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Friday, 29 March 2013

A Very Special Friday with Aisha of Hartlyn Kids

Hartlyn Kids is an independent children's publishing company run by two inspiring women, Aisha and Christine. Their focus is on multicultural children's books and the idea is to combine travel and reading. Each book is equipped with a travel stamp so you and your child can fee as if they have visited the country. A list of learning tools is also added at the end of the book. You can even get a passport to show off all your stamps!

Here, Aisha talks about the importance of multicultural children's books. For the sake of transparency, I was not paid to publish this article. Aisha is taking part in this guest post series to help me out while I am figuring out my life with three children, and I am very grateful to have this post here! Thank you, Aisha!

As parents, we are always on the look out for ways to incorporate global culture to our lifestyle. Whether it was by way of a museum outing, a dish, or an event, we knew it had to be a conscious effort on our part.

Here are five reasons we think multicultural books should be in every home library:

1. It's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket.
Planning a vacation for many families takes sticking to a budget and a plan. The average price for a family to go abroad can run at least $1,000 per person. Although a book cannot replace experiencing a country first hand, for less than $20, it can broaden our horizons. Even if you ARE able to travel (and we hope you are), books can be a starting point for learning about a culture before you arrive.

2. It serves as a launching pad for further discussion.
 Read a book about another country, then go further. Perhaps you can cook a meal from that country or visit a restaurant that provides an authentic cuisine. You can also look for an arts and crafts activity that's native to that region of the world. The opportunities are endless.

3. It combats stereotypes and may help to explain differences children may already notice.
 Children always have more questions than I think we can sometimes answer. They are also great observers of the world around them. When we read with kids about children who may look differently from them or are from a different country, they realize that there is still a common thread of humanity that cuts across differences.

4. It piques interest in travel.
 You provide enough multicultural experiences to your children and you will soon start getting requests to not only go to Disney World but perhaps Egypt or China!

5. It's fun!
 Learning is fun and so is learning about neighbors both near and far. It's fun for both the caregiver and the child to embark on an exploration together.

For a limited time only, we are selling our multicultural books for $5 and passports for $1!
Visit www.hartlynkids.com to start your experience today!

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Without a voice

We rely immensely on our ability to speak. While the majority of our communication happens without a word being said- for example through body language- language is still our favourite way to communicate, and the one we consider the most important.

And, as it often happens, never has it occurred to me how important spoken language is until…two days ago, I totally lost my voice due to a sore throat. A very, very sore throat. I can’t speak, or I’ll end up doubled over in a violent coughing fit. This, I must say, makes communication rather troublesome.

For starters, I am feeling as if I am enclosed in a bubble of silence. I feel ignored because I can’t answer questions properly, and I can’t make my wishes clear without having to rely on pointing or other gestures. All the time, I have to think whether it is really necessary that I say something and how can I say that without using too many words.

And this is for adults only. An adult will understand what it means when I point to my throat. But a child won’t. And Klara, being a very talkative little girl, asks me all types of questions. And this is where it gets tricky. I told her that I can’t speak because my throat hurts. But while she knows what pain is, and she knows where her throat is, she doesn’t understand that I am really not supposed to talk at the moment. It pains me that I can’t answer all of her questions, read books to Julia to teach her new vocabulary. I know about the importance of starting talking to children early, and it pains me just as much when I am alone with Markian, and I look into his little blue eyes, and I want to tell him that I am his mommy and that I love him very much. But I can’t. So we spend a lot of time in silence, he and me.

Not being able to speak makes me very feel very vulnerable. I see that I am more confused when people talk to me than usually, especially when they talk Dutch. I can’t call my parents and complain to them about losing my voice because the telephone relies on voice.

But I’ve also come to enjoy the silence. Not having to talk to people can be very enjoyable! Today, when I went outside for grocery shopping and some sunshine, an older lady started to talk to me. She talked and talked and talked. I tried to be polite and listen for a while, and tried to nod wherever appropriate. However, I soon realised that I had no idea what she was talking about, as she spoke very fast Dutch. I then apologised, and pointing to my throat explained that I really can’t talk to her right now. And then I just left.

At home, whenever I have to speak to the children, I have to whisper. And then, the children whisper back. I just need to say “no” and it is understood. No explanations needed. So, it is very quiet when they’re at home. Also, I’ve noticed how many times the girls come to me with a problem that they are suddenly able to solve without my help. Magic!

So, there are definitely some benefits of not being able to talk for a while, but I really hope that I will get my voice back real soon. 
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Monday, 25 March 2013

Winter, ehm… I’m afraid we have to let you go.

This post is inspired by Invading Holland’s funny winter spring- related cartoon. How very appropriate. We agreed on the fact that this winter doesn’t know how to retire gracefully. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and… fire it.

Spring, right? Birds are chirping, flowers are growing. Except the flowers are shaking and probably have fevers, and the birds can’t chirp because their throats are sore.

Frankly speaking, winter, you’ve had your turn for the last few months, and well, shouldn’t you be thinking about retirement? After all, your contract only lasted from December to March 21st, right? You didn’t think you’d get a permanent contract, right? Sorry, but this is spring’s shift, and you’re totally overstepping your boundaries.

I’ll just start with the fact that you really could have had mercy with a pregnant woman. Do you know how much it cost me to put on my winter boots with a belly the size of a baseball? Did you know you almost ruined my winter jacket because I had to suck my belly in real hard in order to zip up this stupid jacket? Do you know how much time it takes to wrap the children up in their winter clothing and how absolutely annoying it is? Going anywhere took forever. The children were grumpy because this weather just wasn’t made for going outside. I was grumpy because it was cold. My husband had around four thousand colds this year, which really took a lot of his energy, just when I needed him most. Surprisingly, I was fine until… today I woke up with a horribly sore throat and a slight fever. And yet, weeks later, you are still here. I am lighter and slimmer now, and have had my baby boy, but it is still annoying to have to be doing all these things in the middle of March.

And speaking of my beautiful baby boy, I want to proudly present him to well, pretty much anybody, but guess what? I can’t! I have to stay inside because it is so cold. And please take a second to consider all the psychological damage you’ve caused. I am getting very frustrated and instead of going out for walks I want to put on the contents of my whole wardrobe and cuddle up on the couch. I love cuddling up on the couch, except sometimes I don’t want to because I prefer to go for a walk. And I can’t. I stayed at home for days after birth, and am so ready to go out and do more than the occasional trip to my local Albert Heijn. But I can’t because you’re still here.

So, my decision is: I want you gone, winter. I am sorry for the harsh words but I can’t take it anymore and just want to go outside. Your shift is over anyway. I am giving you three days to leave. And you know what will happen if you don’t? As you may know I am Polish. I’ve seen worse winters- colder and longer, but neither was just as annoying as you. And do you know what we Polish people do with bad winters when they refuse to leave when their time comes?

That’s right. We BURN them. And then, we DROWN them. You don’t believe me? Check out this link. True story.

So, beware of the Polish people, and get lost.

Yours truly,

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Friday, 22 March 2013

Introducing: Very Special Fridays!

I have joined the Multicultural Kid Blogs Facebook Group only a few weeks ago, but already I am feeling like I've always been there. A while ago, Leanna of All Done Monkey had her second baby boy, and she had this brilliant idea of asking other bloggers to submit guest posts so that she could keep her blog alive and still have time for her children, and to get used to the transition between one and two. 

When I was still pregnant, I wasn't feeling all that well, and I didn't know how much longer I'd be able to keep blogging three times a week like I usually do. I supposed that after birth I would need time to figure out how this three-children- business worked. Leanna helped me realize that I needed help if this blog was about to continue growing like it has for the last few weeks.

I asked other bloggers for guest posts, and the response I got was more than I had ever hoped for. So many great bloggers responded that they wanted to help me even though many of them have never met me, and as I said I have just been a member of the group for a short time. 

I have already received many fantastic guest posts, and there are more to come! I then decided to make this a slightly bigger series, stretching out through many weeks if all goes well. I have just read that Google has decided to "punish" bloggers for guest posts- just when I thought that it would help me get more traffic. So I will not call this series guest post Friday. I will call it Very Special Fridays. 

Because these posts are indeed special. I didn't realise that by asking for help I would receive so much more. The posts will be various, covering general parenting topics, raising multicultural and multilingual children, and much more. There will be advice, personal stories, and interviews. The bloggers come from many countries and cultural backgrounds.

Last but not least, however,  for me, these posts  a lesson in how to write better. As a non-English speaker, I am always curious to see how other people write, and I sometimes get inspired by a certain style, use of certain words and  phrases. Many of these posts are so beautifully written, that I feel honoured to feature them here. So much for me to learn!

Other than that, I will try to post regularly on Mondays and Wednedays wherever possible, and then on Fridays you will get some food-for-thought from some great bloggers. Enjoy! 
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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

So apparently, pregnancy is not an illness, but the post-partum period is?

Don't get me wrong. I have had (and am still having) great support from the Dutch system concerned with pregnant women. And, the kraamzorg is absolutely unique for the Netherlands and basically sheer awesomeness.

This all being said, one thing about it I don’t understand it this. They say pregnancy isn’t an illness. In this period, women are encouraged to basically continue to live as they had before, with minor adjustments for things they’re not supposed to eat and the regular appointments with the midwives (as opposed to a doctor).

However, not all women feel well in pregnancy and what is normal and manageable for one woman can be a problem for another. For example, my acid reflux was so bad that I couldn’t eat and got iron-deficient. Same goes for pain relief during birth- you have to be really vocal about your desire to have it. Luckily, I got my pethidine shot and this was one of the best decisions for this birth-right there with hiring a doula.

This all seems to change once you have given birth. Then, as much can be said for the need to rest and recover in peace, I sometimes can’t help but feel the kraamzorg treats me like a sick person.

Well, first, there is the fact that you’re encouraged to stay in bed, something that usually only happens when… you’re sick! Then, there is a special nurse who comes to your house and performs some tests- on you and your baby (checking the uterus, stiches, temperature and your pulse). There is more medical personnel involved- including the midwives who took care of you during pregnancy. They also do many of the household chores, and prepare your food because you’re obviously too weak to do it yourself! They also frown on you if you want to leave the house.

I have read that in many cultures, women who have just given birth are encouraged to “sit the month”. It means that the month after giving birth (or as we refer to it, the 6 week post-partum period), the mom only cares for her baby. She is not supposed to leave the house, eats special foods that are supposed to help her recover, and is basically doted upon by her family members. She is also, however, put under a lot of pressure from family members if she wants to go outside, or refuses to stay in bed. I am also often told by my kraamzorg to rest, to lie down, to sleep. She was surprised I wasn’t in bed!

But I can’t believe that during pregnancy, when I was feeling pretty miserable, I was told that I was not sick, and that I should wait it out. I often felt alone and neglected because of this, even though I felt well with my midwives. And now, as I’m feeling much, much better, in fact, almost normal, the system finally takes care of me. It’s like just the simple action of having a baby makes me someone worth to care for? If pregnancy isn’t an illness, the post-partum period isn’t either, right?

 So why the huge effort that comes with sending people over to my house? Why the additional tests? Why am I being treated like a sick person when I am in fact feeling… quite well? Don’t get me wrong, people. The kraamzorg, as I had stated above, is a great idea, and I wish more women could get it if they don’t feel so well in the hospital. But don’t I have a point?

I love the idea of resting, relaxing and recovering. But I also like the idea of doing whatever I feel like doing, and not being told how I should spend my 6 weeks after birth.
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Monday, 18 March 2013

“I want to be there” –or what “Sesame Street” can teach us about being an expat

I wrote this a while ago, but wasn’t sure whether this is good enough for being published. I’m now trying to get back on track with blogging, so I figured this piece would be fine with some adjustments and corrections.

When I was little, my parents let me watch lots of TV in German just so I wouldn’t forget this language. So, I watched pretty much everything that was appropriate for children. Among these programmes, there was “Sesame Street”. A very memorable episode was the one where two monsters were exploring the concepts of “here” and “there”.

You see, just like “you” and “me” change according to the person speaking, “here” and “there” change according to where you are. Another thing about “there” is that once you get “there”, it becomes “here”. You can’t really be “there” because you are always “here”. Therefore it is a very hard concept to learn for children. The show tackled it perfectly.

This particular episode stuck with me for reasons I didn’t understand at that time, but now I think I do. While I never wanted to leave Poland for good, I’ve always had the need and the desire to explore other places. The Germans call it “Fernweh”- the very opposite of being homesick. “Fernweh” refers to missing a place you’ve never been, you’ve never seen. It’s one of these untranslatable words in German, together with “Schadenfreude” and “Weltschmerz”. Oh the things the Germans gave us.

Anyway, “Fernweh” can be best explained with the “Sesame Street” episode mentioned above. It is, put very simply, the desire to be “there”, somewhere where you are not at the moment.

Why am I mentioning it here? Simply because among the many reasons someone may decide to be an expat, Fernweh may be a very powerful one. It has inspired me to go to Germany, where actually “there” really became “home”, because I met my husband.

The funny thing is that even now, away from my home country, I can still feel “Heimweh”- homesick, and “Fernweh”- the desire to be “there”. I want to travel, I want to explore, I want to see new places. There are so many places I’ve haven’t visited yet.

Now, of course, with three children, going “there”, or going anywhere, really, can become increasingly difficult, but I guess there are ways to do this without losing all your savings and your sanity in the process. I just have to explore these options.

Another thing that connects “Fernweh” and “Heimweh” is the “weh”. It means “pain”. We all know how bad being homesick is, and the words themselves reflect this- it is equalled with being sick, or being in pain. It is no wonder then, that you can find the “weh” in “Fernweh”.

Because wanting to be “there” can be just as bad as missing home.

Did you feel “Fernweh” at some point? Did you want to be “there”? Where did you want to be?

Oh, here's the episode for your enjoyment!

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Friday, 15 March 2013

Mom, to, three!

Yesterday, I became a mom of three. I’ve been ranting and complaining about pregnancy-related annoyances for a while (such as acid reflux, sciatic pain, iron deficiency and heavy Braxton Hicks contractions) and was hoping for the baby to come out sooner than his predicted due date (March 23rd). Little did I know that my wish would be granted.

One day I woke up very uncomfortable and in pain. I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I talked to my husband about the possibility of him staying at home, but he went to work, since I wasn’t sure what was going on. A few hours later, I started feeling some contractions. I was with the girls, and was having a hard time caring for them. I called my husband and asked him to come back home, but he still didn’t think that it was finally happening.

So, I started timing the contractions and they were pretty regular, coming up every 7-8 minutes. I got the girls to daycare, then went back home. Little did I know that I was already in labour. I called the midwife who said she’d be at my place in half an hour. I called my doula and told her this could be it. And then my husband called and I asked him to come home, which he did. He arrived shortly after he called me, and then things started happening very quickly.

My water broke and poor baby Y pooped into it so it was a nasty green colour. The midwife arrived and determined that I was 5 cm dilated. We then called a taxi to go to the hospital, and off we went. I had my house shoes on. I called Sophie, my doula, that there was a change of plans and that we’re headed to the hospital. I wouldn’t be going to the nice birth clinic I envisioned giving birth in. I wouldn’t have my own midwife (again).

But this time, I was prepared. My husband and my doula were there and it made a world of a difference. The staff at the hospital proved to be extremely friendly and helpful. They told me I was doing great, and that I was smiling (I am pretty sure I wasn’t). And since I was already at the hospital, I could ask for pain relief without it being a nuisance (in the birth centre, while it was only a floor up, I would have to be transferred to the hospital to get the shot). And I got it, a shot of pethidine.

While it didn’t take away the pain, it helped me to get through transition and was one of the reasons why I’m feeling so good about this birth. The other reasons were my husband and my doula, who also proved to be a great photographer! And then the doctor told me I was ready to push. So that’s what I did. The baby came out, at 4pm, somewhat blue and making weird sounds, like a little frog. It was visible that he swallowed some meconium from the water and had troubles breathing. But he was immediately placed on me, and started pinking up pretty soon, and then he started to cry. We named him Markian.

Everything was going great! Then everybody left, except for my husband and my doula. We were served the traditional beschuits with muisjes (you see them on the picture at the beginning of this post). After that Sophie left, and we stayed to eat dinner (when you’re a mom you really start appreciating food that you didn’t have to cook). And then we packed our bags and went home. I must have looked crazy, in my pj pants and house shoes- no socks because they got so dirty and I didn't take a change of socks. We arrived home around 7.45 pm. The girls were picked up from daycare by friends of ours, and they came home the same night. They were beyond excited to meet the baby and wanted to play with him. 

The kraamzorg- a special nurse who comes to your house to help you with house chores and perform baby well- checks, arrived today and was a big help in easing me into having a little baby again. You forget so fast! Right now, we're working on getting Markian to feed (he sleeps a lot and doesn't drink so well), and to get my milk supply started. I hope it will go well.

Starting from next week, I'll share some great guest posts that I had asked other bloggers to write for me. I hope you will love them as much as I do!
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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Do other cultures parent better?

As a woman interested in intercultural differences and a mom, I’ve been reading a lot about the way different cultures raise their children. Especially I have to mention three books I’d heard about a lot that I then decided to read.

I read “The Continuum Concept”, the bible of the natural parenting community where Jean Lidloff tells her story of staying with the Ye'kuana people in Brazil during an expedition- she was looking for diamonds. In this book, Liedloff describes the parents as very responsive (but not overbearing), and the children as calm and self-composed, and yet psychically not damaged in any way. She then notices that the parents co-sleep, breastfeed on demand and immediately tend to their babies’ crying and recommends these practices to “Westerners”.

I read Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn ofthe Tiger Mother” where Chua describes her experience of raising musical prodigies and her idea that Asian mothers are superior to what she calls “Western” mothers (by which she mostly understand American mothers). Chua sees Western mothers as lazy and much too lenient on their children, causing them to fail reaching their full potential. She describes the work Asian parents put into raising their children, and the way they often push their sons and daughters to work hard and never give up. Their idea is that if the children can’t do something, they just don’t work hard enough.

And, then came Pamela Druckerman with her book “Bringing up Bebe”, where she shares her fascination with the way French people deal with raising children. She was impressed how well-behaved, socially adapted the children were, and also admired the fact that French mothers could go back to work and bounced back to their slim figures in three months. The children also ate whatever was served, never snacked, and slept through the night at 3 months.

This article from Mothering magazine also describes how the British are better parents than Americans because they don't set up high expectations for their children, instead expecting them to be good people who just do their jobs, and just lead a "normal" life. This list could go on. 

Do you know what connects these three books and the article I just mentioned? Yes, of course, they all show differences between the ways different cultures raise their children. And they are connected by an admiration of the new culture. Now, learning from other cultures can be a great thing. But I feel that in these three cases, it is about seeking the one perfect way to raising children. It is about thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side. It is about chasing something that can’t find in our lives.

Here is the way I see it. The children behave like well, children. They cry, they wail, they whine. They drive us crazy. So, in line with the modern tendency to critique anything Western and modern, we’re looking for advice elsewhere. And we think: if only we raised our children like the indigenous people, they wouldn’t cry so much. If only we had meal plans and fixed meal times like the French, our children would eat everything and never fuss at the table. If only we forced the children to play the piano the whole day, they’d become musical geniuses.

Another thing I notice about this books is that- just like any other parenting books- they claim their method is the one and only that works, and if you don't parent the way you're told in the book, your children will end up alcoholics and go to prison.

Somehow we think that other cultures do it better. It is great that we’re seeking ways to raise our children that go beyond our own culture. Some of us find great advice and new parenting philosophies that finally work for them. Most of us, however, do whatever works for us. Parenting books, families, the Internet, and finally, contact with other cultures give us endless possibilities on how to raise our children. So maybe instead of looking for advice on how to raise the perfect children we should just focus on what works for us- and keep an open mind at the same time?

What about you? Was there another parenting culture that you found fascinating?
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Monday, 11 March 2013

Dear expat women with PPD or baby blues, please get help!

I didn’t have PPD, I think. I didn’t want to hurt myself or the baby. I think this was just a bad case of the baby blues. I knew things would get better. But I know how easy it is to miss the signs and to get the right kind of help when you have just had a baby and you’re not feeling at your best. Here’s my story.

I should have been fine. Even though I was an expat, I was in what many would refer to as a supportive environment. My husband was working in the Netherlands and I was staying with his family in Germany, a place I knew and felt well in, right? During Klara’s birth I had a Polish-speaking midwife. My MIL stayed for the birth I had my parents-in-law to help me care for my newborn. I had a German midwife come over to their place to weight Klara, and check on her and my wellbeing. I should have been fine. I wasn’t. In fact, I was far from being fine.

The Polish midwife in the hospital turned to be extremely patronizing and her check-ups hurt more than the contractions did. By staying for the birth, my MIL crossed an important boundary when I was at my most vulnerable, and only offered lame apologies afterwards. My parents-in-law didn’t understand that I needed more time to recover and wanted me to help with the household chores. And, last but not least, the midwife who came regularly to check on on me only added to my confusion about raising children and caring for newborns. I was overwhelmed.

All the time, people came and went. They wanted to hold the baby, they wanted to listen to my birth story, they wanted to offer advice and gifts. Everybody told me I was lucky. I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl. They told me she was easy to care for and that their children were much harder to raise. They told me I needed to get myself together. They told me I was lucky to have “family” to stay with, and that I wasn’t alone.

Except I was. I was lonely as I could be, and miserable. Klara was born after 38 hours of labor and I needed an eternity to recover. Dealing with a newborn was hard enough, but what was much harder was dealing with family who were full of expectations as to what I was supposed to do- with the baby and at home. The weekends when my husband came to visit us in Germany were short moments of sunshine. The same goes when my family came to see us. But other than that, it was like moving in a fog. There were so many people, and yet nobody noticed what was going on. Nobody knew that I cried at nights, and was close to tears during the day. I was on the verge of collapsing, and nobody knew, because they assumed that the mere fact of having a baby would make me very happy.

I knew I was about to move very soon. I could have been apprehensive about it, but instead, I was looking forward to our move to the Netherlands. While it meant being on my own with a little baby, it also meant finally having my peace and quiet that I so desperately needed.  It meant being at home with my husband. This was a change for the better.

But it took forever. I didn’t enjoy raising a baby. I had enough milk to feed an army of babies, and didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. To me it seemed like an endless string of useless chores: changing diapers, feeding, playing, and putting her to sleep. Boring. I dreamt of doing things by myself.
I still had flashbacks from the birth and swore to never have another baby to not go through the same thing ever again. I often cried and cried and cried, and sometimes I couldn’t bear holding her- my perfect lovely little girl and I didn’t want to hold her. There was something wrong with me.

What made me better? The fact that I was home at last. The fact that I could slowly, at my own pace, figure out what to do with this baby. My husband helped and offered support and help when I needed it. I started working on my MA thesis and accepted some translation projects. With 6 months, Klara went to daycare, giving me 2 days a week to myself.

So, I made it without meds, without a doctor… Really? No. Maybe if I had recognised my problem, I could have gotten help earlier. That way I missed a lot of my early days with Klara, because I was recovering, physically and mentally.

With Julia I sought help almost immediately. I contacted Delft MaMa and started going to their playgroups. I was surrounded by like-minded people, who never put any pressure on me. Who could offer accurate help and advice. Of course, Julia’s birth was faster, easier and I healed immediately. Also, Julia was a much easier child than Klara was. But the fact that I got help was invaluable.

So, if you’re pregnant at this moment, or if you have just given birth, please read this. Please get help if you’re feeling that something is wrong with you, even if everybody else is telling you otherwise. Get the right kind of help, too. This could mean telling family members or friends to step back if you think they’re too overwhelming. It also means asking for their help if you feel you need them. It means looking for a doctor who could give you meds. It means meeting with friends or just being alone for a while.

 I have read that expat women are at higher risk of post-partum depression due to their lack of social support and isolation- even though this is not the case for many expat women I know, or myself. Expat life can be fun but it can also put a lot of pressure on us. So, dear expat ladies, please take good care of yourself. Please, reach out for help. You deserve better than feeling guilty and lost and damaged. Help comes in many forms, and I am sure you can get the one that is right for you. Please use it.
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Friday, 8 March 2013

You know you're a parent when...

So, I am a member of a great and wonderful Facebook group called Multicultural Kids Blogs. It is a great place for bloggers raising multiculural and multilingual children to meet each other, exchange ideas and help each other out.

Every week, Leanna of All Done Monkey asks us a questions and collects our answers in a special blog post. Last week's prompt was: "You know you're a parent when....".

There were so many great replies that Leanna decided to make some of them into Internet memes. Here is mine:

Please read other great answers on Leanna's blog, All Done Monkey!
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Mevrouw, I think you forgot your children!

Now that we have the new daycare schedule, with the children at home in the mornings and at daycare during the afternoon, I tend to run the majority of my errands alone. This way, the probability of forgetting something is much smaller than usual. Although, I must confess that in my current hormonal state I always tend to forget something. But I digress.

Almost every day, I have to go grocery shopping. I don’t plan for the week, and prefer to buy smaller quantities and go to the store more often. However, there is one thing I need to buy in bulk, and that is milk. While I am not much of a milk drinker, and my children can only drink so much milk, my husband is a real milk monster. He consumes quantities of milk that scare me. My marriage practically depends on whether there is enough milk in the fridge, and I am damned if there isn’t.

So, I have to go buy lots of milk. And how do I carry these huge milk bottles? In plastic bags? No. In a backpack on my back? No! I don’t cycle and I don’t drive, so I had to come up with a solution that would be easy on my back. And when I found it, the simplicity of said solution blew my mind.

You see, I am a parent. And what does every parent have that can manage big weights without breaking said parent’s spine? A STROLLER. Simple and brilliant at the same time, isn’t it? A stroller has lots of space, wheels, and can be pushed so your spine can relax. It is so perfect.

But not everybody is so convinced. When I take my stroller grocery shopping, I get weird looks, people laugh at me and occasionally ask me whether I forgot my children. This is not a very polite question to ask a stranger, is it? And I wish I had a better answer. For example, I could pretend to panic and thank the kind person for telling me because I obviously haven’t noticed that my children went missing. I would love to see the look on their faces.

But I don’t do that. Instead, I calmly explain that the children are at daycare and that I’m just grocery shopping and I take the stroller so I don’t have to carry all that stuff with me. But if there’s one thing people associate with strollers it’s children, and they can’t deal with an empty stroller! Imagine the horror! A stroller without children inside! Because it is such a bad thing that a woman can go grocery shopping WITHOUT her children, while shamelessly reminding everybody that does have children, they're just not with her? Oh, the nerve!

I can’t think of a better answer to these people, so I’m using my blog as a platform to vent. Thank you blog for being there when I need you, and for allowing me my occasional rant about certain people. Yes, older gentlemen at Hoogvliet, I’m looking at you. Yes, older lady in the Reformhuis, I’m looking at you. Would you rather I carry all of these things in my hands? Would that be funnier to watch?

So, we have a deal. You get your entertainment, and I get to keep my spine healthy. But it would be much nicer if you weren’t so entertained by this situation, because clearly I am not. But since I don’t really care about what you think, I’ll just let it slip and confess this to thousands of people on the Internet. You won’t read this blog anyway.
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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Dear son. I want you to be multilingual! Letter to my unborn son

Another post inspired by writer of Bilingual Monkeys Adam Beck. Adam has graciously given his consent for me to write an answer to a post written from the point of view of a newborn , and since I happen to be expecting a baby boy very soon, here’s my answer.

Dear Son,

Thank you so much for your letter. I was very touched by it because you see, I want you to become multilingual, too!

I am not sure what you hear from inside of my belly. I guess you can recognise my voice, and if you hear it, you probably already know that I speak many languages. There are the many different soft sh-sounds and the rolled “r’s” of Polish, the language I speak with your big sisters, and also the language I will use with you. There is the distinct melody of German- the language your father uses with your big sisters and me. There is Dutch, with its throaty “g”-sounds. Your sisters speak it, and it is used everywhere here in the Netherlands. There is English, a language I speak with my friends here. Confusing? Don’t worry, you’ll be perfectly able to tell them apart and address everybody in their correct language!

Even before birth, you are surrounded by different languages. It is an amazing opportunity for you! So I can tell you that I can help you speak more languages than 2! Your big sisters seem to be doing well, and they speak all the languages important to us. I am proud of them, and I’m sure that they will be a big help as well!

I know there will be obstacles. There will be people who will tell me that you should speak more. Or that Polish is not important enough for you to speak it. Not everybody knows as well as we do how important it is to speak many languages. There will be times when you will refuse to speak Polish because none of your friends will. Rest assured that I will continue to speak Polish with you, even though you may reply in a totally another language. Rest assured that I will do my best to find fun books, apps and films for you to enjoy- in Polish. I will do my best so that you speak it- and other languages as well.

I know as well as you do that speaking many languages will help you. It will give you more knowledge, more wisdom and more awareness. It will make your brain work better and it will help you communicate with other people!
Now, I am very excited to meet you very soon. It would, however, be nice if you could give me an estimate when I shall expect you? Judging from your kicks and moves I presume that you are not at all comfortable in my belly anymore. You don’t have much space. So, dear son, as much fun as it was to carry you in my belly, please get yourself together and get out. Really.

I love you,
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Monday, 4 March 2013

Simple Family Dinner: Pilaf

 photo SimpleFamilyDinnerBlogHop_zps61b8cafe.jpg

I am very happy to be able to take part in a blog hop called Simple Family Dinner. I love cooking and I am beyond excited to participate in such a fun cooking series! Also, I am sure, busy parents will appreciate the lovely, healthy and simple meals shared in this series! Just click on the logo above and check out other blogs participating, or go to the bottom of this post and click on the links provided!

The pilaf is what I would call a double family meal. My father got his hands on a traditional Kazakh cookbook, and we were all delighted by this wonderful, simple dish.  He used to make it a lot! Now I am making it for my own family. It is easy to make, looks and smells great, and is a delight to eat for adults and children. My husband and the children love it, and with the big choice of veggies that come with it, there is a big chance that they will eat some of them! This is not necessarily the original version, I have adapted it somewhat.

This should be enough for 4-6 people.


3 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
250g meat- the original recipe calls for lamb. But since my husband does not eat lamb, I substituted this with beef. Cut it into cubes or stripes. You can also ue chicken or fish if you like.
1 big onion or 2 small ones, finely chopped
5 small carrots or 3 very big ones. The carrots should be cut into thin sticks. I use my food processor to do this job but you can also grate them.
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons turmeric or curry
1 cup of basmati rice (you can use other types of rice but you will have to adapt the quantities of water accordingly)

A choice of fresh and canned vegetables, such as: cucumber, fennel, bell pepper, chicory, chives, artichoke hearts, radish and kohlrabi. Pickles of all kinds (mushrooms, gherkins, onions, etc.) are also common. I like to serve the pilaf with avocado and olives.


Heat the oil in a heavy pan or wok. Add the meat, and fry it until it is tender. Add the onions and fry until light brown. Add a cup of water, turmeric and salt. Turn down the heat and add the carrots. Cover and let it simmer for about 40 minutes. Add the rice and turn until it is covered in sauce. Add 2 cups of water. Let it simmer until the rice absorbs all the liquid and turns a delicious golden colour. This should take around 20 minutes, just enough time to prepare the vegetables. The bigger ones should be cut into sticks so they can easily be eaten by hand. The pickles can be served in bowls or arranged on a plate.
The pilaf should be pretty dry, with all the rice grains separated. The fresh vegetables and the acid pickles are just perfect with this dish. Enjoy!

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom | Inspired by Family | Sun Scholars | This Reading Mama | Life by Ashley Pichea | In Culture Parent | Raising Life Long Learners | Glittering Muffins | Octavia and Vicky | Kid World Citizen | Kitchen Counter Chronicles | Nomad Parents | Childhood 101 | Triple T Mum | Adventures in Mommydom | The Freckled Homeschooler | Teach Beside Me | The Chirping Moms | Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes | So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler | Pickle Bums | The European Mama | The Golden Gleam | Forever, For Always, No Matter What | Motherhood on a Dime | Harrington Harmonies | Rainy Day Mum | Jenni Fischer | Cakes and Sribbles | Toddling Into Madness | Mermaids' Makings | Mud Hut Mama | Here Come the Girls | All Done Monkey | Small Potatoes | Little Artists
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Friday, 1 March 2013

Nominated for the Liebster Award!

I have never heard of the Liebster award until I received a nomination from Annabelle of the Piri Piri Lexicon. Thank you so much!

THE RULES (according to Annabelle):
When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
Pass the award on to 11 other blogs, making sure you tell them you nominated them and
Ask them 11 questions.
You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!
Make sure the blogs you chose have 200 or FEWER followers
So, here it goes:

11 random facts about myself:

1)      I like sleeping. A LOT!
2)      I am a lousy housewife but a great cook
3)      I am a book addict. I read everything and anything that falls into my hands.
4)      I don’t have any pets. Instead, I have a brother.
5)      I am a messy person who doesn’t like making plans. But I sometimes surprise myself by being extremely organised when I have to be
6)      I used to do yoga as a teenager.  It did wonders for my body and soul! I should start again...
7)      No matter how cold the water, I will always go for a swim if I get the chance
8)      I hate noise! Unfortunately, this includes my children crying and screaming
9)      There’s no such thing as too much tea. I am always in need of a bigger tea mug! However, I don’t drink coffee.
10)   I am the uncraftiest person alive. My hands rebel when I tell them to do stuff, and whatever I do never looks the way I would like it to look. However, I keep trying.
11)   My favourite activity is called “olging around”- it includes a couch, a book and a huge mug of tea.

Here are my answers to Anabelle's questions: 

What makes you happy?
Many things: my children (and sometimes the lack of them), books, tea, chocolate, good food, sunshine. The list goes on and on…
Do you like your first name?
Yes, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, I used to hate my name, I thought it was lame! Now I love my name!
What language do you wish you knew? Why? 
Hindi, and other languages spoken in India, so I could watch all these gorgeous Bollywood movies without subtitles and sing along!
What is your favourite food?
I don’t have my favourite food. Let me rephrase- I have my favourite food of the moment (not applicable right now since I’m pregnant and would have to say things like rocket salad and raspberries)
Lift or elevator? I haven’t really thought about it but I think I used it interchangeably.
What is your favourite travel memory?
My solo trip to Ireland. It was scary, and awesome, all at the same time!
Why did you start blogging? Because of a witch in a black dress who accused me of child abuse. I then decided I needed a place to vent my frustrations!
Early bird or night owl? In fact, neither. I am a combination of the two. What I mean is I like going to bed early and getting up late. I need tons of sleep.
Are you good at handcrafting?
OMG, no. I am the world’s worst handcrafter. See random fact no. 10.
Who is your role model?
I have never thought about it, but I think I’m going to say my mom. She is the cleverest woman alive who loves what she is doing and is absolutely fantastic at it. She also tends to have awesome children J
What is your opinion on singing karaoke?
I think I may have done it once or twice. Probably I wouldn’t do it again, but if people like it, more power to them!

Blogs I’d like to nominate
1)      Expat Since Birth- because of Ute’s fascinating stories!
2)      Nomad Mom diary- Because it’s the most hilarious thing U have read in a while
3)      Bilingual Monkeys- because it’s all you need in a multilingual blog: informative, funny and inspiring
4)      On Raising Bilingual Children- Full of information and knowledge. My go-to resource on bilingualism!
5)      Journal of a bilingual family- by author of “Be Bilingual” Annika Bourgogne
6)      Bilingual Babes- Tallulah has written such a great guest post for me, I want to say “thank you!”
7)      Bilingual Znaczy Dwujęzyczny- Finally, somebody who’s blogging about it in Polish! Great job, Aneta!
8)      Mama w bojówkach- a mommy blog by a friend of mine who writes about her little bright boy. Cute, but you have to be able to read Polish.
9)      Burro et Salvia- This blog makes me drool! It has so many beautiful recipes that I’m dying to try out. Combined with the stunning photos, Roberta’s blog is always an inspiration when it comes to delicious, and child-friendly recipes.
10)   Aesthetica Fauna- because of the chocolate chip cookies. Need I say more?

Ok, these are only 10 blogs, but all the other blogs I want to nominate have a much bigger following than 200! And I'm happy for them!

Now, the questions:

1)      Do you enjoy blogging?
2)      What do you do to relax?
3)      Do you have a parenting philosophy?  How would you describe it?
4)      Finish this sentence: when my children drive me crazy, I…
5)      If you could live wherever you wanted to, where would you live?
6)      Do you enjoy doing housework?
7)      What do you wish you had more of?
8)      What is your favourite book and why?
9)      Can you cook?
10)   What’s your favourite part of the day?
11)   Do you watch TV series? If so, which ones?
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