Sunday, 27 February 2011


On Friday, I planned to take Charlie to the creche so I could go to the gym, have a long shower all by myself, have a nutricious lunch and have time left to do some laundry. This is not even really a luxury. I need my gym time just to be happy.

I started off very well: I took Jack and Marie to school, dropped Charlie off at his creche. Then I came home...

...went to bed and slept for four hours.

It was so worth it. It's just a shame I didn't get my happy exercise hormones. I'm slightly more rested now but I am a little fractious. It's a shame I have to choose.

Ah well. At least I finally got some sleep. Now I just have to make sure I don't make it a habit. Tomorrow, I must must must go to the gym instead of coming home for a repeat of Friday. I'm not taking any bets, though. Charlie's teething and has a cold so sleep is even more elusive than it already was.

Of course, a clever person would not be blogging with a gin and tonic at hand. A clever person would have drunk a healthy smoothie two hours ago and be counting sheep by now. A clever person would probably be going out for an early morning run before everyone even gets out of bed tomorrow. Oh don't you just hate that clever person?

Right - now I must go to sleep, partially because Babes is watching Top Gear within hearing distance and I loathe that programme with all its scriptedly spontaneous nitwitshit so I want to get out of this room.

*goes off muttering "Must must must go exercise, not sleep. Must must must go exercise, not sleep. Must must must..." *

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Jesus problem sorted

So on Tuesday I wrote about our Jesus problem. Yesterday afternoon, I got a phonecall from his principal. Luckily Jack himself was sitting next to me, so there was none of that "oh no he's fallen off the climbing frame and broken his neck" panic going on in my head.
Principal: Can you come into the school for a "chat," please?
(No reason given.)
Me: What is this about?
(No way am I going into such a "chat" blindly. A mother has to prepared for such "chats.")
Pr: The First Communion.
Me: Well, is he going to be allowed to do it or not?
(I am not going in for a "chat" if he's not.)
Pr: That's what I want to talk to you about.
(OMFG woman tell me already.)

She basically wanted to know how "serious" he is about doing his communion, to be sure he's not doing it for the presents and the party. I had already promised him a "Spring Party" even if he didn't. It's quite the thing for non-religious parents in Belgium to give their non-communicant a party anyway. So that definitely wasn't a factor for him. He's getting a new bike either way.

I told her about Jack's reasons: he wants to be included in the mass, he wants to sing the songs, he wants to go to the lessons with his classmates. Also, at my brother's wedding, he was taken aback when the priest asked him if he'd already done his First Communion and then didn't give him the host because he hadn't. I really don't think you can ask for any better reasons from a six year old. What had she expected? Some kind of deep theological argument? I also assured him he was from a nice Catholic background. (Well, half of him is. I didn't mention the more suspect Protestant roots.)

Then she asked me why he wasn't doing it all along, to which I replied that I wasn't going to force him to do anything he didn't want to do. (Novel concept, apparently.) I prudently didn't add the bit about me losing my faith and raising my kids the atheist way. She then gave me a bit of a lecture on being serious and not changing his mind and how difficult it would be for the teachers to change the mass and their planning. But at least he's allowed. We'd passed the seriousness test, and I don't even have to come in for that dreaded "chat" any more.

When I told some other parents about this conversation, one said "Mine's only doing it for the presents" and another one "Mine's only doing it because I told him he had to." So much for serious reasons on the part of the child. If they want to get to them early and start indoctrinating them, they had better not ask too many questions about the intentions of the child beforehand. After all, they're only just starting to implant those intentions. They should just be happy with a blank canvas. (I didn't tell them I would be counteracting their brainwashing tactics with special critical thinking lessons at home.)

Jesus would be so proud.

(I must be off now - I have a mass christening to organise and a priest to convince of my good intentions, presumably in a similar manner to the one above. I hope he doesn't ask about Charlie's intentions getting christened. I also won't tell him I've promised Marie a Beyblade already if she allows the priest to christen her. Seriously.)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

What would Jesus do?

Jack is in his second year at our local Catholic school, which means that most of his class will be celebrating their First Communion in June. Now as you all know I am a confirmed hypocrite when it comes to religion: respectful of all but my own native creed, married in a church but blasphemous in word and sometimes deed.

Fully in keeping with my morally dubious stance, I let Jack decide for himself if he wanted to do his First Communion or not. He decided he wouldn't, which was just fine with me. When I asked him why he had made that decision, he said "Because I don't believe in God and I don't like going to mass at all." Fair enough reasons, but not of the kind that have ever stopped a Catholic from doing anything before.

Now because he's at a very Catholic school, Jack has been sitting in on all the preparatory classes, along with all his fellow little atheists, Muslims and other assorted infidels. And sure enough, last week he confessed to me that he'd changed his mind. My good little Catholic has, in the true spirit of Catholicism, decided that while he still doesn't quite buy the whole deity business and he still doesn't like mass, he does rather love the pretty songs they will be singing (and the drama of it all, the drama!) and can he please do his Communion anyway? In a similarly Catholic manner I thought "What the hell, that's as good a reason as any," so this morning I went into his school to ask his teacher if he could still join the party.

And then she, again completely in line with Catholic custom, said "I don't think so. It would be very difficult to include him at this stage because we've already planned the readings for the mass and all the slots are taken. I doubt he will be allowed but I'll talk to the principal about it." (Remember we're talking about a June event - more than three months away.)

Jesus would be so proud of all of us.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Ungrateful cow

So I texted my sister to ask if she wanted our old TV. We're getting rid of it because I've heard they can spontaneously combust. She said no. I think she's being terribly ungrateful, and now I have to think of something else to give her for Christmas - I thought it could be her early present. I was only thinking of Bob the Builder: "Reduce, Reuse, Torch a sister." She really is a bit of a picky princess.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Creative with exercise: the saucy edition

I have a little problem with my gym routine (yes, twice does so constitute a routine). It's not that it's not helpful. I slept for about two hours last night, but after fifty minutes on the bike (which was hard work after so little sleep) I tidied the hall and the kitchen in under half an hour. It's a miracle, I tell you. I even emptied the motherfucking dishwasher, filled it up again, and didn't die in the process. Which I was sure I would before.

Anyway - my problem. Charlie's only in the creche on Mondays and Fridays (he loves it, thanks for asking. He smiles the whole time, gobbles up the food and even goes down to sleep very well) and my exercise buzz wears off after a couple of days. I badly need to exercise on a Wednesday as well or my house will never get as tidy as I want it. (I need the exercise buzz to tidy.) I have come up with a few possible solutions:
  • I get the exercise bike out of the garden shed and put it in the bathroom/living room/kitchen (only spaces left in the house) and work out during Wednesday morning naptime. Who needs to pee/sit/cook anyway?
  • I acquire an Xbox Kinect and work out with it during Wednesday morning naptime. This would require either theft or selling my soul to the highest bidder. (I would so do my first review/giveaway. If the machine was free and came with an Xbox and at least five games. I know, I don't come cheap, but I'm worth it, Microsoft. I swear I am. I have some great readers.)
  • I find a babysitter for Wednesday mornings and go to the gym anyway. (Dull!)
  • I take Charlie for a ride on my bike and thus get the required exercise. Problem: he can't sit in the seat properly yet, and it's bloody cold out here. Also, it means looking out for traffic, which I'm not too great at. (This I will call "The Summer Solution" or "Future Plan, Honest.")
  • I go running with Charlie in the buggy. Problem with this plan: I am not a moron. That would be too much effort by far. I'm only taking up running when I'm in my forties. That's the plan and I'm sticking to it.
  • I put the responsibility on Babes. We have date night on Wednesdays these days, and maybe he could exercise me post-date. The problem here is that I like a very vigorous workout, so he would have to exercise me in all four corners of the room. And frankly, that's just too much after a day of running after the kids and then going out as well. One corner, fine. Two corners I can just about manage at a pinch. Three corners? Zzzz. Four corners on a weekday would require flying pigs and a truckload of Rohypnol, I'm telling you.
Choices, choices.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

World record, life guru, baby cynicism, face on

  • We have now officially broken the world record in government formation. 249 days and no agreement even on the horizon. The previous record was held by the Iraqis and it amused me greatly to see an item on the news of a couple of Iraqis handing over a trophy to a couple of Belgians. They had come all the way to pass on the honour. Or the shame, really. I'm sure they're glad to finally not be the world's most dithering idiots. It's a pity we now are.
  • Cesar Millan is coming to Belgium, to an arena near me. He is my guru. It would make perfect sense if I went to see him at work. Even though I don't have a dog. Even though I loathe dogs. In fact, Babes must buy me a ticket and take me on a day out. He simply must. I have children to raise in a calm and confident manner, you know.
  • I have now gone to an Anglosaxon-style mother and baby group twice. I have to say I love it and it's the answer to all my prayers. I meet people who are just lovely and get what I'm doing at home with the kids, and Charlie loves to play with the other babies. The only thing that takes some getting used to is the singing. for five minutes at every meeting, all the mothers sit down in a circle on the floor with their babies in their laps to sing songs together. This was very surprising at the start, and quite awkward, but the children absolutely love it. It took all my strength not to be cynical about this (being Flemish cynicism is pretty much my default setting) but I vowed a while back to stop being cynical, so now I think it's just another lesson from the universe teaching me to go with the flow and not judge everything. It's still weird, though.
  • I am 33 and have finally discovered the joys of makeup. Yesterday, I went out "with a face on" for the very first time - ever. I think it was possibly an amateurish face, but I felt very grown up and pretty. Any tips and tricks gratefully received. Especially for getting rid of black shadows all around my eyes (sleeplessness and old age are ganging up on me) and how to pick a good lipstick colour. Oh, and how to do eyeshadow or isn't that the in thing any more?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Why I should have listened to Cesar Millan today

On Sunday night, I packed off a slightly sick Marie and a perfectly happy Jack to my mother's so I could selfishly go to the gym yesterday. (Not really all that selfish, happy mummy is better mummy and all that, but still - she was a bit sick.) Then karma bit me in the backside by returning to me one better but bored Marie, and one pretty sick Jack. Marie was up half the night eating her way through all the cereal in the kitchen so she couldn't go to school yet today. With Jack on the sofa retching and feeling miserable, the cleaner trying to work around the three testy children and me doing the laundry this morning, I told Marie to stay on the sofa, watch TV and not move. Big mistake. Cesar Millan would gently yet assertively remind me of the
Exercise, discipline, affection-rule
I did not give her the stimulation (exercise) she needed, so how could I expect any discipline to work? (I love my guru.) And oh boy did it ever not work. She did the opposite of what I asked all day long. And I did not deal with it too nicely, I'm afraid. I'm trying to be happy with small victories here (I did not spank her or shout at her) but there was too much putting in the corner and nagging to behave. Not enough distraction and positive input.

Another thing the enlightened Cesar might have told me was that my energy was all wrong. I was no
Calm confident leader
I was a tired and chaotic muddler, because I hadn't slept. Again. I think Charlie's getting something as well. Judging by the greenness of his snot and the loudness of his snore (when he did sleep for a bit), I'm guessing he's a couple of days removed from his first illness. He did go to the creche for the first time on Friday, so I suppose it's only to be expected. Serves me right for letting him consort with that assortment of snot-covered midgets (aka babies). I can't decide if I should take him for his scheduled vaccination tomorrow or not. I suppose I should see in the morning.

Ah well. I hope I will do better with Marie tomorrow. When I will remember the crucial exercise part. And send her to school. So they can exercise her. Her teacher is quite the calm confident leader. Ha! I thank my lucky stars for Belgian schools starting at 2 1/2 once again. If they started at five like in some other countries, I would have gone crazy long ago. Well, crazier.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sometimes I don't know why he stays with me (It's because my hair is pretty)

I have rage. RAGE. In my chest, in my skin, in my toes, in my neck, vibrating in all my atoms. It's not a well-defined rage. It's just general frustration, I guess. I keep making plans, in spite of never getting any sleep, and most of my plans get scuppered by others. Resulting in rage. I'm trying to break out of this cotton candy prison of constant baby care by getting a bit more independent and every time I make a plan something goes wrong.
  • My weekend sleep is thwarted by Jack's Saturday morning swimming lessons. 
  • My mother-daughter shopping and hairdresser trip was ruined by an as yet unidentified virus which has invaded the daughter part of the mother-daughter combination.
  • My brilliant plan to ditch the baby at creche and go to the gym on Monday has been ruined already by Jack and Marie's school because they have the day off. For Valentine. What crap.
  • There is also no peace and quiet in this house since Charlie has learned to roll over and to scream, both in the same week. He uses his high-pitched scream when he's not happy, which is basically when he's not being entertained or has turned over onto his tummy and can't roll back. Which is every time anyone puts him down.
  • And so on and so forth. Woe is me. With my perfect babies and my lovely husband and no money worries. Oh yeah I'm having a completely undeserved self-pity-party. (I do know that.)
Anyway, this general rage sometimes comes out and bites people in the face when they dare to open their mouths. Not so much the children, because I seem to have some restraint with them. So it's basically Babes who gets it, poor guy. After he had taken the baby for a walk and gone food shopping, and before he cooked us all dinner, he dared to ask me to load the dishwasher. For roughly the first time in a year. Because, you know, I'd been too pregnant and then too tired and breastfeeding and he is a helpful sweetheart. How can he be so unfair? How dare he! I sulked, shouted, stomped. But did it. Because you have to know when you're in the wrong. Even when it hurts. Even when it's the most horrible job in the world.

The bastard. I hate it when he's right. For once I won't even make him apologise.

At least my hair is pretty.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

My children have Stockholm syndrome

My children have Stockholm syndrome. Even though I am basically their evil jailer, they love me. Here's the proof:
  • I am their jailer:
    I tell them where to go, what to do, what to eat, sometimes even when to go to the toilet. When they wilfully try to have things their way, I even put them in the corner.
  • I am evil:
    I never pass up the chance to hurt them.
    Charlie's not six months yet, and so far I've cut his left thumb twice, till it bled. (I'm not so good with nail clippers.) Earlier I left him lying on a step and of course he promptly fell off. I'm always letting doctors loose on him with needles, and when he's already suffering with a cold I squirt salt water up his nose. I pick off the remainders of his cradle cap while he's trying to sleep and pick his nose when he's only just woken up. When he's nursing, I'm often annoying him by picking earwax out of his ears with my nail.
    Marie's terrible twos have now merged into thrashy threes, and some days she seems to spend more time in the corner than actually annoying me.
    Last night, Jack came down from his bed to inform us that he was sad, and he pulled such a convincing sad face that I laughed until I couldn't breathe. Not nice, quite evil.
  • They still love me:
    The only thing Charlie wanted after I wantonly bounced him down the stairs (okay, dropped him off one step, but still) was to be nursed. By me.
    When I put Marie or Jack in the corner, afterwards they come to me for a hug and sympathy.
    When I laughed at Jack, he laughed with me. Through his tears, but still.
Well, either they have Stockholm syndrome or they're just really stupid.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Meeting bloggers in real life can be very dangerous - be warned!

Yesterday I met my first real life blogger! The lovely Rhi from Flour Child lives practically around the corner, so we just had to meet sometime. I knew we'd get on when I got an email in the morning to say her daughter would be coming along as she'd forgotten there was no school that day. I have done that so often. We had lunch in a cafe with three of our five children and it was great. I loved that I could finally put an (Australian) voice to the writing.

While the meeting was a lot of fun, I have now also realised that meeting people you meet online can have serious repercussions, so I thought I would warn all bloggers out there:  
meeting online chums can play havoc with your nicely ordered life.
No, Rhi was not an axe murderer. That wasn't the problem. Babes was on serial killer watch, though, because he doesn't trust the interwebs. I sent him a reassuring text message while Rhi was in the bathroom:

The problem is that meeting someone you only knew in bits and bytes before in real life means that they can have real life effects on you. For example - mere hours after Rhi and I met, I was busy cooking a labour-intensive meal of vietnamese spring rolls instead of shoving a frozen pizza into the oven:

(Because I'm a copycat and that's what Rhi was cooking. It was most delicious.)

Even more life-changing is the fact that I have now committed to going to an expat mother and baby morning which Rhi is organising on Thursday and I am rather - ehm - nervous? Yes, I shall say nervous. (I'm thinking "shitting myself" but that would be a coarse way to put it, and that's surely not how proper expat mothers talk.)

I was complaining to Rhi (as I often do) that I don't meet so many SAHMs and that Flemish women are so difficult to approach (think "lionesses with brand new cubs" kind of difficult to approach) and all of a sudden she had spoken the words "I organise an expat mother and baby coffee morning at my house if you'd like to come" or words to that effect. I'm not so sure of her exact words now - I was too distracted by the angel choir descended from heaven singing hallelujah all around her.

I never thought I'd be allowed in at one of these mornings, but - get this - my children are once again my saviours. The mornings are for English speaking toddlers and babies! My children are the expats, and it doesn't matter what their mother speaks. Can you tell I'm doing a little happy dance? A nervous little happy dance?

Of course you all know how confident I am meeting women I don't know. I'm trying to stay calm but I CAN'T BLOODY DECIDE IF I SHOULD WEAR A SKIRT OR NOT, AND SHOULD I WEAR MAKEUP AND DO I TAKE CHOCOLATES OR BISCUITS OR PIE OR PERHAPS FLOWERS - and breathe... Just breathe... Yeah. So that will be fun. No, really, it will be. I have been hoping, praying and complaining until I went blue in the face for this kind of thing to come along for me so now I will bloody well go and enjoy myself, young lady. (Oops.)

Oh, and then finally there's the small matter of my impromptu apple pie baking tonight, which to be honest I cannot fairly blame on meeting Rhi, but it's so unlike me that I will anyway.

I decorated it with piecrust leaves!

...because she bakes pretty things and I never do, so it must be part of the aftermath.

Seriously, though, for a first blogger meeting, I think it went really rather well. Rhi was lovely, we're meeting again soon, I will be meeting more people as a result, and I've been cooking lovely food. I would rate that excellent.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The ultimate solution to tights that won't stay up properly

I was pulling up my tights at my friend's house a while back, and she said "Are you still hoiking up your tights? Don't you know the solution yet?" (She's teaching a gaggle of twenty year old future nursery school teachers, so she knows stuff - girlie stuff - that I don't.) And then she said - and this changed my life -
You should wear underpants on top of your tights. Have done since, haven't needed to hoik again. It's a revolution, people. Apparently all the girls are doing it.

(It does feel a bit strange wearing two pairs of underpants at first, but even under a thin silky dress you couldn't tell, and I did get used to it within an hour.)

You're welcome.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Baby's happy as can be, you know

I just left Charlie with our babysitter for the very first time. They've been getting to know each other for a while, and this was the night! I watched my phone the whole time, and we were back within two hours. (Some date, eh?) I was prepared for drama. There was none. They were just fine.

Which just proves that I need to trust my baby more. He's perfectly capable of dealing with a little change. I have been at his beck and call for nearly six months now; this is one secure and happy baby. He feels safe enough so he won't panic if I'm not there all the time. I need to remember that. He can do this. We can do this. Not to mention the fact that we need to do this. Because he needs to know he can exist without me for a bit, and I need to gain some perspective and a have a teeny tiny bit of alone time. Soon.

Of course this is all just a dress rehearsal for his first days at the creche. We have an appointment on Friday to see his childminder. I've never met her. I don't know if you remember me complaining about the woman who was going to look after him. Well, soon after that I decided to calm down about it and trust the universe.

Sure enough, a few weeks ago I got a phonecall from the creche saying they had given Charlie's place away to someone else. (So far, so typical.) Also, could I maybe wait until September so he could start in the younger group. (No, I bloody well couldn't!) I asked the administrator how old exactly the babies in the older group are and couldn't they put him in there. It turns out that the youngest baby there is only half a month older than Charlie (who's a giant anyway so he'll fit right in), there is a space in that group, and they now think I'm a genius for thinking of moving him there.  

Thank you, universe.

The childminder in that new group is not someone I know, but apparently she's a young mother, newly back from maternity leave, and "very creative." I have a good feeling about this.

If all goes well, we will have him in the creche for two half days a week by mid-February and I will be able to go to the gym twice a week (to lose my pregnancy pounds, meditate, and generally get some happy chemicals in my system). Now I only have to remember to trust Charlie to be able to deal with this. He was fine tonight. Chances are he will love spending time with other babies and playing with other toys. Why wouldn't he?

I may not be fine, but it's time to lengthen that umbilical cord just a little.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I miss homework

Comparative research done in order to decide which doors to put on the bookcases in the soon-to-be-finished nursery:

Three configurations and four price classes make for twelve calculations. So pretty!

I opted to do this instead of make dinner. I used colours. There was mental arithmetic. There was even an educational moment when I taught Jack how to use a ruler and draw to scale. Oh man, it was excellent.

I think we're going to go with the green option, but in off-white. Not quite sure which doors yet. It was so worth phoning pizza for.

(In case anyone is crazy enough (as I would be) to check my maths: there are two sets of bookcases in that room, so all amounts were multiplied by two. Just because I know some of you out there are as far gone as I am.)

And finally I want to thank you all for making me laugh and feel virtually hugged last night. I was feeling CRAP and you made it all so much better. I send you all a virtual hug back, but a different one. Not the one you gave me, thrown back in your face, because that wouldn't be very nice now, would it? A fresh and sanitary one, especially for you. Thank you.