Sprekend Afval

Voor de zomer maakten Rachel en ik een boek over het scheiden van afval voor haar opleiding aan de fotovakschool. We interviewden en fotografeerden wegbrengers van afval bij ondergrondse containers en een aantal medewerkers van lokale afvalverwijderaar Avalex. Zij waren enthousiast over onze werkwijze en vroegen ons of we iets soortgelijks wilden doen voor de zes gemeenten waar zij afval ophalen.

Waaaaat? Natuurlijk, graag zelfs!

Want ik ben dol op scheiden

Okay, ik zal heel eerlijk zijn. Pas tijdens het maken van ‘Wie Scheidt, die Blijft’ ben ik ook afval gaan scheiden. Nee, dat deed ik daarvoor niet, ik vond het een gedoe. Papier en glas wel hoor, maar de rest? Al die bakjes en vliegjes en het schoonmaken van de groencontainer, jasses. Maar, er is hoop – voor iedereen – want als ik het kan, etc. Het zou ook wel een beetje gek zijn overigens als ik nu nog niet zou scheiden. ‘Wie Scheidt die Blijft’ is immers een inspiratieboek. Goed, reden genoeg voor een deel twee.

Eerlijk duurt het langst

Want scheiden zit nu in ons beider systeem (Rachel is ook gaan scheiden) en we proberen het zo goed mogelijk te doen. Daarom is het extra leuk om te luisteren naar al die mensen die bij de ondergrondse containers hun afval wegbrengen. Het is namelijk zo herkenbaar. Mensen vertellen open en eerlijk hun verhaal, of ze het nou wel of niet goed doen. Hoe dat komt? Omdat afval emotie is, we vinden er allemaal iets van. En misschien ook omdat afval wel persoonlijk, maar niet te persoonlijk is? Omdat het eerder voelt als een maatschappelijk probleem dan als een persoonlijk probleem? Zo lang het een maatschappelijk probleem is, kun je het ook nog soort van wegwuiven want je voelt je niet eindverantwoordelijk (ik spreek uit ervaring).

De emotie spat van het blad

Ongelooflijk fijn vind ik het dat mensen zo open zijn, want het resulteert in persoonlijke gesprekken die weer leiden tot persoonlijke verhalen. Je krijgt een kijkje in het leven van een ander. Dat Rachel ook precies de juiste momenten pakt om een foto te maken, maakt het beeld compleet. Je ziet gelijk hoe Dave in elkaar zit, je kunt je voorstellen hoe Bea scheidt en je ziet de trots van Fabienne die dacht dat scheiden haar nooit zou lukken. De emoties spatten van het (gerecyclede) papier.

Sprekend Afval

Mega, ontzettend trots zijn we op dit boek ‘Sprekend Afval’. En wederom ongelooflijk dankbaar voor de samenwerking met het communicatieteam van Avalex, de redactieslag van Machteld Henzel, het design van ontwerpbureau Snow Donuts en drukkerij vanDeventer voor een tastbaar boek!

En nu?

Ha, wie weet wat er volgt! Rachel en ik hebben elkaar in ieder geval gevonden als ‘partners in crime’ en we hebben de smaak te pakken!

Nb.
1. Foto’s gemaakt tijdens de open dag van Avalex op 23 september, zo leuk!
2. Wil je een exemplaar van ‘Sprekend Afval’ ontvangen om de verhalen te lezen en foto’s te zien? Stuur Rachel of mij een mail!

Wie Scheidt, die Blijft

‘Wie Scheidt die Blijft’ is een boek over het belang van het scheiden van afval. Gisteren is het, tijdens een bijeenkomst van Avalex (afvalverwijderaar van onder andere de gemeente Leidschendam-Voorburg), uitgedeeld aan geïnteresseerde raadsleden.

ZO gaaf!

Van idee naar boek

Helemaal omdat het project begon als een studie-opdracht van Rachel: ‘Maak een boek en ervaar hoe het is om samen te werken met een tekstschrijver en vormgever’.
Toevallig was ik destijds tegenover een ondergrondse papier- en glascontainer komen wonen. Gefascineerd aanschouwde ik – niet per se fervent afvalscheider – een komen en gaan van jonge en oude mensen en alles daartussenin met gevulde tasjes en bolderkarren. Waarom doen ze dat, hoe bewaren ze dat thuis en wat scheiden ze nog meer, vroeg ik me af. Rachel en ik brainstormden en dachten na over beeld en tekst en hoe het geheel eruit moest zien.

Wegbrengers en ophalers van afval

Op een goede (ijskoude) dag in februari, interviewden en fotografeerden we de eerste mensen, bij de bakken tegenover mijn huis. We hoorden verschillende verhalen en motivaties, bijvoorbeeld over het houden van kippen, heel veel bakjes in de keuken en de dame van 83 die haar afval van één hoog zo in de groenbak beneden gooit. Echt iedereen heeft zo zijn eigen manier, ideëen en beperkingen. Omdat het niet helemaal compleet voelde – wat wordt weggebracht moet immers ook worden opgehaald – besloten we ook de schoonmakers van de prullenbakken en de ophalers van afval te interviewen.

De mannen van Avalex

En zo zaten we met vier mannen van Avalex en teamleider Dick rond de tafel. Ze waren net klaar met hun dienst en zo lief om in hun eigen tijd met ons te praten. We spraken over verschillende soorten afval, de wagens waar ze op zitten, zoals ‘de Knijper’, hoe slordig de mensen hun spullen aanleveren, hoeveel ze van je te weten komen en wat ze allemaal vinden (hallo, Tarzan!). Daarnaast gaven ze tips over het aanleveren van afval. Wat een betrokken jongens en zo vol passie over hetgeen ze doen. Heel eerlijk, zo had ik nog nooit naar de vuilnisman gekeken.

Dat je zelf gaat scheiden

Van het geheel maakten we een boekje en  raakten in ieder geval zelf geïnspireerd door de mensen die we interviewden. Klinkt dat raar? Nou ja, het is wel waar. Zo scheiden we allebei inmiddels trouw ons afval en heb ik onderzoek naar het houden van kippen gedaan. En afval scheiden en juist aanleveren, doe ik niet alleen voor het behoud van de planeet en de toekomst van mijn kinderen en hun kinderen, maar ook omdat ik het goed wil doen voor de vuilophalers. Want als ik – om een voorbeeld te geven – niet wil dat zij stofhappen achterop de wagen, moet ik het stof uit mijn stofzuiger natmaken.

Komt er een vervolg?

Sowieso is het boekje ongelooflijk enthousiast ontvangen door Avalex (en door de raadsleden gisteren) en daar zijn we trots op. Tegelijkertijd gaat dit boekje maar over één gemeente en er zijn er veel meer, dus, wie weet! Zouden we leuk vinden, want de samenwerking fotograaf – tekstschrijver en met alle anderen was een feest. Speaking of…..

Een woord van dank! Want de geïnterviewden komen vooral zo goed tot hun recht omdat Machteld Henzel de teksten heeft geredigeerd. Het boek is zo mooi vormgegeven door Merlijn Viersma (oh alle duizend correcties die we nog hadden!) en de drukkerij in Rotterdam zijn we eeuwig dankbaar; dank Efficiënta voor de waanzinnige uitleg en samenwerking en proefdrukken. En dan als laatste veel dank aan het communicatie-team van Avalex voor de super-enthousiaste reactie op ons project en het denken in mogelijkheden.

 

 

Uncombable hair, new research!

‘Dear Eva, I read your blog; you have amazing children and I recently started Crossfit too!’
Mention those two things and you have my full attention.

American Journal of Human Genetics

The writer of this email turned out to be a German Professor, called Regina C. Betz. She has a research group at the Institute of Human Genetics in Bonn. They are usually doing research on hair loss disorder and rare skin syndromes. The past years however, they also researched ‘Struwwelpeter syndrome’ or ‘Uncombable hair syndrome’ or ‘Pili trianguli’ or ‘Onkambaar haar syndroom’ as we say in Dutch. She published an article about her research in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Uncombable hair syndrome

Both our girls have Uncombable hair syndrome (Uhs). I’ve written about their extremely fizzy, slowly growing very blonde hair before. It’s very well combable btw, it’s just not so easy to tame. The hair has a will of its own, often wishes to go straight up. On the other hand; it’s very easy to braid and it looks amazing. I never knew what exactly caused it and now we do!

Uncombable research

The most valuable conclusion is that the fizzy hair both our girls have is caused by a rare genetic mutation. Regina and her team discovered that a mutation in three genes can cause the hair to be ‘misshaped’ and thus ‘uncombable’. Another thing I found interesting is that the name ‘syndrome’ is actually not applicable as in most cases only the hair is affected, it’s an isolated defect. I knew that, but it’s always nice to have things like that confirmed. Do read the article for some more background information!

Uncombable inaccuracies

The article was widely spread and received a lot of media attention. Some of it is correct, some of it is interesting on another level, or just funny.

* If you suffer a bad hair day once in a while, you don’t have Uhs. You have a bad hair day and well, live with it.
* If you have difficulties combing your children’s hair, they don’t have Uhs. If they have dreadlocks, they don’t have Uhs. Maybe use conditioner, or comb it more often?
* If you have weird hair, it’s not necessarily Uhs. You might just have weird hair (live with it).

Participate in the name of science

Regina and I spoke on the phone the other day, which was amazing. She’s extremely enthusiastic and I personally find it so nice to finally have an answer to the question what causes  Uhs. Joost and I will participate in her research, because we, of course want to know which genes are responsible for our girls’ hair.
If you suspect that you or your children have Uncombable hair syndrome, let me know! Regina would love to get in touch with you for scientific purposes.

Uncombable hair infographic

Moving is a memory game

This is going to be an easy move. We don’t have to cross an ocean or time zone. We do have to say goodbye, but we can catch up with our favorite neighbors whenever we want. The children won’t change schools and we will continuously sleep in our own beds instead of in Airbnb rentals for weeks.

The End.

Ha. Ha.

1. I’m panicking all the boxes myself. No, that is not misspelled.
2. The children and especially the girls tell me everyday that they don’t want to move because they LOVE the kids in the neighborhood.
3. The house is not finished yet and we will have to camp while people are still working on things.
4. The children relive previous moves.
5. I’m reliving previous moves too and I’m so aware of the fact that this move marks the end of our ‘living abroad life’.

Okay, where I said ‘easy’ with regard to this move, I meant ‘less hard’. Because moving in general is not easy. You leave a place that holds so many memories. When I’m stacking boxes in the smallest room of the house, I’m thrown back to changing Lucie’s diapers when she was just born. Eight diapers in four hours and that was perfectly healthy (said the doctor whom we phoned in despair because this couldn’t be normal?!) I remember Boris’ first steps and gosh, coming home with Bobbie from the hospital, dying to introduce number three to world.

Having lived abroad means I’m packing things from various parts of the world. I’m thrown back to beaches, houses, parties, friends. The children help me pack and together we go through pictures of our farewell parties in South Africa and the USA: ‘Oh mum, I remember that day, the donut biting game was so much fun!’ The memories are sweet and I wanted to write that the process is heavy, but I refuse to do so. It’s actually really nice to relive memories and it’s really good to experience that every filled box brings us closer to our new home.

Goodbyes were more definite when we moved overseas; we left a place and country we will most likely never live in again. Moving only one mile is easier, but it still feels like marking the end of a part of our life. It makes me sad and happy at the same time but happiness overrules. I wouldn’t change a thing and will again and again choose to move, to go UP! and add stories to our adventure book.

tekening-laan-van-middenburg-ballonnen

Een beroep op de verhuizer

blog-verhuizen-tekening‘Dat wordt dan plusminus 1500 euro. Komt dat een beetje overeen met wat u in gedachten had?’ vraagt de verhuizer.

We zijn zojuist door mijn huis gelopen, de heel erg ervaren verhuizer – die het nooit koud heeft en ook heel goed tegen de warmte kan – en ik. Komt door het jarenlange verhuizen, dan ben je toch vaak buiten. Ik vind het een groot voordeel van het beroep, ik heb het echt heel vaak net iets te koud of te warm. Toch zou ik geen verhuizer willen worden. Ik overzie het inpakken van mijn eigen huis al nauwelijks en ik denk dat mensen tegen wie ik zou zeggen: ‘Jezus wat veel spulletjes, geen idee hoe ik dit nou weer aan ga pakken, laat staan inpakken’ (wat wel mijn standaard grap zou worden) mij toch minder snel zouden kiezen.

Laatst nam ik met de kapster verschillende beroepen door. Iets waarbij je heel hard nodig en dus nuttig bent, leek ons wel wat. Loodgieter bijvoorbeeld, maar dan moet je dus ook verstopte wc’s repareren. Verwarmingsmonteuren moeten met kerst op pad, artsen zitten altijd met bloederige situaties en ook van een ingegroeide teennagel bij de huisarts moesten we bijna spugen. Voor huurmoordernaar waren we te schijterig. Kwam bij mij vooral door een afgehakte hand in een pot die ik laatst in een televisieserie voorbij zag komen. Aan de andere kant, met een pistool is de klus zo geklaard, de werktijden zijn flexibel en de verdiensten royaal. En zo eindigde het beroep toch verdacht hoog op het lijstje.

De verhuizer kijkt me vragend aan. Lastige, lastig, financiële dingen worden in mijn hoofd vrij snel onoverzichtelijk. Zo vind ik 1500 euro behoorlijk veel voor iets dat heus noodzakelijk is, maar maar niet superleuk ofzo. Maar om zo’n gesprek met de verhuizer, die ik tenslotte pas net ontmoet heb, aan te zwengelen? Ik moet het vergelijken met iets in dezelfde categorie, maar met wat?

In mijn hoofd gaan deurtjes open in een zoektocht naar vergelijkingsmateriaal. Er staan Leontines achter. Bijvoorbeeld één met een gebraden kip. Als je me vraagt of ik een gebraden kip van 15 euro een beetje een okay bedrag vind, dan koop ik haar niet. Waar gebeurd. Maar ja, het is niet te vergelijken met een verhuizing. Een paar laarzen van 300 euro vind ik ook veel, maar als ze heel mooi zijn, zou ik het denk ik wel doen.

De verhuizer die het nooit te warm of te koud heeft, kijkt me nu ongeduldig aan. ‘Ik overleg het even met mijn man,’ zeg ik dan maar.
De verhuizer knikt opgelucht.

Writing a book? Ha ha! (Step 5: It’s finished!)

On a regular school-­holiday­-Tuesday in August, LinkedIn congratulated me with a work anniversary. At about the same time, the doorbell rang. It was the postman with a package, containing five copies of a book.
The author?
Me.

So I wrote a book and it’s finished and published and if you wish, you can buy it on Amazon.painting-lilian-cover-bo034 Now what?

Well, if you’d ask me, I would answer that it’s no big deal. It’s not even 100 pages and I’m not a writer with a story in her head that has to be told. You could do it too. It’s just a coincidence that someone I already knew, read my blogs and asked me to share her daughter’s story (which accidentally became a bigger project). However, the other day I replied with the sentences above to a question from a friend about the book thing. She looked at me and said: ‘Don’t ever say that again. Don’t downplay what you’ve accomplished. Just share what you’ve learned from it.’

Right
Insightful
True

So what did I learn from writing about a young, very talented Chinese girl? A girl named Lilian Chu, who likes to go by the name Liane, was born in Hong Kong, moved to Shanghai and then moved again to New York when she was 15 years old. She was 17 when we got in touch and had just gone through a rough period in her life. I’ve had countless conversations with her and her mom (Maggie) and I’ve written a few blogs about the process, that you can find here for example, should you be interested ) :)

My three biggest insights

1. Build your story step by step

The idea of writing a whole book was frightening in the beginning. Where do you start?! After a lot of procrastination, I just started with interview one, then another and from there I slowly grasped what I was doing and how to do that best. It’s like a puzzle; every piece makes more sense. What I noticed is that I especially like creating rhythm in the book and that I like to write as if you had written it yourself. If people mention that my article, blog, or book reads easy, my mission is accomplished.

2. Love and trust are key

I highly value trust in every relationship and I also need to fall in love with ‘my subject’. Not for real of course, but I do need a strong connection and the feeling that you can and want to share basically everything with each other. I’ve written about this ‘falling impersonal love’ before and it still holds. I didn’t only interview Lilian and her mom, I looked forward to every conversation. I wanted to get know them and their personalities. After a while I could sense when they didn’t want to talk or needed more time. I knew when to push and when to back off. We laughed and shared stories, had fun and learned. Oh my gosh, I learned so much from them, about their relationship and their culture. Love and trust unlock your inner feelings.

3. Teamwork makes me happy

I need to be responsible for a task myself (otherwise nothing will happen), but working together is what makes me happy. Of course Maggie, Lilian and I formed a team, but I quickly realized I needed a coach, an editor and a language corrector. Luckily I knew people through my network with all the required expertise. They of course helped me with their knowledge, but there was more. I had to prepare my conversations with them and I was therefore forced to set deadlines. I had to reflect and I also liked to just chit chat with them now and then as writing a book can be a very lonely process. Working in a team fuels my fire.

So, let’s try it again

‘Hey, Eva, I heard you wrote a book, tell me about it?’

Honestly? I will probably giggle and say something like: ‘Well, you know, it’s more a story then a real book.’ I know I will do that because I’ve tried to be serious and well, I failed. I guess I’m more a ‘process person’ than a ‘final product person’. However, if you would ask me to write your autobiography, I would totally love to do that without hesitation. Writing Lilian’s story also taught me that the elements I mentioned will have to be part of any future assignment; I really like to write, working together in a team keeps me on my toes and eventually, all you need is love.
painting-lilian-cover-bo036-copy-copy

Infographic – uncombable hair

A few weeks ago I started a drawing course at the Sketchbookschool (which is SO cool and inspiring and I’m learning a LOT). Of course I’m using a lot of my own sources of inspiration in this course. Last week I had to make an infographic and what subject better to use than my own ‘uncombable haired girls’? This is the result. Question is, does it provide enough information about uncombable hair? Do let me know!

Infographic Uncombable Hair

Uncombable hair infographic

Het leven

image1-9Boris en ik gingen op sneakerjacht.
Ik had precies een week ervoor besloten dat ik geen kleding voor mezelf meer zou kopen. Ja, het verbaasde mij ook. Een week lang meed ik trots winkels en vroeg me tevens af waarom ik dit niet eerder had besloten! Maar ja, op enig moment had één van de kinderen dringend iets nodig voor een uitvoering en moesten we wel winkels in. En zo smolt mijn goede voornemen als sneeuw voor de zon.
Sneakers konden er dus ook nog wel bij.

We fietsten naar de stad en liepen de allerdrukste winkelstraat in op zoek naar iets van een merk dat ik in het geheel niet kende. De verkopers kenden het merk wel, maar nee, ze hadden de felbegeerde schoenen niet in zijn maat, zo riepen ze boven de beats uit. Vervolgens reden we naar mijn favoriete sneakershop waar de schoenen die ik probeerde een beetje te klein waren, ook zonder sokken en ook als ik mijn tenen krampachtig iets omhoog hield. Het was een nawee van mijn niet-kopen-week misschien of wraak van een bovennatuurlijke gemene heks.

De verkoopster verwees ons voor Boris’ merk naar een skateshop om de hoek.
‘Jazeker hebben we die en kijk maar even lekker rond en als je wil weten of we je maat hebben moet je me gewoon roepen en ik heet … en als ik niet in de buurt ben, moet je gewoon harder roepen!’ schreeuwde de verkoper. Boris vond het fantastisch en ik knikte zo’n beetje en vond het typerend voor de jeugd van tegenwoordig.

We zagen een paar dat Boris mooi vond, hij riep onze man (hard! want hij was niet in de buurt!) en de schoenen zaten als gegoten. ‘Nou, loop er even een stukje mee!’ exclameerde de verkoper. En terwijl Boris een rondje liep, stond ik daar met onze man en ik kan niet supergoed tegen stiltes. Dus ik zei iets van: ‘Zo, die kan hij dan ook wel aan onder een korte broek.’ Het was geeneens een vraag maar dat was niet helemaal duidelijk en dus degradeerde ik per direct van ‘gewoon de moeder van’ naar onnozole Hans: ‘Jazeker mevrouw, deze zijn echt supercool onder een korte broek en dan met lange sokken. En dat zou hij dan ook kunnen combineren met dit vette t-shirt bijvoorbeeld.’ Waarop de verkoper echt een spuuglelijk shirt uit het rek viste.

Het was een week vol levenslessen. En dat op mijn leeftijd.

May be, bye May

May was our month of settling in.

In May we went on our first holiday in Europe.
In May we became used to a continuous forecast of rain and we also figured out that it actually doesn’t rain that often.
In May the children played outside ALL the time with all the kids in our neighbourhood.
In May we put our house on the market.
In May I got used to ‘Wednesday-afternoon-no-school’, which became ‘Wednesday-afternoon-warm-bread’ and resulted in tons of kids at our long table.
In May I was still angry with Joost now and then, but not as often as before.
In May we cycled everywhere and especially to the beach.

In May friendships became more solid. My children gained confidence and felt more and more at ease. They’ve gone through a period of despair after our move. They’ve been in denial, they didn’t want to be here. They’ve gone through a period of mourning; they felt like they lost their friends. Which, in a sense, is the case as their American friends are no longer part of their daily life.
In May I could see and feel them getting strong enough to accept, to be happy and to bounce back.

May was hectic, May was wonderful, maybe, May could stay.
Maybe, but I feel I can let go.

Bye May!

flamingo doei mei

Zinkend Schip

We verhuisden naar Nederland en de spullen verhuisden mee. Niet in hetzelfde tempo en ook niet op het beloofde tempo, want de boot verkeerde in zwaar weer. Nee, niet zo zwaar dat hij zou zinken. En nee, een omweg was niet aan de orde. De mevrouw van het verhuisbedrijf vond het niet grappig dat ik me met de logistiek bemoeide. Het was ook eigenlijk geen grap, ik vroeg me serieus af of ik iets zou missen als het schip daadwerkelijk van de radar zou verdwijnen.

Na zes weken in een tijdelijke accomodatie en anderhalve week kamperen in ons eigen oude huis, brak dan toch ‘de week van de spullen’ aan. De verhuizers zouden op dinsdag komen en terwijl ik op maandag achter mijn computer zat, zag ik plots een rood verhuiswagentje de straat inrijden. De bus stopte voor mijn huis en er stapten twee mannen uit. Ik racete naar beneden, trok de deur open en piepte: ‘Uhhh, jullie komen toch zeker morgen!?’ Veranderingen, ik kan er maar ‘zo zo’ mee omgaan. Wat bleek, ze waren in de buurt en kwamen alleen even polshoogte nemen.

Het waren twee mannen op leeftijd. De een had alvast een wondje op zijn hoofd. Doos erop gekregen misschien. De ander had haar tot halverwege zijn middel. Ik had daar verder geen uitgesproken mening over, al leek het me wel lastig sjouwen. Ze vroegen dingen zoals waar ze het beste konden parkeren. Ik dacht daar hardop over mee (misschien kunnen jullie daar gaan staan, of daar?) terwijl, rijden met een zeecontainer leek me al een opgave, laat staan een vrachtwagen met daaróp een zeecontainer parkeren in een vrij smal straatje.

De volgende dag waren ze met zes mannen. Ik serveerde koffie en sjouwde ook dozen zodat het niet leek alsof ik dat als vrouw niet kon. Ik pakte – als enige – ook dozen uit en het viel me op dat het jarige gevoel waar iedereen het altijd over heeft, uitbleef. Kon komen doordat we in woonoppervlakte gehalveerd waren, of omdat ‘het toch altijd tegenvalt hè’. Ik redeneerde al snel dat we niet perse veel haden gekocht, maar dat we vooral niks hadden weggegooid.

Iets van paniek maakte zich van me meester: ‘Oh sjezus, hebben we dit OOK bewaard en DIT?’ en dan vouwde ik de doos heel snel dicht. Het was geen houdbare situatie natuurlijk, dat begreep ik ook wel. Iemand moest dit oplossen en ik wist niet wie en ergens was het dus wel fijn geweest als dat schip gewoon eventjes was gezonken.

flamingo verhuizing021 copy

Serenity in the midst of chaos

Hi! Yes we moved, we’re in the Netherlands and it’s been nice and hectic and sad and stressful and relaxed and overall we’re happy. Could be because we’re staying in a wonderful Airbnb house. Last weekend though, we agreed with the owner to temporarily leave it as he needed it for himself. It sounded perfectly logical when we agreed to do so about three months ago, but once the moment was here, it made no sense at all.

WHY did we agree to move out of a temporary accommodation to move to another temporary accommodation? The hassle of packing bags (again), of sleeping in another bed (again), of taking the kids to school from yet another place (again).

Once in the apartment though the rush immediately disappeared and it truly felt like a weekend away. There was no washing machine, there were no ‘things’ to arrange like a new dentist, there were no new friends to be made, there were no new parents of potential new friends of the children to meet, and there were no activities planned. It was just the five of us and the sea and the city and the beach and a festival.

The festival is called Boekids and is a yearly cultural festival for children in a pop stage environment, which made it extra cool. There were writers reading from their work, singers singing, pancakes, popcorn and all kinds of fun activities. Boris did a theatre workshop, we learned how to make an illustrated video, we took a picture in a tiny Alice in Wonderland house and halfway through the festival we listened to ‘Clean Pete’; a talented young singer-songwriters duo. They performed songs while interacting like pro’s with their audience.

We had never heard of Clean Pete, but we loved it. The children danced to the songs, Boris went on stage when they asked if someone would be brave enough to do so (I was happy I wasn’t him, because I would have never dared to do that, I honestly had to stop myself from discouraging him) and Joost and I just sat there, watching, reflecting and enjoying our children. There was one song we had to sing-a-long with the chorus. So the audience started: ‘Het is zo, zo zo fijn, zo fijn om alleen te zijn.’ Translated: ‘It’s so, so, so nice, so nice to be alone.’ The lyrics, the rhythm, it was perfect.

The next day I drove the kids to school and we listened to the Clean Pete cd. Then the ‘alone song’ played and together we sang the chorus. Singing with my children, driving through a well-known country with different versions of ourselves, listening to – for us – new music, made me confident that we will get there. Wherever there might be.

A strong body is a beautiful body

Seven months ago I started CrossFit. If you have no clue what it is, read this. Last weekend I joined a CrossFit competition. No, of course I didn’t master any of the skills. No, of course I wasn’t ready, or strong enough, or any other excuse you could possibly think of. But I did it and it was stressful and amazing and I liked it and here are my top three reasons.

1. The team spirit
The team spirit is great. We joined the competition with six individuals that had worked out together every now and then. We supported each other as if we had known each other for years though. I was proud when I did something better than I thought, but I was even happier when one of my team members did something they thought impossible. You’re doing your best for you, but you’re especially doing your upmost best for the other five. After day one we ended in the bronze category with 24 other teams. We had totally expected this to happen. What we hadn’t expected at all was that we dominated the first WOD (workout of the day ) in our category of that second day. The flow was right and our double unders just rocked. (If anything, master those dubs! ;))

2. Yes you can
Your body can handle so much more than you think. Yes, of course I was (extremely) nervous before every single WOD, but I linked 10 pull ups instead of 5, I could lift more weight – okay, this is not true, I really am an average lifter on a good day – but I jumped higher and fought harder and we achieved so much more than we thought possible. Of course you push yourself during a normal workout, but a competition makes you go the extra mile, a competition is not only physically challenging, it definitely is a mental challenge as well. I’m truly amazed by what you can handle when you feel you have to.

3. You’re so strong mom!
My family came with me and supported us. It was a conditio sine qua non (I wouldn’t have done it without them because joining a competition was already way out of my comfort zone). They danced around on the field, they enjoyed watching everybody and they were the perfect cheerleaders. Especially Boris thought it was so impressive what we were doing and what we were capable of. He told me a few times: ‘Mom, you’re so strong!’ It was the BESTESTcompliment ever and it’s something that I hope my children will live by. Forget about pretty, thick, thin, small, tall, old, young, tiny or big; a strong body is a beautiful body.

So yes, I can recommend CrossFit. It has made me stronger, more resilient and happier. And yes I would definitely recommend joining a competition. It’s surprising to see what you’re capable of, the team spirit is amazing and above all, it’s so much fun!

Crossfit comp

Bobbie crossfit
Crossfit locatie
Crossfit group
Crossfit kettle bell

New beginnings

It was december 2010 and everything was covered in snow. We finally experienced a white Christmas in the Netherlands. Not only a white Christmas btw, it would not stop snowing.  We took a picture of our family of five; one baby, one almost two years old and a little boy who had just turned five. We did it again, striking the same poses, a few days before we left South Africa and, yes, we did it again this year, on the 31st of December. (Leading to a quarrel as Joost said ‘Yes, I remember how we did this, we don’t need the picture!’ Well…)

Foto family moving

Taking this picture made me realise that we really are moving. It’s not easy, it’s never easy and I’m very thankful to be able to share my experiences with my dear Instafriend Anna! She is also Dutch and has been living in Sweden for two years. We ‘met’ online and she and her lovely family are also moving back to the Netherlands. We decided to write each other bits and pieces about our moving process. I have included the first correspondence!

Anna & Eva are moving

Anna

Dear Eva,

It’s the day after Christmas and me and my laptop sneaked out of the house. Now I sit here in this coffee bar, where the Swedes have their endless Fika and I try to think and write. I have a lot to think about, because we are moving back. Back to the Netherlands. Just like you. I actually don’t like the sound ‘moving back’. It gives me that feeling you get when you got the Jail card at Monopoly ‘Go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect 200’ You have to start all over again. I think I prefer moving forward.

And I know it is not true. We are not ‘moving back’. You cannot move back when it comes to the life you are living. It made me think of this quote of Eric Roth

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed, is you”

So moving back is actually moving forward (are you still with me?). It is just as exciting as moving abroad, only then with the good Dutch cheese and friends and family nearby to help us!

Next time I wanted to write about how I will miss being ‘special’ when we are moving to the Netherlands again. Don’t you think you will miss being that ‘weird open Dutch family’ when you are back home again. How many times I used the “o, sorry, it must be a cultural difference” -excuse when I found myself in a (social-) awkward situation. Going to miss that.

 

Love Anna

Eva

Dear Anna!

Trying to get my head around writing having the kids sitting at the other side of the table. They’re doing arts and crafts and you never know if it will keep them busy for 4 or 5 minutes.

Just like you, we’re moving to the Netherlands in February after having lived in South Africa for three and in the USA for two years. Do I feel like we’re moving back and if so, back to what? We’re Dutch, yes. Well, at least, Joost and I are Dutch. The children have lived in other parts of the world for more than half of their lives! Besides that we’re older, experienced other cultures and I think we learned from that, maybe even adopted habits. Meaning, we’re not the same anymore. We’re moving forward and back and with different versions of ourselves. (Love that quote you used!)

I remember how it was having three little ones moving to the other side of the world. They were 5, almost 2 and 5 months. We were going on an adventure to Africa, see wild animals, do cool things! Yes, it was an adventure, but I also noticed that you take it step by step. The first weeks you live in a dream world, you’re in Africa! After those first weeks it’s just you and your family in another house, in another city,in another country. You make sure the children go to school, you arrange playdates, you learn the language (better) and you find things to do (the toughest thing ever). After another few weeks you start exploring.
It’s weird, you go from Africa, to the city, to your house and when you feel at ease you slowly start making your circle bigger again.

Not sure if I make myself clear, but I think the same will happen to us in the Netherlands. Yes, we’re going back, but we will first have to settle in as a family. The children will go to a new school, make new friends and get used to our house (that we don’t have yet and furniture will be on the boat for three months too, but no stress, NO stress) We will probably cocoon with the five of us, maybe the closest friends and family, to be able to give the children a feeling of security. After that we will explore and slowly expand our circle.

The process will be the same and thus adventurous. I think it’s not going back, it’s definitely about moving on.

Love, Eva

Ps. Yes, I will miss being special, haha! I will speak with an American accent just to have people ask me: ‘Wow, where are you from?!’

The magical first

FullSizeRender-6Ten years ago on Christmas Eve I gave birth to a huge son. It was unexpected as everyone had told me: ‘That’s such a tiny belly, that must be a little girl!’ Giving birth to Boris wasn’t easy. When I had been in labor for about 12 hours, Boris’ heart rate went down and doctors and nurses were preparing me to undergo whatever necessary to get him out quickly. At the same time Boris – over 9lbs. – suddenly rushed out by himself and decided to do that superman-style with his hands next to his shoulders (yes, there were no anesthesia involved). Boris was the first to make me a mom and he is the first with a lot of things.

Last week on a random Tuesday, I told him the truth about Santa, the Elves and Sinterklaas (a Dutch celebration comparable to Santa Claus). We would have informed him way earlier in the Netherlands as children stop believing when they’re about seven or eight years old. It’s the benefit of being an expat; if there are no rumors at all that he doesn’t exist, why would you question it? Boris is about to turn ten though and friends have already asked him if he still believes. How do you break this news to your child?

I officially asked him to come to his room where he sat down and looked at me with his big blue eyes. For a moment I doubted my decision. And then I just told him everything, dramatically starting with: ‘What I’m going to tell you is not nice.’ I shared that Santa doesn’t have a factory where he has toys made. That sadly, mom and dad buy the presents. Boris said: ‘I knew that mom, I’ve seen a text message from you to dad a few weeks ago.’ When I said that the Elf is not real either, Boris looked at me and asked, “But how does he move?” I could see him think ‘you lied to me!’ and at the same time I felt how I destroyed even this last bit of magic. He knew and didn’t know at the same time, he believed.

Boris was the first and he will be the first with a lot of things. The first to make Joost and I a family, the first to eat solid food and the first to walk on wobbly tiny feet. The first to swim and to see and feel the sea. The first to go to school, the first to cycle without training wheels and the first you share with that Sinterklaas isn’t real. The magic of a first child is that you experience all those things for the first time yourself as well (and learn from it in some cases). Boris taught me to focus, to love unconditionally, to be present and to be a child again. I’m experiencing it a second and third time and it is just as special, but Boris will always be the first.

Happy Birthday Boris!

Music moves you

image1-3It is almost five years ago that we moved from the Netherlands to South Africa for Joost’s work. I remember arriving at Johannesburg airport after a very long flight with a five year old, an almost two year old and a five months old baby; we were beyond exhausted. When we entered Jo’burg airport the people were happy and friendly and music surrounded us. I instantly felt more energetic. Music thrives you, music influences your mood, music fuels your fire.

South Africa was the country of Adele’s 21. She accompanied me everywhere I went on a CD in my car. She sang, I sang, and I definitely sang louder. She dragged me through my first weeks (could have been months) of denial: ‘I’m not going to be able to live here, this is horrible, let’s go back home’. She encouraged me to go to the gym and comforted me when I was homesick. She celebrated with me when I drove to dinner dates and I ran my first (which was also my last) half marathon with her. We partied together, I cried with her and she made me happy. Adele and South Africa are forever connected.

Three years later we moved to the United States and I kind of forgot about her. I couldn’t find the CD and I listened to the radio. Not only because I wanted to, but because the children did too. They were older and the popular songs the American radio mainly plays were exactly their cup of tea. My white minivan turned into an American style lyp synching car with everyone singing to modern beats. If you’d ask me which artist will forever remind me of the United States, it would be a tie between Sam Smith and Iggy Azelea. The latter because nothing beats running or cycling to her uptempo beats.

Adele must have missed our duets as she suddenly announced the release of a new album. It made me a bit suspicious. What did this say about our stay in the United States? Well…. definitely something. About two months ago another opportunity in Joost’s field of work unveiled itself. We decided to go for it, to move again and this time we’re moving back. Back to the Netherlands. One of the main reasons for that decision is that the children are getting older and saying goodbye to your best friends every two years is too much for all our hearts to bear. Way too much.

I’m sure Adele will help us, I’m sure she will comfort us when we miss our friends and different homes around the globe. I’m sure she will be there to guide us integrating in a well known place, but with different versions of ourselves. Adele was there when we left and she will be there when we return; when we say goodbye, she says Hello.

Writing a book? Ha ha! (Step 4: Where would I be without Saar)

Book Lilian, writing a bookThis piece is not written by me, it’s written by Sarah Breimer (Saar) who – amongst a few others – helps me writing
my book . Skyping with Sarah gives me a deadline, a reason to focus and she helps me further in my process. Apart from this, she is a fun and bubbly person and great to talk with. Oh, we never Skype with video btw as your own head is very distracting.

The writing process

When Eva and I ‘met’ online and started talking about the book she was about to write, she immediately impressed me with her energy and her open mind towards my role in the process. As a writer, it can be hard to take a step back and look at your own work. It is almost impossible, but, especially with non-fiction, it is very important that you do. It can be useful to see if you are still doing what you set out to do. And if you are not, if that change is for the better or should you refocus?

Eva asked me to be her first reader. This basically means that every once in a while I read along with her and together we discuss the challenges she faces in this process. She decides when she needs us to meet for a next round. We pick a day, she sends me her work and I read it.

While reading, I always have a few questions at the back of my mind. Is this still the story Eva intends to write or is she drifting in other directions? Is it evocative enough, does it have the right tone, does it tickle my mind as a reader or am I slowly falling asleep? Afterwards, when we meet for our Tuesday morning/evening Skype meet-up, we talk endlessly. Is this the right track? Why is there so much information on this and so little focus on that? Where is this all leading to, why did you decide to add this element or leave out something else?

Not all of those questions need immediate answers. They merely function as pointers for Eva to think about and to take on as she goes along in the process. Most of the time it already helps to talk about the story to clear your writers’ mind or to remember what you had set out to do originally.

As a writer, I know how challenging it is to talk about the story you have been working on so intensely. It takes a strong and open mind to be able to talk about your own writing without feeling criticized or doubted. Eva has that mind and that is sheer pleasure for an editor. I have grown to love our Tuesday morning/evening meetings, as for me they are so full of inspiration, recognition and good talk. I can’t wait for Eva to finish her book and be extremely proud of herself. I know I already am.

Writing a book? Ha ha! (Step 3: Prepare)

Bk Lillian, prepare

After that first conversation when you get to know each other you’re on to the real thing. You have to pick a subject from your ‘table of contents’ (see previous blog) and start preparing if you want to move beyond the level of ‘chitchat’. I wanted to start with the historical part, which was all about China and Hong Kong. Where should I start?

1. Collect background information

Honestly? It wasn’t me who started preparing. Based on the conversations I had with Maggie and Lillian, I figured it would be great if they would create a timeline and a family tree. Maggie would create the family tree to give an overview of her and her husband’s family within a frame of Chinese and Hong Kongese history. It would give meaning to the choices the families had made within a historical context. Lillian created a timeline to highlight the big events in her life.
Both Maggie and Lillian worked on their ‘assignments’ and it turned out great. Now I had a few key elements that I could use for my own preparation.
– This is especially a great tool if you’re writing an autobiography, although you could argue that a fictional book character needs some background to be as real as possible too, so it might work anyway. –

2. Brainstorm questions and ideas

I knew I had to focus. When I just started blogging, I easily wrote about 48 different subjects in one blog. When I started writing for a magazine the editor politely asked me if I could stick to one single subject per column? Right. How to do that?
A writer-friend handed me a brainstorm technique: Think of a dish, such as salmon, and think of 20 different ways to serve salmon. It’s all about being creative with that one single subject. If you can do that, you can apply it to your blog, column and interview questions.
Okay! I, for example, wanted to get more information about how Maggie lived and under what circumstances. I asked myself what the reader would like to know and what I would do if I were her? I would think of a possible answer Maggie would give me and thought of a fictive next question. I grouped those questions and thought of 10 more questions per subject. It resulted in endless white sheets with post-its with a lot of questions that I later categorized and translated to the actual questions.

To sum it up:

Brainstorm ‘Salmon’
Subject -> write down as many questions as possible -> categorize the questions – > think of 10 more questions -> ask ONLY the relevant ones during the actual interview.

It works for me and it makes it easier to relax during the interview and chat as if I didn’t prepare. I use it when writing columns and articles as well.

3. Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail.

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. That’s a fact. You might have a nice, short conversation if you don’t prepare. If anything, the information gathered is probably not very useful. Yes, of course you can fill in blanks later and ask questions to clarify things you’ve written down. BUT you don’t want to waste your time or worse, waste the time of the people you’re interviewing. Besides that, you want to be relaxed and being prepared takes away half of your stress upfront.

The interview went well, I’ve had a few more and started wondering what my next step would be? I thought this would be the right time to have another chat with Sarah who guides me in my writing process. Was I doing the right things?

Writing a book? Ha ha! (Step 2: Pace yourself)

Book Lillian Pace 017Lillian, the girl the book is about, and I Skyped – okay we used ‘Facebook call’ because Skype is really old-fashioned – for the first time a few weeks ago. (Read the previous blog if you have no clue what I’m talking about.)
It went well and then I had to think of what comes next. I noticed that writing a book is a slow process and very different from writing a column or article. It’s hard when you have an impatient nature and would like to finish things yesterday.

Finish yesterday?

A few years ago I had a coach at work. I told him about myself and I shared, amongst other things, that I like to do things as fast as possible. He nodded and asked me to stand up. He then asked me to run to the other side of the room while he was holding me. The resistance was high and it was not easy at all (and a bit awkward) to run with someone attached to you. He asked me what would happen if I would do it again, but slower? Well, I would arrive later, of course! I replied. We tried it and I arrived at the other side of the room faster than at full speed. I guess it’s a balancing act of making progress and giving room for things to ripen. It popped into my head while I was planning and talking and researching and quickly! starting. I paced myself and wrote down what I was doing and why.

1. Collecting information takes time

If you’re writing a book, you need to do research, read other books (in my case autobiographies), do interviews etc. I’m writing about a young Chinese lady and I need a lot of input from her, but also from her parents and possibly other people. It gives me a feel for who Lillian is. I also need to know things about her past. She of course won’t remember because she was too young. Gathering all this information doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.
Okay, it’s even worse. Some of the ‘very interesting information’ you will write down now will be deleted at a later stage. You have to tell yourself not to worry about that now though.

2. Don’t Rush

If you start rushing, you will never manage to write a story that’s whole. Every story needs a beginning, a middle part, an end and a plot of some kind. A princess doesn’t immediately meet her prince, if anything it would be a rather boring story. Rushing makes you forget things; you forget to listen properly and you might make assumptions. If you start doing that, it’s all about you and you’re not writing a book about yourself. Period. Don’t rush.

3. Have a little faith

The longer it takes, the more time you have to start doubting yourself. Are the things you’re doing the right things? There already are so many good books, mine won’t be of any added value! What if it doesn’t work, what if the pieces of the puzzle won’t fall into place? Yes, this could happen, or not. Writing a book is a brilliant way to test yourself. You have to start with the first conversation and the first chapter and have a little faith that slowly but surely the story will unfold.

Have a little faith and prepare. Prepare? Prepare what?!

I will share how I do that next time!

Writing a book? Ha ha (step 1)

BOOK blog lillianRight. I sat down behind my desk with nothing but empty white sheets in front of me. Writing sounds really fun! And creative! What I’ve learned in the past years however, is that every creative process, whether it is a story, a blog or a brainstorm, is based on structure. That sounds rather boring, right? Well, get over it and start making a plan – I said to myself. I needed a table of contents and some sort of guideline. I needed to know how many hours this project would roughly take me and I needed someone to guide me in the process with more knowledge about writing books than me, which couldn’t be hard considering the fact that I had only written blogs and articles so far.

Step 1. Write down the summarised story

I wrote down the conversation I had taped. That’s lesson 1a and 1b at the same time btw: Tape everything. Especially when you’re a Dutch person interviewing Chinese people in English. You probably won’t even need to listen to it (I never did, because more important than taping is listening while you’re interviewing) but that might be because you taped it. I wrote down what Maggie and Lillian told me in a summarized version. They both read it and we agreed that this summary would be our starting point.

Step 2. Create a table of contents

Based on the story I had written down, I created a table of contents. Joost squeezed it into a frame with his amazing excel knowledge (I’m not downplaying this at all, I’m actually quite serious). It made it very easy to gain an overview of ‘interview time per chapter’ and ‘editor time per chapter’ and more stuff that doesn’t seem relevant, but is or could be very useful. In the end, it roughly summed up how much time I would need to write this book. I say roughly because you tend to underestimate tasks and how much time they consume. Let’s, for example, talk about packing suitcases. In the end it always takes up 20% more time than you imagined (and you probably bring 20% more stuff than you needed). Having this excel file created an overview that made the hours insightful to me and to everyone else.

Step 3. Surround yourself with great minds

Joost is my great excel mind. Besides that I needed someone to edit my English as nothing is more horrific than errors in grammar, style and punctuation.Errors will distract you from the content and it makes reading less fluent. Besides that I needed someone to guide me in the process. I decided that, although I was writing in English, I would love to discuss the content of the book and the process of writing with another Dutch person. Via a good friend, I came in touch with the wonderful Sarah who will be my Dutch sparring partner and I asked Melissa to be my first (American) editor.

Step 4: What are you waiting for? Just get started

That’s how I kicked off. Or well, I organized a Skype session with Sarah whose main advice was to ‘just get started’. Which is the truth and something you KNOW but ignore because it’s much harder than it sounds. Of course I procrastinated (again) but after a few weeks – when there was nothing left to tidy – I planned a first Skype session. I sent out invitations and that was that.

How it went? You can read about it next time! Hopefully I will draw a less dramatic picture although I have to admit that this kind of reflects my ‘base’ attitude towards fun but challenging projects.
And yes, I like coffee.

 

Writing a book? Ha ha!

Book lillian tekening blog 1It was just another Monday (a few months ago) and I was on my way to fetch the children from school when husband Joost phoned me: ‘Could you write a book for someone I know? More specifically, a biography?’
WHAT?
No, of course I couldn’t.
Yes, of course I could.
No, of course not.
And that’s how I emailed the ‘someone I know’ to make an appointment for a week later when she happened to be in Bentonville Arkansas.

Someone I know

In an enormous hotel (yes, Bentonville has one) I met Maggie, a wonderful, stylish, dedicated, energizing, Chinese lady living in NYC. We chitchatted for an hour as if we had known each other for years. We rushed through her life, only to discover in the last few minutes that the book was going to be about her daughter. Writing a biography about a 17 year old? Hmmm, I wondered if I would be able to write an interesting story about such a young girl. Then I met her daughter Lilian via Skype. Lilian was great! She was born in the year of the Ox; hard-working, creative, funny and at the age of 17 already mature enough not to take herself too seriously. Both Maggie and Lillian were amazingly open and I felt that we could make this work.

Decision making? Use CCCD

How do you make a final decision to embrace a project or not? I came up with the criteria CCCD, which – I think – are actually applicable to almost (I don’t know why I write down almost btw) every relationship.
1. Content. There definitely is an interesting story to share. I liked the bits and pieces of Chinese culture they both shared and ideas immediately popped into my mind.
2. Click. Maggie and Lillian are very special ladies and we instantly bonded. All three of us highly valued trust and a safe environment. There were a few jokes and loud laughs and it just felt right.
3. Confidence. Maggie was convinced that I could do this based on my experience and the conversation we had. There has never been any doubt, which boosted my self-confidence and made me eager to work with her.
4. Dedication. We agreed that it would be an adventure. We were going to do something we never did before which was exciting and I felt that we could make it work!

I was going to write a book!

Yes, yes, I could write this book. Content, a click, confidence and dedication were key elements for me to make the decision. Oh my gosh, what an amazing opportunity. The only thing left was to actually write it. And (Oh my gosh), I had never written a book before. Where should I start? A few nervous breakdowns and acts of procrastination later, I broke the process down to a few steps. I will share these steps next time. Nice cliffhanger, right ;)

Then one final remark: I have no experience writing a book. I’m just doing what feels right and to be honest, writing it down makes it real, it keeps me motivated. Feel free to share whatever you want, whether it’s feedback, tips or tricks! Happy to hear it all!

Celebrate life

IMG_2733-2My granny died on July 8th, 2010, which is five years and nine days ago today. It was extremely warm, for a Dutch summer and I was extremely sad, for a mom to be for the third time. I was due to deliver baby Bobbie on the 14th of July. Lucie, our first daughter, was going to be Bobbie, but Joost didn’t think Bobbie was a good name, for a girl. That was before we both thought having a third child was not a good idea btw, but if you start reasoning to have a third, you will find enough reasons not to go for it.

The 14th started with me riding a very heavy Dutch bike with both Boris and Lucie in it to buy shoes for Lucie. We quickly bought them (the 18-months-old was still easy going fashion-wise back then) and when I was about to ride home, my sister phoned me: ‘Mom is in the hospital, nothing serious, I don’t think you need to come over.’
She thought, I thought, we all thought that mom was stressed, sleep deprived and heartbroken because she lost her mom just a week before. Grief must have been the reason for a heavy heart, for chest-pains, for the signs of heart problems. Right?

Wrong. I went to the hospital to find my mom attached to a variety of machines. The doctors were running tests on her and all we could do was wait. When I quickly walked out to park the car in a more appropriate parking lot, my sister phoned again: ‘You have to get over here, something is very, very wrong!’ I rushed in – as far as you can rush when you’re 40 weeks pregnant – to find my mom attached to even more machines and surrounded by a lot of people in long white coats. Five minutes later she was transported to another hospital, the sirens were loud and a team of heart surgeons was already waiting for her.

Turned out she had an aorta rupture, but not completely, because that would have been fatal. The doctors explained that the aorta basically consists of an ‘inner and outer tire’ and only the inner one was partly damaged. It was a very critical situation. We were standing at her bed and my mom was already drugged to get her blood pressure as far down as possible. She told me later that she believed that she was telling us not to worry and she also thinks she winked at my husband and my sisters forever-fiancé to make them feel at ease. Of course she didn’t.

She did survive the 8-hour surgery though. Three days later, Bobbie was born. I’m forever grateful for being able to celebrate two birthdays this week. Happy fifth birthday to Bobbie and happy fifth (re-)birthday to my amazing mom!

Oh and Bobbie was and still is a real Bobbie; positive, energetic, super sweet and she might be an actress one day…

[KGVID]https://www.nice-eve.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/IMG_0826.mov[/KGVID]

My new gym made me cry

IMG_9927‘I think I might be too tall for CrossFit,’ I said in despair to the CrossFit instructor. (It was that or crying, but I considered myself too old for that.)
‘Nah, I don’t think so, look at them,’ said the coach – while pointing at huge men lifting weights as if they were balloons.
‘But those are men! That’s totally different!’ I replied.
It was day two at my new CrossFit gym and instead of lifting weights, I only lifted the stick that normally holds the weights.

How did I end up doing CrossFit?
Well, after the unexpected closure of my old gym, I tried another. It was okay, it provided a much needed routine and after four weeks I wanted to renew my membership. It was impossible, however, as this gym was about to close down too! Gyms seem to pass out when I arrive.

That’s how I ended up in the biggest and longest existing CrossFit box in Bentonville. The other CrossFitters asked me what I thought about it and I replied (again) that it was great, but that I’m most likely too tall. I told EVERYONE that I might be too tall. When I’m convinced of something I sometimes overshare. I think I do that to clear my head (I would like to give a less selfish reason, but I can’t think of one).
Nobody confirmed my beliefs, but instead started sharing their own handicaps:
– Oh funny, I always think that I’m too short!
– Oh funny, I always think that I’m not fast enough!
– Oh funny, I always think I’m not fit enough!
In the end we were empowering each other and figured that we all looked great and that I might not be too tall after all! We concluded that I should give it some time as things might change.

Things did change. After two weeks the summer vacation kicked in and I decided to bring my girls along. It made me nervous as I was afraid they would be too shy to stay in the designated children’s room.
And?
They had a ball. They loved it, played with the other children and ran around when the class was done. Lucie, my shy middle one, even wanted to try CrossFit for kids.

IMG_9854We went on a Saturday and she had been looking forward to it the whole morning. She
was wearing new shoes, she smiled but then she had to line up. She turned to me and whispered with a very, very pale face: ‘Mom, I think I changed my mind.’
At that point the coach stepped in, grabbed her hand only to let it go when she was smiling and running and was confident enough to do it on her own. It made me grateful and proud and it brought tears to my eyes. Again.

This gym is a keeper.

Tandenfee / Tooth Fairy

Soms heeft de tandenfee het erg druk en vergeet misschien bij je langs te komen. Gelukkig heeft ze gewoon een mobiele telefoon en kun je haar een berichtje sturen!

Tandenfee hele plaatje

Now and then the Tooth Fairy is very busy and she might forget to fly by (in her hot air balloon – who knew?!) No worries though! The Tooth Fairy has a mobile phone too and you can easily send her a text message.

 

Uncombable hair

Lucie en BobbieIt was January 2009 when I gave birth to the prettiest girl in the world. She had the cutest dimples, she pooped a lot (we phoned the doctor in despair on the first night who put our mind at ease by saying that it’s quite healthy to poop a lot) and she had some hair. It was black and it didn’t last long. It was replaced by a white, dry, straw-type of hair that we couldn’t tame and didn’t seem to grow very fast. It was the strangest hair we had ever seen.

One and a half years later – yeah, it was a surprise for more than just a few people – I gave birth to another ‘prettiest girl in the world. ’ This one had the most beautiful mouth and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. She had some hair too. She lost it and it was – again – replaced by strange extremely blond, dry hair. It was straight, but since this was our second strange-hair-kid we knew that it might turn curly in a while.

The girls have a big brother with perfectly normal hair. We have always wondered where the hair comes from. Not only because we want to know, but because everyone seems eager to know. Let me share some remarks that people make at least once, but more often twice a day (all well meaning, let me be clear about that!)

‘Were they born in Africa?’
‘It doesn’t seem to run in the family (while pointing at Joost)?’
‘It looks like crimped hair, is it really their natural hair?’
‘Wow, that is the weirdest hair I’ve ever seen!’
‘Can I touch it?’
‘Do you highlight it?’
‘It looks like frizzy hair, yeah, I’ve seen this hair before.’

Of course I’ve asked hairdressers if they could enlighten me about the hair-type. They gave answers, but it was never fulfilling. The unsolved hair problem always lingered in the back of my head. Then someone suggested asking the dermatologist for an explanation. I had never even thought of that! We went there (for me, yes, sigh) and the girls came along. We sat down and while we waited, I took the strangest picture I’ve ever taken of the girls. (Oh and there’s the strangest video too – have a look at Instagram if you want to get a glimpse of my everyday life).

Anyway, the dermatologist walked in and we first discussed my skin. He said something about getting older, which he tried to soothe by stating that we are all getting older etc. And then I could finally ask the question. He looked, touched, googled a bit and showed me pictures of children with exactly the same hair! It took him less than a minute! Turns out that my girls have the ‘Uncombable Hair Syndrome’. It’s rare, they will have it  forever and it’s a very (very) random name for a syndrome.

Next time someone asks me where their hair comes from I get to explain that they have ‘uncombable hair’! Wow. I don’t know, I think I will just stick to my old sentence: ‘Thank you, we also have no clue where it comes from, but it’s gorgeous indeed.’

You fall and bounce back

IMG_9284Boris: ‘Mom, do you know what I said to Callie (the babysitter)?’
Me: ‘I have no clue.’
Boris: ‘I was eating chicken when I suddenly said: ‘Oh no, I totally forgot that I’m vegetarian!’
Callie freaked out and said: ‘Really?!’ and I said: ‘No, just kidding.”

Boris is nine and he’s growing into the kid I would like to hang out with. Should Joost and I get credit for that? I don’t know. We’re doing our best, but both nature and nurture play a huge role in the process of growing up. Which role do parents have in the ‘raising children’ adventure? I guess it’s risk management. If you take a closer look, it’s about guiding them and about stepping in when things get difficult. You’re like the pilot on a plane. You push the right buttons and use your knowledge when necessary, or when things get difficult.

A difficult thing is coming up in Boris’ life as his best friend is moving. With this move he enters another school district and thus has to attend another school. Those boundaries are very strict because, well, rules are rules (welcome to America!) In my head different options popped up:
• What if I would beg the school to allow the friend to stay?
• What if Boris would switch to a non-zoned private school?
• What if we would move houses?
It was all non-realistic. I knew that and after a while I could think of more logical options.

Boris and I talked about it and discussed who he would like to be in class with next year. He named a few boys and I asked the school if he could be in the same class as these boys. In the meantime I started wondering how I could ease the process. Or maybe I should let go of being a control freak and just go with the flow, have a little faith. He might be fine and bounce back.

I had to think of a conversation we had in the car the other day when we were driving home from Martial Arts.
Boris said: ‘There was this boy that called me butt face.’
Me: ‘Why did he do that?’
Boris: ‘I don’t know. He said: ‘You’re doing it wrong, butt face!’ So I guess that was the reason.’
Me: ‘What did you do?’
Boris: ‘I ignored it. Calling names is never the solution to a problem. Plus we learn at Martial Arts that you have to be respectful to each other at all times.’
Me: ‘Wow, that’s very wise.’ (They actually listen and learn something when they practice sports – take note moms!)
Boris: ‘Yeah, I always try to avoid sparring with him anyway. But uhm, mom, I did do the move again with him, but then really hard.’
He looks at me with a grin.
(We high fived. I actually shouldn’t write that down but I will because it’s the truth and honestly? I would have handled it the same way.)

This has – at first glance – nothing to do with making new friends, but it’s an indication that he will find his way. Maybe stepping in as a parent when things get difficult is the ongoing process of giving them confidence and letting them go at the same time. Assuring them that they will make it, that they will fall and get up again. That they won’t lose friends, but that they will stay in contact with them and that they will make new ones too.
I certainly hope so.

Too shy, shy (hush, hush)

VerlegenLucie (6) sits next to me in the car. She looks at me with a pale face and smiles with difficulty.
‘I’m going to take a nap mom,’ she says.
‘That’s okay sweetie,’ I say while caressing her knee.
She closes her eyes and I drive us to the movie theatre for a birthday party.

Two weeks ago she got invited to her best friend’s birthday party.
‘Oh, but I’m not going! Could you ask them to save me a party pack?’ she said.
She didn’t dare to go. Lucie doesn’t dare to do gymnastics and Lucie doesn’t dare to attend parties. Lucie doesn’t go anywhere alone, except for school. The thing is that most parties have a ‘without parents’ stipulation when you’ve reached the age of six. I remind her that she didn’t want other parents to attend her own birthday party and that she also liked that all the girls came. Yes, but this was something totally different. The fact that it’s a movie theatre party makes it extra difficult, because watching a movie is way too scary. We’ve tried it a couple of times in a non-birthday party situation, but we had to leave the movie each time, halfway through.

I try to convince her to go on her own. She keeps on declining and so I email the mom of the birthday girl that Lucie doesn’t dare to come The mom replies that I can join if I want to? It’s a sweet gesture, but I believe she should be able to go on her own, just like all the other children. I notice that I find it hard to deal with her behavior; why doesn’t she dare to do things on her own? At the same time I know that my reaction is caused by recognition, I used to be like that. I want to protect her and boost her self-confidence at the same time, what should I do?

And that’s how we end up in the car together. When we arrive at the theatre she looks as pale as a ghost. If you didn’t know better, you would guess that she has a very nasty dentist appointment. I walk to the entrance of the movies while Lucie follows me as slowly as possible. It’s as if her shoes are stuck to the ground, and each step is a giant effort. I secretly chuckle and realize that she’s dreading going to a supposedly fun party.
‘Mom, if the movie is frightening we can leave, right?’ she asks softly.
I nod right before we enter the party room filled with 15 screaming girls, balloons that constantly pop and pizza, cake and lemonade.

Lucie & PaddingtonWe eat cake and head to the movie theatre. Lucie sits on my lap while we watch Paddington. I can feel that she dislikes watching the previews of other movies, but she doesn’t ask to leave. During scary parts of the actual movie, she puts her fingers in her ears while trying to keep a bowl of popcorn in front of her eyes. And then suddenly, she slips out of my lap. Her cheeks are red, and she sits on the edge of her chair. I look at her and she sticks a thumb in the air. ‘This is not just a little bit fun Mom, this is super fun!’ she whispers. Her eyes say: ‘I can do this’ and I am so happy and proud and a little relieved; it brings us one step further.

Dutch 

Sensitief meisje

VerlegenLucie (6) zit naast me in de auto. Ze is wit en glimlacht moeizaam.
‘Ik ga even slapen mam,’ zegt ze.
‘Dat is goed moppie,’ zeg ik en aai haar over haar been.
Ze doet haar ogen dicht en ik koers ons naar haar bioscoopfeestje.

Twee weken geleden werd ze uitgenodigd voor het feestje van haar beste vriendinnetje.
‘Oh, maar ik ga niet hoor! Vraag jij even of ik wel een party pack krijg?’ zei ze.
 Ze durfde niet. Lucie gaat niet naar gym, Lucie gaat niet naar feestjes. Lucie doet behalve school niks waar wij niet bij zijn. Terwijl de meeste feestjes zonder ouders zijn als je zes bent. Ik zeg haar dat haar eigen feestje zonder ouders was en dat zij het toch ook fijn vond dat iedereen kwam? Jawel, maar dit was anders. Het is bovendien een bioscoopfeestje en de film, dat is echt te spannend.

Ik probeer haar zover te krijgen dat ze wel gaat, alleen. Ze weigert en dus mail ik de moeder dat ze niet durft. Van de moeder mag ik mee. Het is een lief gebaar, maar ik vind dat ze alleen moet, net als alle andere kinderen. Ik merk dat ik het lastig vind, waarom durft ze helemaal niks? Tegelijkertijd weet ik dat ik dat die reactie veroorzaakt wordt door herkenning. Ik was net zo. Ik wil haar beschermen én dat duwtje in de rug geven, maar hoe?

En zo zitten we samen in de auto. Bij de bioscoop stapt een wit hoopje mens uit. Ze ziet eruit alsof ze onverdoofd 85 gaatjes moet laten vullen. Ik wandel naar de ingang terwijl Lucie me tergend langzaam volgt. Het is alsof ze met elke stap haar voet los moet trekken van de grond. Ik grinnik stiekem en realiseer me dat ‘lood in je schoenen’ er dus zo uitziet.
‘Mam, als het eng is gaan we weg hè,’ zegt ze zacht. 
Ik knik nog net voordat we de ruimte binnenstappen met 15 schreeuwende meisjes, ballonnen die steeds knappen en pizza, taart en limonade.

Lucie & PaddingtonNa de taart kijken we de film Paddington. Lucie zit bij mij op schoot. De voorstukjes van andere films vindt ze voelbaar spannend, maar ze blijft zitten. Als het eng wordt, stopt ze haar vingers in haar oren terwijl ze een bak popcorn voor haar ogen probeert te houden. En dan ineens, glijdt ze van mijn schoot. Haar wangen zijn rood en ze zit op het puntje van haar eigen stoel. Ik kijk naar haar en ze steekt een duim op. ‘Dit is niet gewoon leuk mam, dit is superleuk!’ fluistert ze. Haar blik zegt ‘ik kan dit’ en ik ben zo blij en een beetje opgelucht; we zijn weer een stapje verder.

I need a new gym!

On Monday afternoon the 23rd of March I swam in the World Gym pool in Lowell with my daughters. That evening I attended a kickboxing class in the same gym with Esti Corcoran. Esti is one of my favorite trainers. The people in the class are great too. We’re not close friends, but we kind of know each other and laugh and work out. Oh boy, do we work out; Esti is a very strict coach. I left 10 minutes before the class finished. I’m sorry I did because that night the gym closed down.

Last year in January, my husband, three children and I moved to Bentonville. We are originally Dutch and lived in South Africa for three years. We looked at a few gyms and decided on the World Gym of NWA. They offered fabulous classes, the employees were friendly and the kids could even take swimming lessons. So far, so good.

I never even thought of checking whether this gym was reliable. I assumed people would notify you when things don’t go according plan. But they didn’t. Having lived in Africa makes you believe you’ve seen it all. But we never, ever experienced anything like this. It’s disturbing and I feel betrayed. How come nobody notified me when I renewed my membership a month ago? What will happen to all the employees?

I also notice that I miss going to the gym. I don’t function like I used to; my routine is disturbed and the girls can’t take swimming lessons. I got angry and it didn’t really help. I run outside and I cycle, but I miss my classes. I miss my gym-buddies. Already.

That’s why I decided to take action:
1. I’d like my money back. I’m sure there’s reasons for this, but members are not the ones to blame. I emailed and phoned but without success…
2. I called gyms to check if they are looking for new employees and I recommended my favorite instructors. (Esti and Jamie are great; gym managers and owners, take note!)
3. I’m of course looking for a new gym. It’s almost summer, hello; I need a hot bikini bod!

I’ve been thinking this through and I’m going to try out different classes in Bentonville, Lowell and Rogers’ gyms, taking pictures, describing the atmosphere. My goal is to find a new, friendly, reliable and affordable place – although it will be more expensive than World Gym which might be one of the reasons etc….
It will hopefully inspire other ex-World-Gym-lovers to find a new good place. Let’s spread the word for the fantastic gyms out there!

The first class will be at Define Fitness Studio. Happy to hear other good stories too!

Eva in Gym

Crystal Bridges is Love

Crystal Bridges is amazing. I wrote about their drop-in-art-classes before and they keep amazing me. I’m also blown away by the light and the beautiful pictures you can take there! Go and bring your camera, or just use your phone and capture special moments. This Sunday was busy, but it never feels busy – as you can see. Yesterday it was packed! We had to park in the overflow parking and used the museum trolley (bus? golf cart?)
Anyway, the kids loved it!

Crystal Bridges is Love. No more words, just pictures :)

IMG_8259

IMG_8375IMG_8368 IMG_8370 IMG_8367

IMG_8372

Falling impersonal love

A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I wanted to edit an Art Book for a painter. Of course I did! The artist – the Dutch painter Iris Frederix – had put together a book of her paintings over the past decade. She had written a description for every painting. I read and edited her book and we skyped several times. Iris’ paintings are beautiful, but there was something in the process of creating a painting that impressed me even more.

Iris loves painting portraits. In her book she describes the process of taking pictures, making sketches and meeting her ‘sitters’ before she starts painting. She prefers to meet the people she paints in person to get to know them and to be able to really connect with them. She describes this as impersonal love. Iris doesn’t fall in love with the people she paints, but she does develop a certain kind of love for them.

Impersonal love. I immediately fell in love with that combination of words. It’s being truly interested in the other and getting to know someone. For Iris it’s about being able to create an image of someone that doesn’t only reflect the person, but his emotions, his soul. Iris says it ‘just happens’ during the process and is important for the quality of her work.

It sounds beautiful right? I guess it’s about a goal that you greatly value and are deeply committed to. This is how sharing your life with others should be. You set aside your daily stuff, you focus and listen and the world around you will stop turning for a while. Or well, that’s how I imagine it would be. How often are you working, but thinking of random things at the same time; you might be hungry, shouldn’t forget to run some errands and did you forget to lock the door?

I guess it’s about focus, about fulfilling an assignment or job or an arts and craft project with your children in the best possible way. It’s about setting aside yourself and truly focus on the other aiming for the best result. The goal can be attention, simply having a great time, or painting the best painting ever.
 We should all try falling impersonal love for a while and forget about the world around us! I certainly will.

This is Monte Carlo, not a portrait indeed, but beautiful!

montecarloarc

 

Thunderday/ Donderdag

De gedichtjes die Machteld maakt en die ik illustreer, zijn vaak gebaseerd op een uitspraak van een kind. In dit geval is het maandag en alles lijkt rustig. Tot er een donderslag klinkt. Of was het nou een donderdag?

(English
The poems Machteld makes are often based on something a child said. That could indeed be one of our kids ;) 
It was Monday and there was thunder. Was it Thunderday instead of Monday maybe?)

 

picknicktafel geknipt

 

Snow and a bird feeder

On Friday it started snowing, again. Snow looks nice and you can sled and you can make a bird feeder. A beautiful looking, easy to make, DIY bird feeder project. Right.

The idea of a snow day is that it’s cozy and fun and that you will be able do things you normally wouldn’t have time for. In reality you’re waiting for the snow to melt. I discussed it with the husband and we think that the biggest problem is uncertainty.
Uncertainty as to when the snow will melt and until that time, you wait. It’s the same as waiting for the bus, a delayed plane or when you’re waiting for food in a restaurant that doesn’t come and you’re really, really hungry. In the meanwhile you start saying things like:

‘When do you think it’s gone?’
‘I haven’t seen someone to clear the roads, when will they come?’
‘I think it will be gone soon, hey, it stops, oh no, it it still snows.’
‘Do you think schools will be open on Monday?’

Saturday morning we made a plan. We would clean and tidy up and I would make a bird feeder with the kids. I googled ‘DIY bird feeders’ and found several recipes. They looked complicated,  you needed gelatine and in the description the word ‘messy’ popped up several times. I googled some more and found a wooden thing that you had to glue together. We had the wooden sticks they mentioned and I figured that I could totally do that with my glue gun!

6a0120a61aa83a970c01538f42af46970b-550wi diy-bird-feeder-craft-stick-feeder-lgn

The girls sat down and we made it exactly as described. When it was finished we added the birdseeds. Of course the seeds were tiny and they fell through. So I glued the sides of the bird feeder to stop the seeds from falling out. It didn’t work and I thus added wooden sticks on the sides AND extra glue – seriously, the stress. After that there was a fight who could fill it up and then we FINALLY went outside.

 

The bird feeder attracted some birds and we all loved that. On Monday morning it looked like the birds either had a party, or big bird had made an emergency landing in the feeder.

IMG_7848

My snow-DIY-conclusion so far: Snow is especially nice when you’re on vacation and a DIY project is especially nice on pictures.

 

 

 

I fell in Love

This is a fairy tale.
It’s about a prince and a princess.
Okay, it’s about a turtle and me.
I drove past Sunshine Glass, a shop in our tiny town that I’ve been meaning to go to for a long time. Today, was the day. I walked into a Walhalla; old doors, skulls (of animals), the most beautiful glass work, lampshades and well, a turtle.
I instantly fell in love with this guy.

Adrian – one of the owners of Sunshine Glass – introduced me to this turtle with a history. Adrian’s dad would share the story, one day. Adrian could already tell me that the turtle had travelled all the way from somewhere in the world – maybe India – to California to Arkansas.

Bottom and top were made of one solid piece of wood. I love wood carvings made out of one piece of wood. This turtle was made so beautiful that it looked real. He looked me in the eyes and he clearly wanted to come home with me. And so it happened that for the first time in my life I brought a guy home I had just met and I paid for him too!

And they lived happily ever after.

Well, they lived happily ever after UNTIL the children came home from school.
They saw the turtle and I had to protect it from being held up in the air, carried around like a baby and being used to sit on.
‘Happily ever after’ should be changed into ‘happily ever after until…’

Anyway, go to Sunshine Glass and fall in love too.

 Oh and this is what happened to my new love:

IMG_7706IMG_7707IMG_7708IMG_7701

 

I’d rather have dessert

Moms say things like:
‘You will never become a big girl if you don’t eat your vegetables!’
And:
‘You can eat whatever you want, when you’re 18 years old!’

I remember thinking that I would buy a big jar filled with sweets when I would be a grown up. If I would ever grow up, I didn’t really care. Who wants to be a grown-up anyway?

This poem is about the things you don’t want to eat when you’re little which is basically everything that’s green. Then again; who wants to eat green stuff when the world has so many pretty colors and flavors to offer?

Gedicht eten, klein is fijn gecropped

 

 

Drip-style art

The museum in our tiny Bentonville town is brilliant. Crystal Bridges not only offers amazing art, but they also organize great activities. This Saturday we got to create something Pollock during a Drop-In-Drawing session. I experienced that creating the same thing, with the whole family, is very insightful.

Of course I create with the children. I give them paper, a pair of scissors, glue and then they do something that often requires my assistance.
‘How does this knife work?
Me: Knife, what Knife?!
Mom, I accidentally cutted – spelling is another thing that requires my attention – my skirt.
Me: Bobbie, WHY did you do that?
Well, I actually thought that I wouldn’t be able to cut it, but I was! Isn’t that very funny?
Mom, I need to make ten art projects for school.
Me: Okay, when are they due?
Tomorrow.’

Doing arts and crafts with the children can be stressful for a variety of reasons.

So we went to Crystal Bridges and walked to the art-room. The ladies helping everyone, showed us how to splash paint on a canvas in a Jackson Pollock drip-style painting technique kind of way. They also briefly explained two techniques and mentioned that your paintbrush shouldn’t touch the surface of the canvas.

All five of us took a canvas, put on an apron and off we went.
Boris immediately got started. He used one paintbrush, switched to using two and eventually used five paintbrushes at the same time. He finished in five minutes.
Bobbie also got started immediately. She used one paintbrush and followed her own lengthy path. She could have stayed there forever.
Lucie waited for Joost to start, looked at Boris and Bobbie and asked what the techniques were again?
Joost got started immediately and invented ‘the big drop’. He held a paintbrush above his head and waited for drops of paint to fall down.
I froze and then started painting, immediately touching the canvas with my paintbrush, mixing colors and doing everything differently than I was told (which made me feel bad and I wish I could have started with a new canvas and I’m telling you it’s tiring to be me).

It was such a meaningful experience! I can only recommend doing it. Of course you create with your children but not like this. When do you make the same thing, with the same materials within the same timeframe? I can only speak for myself and in my household it doesn’t happen daily.

Oh and this is what we made. Who made what, that’s the question ;)

IMG_7672

 

Parenting & vomit

Boris was only seven weeks old when he was admitted to hospital. He had a temperature, was sleeping constantly and it was hard to wake him up. It turned out to be a bladder infection, nothing serious, but he had to stay for a week. I remember my mom visiting us. We were standing next to Boris’ bed when the doctor walked in to update us. He asked something like: ‘And who is the mother of this little boy?’ I immediately looked at my mom. We all laughed. I wasn’t used to the title mother, let alone being one. There was still time though and one day, I would be a pro!

Uhm…

IMG_7493

Here we are, nine years and two girls later and I often have no clue at all. I sometimes see parents dealing with their children like born naturals. I just do whatever feels right and sometimes do not even manage to do that.  I can’t always control my own emotions, I sometimes hide in my room to have a break, cry in front of them and I sometimes shout too. Apart from being a mom, I’m also a human being. It’s learning on the job and it’s an ongoing journey. Let’s – for example – talk about vomit.

Boris had vacation last week and we were in a rush to pick up the girls who attend another school. Boris opened the door to the garage, suddenly stopped and said: ‘Uhm, mom, I’m not feeling too well.’
Me: ‘Do you have to throw up?’
Boris: ‘Neh, I’m fine.’
Upon which statement he puked literally everywhere; on the floor, in the boots of the girls, on his shoes. Everywhere.

I stared and my brain stopped functioning. I froze instead of hugging Boris. I did nothing while I should have comforted him. The only thing I could think of was: ‘Oh no, I am the only adult here and I have to clean this!’ I closed my eyes, opened them and the scenery was still the same. I phoned Joost, who said: ‘Can’t you leave it and pick up the girls first?’ I will not repeat what I said to him while the smell of fresh vomit surrounded me.

Of course I got over myself and cleaned it – no clue btw, tips and tricks welcome (paper towels, plastic bags?) I fetched the girls while Boris took a shower and went to bed. I apologized when he woke up and explained that I just didn’t know what to do. That I kind of freaked out. Boris said: ‘It’s okay mom.’ That was nice & polite but it also made HIM the grown-up of the day.
Being a parent; hopefully one day, I will be a pro…

[fbcomments]

Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day and Machteld and I therefore made another poem and drawing. It’s in Dutch, because writing in another language is one thing, writing poems or translating them is a bridge too far. The essence of the poem is easy to explain;  it’s about love and children and friendship and how they connect.

Bobbie (4) luckily still wants to marry me, Lucie (6) prefers to marry her best girlfriend – I will be way too old – and Boris (9) just wrote all of his classmates a card. He wrote ‘I love you’ to all the girls. I suggested to add ‘as a friend’. Yeah, that’s not romantic and I don’t think he took my advise seriously anyway. There will be puppy love and real love. In the end though, solid friendship seems to be crucial to the success of romantic relationships.

Boris made that quite clear the other day. Joost and I were in the kitchen, cooking and chatting and drinking wine when Boris walked in and said: ‘You guys are so lucky, you get to be together always and have sleep-overs and stuff. You’re like best friends’. It made me reflect. I had never seen myself as the girl who married her best friend (it’s pure chemistry right?) On the other hand, it is true. It’s that and especially that we can laugh really loud together (Joost louder than me btw, some things just never change).

Have a great Valentine’s day! Oh and find more on our Facebookpage ‘Vers op …’ 

Valentine aarde def

Cooking is harder than I thought

Boris (9) has a sleepover with his best friend. He would like to eat Taco’s because that’s his friend’s favorite food. Boris wants to prepare it himself and makes a grocery list. Salad will cost 8 dollars, black beans 4, mince 16 and the total amount of this dinner, according to Boris, will be 53 Dollar. Interesting. I guess we should include him more in daily life chores and especially running errands.

We have to stay out of the kitchen while Boris and his friend prepare dinner. It lasts one second, because Boris immediately cuts his finger. After that they try to open a can of corn with the garlic press. ‘How does that machine work?!’ they scream.
In the meanwhile they say things like:
‘Cooking is harder than I thought.’
‘Should this meat be red, it looks like blood, man, seriously so gross?!’
‘The hard part of cooking meat, is that you don’t know how people like their meat.’
Bobbie walks in and out and is sent away constantly which provokes her new favorite line: ‘Really, are you killing me?!’

The kitchen is a mess afterwards, but the boys are very proud. They are also sweaty and tired and when we ask them if they want to prepare dessert, they leave it to the girls. Girls are better cooks. Uhm yeah, got to work on that one.

Anyway, huge success, do try it at home.

Skiing & why you shouldn’t speed

We went skiing in the middle of (nowhere in) the United States. It’s all possible in Weston Missouri (Snow Creek). There was fake snow, a few slopes and 18 degrees (Celcius). We went with a crazy bunch of people, there was beer and loads of laughs. The teachers were great too; Boris learned how to board and the girls know how to make a pizza. In the meanwhile I learned why you shouldn’t speed.

There’s a little town you will have to drive through to get to Snow Creek. You may only drive 35 miles an hour there. That’s not fast and the signs are somewhat hidden. In that town lives a man. I’m not sure if he’s the only person living in the town, it wouldn’t surprise me; he’s Ebenezer Scrooge before he’s visited by the ghosts. He’s very curious, he sticks his head through your window (once opened, he’s not that curious) and wants to know where you live and where you’re from and what brought you there. He’s not tall, not short, you will tell by the flashing lights of his car that it’s him. What I’m trying to say is: don’t speed. If you do, you will meet the most unfriendly policeman in the universe too!

Anyway, do go & speed it up on your ski’s only.

 

 

Als ik de wereld was

Een tijdje terug reageerde ik op een tweet over de was en de wereld die wel wat wasverzachter kon gebruiken. Machteld en ik maakten er dit van. We zouden het ooit gaan delen (misschien) en toen was het ineens gedichtendag. Machteld schreef en ik tekende. We gaan dit vaker doen hoor (misschien).
Wereldwas def
(English!
A while ago I responded to a tweet about doing the laundry. I tweeted something about using some extra fabric softener and how wonderful the world would feel and smell. I immediately created an image in my head and Machteld immediately made this poem. It’s about washing the world, gently.)

What if you’re sensitive?

I’m busy writing and drawing something about this little girl. She’s the middle one, she’s the sensitive one. This was the first movie we completely watched in a cinema. Last time we tried we left after five minutes. I recognize her struggles, maybe that makes it so hard to deal with? Who knows, blog up next week!
Weekend suggestion: watch Paddington. It’s sweet, it’s English and their is this amazing tree in a house.

 

The cutest Elvis, ever

We went shopping at Sam’s club. I have to remind myself sometimes that those trolley’s -that I’m not supposed to call trolley’s, because a trolley is a tram, I’d have to call them shopping carts – are extremely big. When you’ve been living in the USA for a year, you get used to the size of things. You also get used to cleaning wipes and anti-germ sprays etc.  The girls are holding a wipe. First they wiped the cart, then they wiped the groceries and after that they wiped their faces.

FullSizeRender

Anyway, we paid, we went outside and Bobbie started ‘Return to Sender’ and turned into, or should I say ‘I tuned into’ the cutest Elvis ever.  I bet it will get you geared up for Blue Monday.  Have a great week!

The cutest Elvis, ever. #bentonville #elvis #returntosender

A video posted by evalebens (@evalebens) on

 

Met de hakken over de sloot (High heels in the air)

We gaan naar Orlando, het is kerstavond en we hebben een half uur vertraging. Dat is heus niet veel hoor, op een mensenleven, maar ben maar eens een half uur extra op een vliegveld. We halen nog een drankje, we lopen met de kinderen heen en weer en we praten over vliegen. ‘Eerst gaat het vliegtuig heel hard rennen en dan gaan we zo poef de lucht in!’ zegt Lucie. Ik denk gelijk aan dametjes op hakjes die het vliegtuig een slinger geven.

Vliegtuig met rennende benen gecropped Dutch

Inmiddels zitten we en rijden naar de vertrekbaan. Ik kijk naar man J. die een gangpad en een kind van me verwijderd zit. ‘Hoe zat het ook alweer met die zuurstofkapjes?’ roep ik boven de grommende motoren uit. ‘Gewoon opzetten!’ roept man J. terug. Goh. Wat weten mannen toch veel hè. Dan rijden we steeds harder en ik hoor de hakjes over het asfalt tikken. We gaan harder EN harder en DAN staan we plots stil en hangen in de veiligheidsriemen. Ik glimlach geruststellend naar de kinderen. Kan ook een paniekerig lachje geweest zijn gelet op de reacties: ‘Mam, wat is er? Er is toch niks ergs?!’

De gezagvoerder heeft het over iets met de motor en iets met oververhitte remmen. Hij zegt ook dat we misschien zo brandweerwagens zullen zien, maar dat zijn puur procedures en niks om ons zorgen over te maken. Ja ja. Ik zoek het zelf wel even op en vind ‘ontploffingsgevaar’ als ik de combinatie: oververhit, wielen en motor intik op mijn telefoon. Man J. vindt tegelijkertijd met dezelfde Google zoekmachine een bericht waarin het woord ontploffing in het geheel niet voorkomt. Typisch. Dan komen de brandweerwagens aangescheurd, waarop Boris een ‘blussen, blussen!’ inzet en ik verontschuldigend in de rondte glimlach.

Zes uur vertraging levert het op. Genoeg tijd voor verstoppertje,  het inwisselen van 16 dollar aan bonnen voor chocola en chips – want er is niks anders nee – en contact met een Nederlandse piloot die zegt dat het wel meevalt en goed komt (en dat het model vliegtuig best oké is, voor een 30 jaar oud bakkie dan, ha ha). Een dag later zegt hij overigens dat het best een hele spannende manoeuvre was die hij graag eens in het echt zou willen uitvoeren.

Met Lucie heb ik het later over de gestruikelde beentjes, geschaafde knietjes en de gebroken hakjes van de dames die het vliegtuig aanrenden. (Ze kijkt me verstoord aan, ze heeft geen idee waar ik het over heb).

English!

(We were going to Orlando by plane and we were half an hour delayed. Half an hour is not a huge amount of time if you spend it anywhere else than at an airport. We bought another drink, we walked around and we talked about flying. ‘First the plane runs really fast and then it goes up in the air just like that!’ said Lucie.

The ‘just like that’ was not completely true. When we were about to take off, the plane suddenly stopped when we were already driving really fast (imagine those ladies running on their high heels). The pilot said it had something to do with a broken engine and overheated tires. We could see some fire trucks, but that was all procedure. We shouldn’t be worried AT ALL.
Yeah right.
I googled it. You should never do that. Google gave me: ‘high risk of explosion’. I still smiled and stuff, but the kids asked me if something was wrong, so I guess the smile wasn’t too convincing.

And that’s how the bearable half an hour became a six hour delay. We got to play hide and seek at the tiniest airport in the universe, we (okay, I) ate too much chocolate and we told each other that ‘it could only get better from now on’. It was true. 

Oh and the ladies with the high heals came out alright; broken heels, tiny injuries on their knees, but fine. In case you were wondering.)

Vliegtuig met rennende benen gecropped English

2014 en het Leven! (Life in 2014!)

Leven & familie
In 2014 verhuisden we van Zuid-Afrika naar de USA. De kinderen gingen naar nieuwe scholen en zij en wij maakten nieuwe vrienden. We leerden Amerika kennen en Bentonville in het bijzonder. We genoten na Afrika van de vrijheid om te gaan en staan waar we willen en we ontdekten dat het leven leven met grotere kinderen zo anders is. En oh ja, we ontdekten ook dat we andere Nederlanders soms best missen.

photo-24-03-14-15-10-46

We beleefden veel sneeuw (mooi, voor even, tot je ontdekt dat scholen sluiten) en kou. In de zomer maakten we een roadtrip en Joost en ik struinden in de herfst door New York. We vierden Halloween (verkleed en alles), Thanksgiving (met een vrij droge kalkoen) en kerst (met boodschappen van de benzinepomp, waarover meer in een blog) in Orlando. Het was een avontuurlijk jaar!

Leven & werk
Ik ontdekte dat ik schrijven en tekenen leuk vind. Ik worstelde omdat tekenen nieuw is en iets nieuws maakt je vreselijk kwetsbaar. Ik worstelde met Photoshop en ik worstelde met een eigen stijl. Door het tekenen veranderde vervolgens ook mijn schrijfstijl; wat een gedoe! Ik startte Rootines en maakte een nieuwe website en paste deze vervolgens weer helemaal zelf aan (oh ja hoor, de uitgeprinte instructies – en de rest – vlogen soms door de kamer, het huis zo je wil). Dat ik dit helemaal zelf deed maakt me wel trots enzo. Je kunt altijd vragen aan Joost hoe hij dit ervaren heeft, oi.

IMG_6570 IMG_6569

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014 werkte ik met Anne aan Cowgirlzzz, tikte ik blogs voor 42bis (en deed daar dingen achter de schermen), Urbanchicks, Oudersonderling, een gastcolumn voor Magontheblog etc. etc. Het was het jaar waarin ik meer dan ooit schreef in opdracht. Soms ruilde ik mijn werk tegen ander werk, soms kreeg ik ervoor betaald. Soms werkte ik samen en ik merkte dat samenwerken tot zulke waanzinnige creaties kan leiden – zoals een kaartje en een gedichtje en allemaal zo mooi dat 2015…. (iets met een boek).
Dat mijn Rootines in een blad (Peekaboo) staan is zo gaaf en dat ik een column mag schrijven én illustreren in een blad (Dutch the Magazine) is ook al zo gaaf!

Feit is dat ik het allemaal nooit had gedurfd als mijn stukjes niet werden gedeeld en geliked en als ik geen proefkonijnen had mogen interviewen. Ik ben behoorlijk dankbaar voor de kans om te leren en jullie support in welke vorm dan ook. Liefde!

2015 wordt bruisend. Soms zullen de belletjes knappen en dat geeft niet. Go get them :)

In English!

(Life & Family
2014 was the year we moved from South Africa to the USA. The children attended new schools and we all made new friends. We got to know the USA and especially Bentonville. We loved our new ‘freedom of movement’ after having lived in Africa for three years. We discovered that life is so much different when the youngest is 4 and we discovered that life without any other Dutchies is not always easy.

We experienced lots of snow and very cold weather. We made a roadtrip over the Summer Holidays and Joost and I got to wander through NYC in the fall. We celebrated Halloween (dressed up and everything) Thanksgiving (with a rather dry Turkey) and Christmas (with groceries from the nearest gas station – I will explain why in a blog soon) in Orlando. This definitely was an adventurous year!

Life & Work
I discovered that I love to write ánd I started illustrating my work. I struggled because drawing is new and new things make you vulnerable. I struggled with Photoshop and I struggled  developing skills and an own style. I discovered that because of my illustrations, or attempts or whatever, my writing style changed. Gosh, my world flipped upside down! I started Rootines, created a new website and recently changed it again. This time I did everything myself which did NOT happen overnight and NOT without nervous breakdowns. But in the end it made me super proud, so I guess things happen for a reason (ask Joost’s opinion about this if you like, oi).

I started Cowgirlzzz in the USA, wrote for 42bis, Urbanchicks, Oudersonderling and a guest column for Magontheblog, etc. etc. It was a year in which I wrote more than ever on assignment. Sometimes I traded for stuff, sometimes I traded for money. It’s all new to me and I like it! New collaborations made my year and I for sure hope that it will lead to a big project in 2015 (something with a book). That Rootines are featured in an actual magazine (Peekaboo) is beyond cool and that I got the chance to write and illustrate for Dutch the Magazine is beyond cool as well.

Fact is that I wouldn’t have dared to do or even think of doing these things if it wasn’t for your continuous support. I love the likes, I love the trial and error interviews, the editing and the feedback you gave and give me. I’m very grateful for this learning experience! Thank you sooo much :)

2015 will for sure be magical. Own it! )

IMG_6571