To Pixie or Not To Pixie

‘I need a haircut.’ I say complaining for the millionth time about my unruly locks. I’m still morning the loss of my fine, dead straight blond(ish) hair, the kid of hair I did not appreciate when I was letting it dry naturally straight from the shower and running a brush or my fingers or whatever I had handy before sauntering out into the world without a backwards glance at the mirror. Now the mirror just laughs at me, and I’ve tried all different cuts to figure out what to do with my now frizzy, slightly curly, thick, wiry mousy brown hair. Whose hair is this anyway? If some one had told me my hair would change this much with kids, I might have not gone into it so brazenly. Then again if someone had told me my life would no longer be my own, that it would almost kill my marriage and as a bonus I would be so tired I’d feel it in my bones, oh hang on, they did, I just thought It’d be different for me, somehow, I naievely/arrogantly thought I would figure out a way to be more resilient (I did not).

‘Why don’t you get a pixie cut?’ says my Mum.

I’m sure my eyes grow wide and my skin pales somewhat. ‘Maybe…’ I say attempting to find a polite way to say hell no. I’m still holding out hope that one day I will wake up to find my hair had miraculously returned to its former glory. I’m also hoping to sleep soundly through the night. Neither look good at this point.

Read More

Why I Wanted A Piano in the House

I hear the piano being played as I put the vegetables in the oven to roast.  It is rough and loud, it is my eldest.  She likes to take the lid off the piano and hit the keys to watch the mechanisms move inside.  After a few minutes the piano goes quiet.  I put the chicken into the oven, wash and dry my hands and head up the stairs.  The piano starts up again, only this time it is a soft, melodic sound.
When I get into the lounge room, I see my youngest bent over the keyboard, her eyes are closed, and as she plays each key she brings her ear as close as she can to her hands, listening intently to each sound.  It is beautiful to watch.  This is why I wanted a piano in the house.

Read More

When Moving Forwards into the Unknown is too Challenging

‘Higher, Mama,’ she says, her tone tight and sharp. My eldest’s frustration levels are maxed out with the amount of Dutch spoken at her school. She feels confused and misunderstood, I imagine it is like her world feels as though it is spinning wildly out of her control. Some days she cries. Most days she is angry.

‘Not like that,’ she snaps.

‘Please don’t talk to me like that,’ I say biting my tongue to stop the sharp retort that wants to be let free into the world. I breathe in and out slowly and keep pushing the swing. 

Read More

On fixing oneself versus accepting oneself…

I type away, feeling particularly good about myself, as I sit waiting for a train. It’s one of those moments where I feel not just grown up but successfully grown up. With my laptop out, and my book. My green jacket and checkered grey and black scarf hung over my hand luggage. Yes, I think, far too smug, I look the part. It’s a lie, of course, I’m not sure if the jacket really goes with the jumper. Or if the boots are too much. Technically they are snow boots, and it is not snowing. But I’m cold, really cold, I mean it’s after midday and the fog still hasn’t lifted. I’ve seen other people wearing them already, so I should be okay, shouldn’t I. Not a complete newbie. And the scarf, which I love, is one from Zara and I’m afraid I’ll walk passed someone else with the same one like it’s high school, and that matters anymore. Beyond that, I don’t really know how to wear it. It keeps slipping off my shoulder, and I keep flipping it back up but I think it’s a battle I’m losing.

Read More

This early bird forgot to catch the worm…

I woke up at 5am so I could write, practice yoga and meditate.  
Instead, I played on Instagram for an hour, bought a picture for the girls’ room and something for mum for Christmas.  Then I went back to sleep for 3 hours.

Read More

Silence and Children, always a worrying combination.

The house is silent, too silent.  I wipe my hands on the tea towel and climb the stairs in search of the girls.  They are not in their room.  

Raucous giggles emanate from my bathroom, so I climb the flight of stairs to my bedroom.  I follow the wet footprints and discover my daughters, finally getting along, jumping wildly in a puddle in the base of the shower.  Looking closer, I discover it is a puddle of pee… 

In my head I am lying on a beach somewhere tranquil and remote.

Read More

Amsterdam, The Reasons We Stayed.

I wake up to the birds singing, and check my clock.  5.50am.  It’s the best alarm clock.  I wonder if they are larks?  I have no idea and it throws me.  It’s a poignant reminder that I’m foreign here.  

I do really like it here though.  I don’t know what it is exactly, something about the lifestyle, the cycling everywhere, the not having to worry about a car, the girls both being in school and the mental space in my head and in my life that that has created.  I feel more like myself again.  And there is something different here, about how you are expected to parent.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s an effortlessness to it.  A relaxed, good-enough attitude.  

Yesterday, as the girls and I cycled around Vondelpark, deciding which playground to go to, I couldn’t help but notice the number of kids out and about, completely unsupervised.  A group of boys were playing soccer in the field, they couldn’t have been more than eight years old.  

The girls decided on the tunnel slide park, and as we pulled up, I noticed once again, that all the parents were seated on the benches around the sandpit, while the kids dug in the sand, or climbed on the bars or chased each other around the trees.  No one was hovering, or even watching.  Two women were sitting, chatting, one of them handed over a drink bottle absentmindedly when her son returned.  She didn’t even pause in her conversation.  Other mothers were busy on their phones or reading.  There seemed to be an assumption that the kids will be fine.  

I watched a video clip on Facebook, it had come out of the USA,  it showed a father sitting on a park bench on his phone while his daughter played.  Unbeknownst to him, a stranger came up and enticed his daughter away, carrying her off without a sound.  When he finally looked up, his daughter was nowhere to be seen.  It’s a fair point, I guess, but watching those kinds of videos tend to make me hypervigilant.  Those are the videos that make me feel like parenting is a relentless 24/7 job.  

Read More

Our First Spring Easter

Easter has become a bit of a non-event in our little family. For the last few years, we’ve been away, usually in Bali. It hasn’t always been that way, at least not in the family I grew up in. Our easter, or the ones I remember, usually involved a ridiculously large number of eggs hidden around the house and in the garden, a pairing off into teams, where one member holds the spectacularly festive white plastic bag and points out eggs that they spot, while the other, kindly goes and fetches said eggs. In the original version of the game, it’s all very pleasant, and everyone has a lovely time collecting eggs, trying to best the other teams and come out the victor with the large chocolate bunny prize. Over the years, the besting got a little more savage, the game a little more rough and tumble, there may or may not have been tears, and if I recall correctly, one year the large chocolate bunny prize was claimed early and may or may not have lost its ears. That may have also been the same year two of my brothers decided that anything in the kitchen was fair game and emptied the biscuit tin and an assortment of other household goods into their plastic bag.

But all of that was beside the point because the main point of easter, beyond the celebration of spring – even though it was autumn, and the thing about Jesus coming back from the dead, is that after all of the easter eggs are sorted and divided equally between all the players the real game begins. We open the trading floor, and the eggs are traded at prices determined by want and need. A simple supply and demand issue. The Wolf of Wall Street wouldn’t survive a minute in our house.

So it was always a little sad for me, that my husband never wanted to participate in the games and instead booked our annual holiday at this time. Some years the family rescheduled easter, that way people could make the most of the public holiday and still celebrate the festivities. Slowly though, life got in the way, and the whole thing kind of faded a little. Since having kids though, I’ve wanted to celebrate easter and all of the crazy shenanigans it has become to include. I want it to be something they grow up with too

Read More

Watching mothering in action

‘Lie still,’ says my youngest to her doll, ‘I’m putting coconut oil on Lemonbalm,’ she says by way of explanation (her doll’s name is Clementine, but over time it’s become Lemonbalm). She up ends the green drink bottle into her hand, the water coating her hands, then she rubs her hands together, and smears it all over her dolls arms and legs, and belly and face.

‘See, I’m pretending this water is coconut oil,’ she says. ‘Now turn over Lemonthyme, I need to do your back.’

‘You’ve already done her back,’ says her sister. It’s true, this is the second time Lemonthyme is being coated from head to toe in my youngest water for the night. But my youngest doesn’t care for details like that. She is being the Mama, and its her favourite game.

‘Now I’ll do your bottom,’ she says, rubbing thoroughly. I wonder what her teachers must think of me at her school if she does this there. Do they think I spend this much time on her bottom? I swear I don’t.

Read More

Homeschooling… No, well, maybe…

‘I’m going to school today,’ says my youngest, dancing down the stairs to the kitchen. She’s been home sick for the whole week, and while I’m hanging for her to go back so I can write, so I can work, so I can rest, burdened as I am with the virus she so kindly sneezed all over my face. There’ nothing like being splattered with a loved one’s mucus. But she fell asleep at about 3pm yesterday, slept until after 5pm and then went back to sleep again at 7.30pm. Unheard of for her. This is the girl who I had to force to drop her day sleep at 2 years old because whenever she slept she would remain wide awake until well after 11pm. Enough to destroy what was left of her mother’s sanity. So I was not quite so convinced that school was a good idea just yet. Not matter how much I wanted it.

Her older sister, who had decided the night before that she would not be going to school today as it was ‘unfair’ that she had to go when her sister did not, woke up with a raging fever. She’s a powerful little being. I am not sure if she too was sneezed all over or if she just willed the fever into existence to prove a point.

As soon as my youngest got wind of this strange turn around, and realised that she would be going to school while her sister stayed home, the water works started. ‘I don’t want to go to school,’ she wailed so loudly I’m sure our neighbours were left wondering what strange and unusual punishment we had concocted for our three-year-old.

My husband was clear, she was well enough for school. As she writhed around on the floor, I considered it might be possible, but I was reluctant to send her back too early. Plus, there was no way I could get her sister into the bike to go and pick her up from school should we be wrong. So home she stayed.

A year or so ago I started following a delightful blog about a woman who had seven children, for that I was ready to erect a statue to her. But she also chose to homeschool. I was wondrous and amazed. I love my children but the idea of homeschooling makes my ovaries want to crawl up into my spine. My biggest challenge as a mother has always been the relentlessness of it all. When they were both home from school, trying to get any time to myself was near impossible and it exhausted my spirit. I loved playing with them, and caring for them, not so much the washing, folding and putting away of all of their clothes, and I definitely grew to despise scraping egg yolk from tables. I love setting up spaces for them, creating cupboards that make sense of their toys, and shelves to organise all of the creative outlets we explore together. We collect spring blossoms to hang on their book tree (a book case shaped like a tree, branches and all), we paint, we craft, we colour, we cook and take care of our plants, but when my husband is a away for weeks at a time and they are sick, I return to those earlier dark days, of sleep deprivation and relentlessness and my spirit shudders. No reprieve. No time. No space. ‘I want…’, ‘I need…’, ‘get me …’

And so I admired this woman for being able to embrace the everydayness of her life, the relentlessness of her tasks, the unfinished state of her projects, the lack of personal space, within her body, and in her home. Those babies of hers are always around her. Always. And she seems happy.

‘I could never home school,’ I told my husband one night, the blue glow of my phone dancing on the wall, as I read another post of hers. I laughed with her at the unfinished washing, and the sense of chaos that life with young children can create. I admired her, but in the way that I was grateful her life was not mine.

Read More