Monday, 24 December 2012

christmas eve @ oma & opa's

a carrot for Rudolph, a mince pie and... errr.... what's that?! not a beer, but a cup of warm milk for Father Christmas (only one minute in the microwave - it doesn't take long Father C - just be patient)! Now wot on earth would have prompted that.............?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt

what a fairy tale we went to see this evening! a lovely start to the christmas holidays....

sometimes, the illuminations were interactive
there were bubbles
disco balls
fairy lights everywhere
a snow queen fairy on stilts (?!)

and then we had mulled wine / hot chocolate
listened to christmas carols by the choir in which my friend sings (beautifully)
the kids went on the merry-go-round

they're reading the 'enchanted wood' books at the moment

so tonight's experience couldn't have been more magical :-)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

my highlights of this season


stir-up sunday

eldest's birthday

a glass of mulled wine, poured out for me by the people who sell me the Christmas tree

that hat....

(clickerdecklck ;-) )
the kisses youngest, and the cuddles eldest treat me to whenever any of us feels like standing under the mistletoe

and youngest in beaming at me throughout his nativity performance (with apologies for the poor photo quality...)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

instrumental tuition annual report 2011-2012

'Eldest has been a delight to teach this year. She is by far the smallest bass player I have ever taught but she is certainly meeting the challenge head on and plays with enthusiasm and true determination! etc etc etc excellent excellent good good excellent...'


'I look forward to seeing Eldest in orchestra next term'

so tonight we had a beaming eldest :-)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

tools of the trade

it's that time of year again - presents for the teachers. my friend A. kindly collected £218 from all parents and proposed to buy £60 vouchers for the 3 teachers plus £20 each for the 2 teaching assistants plus £18 to spend on thank you cards (don't get me started on the English & their cards) & gift bags. the email has gone out to all parents but apparently i'm the only one entering into a correspondence with her about how the numbers don't add up and how to split the funds otherwise. it ends in a phone call - £50 each for the teachers, £25 each for the TAs and then a bit for gift bags and cards. Sorted. A. says that's why they made me a professor and her redundant. Yeah right.

Conversation turns to my children. I try not to, but sometimes i still do, worry how their unfavourable circumstances might impact on their happiness as they grow up. they're happy enough now, but what if / when they're teenagers and..... etc. At which point, A. reminds & silences me. of course in an ideal world you want to shield them from anything bad - but that's not possible. the human race is very resilient. my children are incredibly grounded and sensible. so - as a mother i provide stability and give them the tools of the trade for coping with life as it happens - and i have just entered into a life changing thing that will create even more stability. chances are, they'll be fine. 

we made a pact. i'll check her numbers, she'll provide my wisdom. sounds like the perfect deal to me :-)

Saturday, 7 July 2012


ideale oma

i can cycle without stabilisers
 ideale peettante
 het is geheel wederzijds... heus!
i'm a super goalie!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

vlierbessen siroop

eindelijk eindelijk ben ik zo georganiseerd dat ik de schermen op tijd heb weten te plukken. dat is nl nogal een uitdaging - een mens moet tijd hebben om te plukken, de juiste plek weten te vinden waar voldoende van die dingen bloeien en er geen auto's langs rijden, het moet een paar dagen niet geregend hebben en een lekker zonnetje en dan moet een mens ook nog 48 uur op ongeveer dezelfde plek wezen voor het hele proces van vlierbessensiroop maken. pfieuw! ik geef het u te doen.

vandaag was ik op visite bij vrienden die een 'landje' hebben. hartstikke dol, echt zo'n totaal overgroeide wildernis van zo'n 6 hectare waar de kids niet verdwalen omdat er overal zoveel brandnetels en bramen staan dat ze braaf op de drie vierkante meter aan het begin blijven. daar zag ik in de verte de vlieren welig tieren. ha! zei ik en ging onmiddelijk asociaal met een tas en snoeischaar het veld in op vlierbloemenjacht.

36 buitelingen in onverwachte kuilen, door prikkende bramen en onder de brandnetelblaren later was ik wel mooi een grote dikke plastic tas met vlierbloemen rijker. het hele huis is nu gedrenkt in de heerlijk subtiele geur van vlierbloesem. ik maak er dit jaar geen vlierbloesemchampagne van, alleen siroop - verukkelijk met prikwater, een ijsklontje & blaadje munt. niet veel mensen maken het met sinaasappel maar het schijnt dat dat het geheel echt totaal niet te versmaden maakt - dus daar zijn we dit jaar dan maar voor gegaan. ik kan niet wachten tot ik mijn eerste glaasje kan proeven!

Friday, 1 June 2012

onder moeder's vleugels

eldest has a tendency to panic when i should be around but she cannot see me. this panic expresses itself as a massive howl, big tears that refuse to be dried for at least 5 full minutes, with quite a bit of gentler sobbing to follow. i heard such a howl the other day in the supermarket. she and youngest had run off in an attempt to hide from me and i merrily went on to the vegetables isle, knowing that youngest usually finds me and if not, then i'll find them easily enough.
(ah - had forgotten eldest does not feel quite as confident just yet)
so i explained that honestly there is nothing to worry about, you must just search all the isles systematically and also, i will always find you and if you really are scared or worried or you really cannot find me despite searching very carefully, then you can always ask the people in the orange & brown outfits to talk through the microphone and tell me i need to come & collect you - and then they will tell me where they are with you, and then i will come and find you. OK? ok. eldest sniffed, calmed down now, but remained close by my side for the remainder of the shopping expedition.

i should have seen it coming...

youngest, as usual, clearly had had his ears peeled when i was having my little chat with eldest.
next thing i know, person in orange & brown outfit comes up to me, points at eldest, and asks: 'do you have another one of those?'

gawd! of course. youngest had immediately concluded this whole idea of mama being summoned up via microphone was mega exiting & he decided to try it out straight away. he had basically raced to the other side of the supermarket, beamed at orange & brown person and told her he'd lost his mummy. not quite as convincing as the howling for some reason...

Monday, 28 May 2012

rules are there to be broken

a friend of mine looked after my kids at the post-olympic torch picnic for 20 minutes until i could join them and kindly treated them to an ice-cream. 

friend: 'what kind would you like, youngest?' 

youngest: 'please may i have a double ice cream with a chocolate stick?'
(typical - trying it on with a stranger to see whether he gets away with it)

eldest: 'youngest! we're only allowed a normal ice cream! those are mummy's rules!'
(typical - definitely do not live dangerously)

(and in case you're curious:
friend: 'good, because those are also my rules!'
poor deprived babies of mine.)

Friday, 25 May 2012

toasters and rabbits

went to see this play today; 'in the next room or the vibrator play' - did you know that about 100 years ago, vibrators were used to treat women for hysteria?! apparently in around 1910 there were more vibrators than toasters in American households - makes me wonder what the statistics are today

it was beautifully done - fabulous acting, which must have been a challenge because the play contains a real mix of hilariousness and serious undertones set against a backdrop of early 20th century goings-on. apparently theatres in london are interested in hosting this performance - i hope they do; this evening out was such a treat! 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

eldest in the morning

she has more important things on her mind than to get ready for school. she gets up and starts to draw pictures, write poems, play the piano or her brother's guitar until i tell her it really is time for breakfast now. then she cheerfully gobbles up her porridge, at her own pace, brightly chatting away to us. at some point i feel the need to suggest she gets dressed, brushes her teeth, her hair, puts on her shoes, puts on her coat. 

'mum-my! don't  - just - keep say-ing that!'

(she hates being told what to do. now who does that remind me of?)

'yes darleenk but if i don't say it you don't do it and then you're late for school'

she's not happy

'how about we make a deal. instead of saying what you need to do, i simply ask you whether you're ready yet'

it's a deal.

it works.

(7-year old in schooliform with hair & teeth brushed, no shoes on)

'are you ready?'

(severe look of serious concentration - then face brightens up)

'no! i have to put on my shoes!'

(rushes to do the same)

off we go to school. life is bliss.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

grow your own palmtree

today, for the second time in my life i was confronted with an instruction manual that was headed 'this needs to be erected by at least two people'. this was followed by increasingly scary threats, basically along the lines of, if i didn't follow these instructions to the letter then it would be the end of me. and my children. and parents. and pets. and my house might fall down.

hmpf! couldn't they have told me that when i pressed 'confirm order' on my little laptop?! luckily, the children came to the rescue and held up various quite heavy pieces of metal. (they didn't die in the process) with my new hammock stand (plus the lovely hammocks i've had for ages and hardly ever used because of a lack of suitable trees), i am ready for the summer and i don't need to grow my own palm tree. :-)

Saturday, 12 May 2012

wow words

in youngest's class they're practising story telling using pie corbett's techniques - great fun. virtually every word has an 'action' attached to it (check out how he tells the little red hen story) but also the children learn to describe people, situations, and things. in this context, youngest has devised a game: think of a letter, then everyone has to make a word with that letter plus give a good description of that word. you can win the game by thinking of the best word or giving the best description. 

'mama, let's play the game and the letter is p. the word is '(youngest)' and the description is he is the loveliest little boy in the whole wide world.' 

'ok - my word is parachute. it is made of large pieces of beautifully soft silk in all the colours of the rainbow. you fold it up into a rucksack, put it on your back, jump out of an aeroplane even though you're very scared, you pull the cord on the rucksack and  then the parachute unfolds into a massive great big jellyfish shape that prevents you from falling really fast down to earth. instead, you dangle in the air with the large jellyfish shape above you and you have all the time in the world to admire the amazing views of the tiny little houses below, the fields with the animals in them that appear larger as you come closer to landing really softly back onto earth.'

(a long discussion about parachutes and the desirability or otherwise to try them out followed)

'ok mama, now let's vote. i vote your word and description are the best.'

'thank you. i vote your word and description are the best.'

'ok mama, then we have both won.' (happy face)

'yes but you are the youngest so that means that really, you have won.' 

(check his face in rear view mirror - totally beaming. not that he's competitive or anything ;-) ) 

Friday, 4 May 2012

positivity ratio test

i discovered it on the action for happiness website: the positivity ratio test and i decided to take it (plus do my own version of happy rambles) for a week. score on day 1: 1.75 (read: miserable). Day 2: 3.33 (that's above what they call 'tipping point', so, not bad at all). Day 3: 3.35. dunno what the maximum score is, but must confess i catch myself not wanting to get too negative during the day because then at night i will have to confess to having felt 'extremely' 'contemptuous, scornful, disdainful', for instance. i wonder where this is going to end and whether it means i'm cheating......

Sunday, 29 April 2012

chocolate brownie cafe

when we moved from our mansion to our bungalow, i excitedly told the children how from our new house, we would be able to walk to school (instead of having to get in the car) and to the 'chocolate brownie cafe' (a spanish tapas bar that happens to sell scrumptious chocolate brownies). the latter totally convinced them. the house move was the best thing that had ever happened to them in their lives. this morning, the kids crawled into bed with me. feeling slightly guilty about my record unpacking expedition yesterday, i told them i wanted to create a really lovely day with them and asked what they would like to do. 'please may we walk to the chocolate brownie cafe?' was the response, in stereo. OK - fair enough, we haven't done that yet. so after a morning of rehearsing on the double bass, guitar & piano - yes, they are going a bit music-mad - in the pouring rain, each under their own umbrella, off we went, singing 'onder moeders paraplu'. arrived at the cafe to find there was live entertainment -what a treat!- in the form of a lady singing 'it might as well be spring' - how appropriate, as i warmed myself on a latte and then another one (still haven't managed to identify my coffee machine in the unpacking!) and the kids devoured their chocolate treats and put in their special requests with the jazz lady. we climbed back up the hill, loudly singing 'the girl from ipanema' alternated with 'hop paardje hop', picked up the sunday papers on the way & then went into town to meet up with our ski holiday friends. only 28 more boxes to go. who cares. i have papers to read.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

76 down, 83 to go

phew. celebrated in style with the girls & sparkling elderflower / wine on friday - must confess not a lot of unpacking got done but celebrating the house move was lovely. luckily, one of the girls returned this morning & helped me break the back of the unpacking while we put the world to rights. the kids were mega excited especially when they were asked to help scrunch up the wrapping paper by stamping it all in boxes (pictures to follow once i have retrieved the necessary equipment from somewhere in the remaining 83 boxes). still haven't identified my coffee machine! eeks. ok - i'm on decaf these days but still. i like my latte in the morning. managed to squeeze in a trip to the theatre with the kids in the afternoon, totally amazing, sorted out eldest's long anticipated pink storage furniture from scandinavia's online store (as i dreaded the thought of going in there myself) and found an orchid kindly delivered from the lady who looked after eldest & youngest from when they were miniscule until we moved west (she's so generous, i'm sure she has made a massive net loss on us by now). unpacking, i retrieved many items from my single days that had been banned to attics or outbuildings - my lovely pear wood dining room table i had to save up for for many months before i could afford it, my tall candle stick i bought on texel when i first went there with her, my frog on a reed and other sculptures that were basically 'lost' in our old mansion but now feature quite prominently in my lounge... ok so i'm not even halfway through the unpacking, the brand new boiler keeps packing up, when i tried to plumb in the dishwasher i discovered the builders forgot to put in the socket for it (there's a loose piece of electric wire dangling in its space....), the spare room is stacked with boxes i do not intend to unpack in this house (books, books, and more books) and i foresee at least one trip to the tip despite my ruthless decluttering expeditions before the move. but already, i couldn't feel more at home. can't wait to put the pictures up! 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

moving home procrastination

we're moving home tomorrow & thursday. from a massive house with 5 bedrooms, 4 reception rooms and 16 acres to a bungalow about 1/10th the size with a postage-stamp garden. i am looking forward to it. the new house has a nice feel to it, gorgeous views, the kids are mega-excited, and everything is newly painted and lovely.

because of the 'downsizing', as the english call it, i have been decluttering like a madwoman (and nobody signed up for my moving home giveaway, can you believe it??). result: the house is a total bombsite. OK - tons of clothes & toys & furniture have disappeared but does my house look any tidier for it? nope! i have nowhere to sit, so far so good, but the floors are covered with sorting out piles, sorted out piles, and 'also to move' piles. i haven't even started work on the shed yet. still - i collected the keys to the new place this morning & am fairly optimistic i'll find a home for all my stuff.

the removals men are due here at 9 am tomorrow morning. 3 more cupboards to empty & sort as well as the shed. however, behind me, in the fridge a glass of dry white whispers my name & my tummy is rumbling in the knowledge of the fillet steak, salad & skinny french fries that are on the menu... 9am is very late. that gives me at least 2 hours of sorting between grown-ups' waking up time & children's waking up time tomorrow morning. i have a 'flow' subscription to sort out for the new house, a log to post, plans to make...


Monday, 16 April 2012

cycling without stabilisers

by youngest

and eldest...

hmmm!! we'll get there one day...

Saturday, 31 March 2012

moving home giveaway

the plan is to move home in 3 weeks from now. the amusing thing, in england, is that you never really know whether the plan to move will actually materialise as planned until about 1 or 2 weeks beforehand: it is legal to change one's mind or drop the offer price at the very last minute and this makes moving home ever so slightly more nerve wrecking than it is in the netherlands (i imagine). it's seriously weird - it results in whole sets of people in a domino of house sales & purchases all handing over keys on Friday at 1pm, removals must happen on one day exactly (forget about decorating before you move in & all that sort of luxury); just imagine: one set of buyers pulls out and an entire chain that has been lined up, keels over - it has a knock-on effect on everyone's move.

the last time we moved, three sets of buyers pulled out of the sale until we eventually managed to sell it to family number four. this time, we're still dealing with our first set of purchasers & keeping fingers & toes crossed. i have expressed an interest in a house at scooter distance from the kids' school but of course, can't be sure it will still be there by the time i hand over the keys to the new owners of our house...

still - today i worked towards moving out. the new house is substantially smaller, so 3 sofas and one armchair went to a friend. our lounge & sitting room are virtually empty. the kids' clothes have been in need of sorting out for ages and it seems to be the limit to pay a removals company to shift stuff we're never going to use. So the kids & i spent the day seeing what fits on their bodies and in their drawers: 10 bags of girls' clothes went to the charity shop and 6 bags of boys' clothes are ready to come to the netherlands in 2 weeks for my friend's benjamin. the amount of clothes my kids have is still ridiculous, all gratefully received mega hip clothes from their cousins but in a sense wasted on us because they're condemned to these flppn schooliforms in this country....

my wardrobe is next. i'm not going to do that now because i'm shattered and a new dvd arrived today, and i feel i have earned an evening of drooling in front of clooney. however - i did pick up my favourite diesel jeans mini dress. i love it - but i don't wear it anymore and it is definitely too nice for a charity shop. what a nice excuse for a give away! the size is small / 34 (i'm 1.58m short, normal build), length just above the knee, and the pictures do not do it justice - it looks really cute on. i will announce the winner on Friday the 13th, so if you would like it, leave a comment to let me know - if it won't fit you, tell your friends :-)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

sound is just vibrating air

this sounded like fun when i found it in the theatre brochure:

'Breaking music down to its bare bones, Calefax's five brilliant musicians show how sound is just vibrating air and how notes can be changed simply by using different lengths of tubing. Take a reed and a mouthpiece. Add a crook here, a top joint there - all whilst playing! Finally, bit by bit, we have an oboe, saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and bassoon performing together!

Hear an amazing home-made family of 'slide saxophones'. Then, with all instruments complete and in full working order, Calefax perform a delightful 20 minute extract from the The Music Factory, a mimed musical play for children.

A fascinating action-packed afternoon, with time for some questions and answers before it ends around 4pm - plus meet the musicians time.'

fascinating indeed - so i booked, and we all loved it - especially eldest! she even asked them a question from the audience: 'how old were you when you learned to play?' (answer: all older than when she started to learn to play double bass, at 6, so she has immediately grown 2 inches)

and, cherry on the cake: they're dutch! lucky us...

Friday, 23 March 2012

the perks of the job....


post posting note: apparently it's not clear what this is......... this was my hotel room in Amsterdam, what you see at the back is a ~8 person bed that i had entirely to myself. a bit weird, but rather wonderful!

Monday, 19 March 2012

looking after George

finally it was youngest's turn to look after George the Dragon
less scary for him than last time
more educational (he learned to play the guitar, for instance)

most importantly, youngest couldn't stop beaming.
apparently, you only get to look after George if you've done something very special
for weeks, every friday morning, youngest would ask me 'do you think i'll get george today?'
and finally... hurrah!!! :-)

i must have heard it at least 10000 times: mama i cannot believe i am star of the week!!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

keel's diary

a friend gave me Keel's simple diary yellow (vol 1) for christmas. it's great - the date line is left blank for you to complete as & when, and then there are 'prompts' that make you think about your day in unusual ways. for instance, here's one: “your day was (only choose one): calm – overcast – an empty toolbox” or "your day was a) precious b) a nail file c) crushed" and then there are questions such as "who is brilliant but does not have a clue...", to "draw a graph of your life experiences up to this date..." (graph template included on page) or  “where will you be in ten years from now? (make a sketch, a drawing or a collage – or disregard)”.

i've been feeling far too miserable lately to spoil such a lovely book with gloom - so despite good intentions (i even took it with me on ski holiday) the pages have remained empty.

also, our house has been up for sale for about a year & i have managed to keep it mega tidy for all the viewings (read: pile up everything quickly when viewings are announced at the last minute & stuff it all in drawers).

today was the first in a long, long time that i have glimpsed things will be ok despite 'everything'. all sorts of things happened i couldn't possibly throw on the www.

where is my flppn diary?!

Monday, 12 March 2012


Last time I was there, I brought home the best chocolates in the world for oma & opa, who had been looking after the kids. Youngest & Eldest were very disappointed to see the 'treasure box' disappear off to the Netherlands together with their grandparents and I had to agree - they looked pretty amazing.

This evening, I phoned home. 'Do you remember what I promised I would bring you the next time I had to go to Brussels?' They knew I was there, had known for some time that I would be going, but had not asked once. I thought they had probably forgotten. But there it was in stereo: 'Chocolates! Did you bring the heart one? Yeah!'

I wonder whether I'll be allowed any...

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


interesting how kids go through phases. for a long time youngest has been keen to test the boundaries. recently, he has been eager to be 'my little ray of sunshine', bursting with energy, bouncing up and down, and on top of that he knows the boundaries & sticks inside them. such a delight!

this evening he asks me 'mama, what do you think was my biggest hurt ever?'

i don't need to think twice. 'when you hurt your toe.'

big smile. clearly that was the correct answer. 

a bit later, i take him to bed. tigger bounces on the bed as usual, and i do my routine 'now be careful, don't jump....... oh!!'


he has decided to dive face flat into his pillow - except he ends up diving face flat on his head board.

poor little boy!! he just lies there very still, trying to recover, holding his tears, being brave. 

when he finally decides he can speak again, he looks up, face as white as a sheet, and asks: mama, do you think this is now my biggest hurt ever?

thankfully there is no blood and, contrary to youngest's claims, no cracked open skull. only a big head bump. i cannot help but smile. 'no, i think the toe incident still wins'

Monday, 6 February 2012


absolutely shattered i was on saturday and very tempted to go out for a meal rather than cooking for my two little ones. however - i decided not to give in to temptation. we're going skiing next week and no doubt will have a few treats then, so we should save our pennies.

next thing i know, youngest asks me, totally out of the blue, 'mummy, can we go out for a meal tonight?'

(we hardly ever go out for a meal. literally. only when we're on holiday, and perhaps once or twice during the year)

how tempting to say 'you know what, i had just been thinking exactly the same!' - what fun, and not at all unlike me, but as it happens i had my 'responsible adult' hat on & decided to explain about saving pennies. 

'but mummy, you can always go to the bank!'

so then i explained about how pennies get into the bank and cooked them a lovely supper

sunday morning, i was lying in bed listening to their activities, wondering what they were up to. at some point, they got me out of bed. 'mummy, we made you a treasure hunt!'

which they had. they had emptied their piggy banks, hidden the money in my study, drawn a map and read the map for me to lead the way to my treasure. 'so you have a few more pennies, mummy'

(oops! do you think i overdid it...?)