Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Middle lane hogger

Middle lane hogger! You are an irritating git!
  • Do you have delusions of grandeur, thinking your car is so big so you must stay in the middle? 
  • Do you like the feeling of cars whizzing by you on both sides?
  • Are you scared of solid white lines?
  • Are you just doing it to annoy everyone?
  • Is your OCD so bad you must, for symmetry's sake, stay in the middle lane? (Actually, I get that.)
Middle lane hogger! I don't understand you!
  • Why do you keep going 10 km/h under the speed limit?
  • Why don't you take the hint when I approach you on the slow lane, cross over two lanes to overtake you in the fast lane, then cross right back over to where I was?
  • Why do you not even move when I overtake you in the slow lane?
Middle lane hogger! Piss off!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

This attitude won't get you anywhere, young lady!

Woe is me. Oh yeah. But that's dull, so let's see if I can turn all my woes into positives, so I go skipping on through the rest of the day.
  • I'm so tired it's beyond belief, and every time I try to have a nap someone wakes me.
    → Obviously, I will sleep like a baby tonight.
  • Being the only housewife in the country is doing my head in. I feel so lonely I'm actually considering the offer to check the reading bags at the nursery school every week.
    → The fact that I haven't actually sunk so low as to accept shows that I have some way to go before I hit rock bottom. 
  • The Spring weather we've been enjoying has come to an abrupt end, which means no more lingering at the play park with the grannies and mummies on their way from work. (My fifteen minutes of "adult" conversation.) It also means no more gardening.
    → More time for the internet!
  • I have a shitload of washing and folding to do, and some ironing. Also - the living room? Ouch.
    → All these useful activities will keep me occupied this afternoon, making it less likely that I will bitch at the children or drink all that beer Babes keeps in the fridge.
  • My head is starting to hurt and it's not even two thirty in the afternoon yet.
    → I feel my head pounding, hence I am alive. Yay me!
Oh yeah, woe is no longer me. How useful. I shall skip off now.

* And then I go and check my reader and someone has nominated me for not only one, but two awards. Someone thinks I'm funny! Someone thinks I'm innovative! And that IS going to make me skip, and that HAS made my headache go away. Thank you, lovely person, whoever you are. You have made my day. And damn, now I'm going to cry. But good cry. *

** And wouldn't you know it - after all that, the sun came out, we went for a walk, the kids were lovely, we had some fruit, I made a good start on the washing and now all is well with the world. Still glad I vented - it helped a lot. **

Monday, 29 March 2010

What else aren't you telling me?

The last four days, Babes and I swapped cars. I was driving up and down to the hospital (an hour away) and I was a little preoccupied, so I took the vehicle most likely to survive a collision. Out of the blue, Babes texted me "Oh by the way, did you know your car has BBC Radio 4?" I've had that car for nearly two years, and NOW he tells me??? *tears out hair in frustration* I could not believe it.

Radio 4 is like a mythical creature to me, one that will make me happy when nothing else can. It's the pink sparkly unicorn of radio stations - all brain porn and talk fluff. I love it. Have you tried their comedy? Their afternoon plays? Their book programmes? I thought they were only to be enjoyed in the UK, or online on a quiet evening at home. Not so. Not bloody so.

I had been told Radio 4 was on LW, and since my car radio only has FM and AM, I assumed that meant no Radio 4. Until Babes was all "But LW and AM are the same thing, just on different parts of..." (that's when my brain switched off and I started to bang my head off the table in despair). No one had told me! Babes "just thought I knew." Yeah - bad thing to assume about me, about all things technical. Most of the time, I don't know. And he should be aware of that by now, especially after "copy-paste shortcutgate" and the time I found out - going down a hill in Scotland - that you CAN brake while using the clutch. (The laughs we had over that one!)

I have become completely paranoid. I'm wondering what else you're all not telling me.
  • Does the weather have a thermostat?
  • Do children have an off-switch?
  • Will doing laundry actually kill me?
  • Can I opt out of summer time?
  • Does Obama love me back?
I'm watching you!

Friday, 26 March 2010

My bed, my bush: spring tidy documented with new camera

My bed

My bush

Now excuse me for I must collapse in exhaustion.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

OCD in hospital

I spent all of today in and around a hospital because my mother was having brain surgery. No, really. She seems as well as she could possibly be after all that so let's hope she makes the full recovery we're all expecting. I won't say much more about this, it not being my surgery and all. An, bless her cotton socks and her polyester ones if she owns any which I doubt, was with me all day, and may I just say I am more blessed than her socks, cotton or otherwise, to have that woman as my sister and my friend.

One of the things that kept my mind focused today, was what I was going to blog about. And, as callous as that may seem, I chose my OCD thoughts which cannot be stopped even when I am only in the vicinity of a hospital. I've been thinking about the OCD all week and it's not that I'm scared of germs generally. When I work in the garden, I'm happy to get dirty. I let the children play in playgrounds where I'm sure cats and dogs pee regularly and they get as dirty as they like. I don't have a huge problem wiping noses or bottoms. My fear is of chemicals, invisible beams (WiFi, phones etc.), animal cooties, gone-off food and contagion. And oh my word my fear of contagion is nearly tangible in a hospital. So I was thinking of what they could do to make the likelihood (perceived likelihood, really - I know) of contagion less for me. I've started a list, but I'm sure it would be much longer if I gave it another week.
  • Antiseptic wipes should be provided as well as hand alcohol. This way I could preventively disinfect door handles, chairs and elevator buttons.
  • Chairs should never be fabric ones. (Seriously, who thought of that. Sick people sit on them. Some of them must seep stuff.)
  • The chairs should ideally be made of some kind of mesh material, minimising contact between my butt and their surface. I take less of the hospital with me when I leave that way.
  • Small elevators should be restricted to groups who belong together. People should be strongly discouraged from boarding any lift that already has a group in it. For those that do decide to join, it's only polite to hold your breath until you reach your destination. Large lifts can probably accommodate two separate groups, as long as they stay at opposite sides.
  • Hospital elevators should never ever ever have those buttons that are only activated if you touch them with warm skin. All buttons should be operable with elbows covered in sleeves, or at least with one's knuckles.
  • Anyone with a cough should stay in their room. Visitors with coughs should wear special masks. It would be nice if they could also carry rattles in order to make it easier to avoid them.
  • Hospital toilets should have completely level toilet seats. Seats with a slight slope to them make it very difficult to make the bits of toilet paper you want to sit on stay in place. This only adds to the stress of the visit. Obviously taps, soap dispensers, flushes, doors and door locks should be automatic.
  • Ideally, also, sick people should stay away.
On the way home tonight, I was exhausted in every possible way and I was so pathetically grateful for a song that came on the radio. It's by Michael Bublé and it goes
So hold on to me tight
Hold on, I promise it'll be alright
Cause we are stronger here together
Then we could ever be alone
Just hold on to me
Don't you ever let me go
Hold on to me, it's gonna be alright
Hold on to me tonight
Sometimes that's all a girl needs - someone to tell her everything will be alright. It made me realise - I've been feeling so lonely by myself all week and I was quite sad about that, but really I am the luckiest person in the world to have two rocks I can build houses on. Babes took two whole days off work so I could be at the hospital without ever worrying about the children. He makes cups of tea for me, goes to the shops and keeps the world ticking over while I need a break from it. He's the one who will let me hold on to him and who will tell me everything will be alright. And then there's An, who is also always there if I need her and who will make me laugh and think and be okay on an otherwise shitty day like this. I'm the luckiest girl alive. And now I must go to bed before I make you all barf with my new-found soppiness.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Raising kids bilingually

I know a lot of you out there are in the same situation as us, trying to raise your children in two (or more) languages at the same time. I like reading about how you all get on with this, so I thought I would share my own experience and insights. Most of this may seem common sense/received knowledge, but never underestimate the power of repetition, right? Being a linguist, I have done a lot of research on the topic which might be helpful to others in the same situation, especially if they are not linguists themselves.

Our two languages are English and Dutch. Babes is Scottish, I am Flemish. We are living in Belgium and I'm at home while Babes goes out to work, so the children's first language is Dutch. Their English is a close second. So far - and I hope I'm not jinxing it by writing this - we've not had too many problems with either language. Jack is five, Marie is two, and both speak very well for their age, in both languages. Learning two languages at the same time seems not to have slowed them down in their language development at all.

I will admit that we are in just about the perfect situation for teaching the children this particular combination of languages. We are living in Flanders, where the children are continually exposed to both languages. Dutch (really Flemish, the local version of Dutch) is the local language. English is everywhere in the popular culture over here. Most of the songs on the radio are in English. On TV, there are lots of English spoken programmes which are subtitled rather than dubbed. Babes and I also speak English to each other exclusively, so at the dinner table or at weekends the children hear mainly their "second language." In addition to this, I am trained as an English teacher and I studied Dutch linguistics at university, which helps me to pick up problems quickly before they get out of hand.

The main thing the experts tell you when you look for advice on raising children bilingually, is that you must each pick one language to speak to the children and stick to it religiously, 100% of the time. At the same time, you must force the children to speak to each parent in the correct language. We have found this to be ridiculously, painfully, stupendously, true. A few years back, we were not as vigilant for only one week. Babes allowed Jack (who was two then) to occasionally use Dutch to him. By then end of the week, he no longer spoke any English. It took another couple of weeks to get back to his previous level of English.

The way to achieve this 100% consistency is not difficult at all: we both simply pretend not to understand the language when we are speaking to the children. A well-placed "Excuse me? I don't understand" works very well. (Also very successful: refusing to give food or drink until they ask for it properly in the right language. ☺ ) If they genuinely don't know a word in the other language, we will of course translate it for them, but you would be surprised how rarely that is needed. Around the age of two, when some sentences seem to come out "mixed," we will make them repeat the whole sentence in the correct language. Again, this is hardly ever necessary. If a child is particularly stubborn and refuses to speak English (this has happened before), they will magically find themselves spending the whole day exclusively with daddy. This always does the trick.

It takes a little getting used to this strict separation of languages when your first child is born (or when you make the transition if you start this regimen later on), but after only a few weeks it will feel very natural. It's worth sticking to this plan, because if you don't, the likelihood is that the "non-local" or least spoken language will lose out very quickly. Birth seems to be the best time to start, giving all parties some time to get used to it, as well as preventing bad habits from forming.

Because our children don't get to hear too much English during the day, we have some very strict rules at night: bedtime is daddy's time only. (Having stayed at home with them all day, I will admit to happily giving up this "privilege.") That means bedtime is conducted all in English, with the inclusion of nursery rhymes and being read English books. The children probably have more English books than Dutch books.

We have another way to introduce more English into the children's lives: if and when they get to watch TV, it's (nearly) always in English. We have cable and made sure to get the optional CBeebies, and CBBC for when they are older. We also have some of the BBC's natural history series and some old musicals on DVD: perfect to fill up rainy days.

Once they reach an appropriate age (around age two), there are two exceptions I will make to the 100% consistency rule. I will only start this once they are clear on the difference between the languages. Right from when they first learn to speak, we do the "daddy says X, mama says Y" dance to practice translation, but as soon as they start using the words "English" and "Dutch" and are very clear on the difference, I consider them ready.

The first exception is that I will speak English to them when visiting the in-laws. It's a politeness thing, really. Before that, sentences are simple enough and obvious in the context so even English speakers will know what I'm on about, but from this age it starts being a little rude to chatter away in front of them in another language. Babes never has to worry about this rule, as I hardly know anyone in Flanders who doesn't understand enough English to follow most English conversations.

The second exception is "daddy play." Magically, around the age of two, this seems to become one of the most entertaining games around. Either the child becomes daddy or I do - the other party gets to be a child - and the rest of the game happens in English. I love this. LOVE it. L-o-v-e it. While I try my very bestest never to interfere with their English, this gives the control freak English teacher inside me the chance to model the turns of phrase they have had trouble with in the recent past. I store up all my niggling irritations, and then casually slip in the correct idiom while we're playing. I don't correct, don't tell them they're wrong - I just happen to use the phrases correctly. And that's all children need, lovely little language learning machines that they are.

I firmly believe that this last point is crucial in any language learning, first or second language: there's hardly any need to correct your child. Ever. (Pet peeve alert!) Have you ever known a "normal" eighteen year old who couldn't correctly use the past tense of the verb "to know?" No. Therefore, if your child says "I knowed that," there is absolutely no reason to correct them. Repeat the sentence correctly if you can't stop yourself, but do not spend your time correcting children's speech. Confidence is a million times more important for language learning than knowing a "correct" word. It's far more important that a child can speak without feeling insecure or inhibited than it is to get all the grammar perfect right from the start.

(I have a trick to keep my aforementioned inner language control freak under control: I allow myself one language problem per child to "fix" at any one time. If I must, I can correct it or repeat the sentence correctly, but until it is fixed I have to leave all other mistakes well alone. This means I hardly ever correct them, keeping them as confident as they can be. So far, both children love to experiment with language and like chattering on (endlessly) about any topic, so this seems to be working.)

I think that just about covers it. I'd be happy to hear any additional tips you may have, or if you disagree with anything I've said. I like a good discussion, so let yourselves go, darlings.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Tutu Tuesday

Today started so much better. I was told to get off the toilet and go back to bed. I'd completely forgotten it was my birthday. I remembered yesterday, but this morning all I could think of was getting Jack to school on time. Babes had different plans. I was "woken" by song (Jack, Marie and Babes singing me a Flemish happy birthday song - nice touch) and then left to have my breakfast (bacon and eggs and everything) in bed while he took care of the morning rush. I watched Breakfast on the BBC, and got to see that Labour have shot themselves in the foot again. (I'm itching to do a post on British politics, but I realise it's not really my fight.) I got the morning off until 8.20 - even had time to wash my hair! Pure bliss.

My drink of choice today.

(It's grape juice, but it makes me so very very happy to have it from a wine glass. Yes, that's juvenile. So what? Marie says "Mama, let's play that it's wine," and I have just as much fun as her.)

It's amazing what a different outlook will do. I'm wearing a necklace and a bracelet, and I took the children to the playcafe for lunch. I put my new jeans and pretty boots on and made sure to moisturise my face and put a pin in my hair. Small things, but they just show how much more energy I have today. I'm even (finally) washing my pregnancy clothes so I can stop wearing the same two outfits in rotation. I'm also working on a couple of posts which don't just tell you what I've been doing.

I'm getting some cool presents as well for my birthday. My in-laws are giving me a new camera (!!!) and Babes is getting me new sunglasses (proper big fashionable ones). Yes, yes - a good day.

Happy Tuesday one and all!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Only Monday

  • Oh my word. I can't believe this is Only Monday. Wartboy is lying on the sofa, talking to me, and I just can't make out what he's saying. It's probably because he is randomly saying whatever comes into his head, and is like a waterfall of random trivia, but also I'm just exhausted! I should be feeling like this on a Friday after a week of - at least - redecorating the house and giving birth. But no. It's Monday, I packed the kids off to school and the creche and slept for THREE hours this afternoon, and then I woke up with a headache and now I feel like the ghost of Cruella De Vil has descended on me. And all I can think is "It's Only Monday."
  • Yesterday, some guy ran his car into Babes' car. Of course, I was driving it. These things never happen when Babes is driving. The car had only a scratch, the people were all fine, and it was completely the other guy's fault, but I was a bit shaken. Luckily my lovely and very helpful cousin was around (it was in the parking lot of the place I was going) and he filled in the papers for us. The guy kept asking us if we knew who he was. Apparently we should have done. His son as well - he's on TV. People like that freak me out. But it also amuses me that we didn't know him, and his son only vaguely.
  • I'm now going to lie on the sofa and watch Grey's Anatomy. I have two episodes taped, which should take me through to bedtime. Better warn Babes that there will be crying. It's like kryptonite for pregnant women.
  • Or I might just play Wordscraper on Facebook. Dammit.

Friday, 19 March 2010

PENIS!!!

(And more on various parasites.)
  • It's a boy! Which freaks me out, because I was 100% sure it would be a girl. Come to think of it, though, I thought that for all three of my babies, so my success rate at predicting their sex is 33.3%. Don't come to me if you want your future read.
    I'm very happy (as I would have been with a girl). Marie will stay the only girl in our brood, which I hope will lessen the effects of her being a middle child, and Jack is loving the idea of a little brother. I am a little sad Marie won't have a sister of her own, but never say never and she'll just have to have good girlfriends.
    I'm very glad to have been told now (as opposed to when it pops out), because I now have twenty weeks to get my head around the idea of another boy. A boy! Would you believe it?
    *smiles beatifically into the distance*
  • Also on the topic of parasites, there really should be a warning on the tin when you first get a child. They come with their very own ecosystem and dependent organisms. As if the lice weren't enough, we have now seen the arrival of our first wart. This little bugger has nestled itself on Jack's foot sole, and I am less than impressed. The poor thing (meaning the boy, not the wart) will get it frozen off next week. The chemist suggested we stop visiting the swimming pool so he doesn't get any more - which is like not having sex if you don't want to get pregnant, or forsaking alcohol if you want to lose weight: not going to happen.
  • While I'm talking of vermin anyway, have you read that story about the retired US general who claims that the Dutch army failed to stop the Bosnian massacre at Srebrenica because some of its soldiers were openly gay? Yeah, really.
  • And while I'm on a roll with the beasties, a frog is trying to climb into the house from the terrace right next to where I'm sitting. Someone needs to explain the concept of "window glass" to this animal.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Icky spoon, nightingales, small morons, death, Spring and bye-bye forest

  • I am fascinated with the smell of a spoon which has been used to stir tea and then licked. Icky, but fascinating. How does it smell so strange?
  • An, may nightingales surround her with song wherever she goes, is needing cheered up and I'm too far away. This offends me.
  • I don't like it when people treat children as if they're morons. At the baker's, surreptitiously getting our supply of chocolate for this year's Easter celebrations, I turned Marie's pram and distracted her with a biscuit. After a whole charade of miming and pointing, the woman handed me a box that looks identical to the one we got apple pie in last week, right in front of Marie's face. A two year old is not going to think that has bread in it.
  • Another person in our street is dying of cancer. At 55. People keep dropping dead randomly or being sick around here. Maybe it's normal, but it doesn't feel nice. I've told Babes I want to move away in the next couple of years. I've been saying that for three years now.
  • It's a beautiful Spring day outside. Tomorrow there will be rain, but until then we have glorious sunshine.
  • It's D-day for deforestation. Not only do we have date night tonight (which was my deadline), we're also going to see the gynaecologist who will tell us if there's a penis in there or not! That sounds dirty. You know what I mean.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Sometimes

Sometimes the universe just happens for me. Everything clicks into place and works for once. This morning, I asked Babes to take some pictures of the cats for Jack's show and tell tomorrow. Of course, one cat was outside and the other wouldn't stand still, there wasn't enough light, and then the camera ran out of memory. I walked in with my phone a couple of minutes later and snapped these two in under thirty seconds:



Me and the universe, we're okay today.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Mwa's quick and easy recipe for everlasting happiness

There is a very simple recipe for happiness and a successfully run home, which they do not teach you at Catholic convent schools. I have discovered it through trial and error, and will now share it with you.
The quick and easy way to perfect happiness is complete and utter slatternliness.

First you must find the will and determination to let your house go to pot. This is the foundation for all that follows. You may wish to do this by spending afternoons online rather than working/shopping/cooking. If you can consume some snacks and leave the plates/crumbs/wrappers all around the house while you do, you are only helping the process along. In fact, why not have a drink as well and leave the cup? The rest of the family can join in: clothes can be left on bedroom floors rather than in washing baskets, spills should never ever be cleaned up (unless they were only water), and one should always remember that the toilet is only a rough point to aim for. For a few weeks, curtail the urge to dust or hoover. If something can be left out, make sure not to put it away.

After that, anything you do in the house will make an instant difference, resulting in a burst of happiness for the inmates and their warden usually only attained by illegal means. Don't think this will involve much effort on your part: it won't. In a house with no clean underwear, a basket full of clean drawers will inspire all family members to shout lyrically for joy. In a house where dust is the norm, a hoovered carpet will make the children roll around on it with glee. A husband who has resigned himself to wearing his least-crumpled T-shirt to work will ply you with sexual favours at the mere suggestion of ironing being done the next day. (Bonus tip: once you receive the favour, opting out of the ironing is possible, but not advisable. This will work a few times, but then he will catch on.)

It's such a simple idea, I can't believe there aren't a million self-help books written on the topic: keep expectations and standards extremely low, and happiness is only a quick wipe-down of the kitchen surfaces away.

And that, my dears, is the secret to my success. Feel free to copy. You're welcome.

Monday, 15 March 2010

I think I might be a nice-smelling troll

I always underestimate the effects of this pregnancy lark, but today is too much. Last night, we came back from our UK trip after ten and I still had to treat Jack for lice. I can tell you this was a barrel of laughs. Any sleep was going to be inadequate after that, but there also just weren't enough hours left.

Then today Babes had cunningly taken the day off and I'd been looking forward to that for a while. The pressure! Recipe for disaster, really. These days always make me expect romance and fireworks, and let's just say that these things were not going to happen for me today. We spent the day traipsing around half of Belgium and some of the Netherlands looking for a new sofa. (Yes, really. When all I wanted was a nap. We are geniuses.) The rollercoaster of fun that was! I can't even begin to tell you.

I also keep planning to deforest those legs (and some other body parts) and colour my hair, and of course I haven't got around to either job. I felt more like a third world country debt than a million dollars. Combine that with not enough sleep and nothing in the house to eat this morning, and you can imagine the state of this hormonal pregnant lady. "Mood swings" doesn't really cover it. There was not much swinging up from "depths of despair." Which, I hate to admit, brought out the evil bitch inside me. Oh I'm sure Babes was happy to have the day off work. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him around these parts until this baby is born. If then.

Between the hairiness and the sarcastic poison coming from my mouth, I did look like a troll and act like a troll. Luckily I'd had a shower, so at least I didn't smell like a troll. Still, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck... I think I might be a nice-smelling troll.

Friday, 12 March 2010

This is why you should always wear nice underwear

So I heard from Josie this morning that I had made it into the Tots100 Index, which of course I was supercool very excited about. The problem was that I found out seconds before I had to get into the car to drive over to the UK. Bloody trip took nine hours (I jinxed it by boasting five earlier in the week). I spent those nine hours obsessing over my previous post: yesterday's quickie before date night is the blogging equivalent of being caught with your laundryday underpants on when you're rushed to hospital.

If only I could have had a killer post up, like the one where I told the world the truth about Bono, or the one where I introduced my wonky foot. My lard post from earlier in the week would have been fine as well. Even a totally cringe-worthy one would have been better.

Nevermind - to anyone who comes over here at the weekend:
Hi! Make yourself at home and let's be bloggy friends.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Progress of a sort

Things I must do before date night:
  • Tidy house somewhat so babysitter can locate children.
  • Iron Babes' shirts. (He has earned this a thousandfold. I'm not betraying any sisterhood.)
  • Feed children fruit.
  • Pack for tomorrow's trip.
  • Shop for edible car supplies. (Could edit, but the ambiguity pleases me.)
  • Give children some attention.
  • Write blog post.
  • Pick a movie to watch tonight. (Yay! Special cinema date night!)
  • Shave legs.
  • Find solution to conflict in the Middle East. (How hard can it be? Has anyone asked a busy mother?)
So far, I have had a nap, cuddled the children and fed them jam sandwiches. And now I've blogged. I call that progress.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Itty bitty teeny tiny country

One of the great things about living in Belgium is that it is so central in Europe. In no time at all, you can be in another country. This afternoon, I popped over to a friend's house in the Netherlands for afternoon tea: an hour in the car. At the weekend, we will be visiting relatives in England: a five hour trip if getting on the car train through the tunnel goes smoothly. This train leaves from France, which will take us a couple of hours to reach. Germany: two hours away. Holiday in Austria: nine hours' drive, with a choice of route through Germany or France and Switzerland. I could go on, but suffice to say it's easy to get to many places.

I think I will be a little nostalgic if all these countries ever become provinces of the United States of Europe. We already don't have to change our currency any more, which has made travelling lose a bit of its romance already (except when we visit these narrow-minded Brits) (oh, and the Swiss of course, but I forgive them because they have funny play money). It used to be a laugh getting hundreds of thousands of lires before going to Italy.
(Of course I'm pro-Euro. It's much more practical.)

Even if we all become provinces, though, it will be a long time until the borders don't feel like borders any more. Driving into the Netherlands, you can see a difference immediately: the houses are about half the size and don't have blinds. Driving into most countries, the language of the street signs changes. And that of the citizens as well, obviously. Switzerland has four languages, Belgium three. Everywhere you look someone is claiming their region should get independence even from their micro-state.

Driving back into Belgium from Holland today, I was horrified. The main noticable difference was that the lovely smooth motorway all of a sudden turned into some third world country pot-holed country road. Not all our motorways are like that, but the one welcoming our neighbours from the North is a true embarrassment. Maybe this was done on purpose. We are meant to hate them after all. This might just be a cunning ploy to keep them all out.

(We don't really hate the Dutch. Well, not all of them. A couple of them are lovely, really.)

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lard

So that lump on my back is a fat ball. A bobble of lard. A mass of grease. Oh yeah. What is up with this body of mine that it is growing extra bits all over the place? The baby I signed up for. The bigger boobs I knew were coming. But extra bit of cartilage on my ribs and now lumps of lard on my spine? That I did not expect or ask for. (Not to mention the two beard hairs ...moving quickly on...) Is this normal? Is this what women's bodies do after a certain age? All fine until thirty, and then you start growing extra parts, just for the frigging freak factor?

The official name of this thing is "lipoma," which I should NOT have Wikipediaed because now I have in my mind words like "tumor", "liposarcoma" and "malignant transformation" (apparently very unlikely to happen). I should NEVER Wikipedia any medical condition. It's hasn't ever ended prettily.

My grandad had one of these things on the top of his head. It got as large as a ping pong ball and eventually he had it cut out. Bridge-cross-if-and-when.

Maybe I should see this as a good thing. In case of a nuclear disaster, I can puncture my extra store of fat and use it to fry up my remaining eggs. The beard hairs could be used for mending socks. The cartilage I can't immediately think of a use for, but lard-wise we're sorted.

Monday, 8 March 2010

I'm going all kinds of crazy

My head is in a bad place today. It's probably a good thing that Marie is still home with her eye infection, and that I have to take her to the doctor later, because it's giving me structure to my day, and boy oh boy do I need structure today to keep me from eating cakes in bed all day or just staying in bed without eating.



I dreamed all night of horrible things. Babes kept flirting with other women while I was full of growing fungus. Like big mushrooms. Not nice at all. This dream is in my head today and not going anywhere. I found another bit growing on my body yesterday that's not meant to be growing there. Again, it lives under my bra, this time at the back. There is a bit of flesh growing over my spine where there wasn't one before. Combine this with the fact that two of my closest relatives have recently discovered actual real tumours and are battling them with all their might (the second being my curve ball from last week), and you might see where my dream came from.

As for my back, I keep telling myself there's nothing to worry about. Like the good little hypochondriac I am, I'm always running off to the doctor and having her tell me I'm in fact not dying of some horrible disease. I am quite glad to have made that appointment for Marie later, though. I will just have her look at my back at the same time. Until then, I just have to remember to breathe.

It's not surprising that my body is starting to object to this foreign body that is my bra. I wear it for about sixteen hours a day, and for those sixteen hours, it's putting a strain on my ribcage that is neither required, nor - I would guess - very healthy. I'm battling gravity - three pregnancies and breastfeeding are enough strain to take - and I can't bring myself to forsake the bloody thing. And now my spine has decided to build a little cushion to help support the weight. Which is what that thing is, and not a growth, tumour, or whatever. Just a cushion. For support.

I think what might actually be going on is that I'm so worried about my mother (it's an anonymous blog - I suppose I can say that) that I'm putting the worry everywhere but there. Because I cannot, will not, must not think about the surgery and the possibilities and the worry. And I will not fall apart. Not now. Not while I can be of help, or at least be not too much of a hindrance. And not while I'm pregnant and have to take care of the other two darling parasites.

So I'm going crazy, but not as crazy as I might have done. Because I have a doctor's appointment. And gunky eyes to clean out. And swim bags to prepare. And food to cook. And blog posts to write. And thank fuck for all of that.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

What I learned in the supermarket today

  • I should not shop when I'm hungry.
  • I should not shop when I'm pregnant.
  • I should definitely not shop when I'm hungry and pregnant. How many types of salty sliced meat does one family need? Not to mention cheeses or fruit juices. Sigh.
  • I was too early coming back to my usual supermarket. I think the end of days would be too early, really. I did change for a while, to the discount supermarket around the corner. I like my shopping experience comforting though. I will admit to being very shallow that way. I want pretty shelves, and lots of choice, and these scanning boxes so I don't have to queue. So I came back, lured by the prospect of fancy displays and shopping trolleys that go in the right direction. ...but of course the refurbishment to end all refurbishments is STILL going on. (This must be close to a year by now.)
    You know me well enough by now to expect photographic evidence. And here it is.

    The bread section:


    The yoghurts:


    I was just warming up, people. The following two are the most deserving of a flogging.

    The painters in the fresh fruit section:
    The guy in the white coat was wheeling the other one around. Half the time the top one was painting some kind of sealant above the uncovered apples. Not to mention the uncovered customers. (They were not naked. Just bare-headed. We continental Europeans are not naked all the time, you know. Really, what are you like?)


    The woman on the window ledge in the fresh fish fridge:
    This one was washing the window above the fish, dripping her squeegee on the fish below. At least this fish was wrapped. (Yes, that's a woman, with shoes on, and a bucket of dirty water, sitting pretty much in that fridge to wash a window.) (I know!)


    You'd think these things would stop me going to that supermarket. They completely should. But they don't. Because I'm lazy. And the rest of Belgium isn't necessarily doing any better. So there we are. I bought kiwis instead of apples, and I got some tinned fish.
    (It really brightens up my shopping experience, taking these pictures. It's the thrill of doing it secretly, wondering if anyone will notice.) (Yes, I could still do with a life.)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Curve ball

Sometimes, the universe gives you lots of energy. Today this happened for me, and thought I needed it because Marie got up with her eyes fused shut with pus and Jack has another plague of lice. Now they don't even register on the scale any more. I need some time to process this one...

(Sorry to be so vague - not my problem to share. But it's on my mind so much that I just can't think of anything else to write.)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Conception, a how-to

...which will be of absolutely no use to anyone. Seriously. People trying out there, do not read this post. It's just as useful as your granny telling you to "just relax and it will happen." Which, let's face it is like telling someone not to think of how good Obama would be in bed. An impossible task. (You're thinking about it now, aren't you?)

I promised this post weeks ago, but there was some negotiation involved with Babes concerning what I could and could not divulge. (As usual the bastard was spot-on on all counts, but let's ignore that fact.)

So, of our three conceptions that went beyond 8 weeks (we're keeping everything crossed this one will go all the way - Babes is getting quite sore ☺),
  • 100% were planned and very much desired
but also
  • 100% happened after the point at which I went "Fuck it, this is never going to work - I give up."
  • 100% happened after the ingestion of some alcohol.
  • 100% had me completely clueless as to when I would be ovulating.
  • 66.7% happened on a romantic anniversary-related trip away
  • 33.3% happened while recovering from surgery for an ectopic pregnancy
  • 0% happened after sex-with-the-specific-intention-to-make-a-baby.
Surely I could get this post nominated somewhere for a "least useful information ever" award.

Just watch out if you choose to apply any of these pointers for yourself. You may find yourself, four months later, eating several sticks of salami in a supermarket car park as if your life depends on it. (No, I did not see that one coming either.)

Monday, 1 March 2010

Excuse me while I watch some daytime TV

I went to the birthday party of one of my university friends at the weekend. It was like being stuck in a speeded-up version of the movie "Groundhog Day." Half of the conversations I had went exactly like this:
- Them: Hi! It's been so long!
- Me: Yes, very long. How are you?
- Them: Great. You?
- Me: Fine

- cue ominous horror music -

- Them: So, what are you doing these days?

- as if there's nothing else in the world worthy of interest -
- and they don't mean "doing", they mean "doing for paid employment" -

- Me: I'm still at home with the kids

- notice the "still," acknowledging my aberration, 
and the implicit promise to rectify the situation in the near to middle future -

- Them: DEAFENING SILENCE
- Me: DEAFENING SILENCE
- Them: DEAFENING SILENCE
- Me: DEAFENING SILENCE
- Them: How are your kids?
- Me: Great. Growing up. I've brought one of them. *points at belly*
- Them: ANOTHER ONE???
- Me: *goes off to find someone else to talk to*

(Luckily the other half of my conversations were very very lovely.)

I always end up defending myself, and it's downright awkward. It's just not done over here to get an education and then stay at home with your children for any length of time. (Two to six months seems to be the norm.) I understand how lovely it is to go back to work. I also get economic necessity. Just - live and let live, you know. It's painful to me that so many people will lose all interest in anything I have to say straight after hearing we have made this choice. It's disrespectful, but mainly it makes me sad.

So, I've decided to arm myself with some better responses if this question comes up again. How about these?
- My doctor says I can't work until I stop seeing the dead people.
- I'm at home with the kids, but when they are asleep I receive clients in my dungeon.
- My day is pretty much full after I watch all my favourite shows.
They should do the trick.