Still there… but lying low…

Today is the first day in ages that I am back in the WordPress universe. Ok, maybe not ages, but it has been about… three weeks? Feels like ages. Tried to read all the wonderful posts that have been accumulating in my reader, but could not do it. Too many. But I think I read the ones most important to me.

I had not planned to be absent for so long. The holidays, yes, that was planned. Ten days of almost-no-internet, except for the husband’s mobile, for a quick check of really important emails. It was good, being in another world completely for that time. My great plan was to come back, blog about our glamorous holidays and then go on ranting about life, universe and the huge amount of moving boxes I have to fill until June.

So much for the plan. Coming back I first got lost in the biggest mountain of dirty laundry you can imagine (I just say two phrases: “rainy weather” – “boys playing outside a lot” and you will get the pictures). After I had tackled the mountain (“Mount Mud”), little one got sick. Just after I had the (dangerous) thought in my head: “Hey, we really came through this winter without illness (apart from the odd snotty nose and cough)!” Yep, got punished instantly by little one turning into a little heating stove  the other day. He got over it quite quickly though. Meanwhile I was frantically conjuring up to-do-lists for our move. What to pack next, who to inform when, blablabla…  Yuck.

And of course you know what happened next. Sure, I got little one’s bug. I do most times. He is extra specially cuddly when he is sick, giving me a healthy dose of his bugs via a good sneeze now and then. That plus my own stress, probably lowering my immune system. So now I am the snotty one, feeling miserable. Husband travelling. And a big bunch of family coming for a visit this upcoming weekend. Yeah!!!

But here I am, finally getting to read again. And writing down this pitiful little post.

And hoping that, when the virus and the family have left again, maybe I can finally get down to writing something about our holidays. Or my army of boxes. Or whatever.

Hope to see you then!

A week in paradise

I have been taking a week off – off from my usual life and also from the blogging world (although I have to confess I did sneak in a couple of times for a quick read). The boys had one week of holidays which we spent at the place that for me is a small paradise on earth: No, not a tropical island with beaches and palm trees, but a house in the Austrian countryside where I spent a good deal of my childhood.

It is the place where I can unravel like nowhere else. It begins when I step out of the car and take the first breath of that fresh, clean air that smells of the trees I know so well. Everything slows down there. ‘There’ is the house I know every corner of. ‘There’ is the garden with my trees, the grass, the flowers (yes, they were starting to appear, rather early this year). ‘There’ is the green fields and meadows and forests surrounding the garden, where I used to play in my own pretend universe when I was small. ‘There’ is the lake you can see from the garden, with clear water, sometimes all shades of blue, turquoise, green, sometimes even purple – I could spent hours watching it change. And behind the lake, the mountains, now capped with snow, against a bright blue sky (of course it can also be very grey and dull and wet, but not this week).

When I am there, I can step out of my daily life and just be me. Put on an old pair of jeans, grab some scissors and a bucket and disappear in the garden, cutting, trimming, digging with my fingers in the earth. I am free of most of my normal chores – my mother does the cooking and the washing (thanks so much for that, Mum!) like she did when I was a child. I only have to handle the boys, who in turn transform into their holiday selves, (mostly) happy and free. They spend hours playing football in the garden, they work on their tree house, let model airplanes fly above the fields and play with the toys that have been patiently waiting for them since last summer.

And I walk around the garden, tackling some stubborn blackberries (that insist on growing in the most strange and – for us – inconvenient places) and only have to settle the occasional fight over “that was a foul! – no it wasn’t ’cause I did not do it on purpose!” or “that was out! – no that was in!” (when they switch from football to tennis for a change). But even these fights seem different, are holiday fights and most of the time less fierce.

Life was simple this week – gardening, doings some grocery shopping, one day of driving up into the mountains to let the boys play in the snow. Long talks with my mother in the evenings.

I feel a calm there I feel nowhere else, I can recharge my batteries, I start dreaming daydreams and believe in impossible things again. If there was ever a shred of doubt in me about the power that nature has over my mind and soul, it would dissolve there.

But, as you can see in my use of “there” instead of “here” – we are back. School started again yesterday, and I have to say the boys where happy to be back with their friends. And I? I would not have minded lingering a little longer. But I guess it is time to be back to the duties and challenges of normal life. Time to see if I can bring some of the day dreams to life.

And we will be back in summer, as always.

Thoughts on (Happy) Birthdays

Isn’t it strange how the perception of one’s birthday changes over the years?

Look at my little one: He has been waiting for his birthday ever since his older brother had his (three months). He has been planning his perfect day with a perfect cake (rainbow cake!) and presents and pizza and a party (a few days later). When the day came, he seemed to absorb all of it with an intensity only children have. He loved every minute of it. Loved his cake and his presents and bringing muffins to school to share with his class mates. He loved the attention he got at school. He would shout “It’s my birthday!” across the street to a neighbour. He prepared the party bags with care (thinking a lot about which coloured pencil to put into which bag, according to the colour preferences of his friends) and even made some for friends he could not invite (lack of space). His birthday was really the day. And he is so proud of being one year older now.

Now look at me: My birthday is shortly after his, and in a way I had been looking forward to it too. Not to officially being one year older (although it really is only one day…at a time), but to having a “special day”. Or a day to feel special. At the same time I felt a bit like this was a childish emotion. My mother said a few years ago that “birthdays do not matter so much any more as you get older” – that being meant as a sort of consolation for a birthday that was sucked up by dirty diapers and toddler’s needs. It did not make me fell any better though. Officially I agreed with her, laughing away any birthday ambitions, but secretly I thought: “But why can’t I have a special day anymore? Just because I am a mum myself now?”

Time has passed and now my kids are old enough to not only love their own birthdays but to want to make it a special day for me too. So little one made me a book with drawings and a story he wrote for me. And older one asked me what I would like to have as a present. Husband got me a cake and they all helped me eating it. They gave me a “morning off” so I could take my bike, ride to the beach and have a solitary walk there.

It was windy, almost stormy, but sunny. A friend of mine once said the North Sea was actually no proper sea since it was not blue but grey and muddy. On my birthday morning however it was looking rather  pretty – if not dazzling blue, it was at least blueish streaked with grey, with dramatic waves with foamy crests. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the wind blew whisks of sand over the beach. I put the hood of my coat over my head (I foolishly had left my cosy hat at home, forgetting the rule that the wind always blows twice as hard at the beach as in our street), and for a while I just stood there and looked at the waves in front of me and at the thoughts in my head. I think I subconsciously sorted out life, universe and everything there on the beach, leaving me quite content and calm.

The rest of the day was partly birthday-ish and partly “normal”. Special things kept coming up. Ordering fancy food for dinner. Husband taking care of the bedtime rituals and the dishes.

In the evening both my sons asked me if I had a happy birthday. They really wanted to know, wanted to make sure I enjoyed “my” day as much as they had theirs.

And I did. I truly did.

Thank you family, for making me feel special.

Resolutions Part III: The thing about family and friends

I am almost at the end of my resolutions list: Spending more time with family and friends. How is this one coming along so far?

Well, the family (apart from husband and the boys, who I am luckily seeing on a daily basis 😉 ) is not exactly living around the corner, so quick drop-ins for coffee are out of the question. One side of the family is a 4 hours drive away – not too far for the occasional weekend trip, but still not a distance you are keen to cover on a really frequent basis with two kids in the back of the car (plus the driving does take a lot of time out of the normal 2-day-weekend). We have been there in December and are not sure yet when the next trip is going to be. But we will go to see my mum end of this month – flying down for a week during our “Spring Break” (ha! funny word – although it has not been really winter yet, I do not yet believe spring is waiting around the corner). We are all looking forward to that.

What about seeing friends? Some friends I see almost daily on the school yard at pick-up time. It is nice for a quick chat, but it is not the same as sitting down for a coffee somewhere and actually spending some real time together. Which I have a not done very often recently. Not at all this year so far, to be honest.

The problem is, meeting for coffee in the morning takes interferes with resolution number 2, getting more writing done. So I am kind of stuck. But there are a few people I definitely want to meet for an elaborate chat (without kids) really soon.

What I would also love to do is spend a weekend with an old friend who is living about 3 hours driving from here. We have done it before and it was lovely. She does not have any kids (yet), so it was a weekend going back in time for me. Just being responsible for my own needs, not having to check if anyone is about to get hungry (= grumpy and starting fights with his brother) or tired (= same outcome). Doing stuff like going shopping, stopping for a quick bite in a cafe, go home to dump the loot, decide on a movie, go out again, come home late, chat endlessly during the whole process (except during the movie). After a weekend like this my friend and I are completely up to date with each others’ life again, have sorted out the problems of the world as well as our private ones and filled each other in on other people we both (used to) know. My (and probably her) ears are then ringing a bit and I feel a bit high from all that new input, but I am always driving home very happy. And happy to be with my family again – because funnily, it also makes me realise how much I like my normal life too.

So we need to find a free weekend for that again – which is not easy since she is really really busy and my weekends tend to fill themselves with lots of activities (that very often are a bit too much for a home-alone-daddy to handle… like two different birthday party invitations for the boys…). But we have managed before and we will again. In spring. Spring is our visiting season.

Another good moment to get all social and having a party would be my birthday, which is actually approaching rapidly. The last years I never had a party. Not a conscious decision, it just did not happen. For this year I was rather determined to do something – going out with a couple of friends (since I am not so keen on doing all the work required to have a party in our house… on my own birthday). But our primary babysitter did not have time, and the back-up babysitter did not answer my emails. And while I was waiting if she would answer, and while I was wondering where I put her mobile number, I suddenly realised I was not so keen of having any kind of birthday activity after all.

You see, the last weeks and weekends have been incredibly busy and I am starting to feel I am in this reactive mode again – responding to queries, doing things that are expected from me, without stopping to think what I wanted myself.

So I stopped and I thought. Here is the result: I will not have a party. I will not even go out. On my birthday, I want some time for myself, maybe a nice cake (from the shops… I won’t put husband through any cake baking ordeal, and the boys are still too small for it), maybe order some special dinner, getting someone else to clean the dishes. 😉 Take it slow. Have a nice evening with husband (when the boys are in bed). Breathe. Just be.

(Maybe that’s a sign I am getting old…. Oh well. I am probably. 😉 )


Stitches and Scars

First of all: the last week did not work out very well creativity-wise. I had thought that with the boys being back at school, I could start doing my stuff again. Not really. The house screamed, “Tidy me!!” in a very loud voice, and being me, I cannot sit at my computer and write while someone is screaming. So I started clearing away the Christmas mess (not speaking of the Christmas tree itself), the toys that had accumulated in the living room, the washing that had piled up in the washing basket… that sort of stuff. At the beginning of the week I still thought that if I worked really hard I could squeeze in some creativity days – but at point I just decided to let go and work my way through the house with a relaxed mind instead.

So now I am finally surfacing again.

What also happened last week (and here I am arriving at my point at last) is that our older one has had his first stitches. We got a call from school that he had slipped in classroom (due to some wetness on the floor and probably a decent amount of silly behaviour) and hit the corner of a table with his chin. Ouch. When I arrived he was sitting there with a big plaster on his chin and a very pale face. I took a look, and although the blood was not streaming out any more, to me it seemed to be a bit more than his usual scratches. So off we went to the doctor, who first thought it could be glued together (yes! I thought, no needles, we got lucky), but after a closer look decided it was too deep. In the end it needed four stitches. My brave boy carried himself very manly, not flinching at the needle from the anaesthetic, not flinching at the stitches themselves. I could see he was concentrating.

When we got out I fed him some sugary candy and praised him a lot.  The rest of the day he was quiet, but ok, only complaining a little that chewing hurt (luckily we had soup for dinner). He needed some extra cuddling and talking time when going to bed though. We talked about the stitches his dad had when he was a boy (being hit by a croquet mallet on the forehead once!). I told him the stitches would come out after a week (he was satisfied with that). 

Since then we have applied various plasters to prevent chafing. He is all up and bouncy again and the stitches will go out tomorrow.

Two things are still on my mind tough.

One: I am surprised how calm we both stayed, my boy and me. I would have thought at least one of us would be freaking out. Granted, according to the teacher he was quite shocked at first, but he handled the whole stitching up part really well. I am very proud. As for myself I felt quite calm during the whole thing, very sure that everything would go well. Although one has to say that his teacher got the really hard part – administering first aid, mopping up the blood (“5 tissues, mum!” he told me later, quite impressed).

Two: It is funny how everyone reacts. When hearing of the stitches almost everyone says: “Oh, he is a man! It will look interesting on him.” Isn’t that funny? Even more so that I think along the same lines. I mean, chances are that there will be a small scar remaining, but it will be under his chin, which is not your most visible part of the face anyway… and yes, he is a boy. Boys are allowed to have a (small?) scar and are still considered cute. I mean, is good that it is that way, but what if he was a girl? Would they then say, “Oh, what a shame, she was so pretty before” or what? What kind of crazy difference does gender make here? But as I said, I am guilty too… I would probably worry more if he was a girl… feeling ashamed at myself.

Above all, I am really relieved he did not knock out any teeth or hit is head or something like that. Considering the cirucmstances, he was lucky, and I am grateful for that. Accidents like this show us how vulnerable we are all, especially our children.  But I choose not to worry more about them now, because it would not help anway. I just hope their luck (or their guardian angel) stays with us.

Random New Year Thoughts

Could it possibly be that the special New Year’s Feeling everyone is talking about is just a huge wave of tiredness?

When I woke up yesterday morning (it being January 1st) my first thoughts were something along the lines of “ooooohhhh I am tired”. You see, I did not simply wake up, I was woken up by Younger Son. And although it was a really merciful hour (8.30 – everyone with young kids will agree that this great!), still all I could think was “oh nooooo”.

We did not even have a party on New Year’s Eve, no crazy stuff. Husband and I spent a quiet evening reading, writing, tinkering, listening to music. But of course we stayed up until midnight, event though at 21.30 I thought how nice it would be just to fall asleep on the sofa and miss the whole stuff. Around 23.30 I felt rather awake again though, so we fetched the bubbly drink, followed the countdown on Husband’s phone (you would not believe it, but the radio station we were listening to switched from music to commercials for the last two minutes of 2013, followed by the news – at least they had the decency to wish everyone a Happy New Year before they started to read the news) – then we had a kiss and a drink 🙂

Afterwards we ventured upstairs, having promised the boys to wake them for the fireworks. This was the first time Younger Son had requested this and I had my doubts he would wake up happily at this hour. On the stairs we were greeted by Older Son in his pyjamas, with ruffled hair, blinking sleepily without his glasses, looking unbelievably cute. We asked him how he had managed to wake up at exactly the right moment. He just smiled. Younger Son was remarkably easy to wake, and soon all four of us were settled on the the sofa in Older Son’s room, looking out of the big window. Husband and I each had a cuddly son wrapped in his blanket sitting on our laps, and so we watched as outside a beautiful show on the sky unfolded.

I have to say I am sort of ambivalent about the whole concept of fireworks. On the one hand I see all the news articles about children (and adults) getting hurt when shooting stuff into the sky, plus it creates an immense amount of dirt, plus I won’t event think about the billions of Euros that are just sent puff into nothingness – but it does look pretty. (I only like the colourful ones… I really hate the loud crackers that only go boom and scare everyone to bits.) So the idea that has been discussed here, that instead of private fireworks there should only be ‘official’ fireworks organised by the cities, that one does not sounds too bad for me. But the league of fireworks lovers shout out in despair, since they love to do their own stuff. Oh well, I guess there won’t be any change here soon. I just wish those kids would be more careful (my boys luckily are very nervous around fireworks until now… they won’t go near it).

When the lights in the sky got less and less, we managed to get two happy boys back to their beds – Younger Son went out like a light, the older one took a while to settle back to sleep. Husband and I stayed awake for a little longer, lingering in the living room, having a late night snack. So it got really late in the end – thus my feeling of “ohhhhh I am tired” next morning.

After a cup of tea my thoughts managed to go a bit further. I still felt tired like anything, and the whole concept of having a whole new year in front of me somehow seemed a lot. But in the end it was just another day, as usual. On Monday school will start again for the boys, and it won’t be “new” at all – no new school year, just a new term, same teachers, same friends, same routine.

So what did I get out of the whole ado around the concept of “New Year”?

I got 45 minutes of sitting there with my family in the dark, watching the sky turn into our own private light show, watching the boys go “ooohhh” and “aahh”, seeing them pointing out especially nice ones to each other. Feeling them cuddle against me, listening to them comparing the colours and effects. It was for sure the cosiest New Year’s Eve I have ever had.

That’s a lot to be happy about, isn’t it?

Christmas Thoughts

Looking back at Christmas Eve, what do I see?

It was a day filled with bubbling excitement and we-cannot-wait-any-longer feelings from the boys. I guess for them it was the longest day of the year.

There was the service at our church: a special children’s service with a Christmas play. The church was fully packed, over the time it got really hot and sticky in there, all children getting red ears and rosy cheeks. The service was nice, although the last half hour was probably stretching endlessly for the children.

Then heading home, the excitement reaching its peak. The little bell rang and there was the tree, glowing, with parcels underneath, and two little boys went “oooohhhh”.

We then enjoyed a little concert by two guitars (older boy and husband), accompanied partly by one singing voice (younger boy).

Afterwards the presents were opened in lightning speed and the living room was filled with delighted cries. Two boys were very happy. The adults opened their presents too, more slowly, smiling.

After some playing we had dinner – the boys ate more than I would have expected, being magically drawn back to their presents. They were not interested in dessert though. 😉

We let them play a little longer, than brought them to bed. They were tired, but content, looking forward to more play in the morning.

Husband and I then cleaned up the kitchen and settled cosily by the tree with our desserts.

What followed then is my personal Christmas ritual. When all the excitement has subsided, I love to sit next to the tree, listen to some music and start reading my Christmas book. (Christmas without at least on new book is no real Christmas for me. This year I was really lucky: I got four.) While husband started tinkering with his own present, I read a few pages, listended to the music, looked at the tree, read a few more pages, thought for at bit. Later I got the newspaper and skimmed through that – a mixture of Christmas related news and normal ones.

Looking after the tree for a while, the feeling that dominated me was that of deep thankfulness. Thankfulness because I could spend this lovely day with my family, being warm and sheltered and cosy. Being able to dress in festive clothes, give them presents, cook them a nice meal. Being able to sit next to the tree, knowing two healthy boys slept peacefully upstairs, one loving husband sitting next to me.

Thanks – to everyone, everything, God and the universe. And Merry Christmas.

(I know this post is soppy, irony-free and probably boring…. but today it does feel good to just be happy.)