:: true colors ::

Today it was one of those days I was super stressed about. And in the end? Not needed. Not needed at all.

This morning, a glorious, sunshed morning, I was to take my students on a two-hour bike trip around town to show them how many different religions have their community center just around the corner. They were stunned. I was too (as it isn’t my town, and I did not have the chance to practice the trip before). It struck me: how far this city had come, once a rather smudgy reputation, now brilliant and very much happily alive in the morning sun. I saw on their faces what I was feeling inside: how we actually already manage quite well to live and be together without making much fuss about it.

Around noon I installed myself with a few boxes of sidewalk chalk on the playground, hoping I would not end up sitting there alone, with my colorful messages of peace and love. That does sound a bit sixties-like, I know, but it is part of a bigger regional campaign against hatred and polarization. I did not end up sitting alone. Only three minutes after I had started writing, a few students asked to join me. We enjoyed the warm sun, the bright colors, the feeling of being part of something. We might not have made a difference on world level (the big boys are still showing off), but right there, right then, it did make a difference.

Oh how I love joy and happiness and excitement. The big feelings of love and passion. But that simple experience of being just there, just then and that’s perfectly fine because well… just because. Contentment.

Gosh, I love my job.

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:: Reflections on Sunday – the digital edition ::

This morning is the first morning in like forever I wake up to a silent house. Both of our children are staying somewhere else, and while that would have been the perfect chance to sleep in, I don’t. Even more: actually I am some kind of waiting for the call that I can pick up my baby girl. I could should get dressed and I could should do some school work. But for over a week now there has been that nagging thought that I want to write. That I don’t care I have been silent here for so long, that this is my spot, my happy place and the time I spend here is well spent.

I’ve been feeling stressed lately. I have taken up some extra responsibilities at school, and family life is completely ignoring the fact that I should do some school work at home too. So I try to cram everything in the few empty hours at school, being as productive as I can. It has worked so far, but when I look at the calendar for next week, I feel a little dizzy.

Some of the good things lately:

 

  • Evernote. Since long I’ve decided to take a premium account. I probably don’t need it, but it feels good to be on the safe side, especially now that I have a phone that allows me to scan newspaper articles. Most newspaper side go all digital, but as I use those articles in class, I can’t get them to print properly in that format. Taking a picture of the actual newspaper with the Evernote app has solved the problem: great quality, and text that is formatted for print. And while snapping away, I can add course material and links and all that I like, so basically it’s the best addition I could have made to my course material. Now I feel like I am finally using the news in a way I haven’t done before. And my students seem to appreciate. Double win!

 

  • Shared calendars. FINALLY my husband took the time to dust our shared calendar and integrate it in his workflow calendar. That was about time – I was getting nuts of writing everything down and telling him the planning for the week about a gazillion times because he couldn’t care less for the paper planner we have on our wall. The only thing that seems to work with both of our systems is the Google Calendar, so that’s what we use. (Besides: I do like the schedule view their app offers. Especially since they suddenly added a little drawing when I planned my yoga classes, it really looks professional.)

 

 

:: reflections on Sunday (on a Monday) #14 ::

Don’t ask. I really cannot see how people find a way to blog consistently while keeping up with everything else.

Because I’ve told you most of what I’m up to lately in the previous post, I’ll leave you with some very interesting links, because, when you don’t know what to write (or how to find the time to write it and editing the pictures and and and…), you can always read around.

  • First of all: go and check what Anne has been setting up. I already love her blog (which book lover wouldn’t), but I could kiss her for the online book club she has started. It’s not free, and to be honest, I was wondering if it would be worth my money, is many of the books probably aren’t even available yet in Dutch, if they even will ever be. But the fall calender was accessible and I checked things out and in the end oh well… if I can’t spend money on the one passion that has been a constant in my life, I can as well just stop spending money altogether (hmmm… that would actually not be a bad idea…). I’m prepping myself for November, two of the books on the list are available, in my mother tongue, in my library. So I’m just giving it a go! I must say: I love the friendliness on the forum. People seem to be very informed and I’ve already discovered a few great blogs through te site and book club!

 

  • This post by Diana had me laugh out loud. I can see myself do that. It reminds me to put things in perspective and be prepared to have a few giggles when children teach you about yourself.

 

  • Another post that spoke to me was the one of Kimmie.¬† When you read the comments, you can see that I’m one month into nursing now and it’s not an easy ride actually. With my oldest, we had a rough start, but my mother-in-law learned my boy how to latch properly the day we returned home (while I was already prepared to do give him my milk by pumping it all). But now my MIL is gone and I was quite nervous how it would go. Luckily my girl seems to get enough milk, but she’s a lazy latcher and she damaged my nipples really badly. But I’m determined to make this work beyond the three months I did it wit my son. Going back to work shouldn’t be a reason to stop. And probably, this will be my last time, so I want her to decide rather than my work hours.

 

  • And something I never expected to, but already happened: there are obviously a lot less pictures of our little princess then there were of her brother at the same age. I remember one of my favorite books in the BabySittersClub series (I know I know, guilty pleasure) was about Claudia thinking she was adopted, mostly because of that exact reason (see Claudia and the great Search). This article refers to a study about the topic. I must say: my firstborn already goes to Kindergarten (or preschool, depending to where you live), so theoretically I have all the time I want to snap away. But I don’t. Hmmm… poor daughter of mine. Hopefully she doesn’t get traumatized.

 

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:: lately, I’ve been mostly ::

  • nursing my newborn. It took me some time to get the hang of it again, and she is a little lazy princess, which means my nipples are feeling raw (because I have to convince her each and every time to open her mouth wide enough). On the other hand: she is doing so well, growing and getting bigger in a whim, and nursing time means story time for her brother. So we all quite enjoy the whole thing.

 

 

  • cooking with subscription boxes again. (we are trying Marley Spoon this time, but later we might giving Smartmat a go again, as they finally decided to offer 3-person-boxes; and I want to try Foodbag too, and mainly switch between all of those. But that will ask for some serious planning lol). I just had it with the eternal question of “what will it be for dinner tonight”. Ingredients and recipes for four meals are delivered at our doorstep. With the leftovers and the bits and pieces I have laying around, I can cover almost the whole week. So only once a week shopping, for one or two meals and lunch/breakfast/snack stuff. It’s worth it for me!

 

  • still wondering about blogging in English. Two blogs would be way too much, I like this place a lot, but I would love to connect with bloggers that post in my own language, and I’ve been thinking me blogging in English might turn them off. I was hoping to find a way to split this site up and do it just all at the same time, sometimes in Dutch, sometimes in English, but there is no way to keep those two streams ‘apart’… especially not for free.

 

  • not taking enough pictures. Why oh why don’t I pick up my camera more often? I also would LOVE to have the new iPhone, but that price tag is putting me off. Like REALLY putting me off. My old one is now officially a dinosaur though. No way to install anything on it lately, it can’t upgrade anymore. So now I use it as a phone (you know, like what it was initially designed for ūüôā ). And as a quick camera solution, but disappointed about the selfie-quality.

And what have you all been up to?

:: Fallen in love ::

And then, two and a half weeks later, you realize that the one thing you would want the whole world to know, didn’t make it into your blog yet… just because that one thing makes you completely forget about the world every time you look at her.

She was born on the 16th of September, she made the obgyn do a little sprint, let her dad’s soup go cold, and she owns my heart (and, to be honest, at least one of my hands… the things you learn to do one-handedly!)

 

 

:: last day of summer ::

that unexpected mix of relief and a bit of regret

Today is the last day before school starts again. It has been a long, hot and busy summer. A special one too, our last one with the three of us. (Although I must say our daughter made sure we didn’t forget about her presence already).

I’m convinced that those mixed feelings of relief and regret are well known to all parents who had to entertain their children during eight weeks. Eight weeks is long. I wouldn’t want it to be shorter, as it gives me the chance to reload, to dive into my creative mind and gather new ideas as a teacher, but for those little ones… rather long. I have been doubting if I would bring my boy to some great summer activities organized by the town we live in. There was a really amazing and affordable summer program – with one week-long themed camps or afternoon activities. I had indicated a few on the calendar, and then never used them. Next year I might probably do so.

But I’ve had help. A lot of help. First of all: my husband took up a n awful lot of days off. And on those days, he didn’t only work in the garden or the house, he made sure to get our son involved. I must say, those two had a real bonding thing going on the last two months and it just makes my heart jump when I see them working together pulling out weeds and then my husband asking our son to come along to the container park… the look on that face: glowing of pride and responsability. Just lovely. To me it seems our little kid has grown a lot during this holiday and I’m convinced his dad has a lot to do with that.

And then their was Auntie. Auntie (as I will call her here) is the youngest aunt of my husband – the youngest sister of his deceased mother. While it feels strange that his mother isn’t around anymore, there is also a kind of mental rest that came with it. For her, days that revolved around her grandson were the only days that really mattered, but physically she couldn’t really cope well anymore with those. So it was a constant exercise in allowing her to spend time with him and being on the lookout to not let dangerous situations happen. That had been hard, and it was mentally exhausting, for everyone involved. The day she was buried though, was one of the first times our son saw Auntie. And it clicked. Right away. Auntie doesn’t have children. Her mother told me that the moment “children” became a possibility, she was already 35, and she and the doctors didn’t think it was wise to start at that age.

Auntie spent most of her life with a man about whom I cannot say much (I don’t know him really), but it was a relation in which he took the absolute lead. In many ways he isolated her from her family. I remember that we had to come over to invite them to our wedding, otherwise he wouldn’t have come (and not allowed for her to come either). When her sister was ill and in the end died, he first gave in a bit more, but after a week or two he began commenting again about how much time she spent with her family. And then, for her, something snapped. She made plans to leave him and the moment she found an appartment she could afford, she did. For him, that came as a total shock. They are still on speaking terms, trying to handle it as friends, but I don’t think he fully realizes that for her this is definitive.

She immediately offered help though. As there was a clear connexion between her and our boy right from the start, she told us we could call her anytime needed. If he was sick, she came babysitting, which was just great as my own family lives quite far from here and is certainly not a last minute option. This summer, she came by about two afternoons a week to give me some time to do my own stuff or to rest. And since she installed a car seat, she already twice picked him up for a special day full of fun. They are both tired to the bone after such days, but it’s great to see how they enjoy each other’s company. I’m thankful that out of all the sadness and tears something beautiful like this came up. She really helps us out a lot and that has totally made my summer.

sea_soh

There were days at the beach, where father and son enjoyed themselves thoroughly. I love the sea, but I’ve never been a beach-kid, so my husband is very happy to pass on this tradition he knows from very early age. Looking for shells, splashing in the water, catching crabs, building fortresses and digging holes… all the classics were there. Auntie came over a few days too, so I really had my rest.

There was also a week spent in France, with my parents and siblings. A lot of special attention, a lovely garden to explore, walks around the house and a huge trampoline. There was a little plastic pool as it was hot hot hot and luckily the home was cool and cosy. I think it’s a bit of a pity we didn’t explore the surroundings more but I really suffered from the heat so couldn’t do much.

france_soh

I think we had a good summer. Lots of play and fun times, and help when needed. I boy who seems to grow before your very eyes, erasing the last toddler traits and changing them for big-boy smiles and expressions. He owns my heart and he knows it. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for him, for us all.

:: summer reading ::

Because books are a uniquely portable magic. (Stephen King)

I’m an avid reader, but I’m easily tempted to stick to the screen. This summer I promised myself to read more books and not only fantasy novels. I thought one book a week would be manageable and it was. I really enjoyed my summer reading and hope to keep up the rhythm for the time to come. Even if there will be probably a complete lack of sleep involved and a lot of diaper changing…

 

summer_reading_fantasy_soh

 

First of all, fantasy. I really love that genre, it lets me escape. I prefer a good series above individual books. Maybe because it gives me the chance to completely go under in a new world. Naomi Novik¬† for me really has been a revelation. I’ve finished the fourth book of her series about the dragon Temeraire and I’m eager to continue. Alas, someone else is enjoying the fifth part right now, so I’ll have to wait a little longer for it to arrive in my library. What I like about it most, is the way the characters are deep and sophisticated where needed without overdoing it, and the setting that feels historical even when it isn’t completely (I mean, Napoleon fighting wars with dragons against the English with their own army supported by dragons…).
Less impressed I am with the second series I started this summer, it’s the Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. The first book got me though, it’s the second that was slightly disappointing. She has a way of weaving ancient tales through her stories, but it isn’t as subtle as I would like. At the end of the second book there were two fairy tales used to get her story together. It was a bit much for me and I didn’t like the way it turned out. In the first book it’s about a child, completely deformed, completely lost her memory and her ability to talk. In the second book everything turns out for the best, but she’s still haunted by her lost memory and scary creatures. I have the last book here, but when I read the first chapter, I don’t know if I will finish it…

summer_reading_dutch_soh

Then there are a few books that are written in Dutch, my mother tongue, and not translated (yet). 30 is een schoon getal (30 is a beautiful number) by Frauke Joossen is a book that did get a lot of great reviews. I, on the other hand, didn’t like it at all. For me it was a bit too cynical, in a way I could have written it myself. Ok, that sounds arrogant. But what I love about reading, is that I can fall in love with the style. I want to read words and sentences of which I wished I had invented them myself. Not because they’re difficult, but because the use of very normal everyday language has a kind of poetry in itself. But I sat it out until the end and the author has managed to surprise me anyway. A bit of research learned me that she’s a journalist for the magazines in which I read the reviews… maybe that explains my somewhat divergent opinion.
De moeder van Ikabod by the known Maarten ‘t Hart is a collection of short stories. I enjoyed them, but couldn’t retell any of them.

And then De rode droom (the red dream) is a reread. The author, J. Bernlef,¬† passed away in 2012, and it’s one of my favorite authors ever. You really should check out his translated work if Dutch is not your language. The book is about two men who try to survive in a state that used to be communist. They see how the world has changed, and how it impacts them deeply, but they long for the ideals that came with the everyday life they once knew.
I really loved the book, because it’s so typical for Bernlef. He has a simple writing style and knows how to evoke with just the right words a whole setting. I discovered the man in high school, when we had to read Hersenschimmen (Out of Mind). I was completely flabbergasted by that book. I might reread that one soon too.

summer_reading_literature_soh

And last but nog least, four novels that, each in their own special way, made me happy to be a reader. I started the summer with All that is solid melts into air by Darragh McKeon. Oh lord, that book really hit me in the face. It tells about the gigantic cover-up operation after the Chernobyl disaster and the going-down of the Soviet Union, through the stories of ordinary people that aren’t ordinary because, you know, people just never are. To me, this book is frighteningly applicable to today.

With The war of Don Emmanuel’s nether parts, Louis de Berni√®res threw me back to my college years, when Latin-America seemed just around the corner to me. I studied French-Spanish and there is something with Hispanic literature that makes me feel at home. And de Berni√®res did very well in translating the inspiration he got from Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I love the style, the setting, and the way he makes that enormous amount of story lines click together. Irony is never far away, and it just works.

The house of special purpose wasn’t the book I intended to read from Joh Boyne, but I’m glad I did anyway. It’s just that I should have seen coming the end way before I actually did. It’s quite predictable, but it didn’t matter at all. It’s well written and a lovely story.

And finally The Illegal, by Lawrence Hill, left me godsmacked too. Because it’s real. It’s happening. Because it’s not just a story, it could be the story of any many talented kid that gets here and tries to make the best of his life. And while I’m willing to trust our government and leaders, I think in many cases corruption makes the situation of those kids even sadder and more unpredictable.

 

So far for my summer in books. As I want to keep up in the months to come, I’d always be happy to take your advice. What book did you enjoy the most this summer?

 

 

 

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