you’re getting a baby sibling

The boys came back home from a 3 week visit with their father. It had been the longest three weeks of my life. First of all missing them is one the hardest things. It just never gets easy. Plus this year, I wanted to tell the boys the most exciting news in years for us: the expectation of a baby brother or sister.

So when they finally arrived, I had to bite my tongue for a while as I wanted them to settle down and be ‘home’. So, after a few days we had a coffee moment in the morning and I placed cupcakes with “muisjes” (a Dutch anise treat, traditionally given to families by the birth of a newborn).

Geboortetraktatie-cupcakes-muisjes-300x224Picture credits: bijnamoeder.nl

The boys were quite surprised by such a treat with our morning coffee (tea/lemonade). We told them that we are expecting a baby sibling. They asked a million questions, even more than usual. We patiently answered all questions, about where the baby was going to sleep. Then went off to play outside again and told all their friends in the neighborhood.

A few days later I brought the boys with me to the ultrasound. And even though it was hard to realize that this baby is actually in my belly, it became much more real. I have to say the ultrasound technician did a great job explaining to the boys how big the baby baby 1was. At some point the baby was showing her hands (yes, I do think it is a girl) and the lady said: “look, the baby is waving at you!” Chris and Noah were just staring at the big screen and Noah waved back.The bonding process has started.

and it became quiet…

I am sorry for not writing for a long time, but I honestly just ran out of energy and inspiration for a while. We had a heatwave early July and I just slept pretty much all the time. I am not really good with heat, so I figured that I was simply overwhelmed by it.

We were all tired. The school year was about to finish, everybody seemed to be ready for a much needed break. And on top of it all, I had my monthly week early. It wasn’t too surprising I was exhausted.

Summer break started, the boys went to their father for 3 weeks, and I had to see a doctor about a cyst (I have had several in the past, nothing too scary). They checked me with an ultrasound and there it was… a small tiny heartbeat!

Yes, we are expecting a baby! Adding some new genes to our blended family. What a huge blessed surprise for us! And it explained the exhaustion much better than a bit of heat.

We couldn’t be more excited.expecting

By now we’re in week 14 and I am less tired. I will try not to overwhelm you with weekly baby updates, but we’re definitely starting a whole new era.

blogging anniversary

Today, it has been 10  years since I wrote my first blog post:

“So, here it is. Our own weblog. As from today you can see how we are doing on the road to and at Ithaca. It will take some time to find out how things work…. we’ll see!”

Yes, 2005, it feels like yesterday, but it was the year:

  • YouTube was launched;
  • Touristic bombing in London;
  • Lance Armstrong retired;
  • Hurricane Katrina hits the Bahamas, Florida and New Orleans;
  • Saddam Hussein was on trial;
  • The 6th book of Harry Potter was released;
  • Of Brokeback Mountain…sneeuw

And the summer I moved from The Netherlands to the USA. The blog was more like a travel journal of all things we (my ex-husband and I) encountered while starting over with 4 suitcases. I wrote about getting my driving license again, looking for a job, unexpected hardship with permits, and just daily life. The website was simple, plain, and mainly for friends and family.bobs lake

During those years, I became a mom, writing about the first years of Chris and Noah. I made some blog contacts of other Dutch people in de USA, and actually met one of them.

After 5 years we moved back, I switched writing from Dutch to English, and the website become sort of a diary the other way around. Over the years it become less of a journal, and more of a diary, blog, less of our family, more personal. I started writing about things that matter to me.

twins
Chris and Noah, 10 weeks pregnant

After the divorce, I decided to start a new website. I started all over in life, and also online. The old blog address even carried my ex-husbands name. The website is gone now, the host (Weblog) doesn’t even exist anymore. But I kept it all; it is for Chris and Noah, they will be able to read all about our adventures, the first years of their life with mom and dad.

It became time for something new. A new life as blended mom, a new focus. I still write quite personally. I like to share our positive story of a blended family and the contradictions of parenting.

Blogging changed, 10 years ago people wrote as a journal, hardly any advertising. Commercially blogging, making money with your blog, was hardly known (I still don’t). But for sure, your blog needs to be more fancy. The options are endless.

Also the risks are known. I never thought someone would steal pictures, change them and use them for their own benefit. I know friends who stopped blogging or put passwords on their site. I became more careful as well, Chris and Noah are not real names, no more last names, no mentioning of where school or work is.

Slowly, but surely, people started to recognize my writing and blog. I got asked to write for TYM.nl , my articles are quoted in several American online magazines, and I still enjoy it. Of course, I still dream of a second home somewhere in France, where I will be making money with writing while sitting in a vineyard. May my dreams come true!

10 years… happy blogging anniversary to me!

our 12,5 year anniversary

One of the things I learned is “celebrate”.

In the Dutch culture it is quite unusual to celebrate things, we do celebrate our birthdays, but that is about it. Christmas, yes, but only if you feel like it, no pressure or commitments. Baby shower, bridal shower – all American things.

Celebrate? We, Dutchies, like to keep things real, a bit sober. A saying in Dutch: “Act normal, that is crazy enough” And I so disagree!
bff 4
Concerts, New Years Eve, and always silly!

Why not celebrate? Time is limited, we found out the hard way. Why wait to say ‘I love you’, make that trip, celebrate something you worked for? And no, it doesn’t have to be a crazy party with too much food, it can be just the two of you on the couch. Whatever you feel like.

Last weekend I celebrated my anniversary of 12,5 years. Wait didn’tyou really meet Henno in 2013? Yes, we did.
I celebrated my anniversary with my friend Marion. Weird? Maybe. Worth it? Yes!

bff 5
Maarssen, The Netherlands, 2003
bff 3
Bob’s Lake, Canada, 2006

It was 12,5 years since I moved to a new town, got introduced to her and we just hit it off. In 12,5 years we have gone through heartbreaks, hangovers, weddings, marriages, divorce, many rounds of board games, pregnancies, moving overseas and back. We went on a honeymoon to Mexico together (funny story!), visited distant family in Canada, and camped many times. She flew to the USA to meet my boys shortly after they were born.

bff 6
Maastricht, The Netherlands, 2014

After I moved back with my sons, we found that living closer together did not necessarily mean seeing each other more. Instead of having a week (or two) together 24/7, we were seeing each other more often, but usually quick and fast. Things had changed and we had to find a new way. One of the things we started doing was having a girlfriend weekend. One weekend a year, we book a hotel, shop till we drop, have dinner, play games, and chat.

bff 2Last weekend was our 5th weekend, and happened to be our 12,5 year anniversary.

Cheers!

Thanks Marion, for being there!

last days of

Just 2 more to go… the last days of school. School is almost over, all the extracurricular activities will be done. Just no more! And I am so relieved and sad at the same time.last school day 3

I am so proud of Noah who will be starting ‘groep 4’ next year – even though he started with a set back after switching schools, he worked hard and made it.last school day

And also very proud of Chris, who is the number one of his class in mathematics. He can tell you a funky details about pretty much any subject. But he cannot read, so he will restart ‘groep 3’ and hopefully will learn to recognize the letters with the extra time. I am so proud he tried absolutely his very best,he tried to trick everybody that he can read – remember the words other people were reading, but honestly, he simply can’t.last school day 2

I am so relieved that the boys can take a break from all that working, sleep in, relax, and just don’t have to for a while. But I will miss the boys terribly as they will spend half their vacation with their father.

the blended summer bucket list

Confession 1: I just made my first bucket list.  Confession 2: I hate bucket lists!

And the reason is actually quite simple, because a bucket list, for most people, is a list of things they would do if they had unlimited time and money. That is just sad! Unless…

Unless you make a list you actually tend to do and make a deadline, because bucket lists without a deadline are dead. It would just be a ‘someday somehow’-list. Not happening.

been there
been there
Why not dream big?

Dreaming big is awesome. Seriously, go ahead. Just don’t just dream…. But make it happen!! Because when you’re bucket list is filled with awesome but likely impossible things, you might forget to really enjoy the things you do. So yes, dream big, make plans, think outside of the box, and make it happen now.

Why now?

Because the next decade, year, even tomorrow might not come. I agree that is a scary thought. But I have seen it: “We will change the bedroom as soon as I retire.” But she never made that. One of the most painful things I ever heard, was at the funeral of a good friend, killed in a car accident. There was a girl who loved him obviously, but she never told him: “it is all too late now”.

been there, done that 2
done that
Enjoy all the things you did

I have a ‘been there, done that- list’ for years. Just to keep all things in perspective. I did a lot of things other people dream of. I love going over the ‘perfect tumblr’ pictures and see what I have done already:

been there, done that
been there, done that

Some might seem silly like “go bowling”, but I did it. Others might be on your ‘sometime somehow-list’ and I already did that. Not that I feel like I have traveled much nor let an extraordinary life.

Summer bucket list

Like I said I did make a bucket list. It is one that suits our family, as we will also spend 3 weeks without the kids. I purposely also added some date things as we will have more time to do those as the kids will be with their father. The perks and hardship of custody schedules.

But I think we should be able to do these things this summer.

bucket list

What is on your list? What do you still want to do? What are you moving from your ‘someday, somehow’ to your ‘I really want to do this’?

heatwave – just let it go!

We’re dealing with a heatwave, like never before. The temperature is breaking records. Currently it is 7:30 am and it is already by far over 24°C (75°F) – which will rise today over 33°C (90°F), and close to 37°C (100°F) on Saturday.

So, lots of sunscreen, swimming, water, and picnic plans. It is another two weeks till school is over, but I decided to just ‘let go’. The heat makes sleeping harder, so relax mama, it will be okay.

On Tuesday, we had a picnic dinner at the local lake, while most people go home for dinner, the boys enjoy the more quiet lake. We eat finger foods and yes , it is after their usual bedtime – but we cool off.

Yesterday afternoon, friend Irene, and I took the kids swimming, heatwave 2again finger foods: tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, chips and salsa, lots of drinking, and home a bit later.

The boys school starts late today, after lunch, and will have a water festival.

Untill today, I did not even think about vacation. Mostly how I did not want to go into a tent and all. But with the heat, some french bread with cheese, I actually start to think about camping. Just don’t let Henno know, he will be so excited.

potty training

When I was pregnant I was convinced my kids would never ever have a pacifier as it would probably a true drama to get them off. Potty training on the other hand would be one of those natural things that would be just another part of teaching.

Well, yes, go ahead, laugh already. The joke was on me.

The boys were born too early, stayed in the NICU for weeks, and a pacifier was needed within minutes. At two and a half (6 months after our move) I decided that the pacifier was just for sleeping and at three years old, we left the pacifier at the dentist. Not good for the teeth. They cried once.baby

A little different than potty training, you can guess, at 7 years old, my boys still have many accidents and sometimes I wonder whether they were potty trained at all. But they are at night, which tells me that their bodies are ready. Over the course of the last 4 years I read many books and online tips about potty training.

I have been desperately looking for that one answer that would help me train the boys. Let me introduce to fantastic world of parenting advice about potty training:

“Don’t start too early with potty training as this will cause more toilet accidents because the bladder may not be strong enough. It can also lead to constipation, kidney damage and even urinary tract infections because the toddlers are hold in their bowel movements longer than they should. But don’t wait too long either, because that can lead to the same problems.

When is the time right? Some practitioners of Elimination Communication begin soon after birth, the optimum window being zero to four months, although it can be started with babies of any age. In case of the more common potty training, waiting-for-a-sign-please “Wait for the signs”. Healthy children aren’t physically and emotionally ready to start using a potty until they are between 18 months and three years old. You have to wait till he/she shows signs of discomfort when wet (still waiting for that). Can sit down quietly in one position for two to five minutes (Did I mention I have boys?) Takes pride in his accomplishments. (farts, yes!).

You can also train your child in a day or a week – it is easy, just follow the steps. Or… the process often takes between 3 and 6 months, although it may take more or less time for some children. But do not train your child when you’re preoccupied with other commitments.

Do not overwhelm or push your child as they will hold their bowl movement, but celebrate and reward every step of the way. Unless you want your child to become proud of their self-mastery, then that is the reward, and all other rewards are fleeting.

The best way to learn them about their body is naked. Let your toddler run around naked and by the sign of needing to go whisk him to the potty or toilet. But never let them run the house naked as your home will become the next nudist meeting place for toddlers.

Do not force potty training, but do not empower your child by having him/her control over their output. Never punish a child for having an accident, but do not forget to show them that they did something wrong.

Has there has been a big change in his life — a new sibling, a move to a different home, a change of school? If so, his regression is a natural reaction and it’s probably best to wait until things settle down to resume toilet training. It may take a few weeks or a few months. I repeat again, do not train your child when you’re preoccupied with other commitments.”

Clearly I did not realize I needed to train my kids for 4 years without having other commitments. I tend to become sarcastic: “Sorry boss, I will be back as soon as Mini Me is potty trained. This might take 4 years.” or “As soon as they will have a girlfriend it will be over, just another 10 years to go.”, but you can imagine I worry too.

I hope that some day I will look back and realize it has been weeks since an accident.

they call me ‘mommy’

We have come so far. My miracles, TTS survivors, and greatest blessings!

I cannot believe these boys are about to finish first grade.  They are both quite a character with an endless amount of energy and hunger for more.

20 kilo 4 (315x474)
Noah, March 2008
p32269a_0511A0511
Noah, May 2015

Noah wants to become the world’s best soccer player, or President of the United States, ánd a biologist like his father. He is very determined and works hard. He has a strong sense for injustice and will fight anything unfair.

He likes to be challenged physically and turns everything into a championship. He is the boy with dirt, loves being gross, and thinks he can explore the limits of life without consequences. I will be so happy when he turns 18 and just hope he will have some sense of danger and reality.

20 kilo 2
Chris, February 2008
p32269a_0525L0525
Chris, May 2015

 

Chris has a little crush for the first time, but is not going to tell her until he is 18 years old. ‘It just complicates things.’

He is a snuggle bug and very sensitive to what other people need.

He has no idea of what he wants to do for living later on, but he doesn’t care either. He is the guy who is perfectly happy within his own limits and actually flourishes if you just let him be (I can learn a lot from him!). He loves facts – he will be able to tell you a funny fact about any subject – and if not, he will ask till you have no more answers, and then asks you to join him to the library or Google.

These boys challenge my parenting skills and make me wonder every day why God thought it would be a good plan to make me their mom. They drive me to insanity, but opened me to things I never knew existed. They are the reason to rise and shine in the morning, and the reason I crash at night.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world: my sons!

a magazine childproof home

Oh, if I could only find the balance between a pretty home and a childproof home, or the magazine living room versus a comfortable one. I have to be honest; I like a home where I can have visitors any time of the day without worrying about that basket of laundry in the corner, dishes in the sink, or a car on the floor that could cause a sprained ankle.

I love the Nordic style; fresh, crip and very organized, with a great balance for personalizing without stuff, in our house called “houtjes” aka wood chips.

But the truth is that I am not so organized myself plus I have two boys, who have a tremendous amount of energy. There are days that all the games “somehow” end up on our dining table, cars on the floor, the bikes in the yard, soccer ball between the plants. Mysteriously, nobody knows how or when it happened. And housekeeping gets interrupted so many times that some days the house is filled with halfway done projects.

Not good. I want my home to be organized and child proof, at least some part of it. I started thinking of some improvements. Here are some tips to create a home for you and your kids.

  • claim your own space
    No, not an addition to the house. But you have to decide what area is yours. In our case it is the living room. The kids are allowed to play in the living room, but they have to clean up immediately when done. Every afternoon before dinner, I want the living room to be clean and clutter free. This way I can actually relax on my couch after the boys are in bed.
  • everything has a place
    This is something I learned from the Meghan Method. Everything needs a spot, whatever doesn’t have a spot will become a loose end and clutter. And yes I am talking about things like your charger, coats, purse. We all have things that float around because we use them often, but they do not have a spot.
  • keep it clear for / clean with the kids
    Kids find it easier to clean when things are organized. It is also just a habit. Not one that is always been there, but is defininately an idea to start. Urban Moms wrote a funny piece about it.
  • stick to your plan
    I tend to swirl around the house, start doing a housekeeping project, get interrupted, forget what I was doing, my eye spies another project and in the end, I have 10 projects only halfway done. I am exhausted, but feel like I haven’t accomplished a thing.
    Start one project and finish it. Even if it takes more time then you hoped for. Last week I wrote down every single thing I did, just to motivate and show myself stuff gets done. You can also make a (realistic) to-do list for that day, and STRIPING feels pretty good.
  • get rid of stuff!
    I said it before, I/we, people in general, are collecting too much stuff. Some things just need a quick fix. Maybe they will play with it in 6 months. Let’s keep it for the next baby.
    And I am not advocating a consumer lifestyle. That is not even possible with my budget. Most of us can decide whether something is really worth a fix, it will be used later, or we actually just need to sell, donate or toss it. And over time you realize better what you do not need to buy.

declutter 1

Okay, so, now we decided what area/room is ours. I explained shortly some principles for making it more easy.

We have a two story, three bedroom house, no family room, no basement, no dining room. We have a living room with an half open kitchen downstairs and the three bedrooms upstairs (and an unfinished attic – mayor project for 2015). It is a fairly small home. We simply do not have the room for a playroom. So we have to be a bit creative with the toys. This is how we do it.

  • boxes/baskets
    We have a basket for cars. And a Lego storage box (DIY tutorial) for the Lego. Those are upstairs in the boys room. Every Thursday we clean the room together, but for the rest of the week it can be an ongoing project, except for the floor, as I hate stepping on Lego. DIY Lego 1
  • hiding in plain sight
    In the living room we have an old wooden egg box in which our kids DVD are hidden. Mittens, hats, scarves are bundled in a basket.
  • cabinet/drawers
    Our family games are in one cabinet. The rule here is full is full. Last year we added some new games, which meant we donated some games that we no longer played. Shoes are stored in the hallway.
  • pretty open glass, or maybe not
    Resembling to that mess was our TV/media station. With the glass panel it just shows everything, and I just hated it. It became time to think about new furniture, and one of the characters of our new furniture was that it would hide things.

tv media.jpg

 

Allow everyone a messy place

But we all need a place to have our own mess. Not that I have mess, it is perfectly organized to me, but Henno feels differently. A halfway done creative project, some sewing that will be finished after dinner – to me it is not a mess, and I could not be creative if I felt the pressure to be done and cleaned before dinner.

So, we all have a place in which we can make a mess. A mess is not the same as being gross/unhealthy dirty! If your home is small (like ours), try to have a desk in case of writing, a bookshelves, a chair full of clothes – you can be organized messy in many ways.

all about our blended family, parenting, happy homemade, and decorating