:: last day of summer ::

that unexpected mix of relief and a bit of regret

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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.

:: nostalgia ::

on the fear of having missed it in the blink of an eye

We had a difficult night yesterday. Although very tired, our Little Boy didn’t want to go to sleep. Kept running away, making a fight of putting his pajamas on. It might have been the heat, it might have been one of those weeks in the life of a toddler when sleeping is not appreciated… anyway, it was not the most peaceful bedtime ritual we ever had.

My husband was very irritated, feeling it as a kind of personal attack. He had done the best he could to be at home on time, only to find his son hyper and not very willing to cooperate. He was ranting about staying later, just to avoid that stress and that it would be our boy’s own fault. My heart broke a little as he continued how other couples had sweet children, not making problems about bedtime, sleeping in, or getting ready for school (our son loves school, but getting him there is quite a thingy).

He had a bad day at work. Temperatures didn’t help. And later that night I showed him some little movies I made a few years ago. Our toddler, not yet being able to talk, only a few words. That didn’t stop him from telling the cutest stories. Playing with his cars, babbling all the time, cute puffy cheeks and the most wonderful smile on his face. My husband looked at me, a bit sad, and told me he regretted how many of those moments he missed. That it would never be the same with a daughter, and that he missed quite a lot of those cute toddler years of his son. Partly because of work, partly out of ease and not seeing the need to invest time.

Time is precious and the only way to capture it, is to grab the moment with both hands and fully live it.

 

 

My heart broke a little again. It’s something I told him all the time. Not to blame him, but because I knew this moment would come. That at the age he felt he could really connect, like now, he would regret everything he missed. Time is precious, and despite tons of pictures and other possibilities to document it, the only way to capture it, is to grab the moment with both hands and live it.

nostalgia-col-soh

Today I’m watching my son. Yesterday he discovered a bag of marbles and today we are watching how they work on his train rails. I cut him a few holes in a cardboard box, he decorated the whole thing and he has already spent two hours playing with the marbles and the box. Outside it’s hot, but we might pick up some supplies and create something together. Maybe make some chalk paint and decorate the tiles outside, if it’s not too hot. He’s a very strong-willed boy, but he is very sweet too. As all kids do, he likes new things and he likes spending time with us.

I’m tired and I wish I could just sit back and relax. But then again, I know these moments, just before his little sister arrives, will matter a lot. Time is the greatest gift I can give him now.

:: home ::

When a house becomes more than just a roof over our heads.

 

Despite the very high temperatures outside, I’m curling up inside, only slightly cooler. Little Boy doesn’t feel like facing the heat either so we’re spending today quietly together. Watching him play with his cars and dinosaurs, occasionally putting on a favorite show on television, it makes my heart sing. And inside my belly, there is another tiny dancer, letting me know she’ll join us soon.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I want to save these moments, turning them into a chronicle of simplicity and joy, documenting our life in words and pictures. I always keep coming back to this place, it’s why I keep it. My nesting happens here, rather than in our house.

home_soh_col

Once it became clear that we’ll share these last weeks of pregnancy with a very friendly builder turning our office space into a baby room, rectifying as many little building mistakes that came with the house as he can along the way, I’ve settled for this slightly chaotic place. My husband does the best he can, trying to get everything sorted out, but this messy state of things makes him nervous – he needs structure and a good amount of clean. I know he would want to move if the money was there. He thinks the house is too small (and I know he doesn’t trust these walls like I do). We don’t have the place to get as organized as he would want to. To me, it’s a question of perspective. The more room there is, the more stuff gets put away (and forgotten about). Mostly my kind of bad habit, but one I should be able to break.

So while he makes this work as well as he can, my mind is doing the nesting thing that all women go through at some point in their pregnancy. And it keeps going back to what I recently read on the beautiful, heart-written blog of Mr. Home Maker. : Houses are aplenty in our society but homes are becoming much thinner on the ground.

Houses are aplenty in our society but homes are becoming much thinner on the ground

 

It’s what I want for this house. I want it to be a home, a good place, where there is always someone available to listen to stories. I want it to be a place where those stories are created and fully lived. I want it to be warm and cosy because of the people who share a life together. I want people that pass by to feel the warm welcome of a place where they are safe and appreciated. I want there to be food on the table and music in the souls.  There are probably plenty of toys and books, but I mostly want my children to play and to read and to be happy doing so. I want them to go to bed, knowing that their parents love them dearly and they mean the world to them, whatever has happened during the day. I want my husband to come home after work feeling happy to pass the doorstep even if there might be some chores to do. I want to come home after work, see the place and instantly wear a smile because I know: this is it. This is home.

 

Imaginary self

I’ve always been a girl that has a double life. One for real and one in my head. Sometimes it’s an escape, quite often it’s just a challenge. There were always mental images of myself leading that life, and they didn’t always coincide with reality.
I think the strongest image up til now is one I came up with when trying to write a fantasy novel (very much inspired as I was then by David Eddings and similar universes). I’ll never ever finish that novel. I’m not a fiction writer. But, the main character stuck.

imaginary_self_2_SoH

 

I pictured a young woman, alone, living in a large sed, surrounded by nature and animals. She knew a lot about herbs and was creative and self-sufficient. She loved foraging, and making everything she needed. I know I know, that’s a very romantic picture of a probably very hard life.

What makes her more interesting nowadays, is her personality. She has a calm nature, is quiet without being timid, chooses her words wisely, doesn’t ever get tempted to gossip and doesn’t yell. Ever.
She finds peace and contentment in the simple things, loves cooking and baking and does so without making messes (how on earth does she manage to do that?). She folds laundry like a pro, she doesn’t mind cleaning, her beds are always fresh and fluffy. Television never gets turned on, she’s always happy to get out the art supplies, including paint, can play for hours with little cars and dinosaurs and never tires of playing hide and seek.
She waits happily for her husband to come home from work without falling asleep, and she engages with him an interesting and passionate conversation  about whatever subject seems right at the moment.

Yes, she sounds annoyingly perfect. But having her in my mind gives me rest. Because she exists, somewhere in my head, somewhere in my heart, somewhere in my soul. And because I admire her, and she is kind and sweet and compassionate and close, her presence doesn’t drag me down, but lifts me up and inspires me.
And for that she can be as annoyingly perfect as she likes.

Do you have an imaginary self?

About Life and Death – and the fine line between them

And then we found out we are expecting again. We found it out with a rush to the toilet on New Year’s morning. The start of a very different pregnancy so far. Whole day lasting morning sickness. Exhaustion. Food that wouldn’t be bothered to stay where it was supposed to be.

A little boy that of course didn’t stop asking my full attention and the going back to work that resulted to be completely messy and unorganized due to the hormones and sickness kicking in all the way. But it’s starting to get better and Easter holiday is there to calm my nerves.

It’s slowly starting to sink in. We’ll be a family of four. This baby was most welcome, we talked it through and decided to go for it, in some way counting on the fact that it could take a while. It didn’t and then suddenly I realized that I wasn’t all that shiny and happy as I was the first time. I was thankful but apprehensive at the same time. I worried. I felt guilty not to jump on that pink cloud again. I felt guilt towards my oldest son.

Good thing a pregnancy takes nine months. We will adjust. And our little active happily waving wee little one will be as welcome as little boy was. We’ll find a rhythm that works for us.

life_death_SoH

It will be different though. A week after we told my husband’s mother, she suddenly passed away, completely unexpected. Her death left us shattered with grief and disbelief. Our daily routines have been picked up again, but there are many, many moments I think about her. We had a difficult relationship the last two years. Our little boy was everything to her, but I felt suffocated by that. Especially since at the end I didn’t trust her enough to let her watch him (nothing to do with her love, but her health was not always stable and she had lied about that before…). But then again, we worked it out, and she managed to ease that painful situation by acknowledging my decision, accepting it and telling me that. She gave me the opportunity to open up again, because I could let go of the guilt and the hide-and-seek playing. She was one special woman and she will be dearly missed, on many many occasions. The first weeks of September won’t be the least of them…

 

What I hope to achieve in 2016

Oh yes. Resolutions. Chantelle wrote about affirmations and while I like that idea a lot, I’m sticking with resolutions. Because I have a long list. A very long list. You know, once you start to write them down, they just keep coming. And you can’t let out any of them anymore – they all seem just right for 2016.

resolutions 2016

 

I think most of them are really manageable. Many of them ask for a little mind shift, but no shaking of foundations. The areas I want to improve are diverse enough to keep me motivated – I don’t want my resolutions to take over, I want them to fit in as smoothly as possible. And then be persistent of course.

Fasten your seatbelts, here they are:

 

Food: 

* keep working on menu planning – including organic veggie boxes and do a once-a-month non perishable online groceries purchase
* eat more greens and raw veggies, and more fruit. I’m always preparing for others, but my own intake isn’t that great actually
* drink more water, try to drink more tapwater

House and Garden:

* don’t go overboard, but try to have a variety of fresh greens available (spinach, lettuce, rocket,…) to help me push through with my salad-quest
* stay on top of the cleaned out office and maintaining my Kon-Mari’d dressing (to my big surprise, it hasn’t been messy anymore since I reorganized it that wat, same goes for my son’s wardrobe)
* try to declutter the attic
* have a focus room each month, try to install good habits and practices there

Parenting:

* reduce television time for my Little Boy, paying extra attention to incorporate one on one play time after school.
* try to teach him some independence when it comes to putting clothes on
* less yelling (I’ve been disappointed in myself on that point last year, and I really want that to change. I’m in charge!)

Marriage:

* find a good babysitter or an arrangement with LB’s godfather, so we can sneak in a few date nights.
* try to stay on the same page when it comes to finances and priorities.

Work: 

* try to go with the flow, working with what comes up in the classroom rather than trying to stick to what I had planned. Take the time to use input from students and transform it into lessons.
* Deepen my faith, by doing some personal bible reading at least once a month. I know it’s strange to put it under ‘work’, but my job is what inspires me in that one.

Hobbies:

* read at least ten good books (literature – not only fantasy)
* write two decent songs
* keep the birthday card mojo going (I had that started since September – as I was home from work, I wrote birthday cards to the colleagues I didn’t see. All of them loved it so much to find something in the mail!)
* write at least once a month to my penpal in South-Korea and post at least 5 post crossing postcards each month
* take pictures every day, as many as possible with my DSLR camera, and once a month, order prints!!

Health:

* find a way to finally exercise. Try to go to yoga class regularly and find a more intensive sports.
* lose enough weight to have a good BMI again (no I’m ever so slightly overweight – which was shocking to me…) I would be happy with 5 kilos if I can maintain that.

 

Rhyme all that with my word for 2016: SIMPLE. Yes. Non of the goals I mentioned are very high level. They all need some work, but it is not a challenge from hell. They’re about being consistent, defining my self, living my life to what I believe will be the fullest.

Do you have plans for 2016?

Reflections on Sunday #10

Belgian coast
Necesito del mar porque me enseña… – Pablo Neruda

This week I have no interesting reads for you, not even a collection of pictures. We were on holiday and we enjoyed every minute of it. Most of the pictures I took show my family and for that reason won’t be shown here.

But I can tell you: it was a gorgeous week. The start was a little rough – this week at the Belgian coast is not my family tradition, it’s my husband’s and it’s one of the parts I find difficult to connect with. Not because I don’t like the sea, but because my husband always relives his childhood and wishes that everything is exactly the same. We argued often about that, but those memories are so dear to him, I can see why he will get here every year, no matter the cost.

There were some changes though. This was the first year his family wasn’t around on a daily basis. And to me, all the difference was there. They came visit us for two days and it was fun, but for the first time ever it was a week of our own, especially in the end. I’m finally starting to believe it can become a cherished family tradition of our own.

Next week I’ll buckle up and prepare that giant step my beloved Little Boy will make September 1st. My baby boy is going to school.  And while I’m looking forward to it and I’m absolutely convinced he will love school, he’s totally ready for it, I’m not sure I am…