the creche. She goes twice a week, to "socialise" her (really so I don't go stark raving mad by getting some time to myself).

The day didn't start off too well because I locked myself out, with the nearest key half an hour away at my mother's. Strangely enough, it didn't bother me that much, not even having to stand around in the street for half an hour. Must have been the sheer relief of getting the day off sick duty. After that whole situation got sorted, though, I went to town with a girlfriend - let's call her May - and it was absolutely great. May is an American, and my only stay-at-home mum friend. (I have other girlfriends, only the fashion in Belgium is to work as soon as you can after popping 'em out.) We had lunch in a great cafe, went shopping - great day.

May is the funniest person. Today, I tried to talk her out of getting her new boyfriend's name tattooed on her lower back. (She gave me permission to write about this.) I am the kind of person who doesn't even have pierced ears. I like wild and wonderful clothes and hair sometimes (I had a Mohican for a while about eight years ago), but I like it all to be reversible.

I was educated in the ills of the tattoo by a wonderful ex-army guy in Cambridge, who said that the eagle on his chest looked really sexy when he was in his twenties, but not so much nearing his seventies. I've told May this story, but she seems very determined. I have won her over on the other point though, and she is now not including her new boyfriend's name. She is wanting a small Tinkerbell in American colours. She's convinced she will still like this when she's old and grey. I sure hope so. I have never liked a pair of shoes for more than five years.

May asked me to go with her to have the tattoo done, which I'm sure will be a whole other post. When she had her nose pierced a few months back, I also went with her and I can already tell you she does not like pain.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Who ever thought an American president would make me smile this much?

I was listening to parts of Obama's speech in Cairo, and reading the transcript online. That man is so beautiful and intelligent! And good at what he does! I secretly hope he can fix the world a little.

The children and I have been Obama fans for a while now. Just after his election, we were going through the magazine aisle of the local supermarket when all of a sudden Jack (not even four and half by then) goes "Look, mama: it's a picture of Obama, the new President of America", to which Marie (eleven months at the time) replies with a heartfelt "Obama! Obama!" We got some funny looks. For the inauguration, we had a little party, just the three of us, with bread sticks and cherry tomatoes. On election night, I had to go to sleep because the results were going to come in way too late, but I woke up in the middle of the night and went to check the outcome.

I can't even believe it myself how much hope and passion that man stirs up in someone like me. I don't even live over there. And I'm meant to be all cynical about politics, like all Flemish people, and definitely about American politicians. My friends think I'm some kind of freak. The Flemish part of my brain is embarrassed about my gushing - but then again, I decided a while back life's too short to be cynical about everything.

We need someone to stir up our politics a little, too. We have Flemish and European elections on Sunday, and no one seems to care too much about them, except for journalists and people who want to vote for extreme right parties who promise to "kick out foreigners" (by which they mean people who look different and aren't rich). Strangely enough, all Belgian adults are forced to care a little, as elections are obligatory around here. That's right - everyone has to turn up, and you can be punished if you don't. So, while in the rest of Europe a turnout of less than 50% is expected, we will all go and vote.

Being a bit freaky and uncynical about the whole democracy deal, I went to volunteer for voting duty. They need people to check the voter lists, help with the computers and what not, and they never have enough people who want to do this. I did not get called up! I can't believe it. I don't have a criminal record or anything.

The one good outcome is that I can now take the children with me when I go to vote. On the way there, I will tell them both about the importance of the democratic process (you can never start this too early). Then I will let them watch me vote and explain what I'm doing. For Jack, this is the third time he has to go through this, poor thing.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Internet fever

I wake up in the morning and I find I'm trying to perfect a turn of phrase. In the shower, I'm debating if my dearest internet would be interested at all in what we're about to have for breakfast. (Probably not.) At said breakfast, I internally dare the children to say something funny. When they sit playing quietly on the mat, I wish they were doing something more photogenic. My heart sinks when I find I have NO readers at all. (My hit counter was broken.) I go outside to do some gardening and take my camera, just in case I write about it later. I play with the children and photograph the result. (Must try not to do that too much.) When I go to check my blog, my heart jumps when I find I have a comment! I want to be so witty in the reply, but keep worrying I will be misunderstood and my few readers will never return.

Internet fever got me good.

I gotta get outta here


Jack's still sick, but we're making the best of it. The last few days have seen such delights as a banana and chocolate spread sandwich fest, kid's movies on repeat and speedbuilding wooden towers (with Jack) before they get knocked down (by Marie). He's looking better, so hopefully he's back at school tomorrow, or at least able to leave the house, because the weather is so nice it's just torture to stay in. I have made the terrace outside child-proof so Marie can play outside while Jack lies on the sofa, but I need to go out and see some adults.

The kids have this YouTube video (the Muppets' "Mahnahmahnah") which they find hugely entertaining, and which I have become ever so slightly tired of (I've probably seen it more than a hundred times). You can find it here if you're entertaining a sick kid just now. The reason I am including it, is that I'm hoping for some hints to diversify the repertoire around here a bit. Do you know any other videos that might keep a one and four year old entertained without turning my brain entirely to mush? They like music, dancing and "people hurting themselves" (Jack's request).

During Marie's naptime, I put Jack on the sofa with a movie and I went out to do some gardening. Bliss! I found that half the garden had been colonised by these:

and these:

(definitely NOT parsley as the label so sarcastically states).
So now my garden is full of piles like these:

Only the shadier side got all the weeds. Freakish. The other side seems to only acquire more grass.

Weeding always makes me go all philosophical, thinking about why things are wanted or unwanted. I have quite a few "weeds" which I leave because I like them. For example:

This is a lovely one, but does tend to take over rather. And the kids get all orange if they break off any leaves or flowers. The first time I spent quite a while looking for the source of all the smeared blood.

Having been stuck in the house a few days with a sick kid, I'm quite happy to have had this blog to keep me entertained, but now I need to get out of the house and actually experience something other than taking care of a sick four year old, or I will (yawn, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The perfect Scottish barbecue in Flanders


That's Babes, having a barbecue in the garden last night. Just after this, there were hailstones and lightning, which also didn't drive him inside. According to him, that was a perfectly normal Scottish barbecue. After dinner (mercifully indoors) he went back out to roast some marshmallows.

Today, the weather is beautiful: blue skies, perfect temperature. I am stuck indoors with a sick child and another one demanding to be let outside. After naptime, I think I will install Jack on the sun lounger under a shady tree and let Marie play in the grass a while. It's too beautiful a day for her to miss out on.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Growing up too fast

It's been worrying me lately how much more complicated life is for my children than it ever was for me. At a birthday party several girls age six and seven refused to have cake because they would get fat. My own son was worried the other day that eating too many crisps would make him fat. I suppose I'm not helping being on a diet myself, but I try not to talk to him about it at all, and I do eat normal portions at the dinner table. I also don't know a single child at his nursery school who is overweight, so that can't be the problem. In fact, all the children concerned are rather skinny. Luckily, with Jack the problem seems to limit itself to mild concern just now - he hasn't left a single pancake or sweet for it so far.

My immediate concern just now is this: Jack is only four and a half, but he is onto girlfriend number five (that I know of). Apparently the "in" thing at his nursery school is for the many tiny couples to go into the playhouse in the playground and kiss each other on the mouth. Now, some of the boys do not seem happy about this at all, but they go along with it because you're "meant to" have a girlfriend. (I blame it all on the girls. ;-) - Not really.) These children are four and five years old! Doesn't it seem ridiculous but also sad?

I have tried to talk to Jack about peer pressure (it's ok to be different/to say no/etc.), and have even suggested that he could wait to have a girlfriend until he is older, but I don't think any of this is registering. I'm sure it's all innocent and normal experimentation, but it does worry me a bit. Where is this going? What will they be up to by the time they are twelve? Maybe I wouldn't be so concerned if I had not been put in a girls only school until I was thirteen. It all seems so alien to me. I feel like I should do something, but perhaps this would only make it into something more than it is to him.

Any comments or advice very welcome.

Update:
I asked an expert, MaryP at It's Not All Mary Poppins, for help on this. Here's some of her response:
It's inappropriate. Your instincts are sound. I went to a mixed school, my kids went to/go to mixed schools, and this sort of stuff didn't happen before 6th grade at the earliest. Thankfully, these kids are still so young that in another year or two, things will probably go back to normal patterns, and girls will be strange creatures that boys have to put up with but aren't likely to actually play with, at least not at school with their friends around. (And the reverse for the girls.)

[..]

This play is "hot-housing" the kids: bringing sexuality into their play far too soon. Of course kids are curious, and this sort of experimentation does go on, but when it becomes part of the playground rituals, children are going to be pulled into it who are not ready and would not otherwise be interested yet. And generally? At the age of four-ish, kids are not interested.

[..]

As a parent, I'd probably [have] a conversation with the teacher. I would be very careful that it be understood that I'm not a prude, that I expect my child to develop into a sexual creature, but that I want this to happen at the appropriate pace. Thus I would try to get a commitment from the teachers to discourage this game, in a low-key, non-punitive way.

I think I'll follow MaryP's advice to talk to the teacher and I will also keep a better eye on Jack when girls come over to play at our house. No more playing on their own in his room for a while. Luckily Jack has now also decided he does not want a girlfriend any more, so I hope that lasts.

Thank you MaryP!