This weekend was full of rest, relaxation, fresh air, and tidying up around the house. I was never a person who needed the weekends to look forward to. But now, I need them to survive. Judith describes are job now as soul crushing, mega boring, and unrewarding. Exactly. I used to love going into work and now I hate remote teaching. It’s so physically draining. It’s hard to cope. I’m SO GRATEFUL our kids can go to the noodopvang 2X per week. Thank God. In the meantime, I’m trying to breathe deep, stretch a lot, keep up with my daily meditations, and just keep on going. Hugs to myself.
A photo collection of things that are bringing me joy this holiday season 2020. Monday evening’s press conference regarding the new coronavirus lockdown brought a huge mass of sadness and negativity to my thoughts. This lockdown is serious and in my opinion extreme. Gyms, schools, stores, every possible out of the house activity is canceled or closed. It’s hard not to drink off into dark thoughts, but today was a success. I meditated last night, did yoga this morning, and felt okay-ish the entire day. I wanted to post these Holiday Season 2020 moments to remind me of the beautiful things that are still happening in and around my home through these dark times.
On Saturday we went out for a chilly late morning walk to one of my favorite spots, Eijsden Castle. Afterwards my friends Billy and Cyrille came over to bake Christmas cookies. It’s become my one day of the year for entertaining. Despite living through a pandemic, this didn’t even happen last year because I got the flu. I’m happy that it was able to go ahead this year. More moments of joy— walking around Maastricht with Cyrille while sipping hot gluhwein, baking baking & baking, my winter drinks book I purchased from Book Depository’s “Beautiful Books” section, making homemade chocolate, and watching movies with Jaap on the couch. And I can’t forget to mention our beautiful Christmas tree. I love this tree. I think it’s one of the best we have ever had. Flora picked it out within two minutes and it’s way to big for our living room, but we moved it’s location into the corner by the dining room table. It fit’s perfectly there.
I love this photo that Jaap took of us walking through the Brunssummerheide. It was a beautiful day.
Lots of things have happened this past month. The biggest that Thibault has turned four and is not at primary school. It was an extremely emotional week for me. I was crying a lot. Multiple times a day. It was an emotionally draining time. The good news is that he’s doing really well at school. He enjoys going each day and so far, it seems that things are going well. Our little man likes to wear effeminate clothing. I was so scared to let him open himself up to a new world like this. I had some great chats with lovely colleagues, his teacher, and of course Jaap, always being there to lead us through these challenges. It seems to be going okay. He enjoys going to school, he loves his teacher, and he is settling in well.
We had a small Halloween celebration with some other families in Cadier and good friends of ours. Very short and sweet, but I’m positive next year Halloween trick or treating full on will be back.
We have had some great hikes, a trip to Hoensbroek castle before everything closed down again, a trip to Toverland (that resulted in a trip to the ER with a fractured arm for Mr. T), and his birthday celebration.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am nervous. It’s always a difficult week for me, but this year seems even worse. Our usual family Thanksgiving at Ann’s house in Belgium has to be canceled. We will have a quiet dinner at home and lots of good family time this week. Sint is in full force! And I’m just happy when this week will be over. Giving myself lots of self care moments this week.
These past nine weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. There have been so many highs and lows throughout this time. I wanted to list all of our joys, so that I can remember what has happened and how our family has coped with living through a pandemic. There were so many negatives surrounding this experience. Fear, worrying about my parents, anxiety, social distancing, working from home without childcare! These were all major challenges.
So in no particular order, here things that have brought joy throughout this entire experience that I hope to look back fondly on.
- F & T becoming “best friends”. Playing with each other, learning to get along better, and learning to entertain themselves more
- Nature! Spending hours and hours outdoors, good sunny weather, living close to beautiful nature spots
- Flora taking us on the hike she discovered at the BSO
- Lots of time in the evening connecting with Jaap. Finding more time for each other. Not having rehearsals, book club dates, and other social gatherings to run out the house for
- Time for (almost) weekly Zoom dates with my Catskill girlfriends
- Reading! Reading more books than I normally do.
- BBQ! Watching Jaap grill brings me joy!
- Endless arts and craft projects
- Baking & ice cream making! We have been exploring so many new recipes. It’s been super fun.
- Exercising more with my trainer
- Not gaining weight!
- Most importantly— having this time with my family. Thibault has loved not going to the creche and even though he is happy to return, having all of this time with F & T at this time has been a true gift
The past four weeks have hit me hard. There have been some major highs and some big low points. Just before the Carnival break started I got the flu. It completely wiped me out for an entire week and if it wasn’t for the strength of my husband and the kindness of my in-laws, I can only imagine how worse it could have been. I will never go another year without the flu shot. I hate that helpless feeling and I just felt sorry for myself the whole week. It was my winter break. A time to relax, recharge, have a little Carnival fun, and do fun things with my family. None of that happened. The only thing I got to do was sleep through the night for 10+ hours a night and watch a lot of Netflix. So in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t a total loss.
And then it was right back into work. In one week I had two performances with the community drummers and singers. It was a week full of female empowerment and great music. I feel so privileged to be working with these women. The singing group performed at a theatrical performance all about feminism. It was beautiful and we all felt grateful to be a part of it.
My friends and I dragged our kids out marching through Maastricht to have our voices heard as part of the Youth Climate March. Three moms, six cranky kids, lots of rain, complaining, and tears, but a lot of fun too. We did it for ourselves mostly, but deep down we want our kids to know we stand for something. It felt good to be a part of it.
On Sunday my friends and I went to TEFAF to be a part of what puts Maastricht on the map. It’s always an enriching and beautiful experience. I’m really missing my friend Antoinette. I’ve had so many artful experiences with her over the years and there’s a whole in my heart now that she is living in Italy. I miss her artistic perspective.
And finally— a beautiful performance with my students on Tuesday after a very difficult Monday. Monday was such a low point for me. I had a schedule change and ended up teaching for 5 hours straight without as much as a coffee break. Then to pick up Flora, the exhausting swim lesson, and in the middle of all of that an uncomfortable phone conversation with a good friend of min. I came home and started crying because after dinner because of the stress of everything put together.
It felt so good to make a 180 the next day! I was so proud of my students. It was such a great process for me preparing them for this short 45 minute assembly. And the icing on the cake was a bouquet of lovely flowers and homemade card. “Thank you for making music class fun.” Amen. I feel so grateful to have a job that challenges and enriches my life. I live for performances like these. It is so fulfilling.
Monday was a big day for our little man Thibault. He made it through a very challenging day. I’m happy to say that surgery went well. Thibault now has tubes in his years to release some fluid and his nose adenoids have been removed.
It was a day full of emotions for me. Luckily Jaap is always cool as a cucumber and it appears that my son is the same way under stressful situations. I was more worried about the surgery than anybody. Thibault seemed almost unphased by the whole thing within a couple of hours.
It was quite sad to see a room full of children in the recovery room and at the same time quite comforting to see other parents experiencing the same emotions that we were. Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy and it’s so difficult watching them go through something like this. At the same time, I did have this feeling of gratitude the entire day. Grateful that Thibault was receiving quality care and grateful that we were not at the hospital under more serious circumstances. These feelings of gratitude helped me put things in perspective. Fingers crossed his six week check up at the audiologist shows some changes in his hearing.
I’ll begin with this photo. Sibling love at it’s best. When Thibault is not pulling Flora’s hair out and Flora is not trying to exclude Thibault from one of her activities, there is true love here. I love finding these moments when they don’t think I’m looking where Flora is so tender and caring towards her brother and Thibault is just happy that Flora is interested in him. He truly idolizes her and loves it when she reads/sings to him, plays a game with him, jumps on the bed together or hide on the covers. It is a beautiful thing to witness.
I’m writing this first because we’re experiencing some hard days. Last Sunday Flora got really sick with a high fever and a stomach flu. It was a rough 3 days for her, but she was a champ and we were hoping that it had already passed through Thibault. Jaap and I both had to miss work last week. In addition, I had to miss another half day to take Thibault to the hospital for one of his pre-op appointments before the he gets his surgery to get tubes put in his ears. It was a lot to juggle. And now comes this past weekend and Thibault has a fever and is working through the stomach bug. Thankfully I was in Den Haag for the entire day on Saturday and Jaap took care of the kids. And for me personally, it was a difficult week for me (for reasons I won’t post here).
When you put it all together, some days I feel like we’re hanging on by a thread. The sleep situation is horrible, awful, no-good! I don’t even know how to describe it. And not just because my kids are sick (that definitely makes it worse), but because my kids just suck at sleeping! I blame myself, Jaap, our inability to try and make a plan/change and stick to it, long term breastfeeding, lactose intolerance— whatever I can to make myself feel better! I just wish I could sleep more. I look about 10 years older than I actually am. It’s awful.
This is where having two kids as opposed to one child is really killing me. At least when Flora was little, Jaap and I could alternate sleep easier and get by. Even though we still alternate sleep on days that we can (meaning one person can sleep in a extra hour or two)— we’re still completely exhausted. My definition of a good night sleep is so far off! It’s ridiculous. I feel like I’m in the trenches right now and looking for some good news around the corner.
What will that good news be? Maybe being able to wean Thibault from breastfeeding? I must dedicate a post to this. Maybe some more self-care time for the both of us? Relief when my Mom comes to visit? The girls weekend coming up in 12 days (but who’s counting?). I don’t know. I don’t even know how to resolve or end this post. I’m struggling, Jaap is amazing—he keeps this family together, and wish I could sleep for 100 years. On that note— I refer back to the first paragraph of this blog post. My children know what love is and they love each other. For now, this thought will help me through these tough days. It’s certainly not enough. Mama needs some more self-care. But, on these hard days like today—I’m getting back to basics.
The first snowfall of the year (that lasted 3 hours), the annual Christmas cookie baking party, and lots of things happening in our household. I read today that there are only 6 days until Christmas. Yikes. How does this month always go so fast?
I am enjoying a moment of zen right now. Sitting in my house enjoying a hot chocolate from my Secret Santa, admiring the lit candles, Thibault is taking a nap, and Flora is at school. 45 minutes of zen right here! Let’s celebrate it!
I will admit we have had a difficult month. We found out two weeks ago that Thibault is suffering from some hearing loss. I was initially very upset and emotional. Almost immediately we learned that the hearing loss is most likely due to fluid in his middle ear. The good news is his inner ear hearing is apparently fine. However, he needs to have tubes put in his ears to release the fluid. The ENT doctors believe that his hearing will improve immediately after the surgery. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that my little man is going to be alright. My heart breaks for him. He doesn’t know the difference, but he does not hear nearly as much as we thought he did. The audiologist says it’s like he’s wearing soft earplugs all the time. Ugh. It’s been hard learning this. I just want him to be happy and healthy. We see that he is frustrated, cannot always communicate with us, and for us— he is extremely loud. Sometimes I have to plug my ears while I’m holding him because he is so loud.
Well— moving forward. His next appointment at the hospital is mid- January and we will take things step by step. In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy a cozy Christmas together. Cooking baking party with friends, a trip to the theatre coming up this weekend, and hopefully a trip to the market in Maastricht. This month is flying by!
What a week! Thank God it’s almost vacation, Jaap and I have 48 hours alone in Den Haag (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and I’m drinking a delicious coffee right now. It’s been quite a week! Wednesday pushed me to the brink of Mommy insanity. Thibault has been having some weird nights. Up for two hours (?!?!?!?) in the middle of the night, crying a lot, being somewhat hysterical in the morning. I don’t get it. I’m starting to see more and more how frustrated he is from not being able to communicate with words. (We’re starting speech therapy in two weeks and I’m already relieved that it’s finally happening).
Wednesday was a morning full of drama, lots of tears, refusing to get dressed, refusing to get a new diaper on, refusing to sit in the car seat. Oh, and I had to teach music at playgroup. So–it was a shitastic day!
So after Thibault’s nap (which was a little bit shorter than normal) we had time for an outing. Of course Flora was resistant, but I decided I was not going to let the mood of a five year old ruin my momentum. We went to the kinderboerderij for some outdoor play and animal therapy. Feeding the goats, petting some sheep, looking at all the animals playing, and taking a turn on the speeltuin put everyone at ease. I felt much better.
On hard days like these, my moment of zen is listening to Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, my female journalist hero, alone in my kitchen while preparing dinner. Even a moment of zen involves multi-tasking, but at least I was alone! My crying children were with Jaap (my other hero) and I had time to sip some wine in peace.
Blue skies at Trinity College! We had a great time exploring Dublin and one of it’s surround neighbourhoods, Monkstown. We rented an Airbnb near Dun Laoghaire and I can’t recommend this neighbourhood enough. Some nice walks down by the water, outdoor playgrounds, easy access to the DART, and some great restaurants. We ate at Cinnamon twice. We highly recommend it!
Flora and Thibault were beyond excited to be playing on a playground. It was quite funny. A few days out in the Irish countryside, they were ready for some traditional playground equipment.
Our time in Dublin was spent exploring just a few of the major sites. A walk through the Temple Bar neighbourhood, a visit to the Dublinia museum (good one about Vikings for kids!), and lunch at a pub with Guinness, of course. Day two started off at the EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. This was very interesting and Flora really enjoyed stamping her passport in all the rooms. There was an outdoor monument of statues honouring the Potato Famine in the neighbourhood and it was hard for Flora to understand why the statues looked so sick. We talked a little bit about the Potato Famine and why people died. She called it the potato story and was curious about it, but obviously did not grasp the severity of it. Still— it was a nice mini lesson in Irish history.
And for the grand finale, a stroll through Trinity College, Grafton Street, some great outdoor play at St. Stephen’s Green and a fractured arm!
Flora and Thibault had a blast at the playground at St. Stephen’s Green. It was such a beautiful day. Beautiful grounds, flowers, and walking paths. It was a great park to spend the morning in. Things were a little too perfect. Flora took a fall off the monkey bars and had a rough landing. We knew pretty quickly that something was wrong. So, for the rest of the day Jaap and I went to the hospital with her, while Thibault and my parents enjoyed some more of Dublin. So if you’re wondering, Irish healthcare is great. We received some great care from the doctor and nurses and I’m grateful for the EU healthcare system. I was shocked that we didn’t have to pay anything and the doctor said, “Well, that’s why you pay taxes.”
As for Flora, she was a champ. I’m so proud of her. She was an excellent patient. Despite the broken arm, I’m proud of her for climbing those monkey bars. Seeing her fall was the worst thing, but I was so impressed by her. My little climber is almost back in shape. I was afraid this fall might make her scared, but it seems to have had no effect on her. 🙂