:: Reflections on Sunday #17 ::

grass against cloudy sky
  • My husband is on a shopping spree. Just before he went back to work after a two-month holiday, he updated his garderobe. I could tell why, there was quite some stuff that has had its time. But now he’s back, he sees nice clothes everywhere. And he got into online shopping. Not the ideal situation (he promised me to stop though). In my mind I’m already thinking about the christmas holidays and the almost inevitable spending that comes with it. I know people will ask what to get him. I know I want to give him something he likes and I can root for. I read a very interesting article on woolen shirts that need a lot less washing and now ironing. I already looked at the site and I know it’s exactly the style my husband likes. I might consider looking for the same materials, as I’m easily sweating since my last pregnancy…
  • In my instagram saves, I found also a post about a French brand that makes belts of old tires: la vie est belt. I have a box with three leather belts my husband managed to destroy all in one week. We discovered there are barely any leather repair shops anymore. We had two closeby and they both stopped. Anyhow, I was intrigued by this brand. Upcycling, an interesting philoshopy and beautiful products. He might get one of these for Christmas.
  • In my mission statement I wrote homebaked goodies were high on my priority list to make this place a safe haven, warm and cosy, especially during the fall that is setting in. I wanted to focus on simple cookies, and though I would find a plethora of cookbooks in the library that focus on cookies. Hmmm. I found only one (ironically one I removed from my personal collection), that makes 100 kinds of cookies with more or less the same dough. In my opinion, it’s especially the glaze and the aroma that’s different, but it has some good ideas. Luckily, there is always my go-to recipe for cookies. They’re espacially fun to decorate!
  • I also finally gave in and got myself and Audible account. I first tried the American one, becaus you get two originals extra, but apparently you can only chose from a 6 book list and you don’t get to keep them. I mainly wanted to focus on surrounding myself with French, so I bought the French translation of Sapiens and then stopped my subscription, before I got to pay after the trial. Now I subscrined to the French version and I have a few interesting reads on my wishlist already. I’m used to podcasts, but audiobooks is something I was very hesitant about. My favorite podcasts are almost always two people discussions. An audiobook is read by one person and it does take some getting used to. But Sapiens is an interesting read, with just the right amount of repetition to stick and sice I started that, I started ironing again too! And… audible.fr is slightly cheaper per month, if you don’t care for the two extra originals.

What was on your mind this week?

:: let there be… a mission ::

Something must have clicked, because before I doozed off to sleep, I was allowing myself to make mental pictures of my ideal at home situation – mainly focusing on the kids. I decided to make a list (don’t you love lists) with the things that in my opinion would help make this place a cosy nest, glowing with warmth and solid connections. I focused mainly on what I could do and provide, and tried to incorporate things that are already happening.

homebaked chocolate cookies
Let there always be something homebaked to nibble on

Okay, I admit, that is really my perfectionist side coming through. Let me defend myself: I love cooking. I’ve never really had a thing for baking though, because I’m not that much of a sweet tooth. Enter my kids. Especially when they come home from school and they are hungry. Even with full lunchboxes and snacks they always seem on the edge of starvation the second they run through the front door at 3.30 pm. So I provide snacks. Fruit and a cookie or something similar. And I want that cookie to be homebaked for some reason. It just seems the perfect way to show some love. And they can help me bake in the weekends or on afternoons. And I’ll up my baking game. Nothing but wins here.

Let there always be something to read by someone who wants to read it

That’s a biggie and we are already good at it. My youngest quite often asks me to read alout, totally neglecting the screen. And now that my boy starts to read by himself, he does his own bedtime story just before I tell hem a chapter from a chapter book. But I would love to have more reading time during the day, especially for my son.
I try to model reading as often as I can (doesn’t cost me much of an effort). When you ask my son what his mother likes to do, he’ll answer without hesitation: read books. In peace. There would be a lot more peace in the world if everyone just read instead of bickering.

Let there be games for all of us to play

Game night. I know quite some families who rock the concept. Not ours. Personally, I never really cared about games. But my children like it. The thing is: they can learn a lot from games. Biggest challenge: accepting bad luck or not winning. We have a lot of small games to play, but I have the feeling my 6 year old will be ready soon for some more extended board games. If you know some good board games, especially those that don’t focus on playing against each other, I’ll happily take suggestions.

children in the woods
Let’s go outside

Again: something the kids won’t mind at all. For me, it’s a different story. Especially when weather is bad and you have to put on coats and boots. We have some decent places to walk here, but it already takes the same time to get there by foot. I’m always losing my puff on that part. Two weeks ago I randomly decided to take a walk in the woods and drove 15 minutes to go there. It was rather fun and we came home tired and energized at the same time. I want more of that, but it seems so counterintuitive to drive somewhere to spend time outside. See all the ‘buts’? It’s merely in my mind. I should get over it, especially during the colder months that are coming. My oldest has soccer practice and game, and a weekly youth club where they spend the afternoon outside, so he’s covered. My youngest though… she could use some fresh air!

Let’s say nice things about each other

I’ve never wanted to be a yelling mother (who does), but I have to admit that I’ve totally become one. I try not to be mean, but with my kids, I’m losing my temper rather quickly. I don’t say hurtful things but even then, yelling is not okay. Instead of focusing on stopping the yelling (which I have tried already often times), I’ll try to model the behavior I do want to see in my kids (and hopefully I’m too busy doing that and the yelling will lessen a lot). I’ll make a special effort to double the nice things I say to my kids. To aknowledge they make me happy and to point out what I appreciate in their behavior. The same goes for my husband: I want to focus on all the things I like about him (which is plenty) instead of nagging about where he got it wrong. It’s something I personally want to work on, but I hope this will spread out naturally and reinforce our natural kindness. We are kind people after all!

:: on hope and inner work ::

sun peeking through clouds

After my post yesterday on how my teaching job has changed over the years and how I changed and seemed to have lost my passion, I have been thinking a lot. I felt exhausted and did not know exactly why. Then it dawned on me: what I wrote yesterday was honest. For the first time I have been absolutely honest with myself, and searched for the reasons, the real reasons that made me a less motivated teacher.

The thing is: once you stop looking at the factors ‘outside’ of your own head and behavior (even though there are quite some), it becomes possible to change. When I believe people can change their behavior, and sometimes by that, change their inner convictions, my attitude towards school work can change too. When I believe, and I do, that teaching goes two ways and I can learn a lot from my students, it’s time to work on that. To recreate that openness and find ways to involve them the way they deserve, I need to be prepared. Better than ever. Only when I have my canvas laid out and sturdy, they can play and build on it, and, with their help, I can change patterns or even deconstruct some pieces as we all see fit, without losing myself somewhere in the process.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me. I have 2,5 months left in which I have more alone time than usual. I’m going to read until my eyes fall out. I’ve already asked my school for a digital newspaper subscription in the target language, so I can make decent course material. I’ll refresh what I have learned about language acquisition and I’ll try to read on immersion (because that is what I am going to do – immersion teaching. With one big challenge for me: the language in which I’ll teach is one I know thoroughly, I have the needed certificates too, but it’s not my mother tongue. I feel like that makes a lot of difference. An awful lot, especially since I’ll have some native speakers in my group).

The whole soulsearching thing also made another question pop: I need my home to be a safe haven. What does it take to make my home a safe haven, not only for me but also for my loved ones? If I am going to properly invest in teaching again soon, I’ll have to maintain that family time at home is sacred. Not only sacred though, but peaceful too. I have been quarreling with the kids a lot lately and it doesn’t do us justice. They are tired from school and I am tired of things not going like I had in mind (see a theme here? Things in my mind always are better than in reality. I need to see the beauty in the real again). We all lose temper. We all feel like home is not what it could be.

So I’ll work on that too. 10 weeks and a lifetime to go!

:: Grey day and reflections on work ::

rain drops and grey clouds

You know that feeling? On the verge of a great carrot peeling session, but wanting to write, telling your days, documenting and trying to grasp time before it inevitably flees. And after you finally made the decision: this morning I am going to write, you feel like you have nothing to say. Heck, you can’t even go outside to take some nice picture of what’s in my garden. Everything is grey. The flat kind of grey: no rays of light that illuminate the passing clouds. There is daylight but barely depth. A bit like how I feel right at the moment.

I am home. I have been looking forward to this, a repeat of the four months I took for my boy, but now with two kids in school. I can’t seem to find peace of mind though. Last June I was so glad it would be over for 6 months. I thoroughly enjoyed the supper holidays with my family. I decided to take September completely off and do nothing in preparation for school. And now… I feel like my job is whispering in my ears and I don’t want to hear it. I used to like taking my time to write course material and look for good articles and interesting topics. Now I’m tired just thinking about it.

My sister-in-law even suggested: maybe it’s time to find another school. Of something completely different altogether? The idea scares me. Being a teacher was the only future I really saw myself in. Right now, I just want to be home. I fill my days with reading and doing little things in the house. Trying to clear out the attic. Doing laundry. Cooking. Ironing when I feel like it, listening to an audiobook in French, to keep in touch with the language.

If I’m really honest, that’s what I want, what I’ve always wanted: books being the center of my life (along with my family of couse). They were my first true love. Building my days around reading and reflecting on what I’ve read. I used to find ways to combine that with being a teacher and it was the best. Lately I have the feeling I can not anymore: I don’t have the energy to read, let alone to implement what I’ve read in what I teach. Maybe that’s precisely where the passion was lost.

The last few years of teaching were heavy. Combining a family with small children with a fulltime teaching job was a lot harder than anticipated. I decided to declare my time at home sacred and try to avoid any school work there, or limit it to the absolute minimum. I managed, but I was a lesser teacher for it. Add my tendancy to procrastination: not the best combo. I always ended up overwhelmed with all the correction and prep work. I recycled (good) old parts of course materials without really updating. It worked, because it was good stuff to start with, but I never felt actually on top of things. I used the time at school and in between lessons not efficiently enough so I would get behind. A lot.

There are some other factors that make me doubt: the atmosphere at school was changing. We had over all more challenging groups of students. We had some good colleagues falling out and deciding to stop altogether. We had a few changes in the head master department. (The biggest one is one I have not actually ‘lived’ as it started in September). Things didn’t always change for the best. I felt pressured, along with many colleagues. My way of dealing with pressure? Stop trying to keep up at all. Not feeling good about it though. With three months of ‘no pressure’ paternal leave to go, I’m dead scared for that moment in January whan I return. That’s not a good place to be in.

I have still a few months left. I might find back some of my passion. At least enough to start with a smile and keen on making something out of it. If it gets worse, then there will have to be some heavy thinking and some tough decisions to be made. Getting this down on this little piece of the interwebs that I call mine helps in some way. The word is out, the challenge on.

And now I’m going to mindfully peel some carrots.

:: Reflections on Sunday ::

apple blossoms in white and green

The first week of the Easter holiday has flown by, as usual. Little girl went to daycare every day (and rocking the whole potty training over there), and Big boy had a jungle week with a class mate, organized by the local youth sports council. He has done similar weeks before and always was quite enthusiastic.

Kidsfree, but busy week for me though: our car didn’t pass the yearly check-up and I had to replace the two front tires. Costly, but not as costly as redoing the complete bottom as I anticipated (18 months ago, I got stuck on a little brick wall someone destroyed and that I hadn’t seen because of the bushes hanging over, not my best driving skills, I admit. Funny part: I was saved by seven Polish workers passing by that just lifted my car on the road again. I kissed them all!). No comments on the bottom part, so glad I did not have that repaired before going to the check-up. Of course, I first checked with maintenance to assure there was no danger in driving around with the scratches for another year or so. Because there was other work to do on the car, I had a replacement car for two days and fell in love with it. Not to mention the kids as it was brightly colored in white and red (okay, okay, and maybe also because it was clean and shiny). We were on the verge of crying when we had to give it back lol.

Citroën C3 white red
  • I’ve been reading around quite a lot in the internet lately, with Instagram as a favorite starting place. Especially since low-waste caught my attention (feeling ashamed of the tons of trash and wasted food and plastics present in our household), I’m feeling very inspired. For me, food is a great and favorite way to ease into anything, and The Zero-Waste Chef keeps inspiring me with every instagram post. I think her post about reducing food waste is a great place to start.
  • Another instagram account that is one of my favorites, is the one of Noémi. When I saw her post about a monthly craft box, I was intrigued. We had something alike for a while, but it was a little overwhelming, and I wasn’t so fond of the instructions or the materials. They outgrew themselves anyway, so that subscription was automatically cancelled when they stopped. But I kept my eyes open for something similar (but smaller and cheaper), so when she posted about Pandacraft, I didn’t hesitate for long. Our first box is on the way, we can’t wait! (And I’m secretly hoping, my boy casually picks up my love for the French language )
  • Slow life and homesteading keep pulling me. I don’t plan to move anytimes soon and my veg garden is as neglected as always, but this time I won’t let myself get overwhelmed. For me this post was en eye-opener, because it mentions a lot of steps and skills I want to look further into.
  • And while I’m still not over bottled water, I switched to glass bottles and I’ve started infusing again. As I had to very ripe mangos laying around and a whole bunch of mint, I made mango chutney (recipe to follow) and I used the pits and the mint to infuse my tap water. I actually really liked that one!
infused water with mint and mango

And you? How was your week?

:: Currently ::

READING

Just finished a book one of my students has to read for my class. Inspired by What should I read next, the fabulous podcast of Anne Bogel, I let my students make a list of three things they have loved reading/watching and one element they really can’t stand. Based on that, I handpicked three French books that are fairly recent (so untranslated, which is key), that might spark their attention and let them choose one of them to read. I am reading along with them so we can have a genuine book talk as their oral exam. So far I’ve read three out of seven and enjoyed them all. Even more: I could imagine asking them specific questions on their reading experience. I’m totally giddy about it now and glad I could update my French reading list with three recent lovelies that leave plenty to discuss.

Right now, I’m diving into Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. A few years ago I read her Temeraire series and was hooked. I also thoroughly enjoyed Uprooted, so I’m confident this will be once again a great read. I’m very enthusiastic about the fact that it’s loosely based on a known fairy tale (Rumpelstiltskin). I love literary connections!

watching

Not much, as usual. With soccer on television, I’m not very tempted either. But my husband finished the second season of Westworld and that was one of those series I’ve mostly seen from the corner of my eyes because it really spoke to me. Quite complicated though (that’s probably my own fault, refusing to drop the book while I was watching anyway).

listening

Podcasts mostly. I’ve been looking for some French ones that could spark my attention, but I don’t really know where to start. I am charmed by the slightly geeky Relife. Big part of the fun is the interaction between the two hosts. I think that is what my favorite podcasts have in common: interaction. I tried some individual ones and it felt more like a monologue to me and that wasn’t keeping me interested (especially not if I had the impression of an all too well prepared as in: completely written and then read aloud text.)

And you? What are you reading/listening/watching? I’m always open to suggestions, especially of podcasts to check out!

:: On life, and the inevitability of its ending ::

What is there left to say when life seems to crumble down in ways you never thought would be possible? Now, after more than a week, I finally turn to this space where I find comfort once I get down the words. Not that I feel capable of finding them.

Yesterday my youngest brother, who gets married in a few days wanted to comfort me, wisely sending me that death is an inevitable part of life. While I think that’s true, at least for our beloved family dog that we had to put to sleep yesterday, it is also cruel and rude an the biggest lie ever when it comes to a 15-year-old student that did not survive an accident last week.

He was one of my students. Statistics came way too close. It has been a week of disbelief, of trying to support his grieving classmates, giving other students the time they needed to come and write a word for the family. The death of a peer makes them feel so incredibly vulnerable. Makes us all veel so very vulnerable.
I did not know the boy well. I had only seen him for two hours a week in my class. That doesn’t matter. He feels like one of mine, like he did for the colleagues who did know him well. It’s my teacher’s heart that bleeds. My mother’s heart that bleeds.

So no, little brother of mine. There, you are wrong. Death is not and will never be a part of the life of a 15-year-old that crosses the street at night. It’s just the ugliest case of bad luck ever and something that does not ring true, that does not makes sense in any possible way.

Today, I spent the day at home. Feeling sad and exhausted. The sound of the washing machine makes it as if our little furry friend is still with us. Harsh truth there too: she isn’t. It’s but a picture and some memories of going through her ever shedding hair, feeling the warmth of her body, the beating of her heart.

While her death was way more anticipated than the one of my student, it also hurts. And she is missed in all the little ways a family pet can be…