“Recipe for pureed hair” Introducing solids ;)

A small recipe and a drawing, done about three months ago ๐Ÿ™‚



The wars I won

The wars I won

My shoulders hurt, my arms, my belly, my hips, my thighs…
I gave birth two days ago
for the second time.
Tired and aching,
I find myself liking some of the muscle stiffness –
they are the signs of the battle I fought
against fear and doubt and through pain,
armed with a ball, a TENS, and the memories of my first.
It was unexpected then,
this time I knew going into fight,
though I’d forgotten too.
I breathed, I held, I moved,
secured and supported by my guardian,
my comrade in-arms, my midwife,
I pushed for Life.
His head first, then his shoulders came, down to his feet!
He breathed and he cried!
As I carry my son in my arms
and feed through the night,
I find myself wishing for tattoos:
one for my eldest, one for my youngest.
They would be my medals
for the most important battles I ever fought,
the most important wars I won.

And there I know,
if I were to keep some – priorly dreaded – marks
of this pregnancy on my body, proud I should be.


Lifting the anonymity & the next step in our journey

It has been a long while and many things have happened, most importantly that we have become parents for the second time and I am now a mum of two boys. My second son is 8.5 months, we’re finding our feet, somehow.

Now I’ve decided to change this blog, in a few ways: first, I’m lifting the anonymity. My name is Jennifer, or Jen, half French half British 35 year old, currently living in Ireland with my husband Christophe and our two boys. As a consequence, I’ve also cleaned up the blog of things I’m not sure I want everyone I know to read ๐Ÿ˜‰

Second, I’m not only a mum, and I will keep a space on this blog for myself. Here is a good, if sad, read, recently published, on the needs of mums and the wrongs of our society towards mums: SamantahNolanSmith

Third, I’ve decided to “come out” as a mum. I’m a long term breastfeeder and tandem feeder, my eldest is four years old in a month, my youngest is just over 8 months old, both breastfed – if differently. I am, with my husband, also a co-sleeper: one big bed and a co-sleeper barely used for us four! It’s the only way, I think, if you want to continue breastfeeding…

Now it looks like I’m going to be a homeschooler too. As in the children won’t be going to school, or at least my eldest won’t be going for the next two years. No preschool, no school. Unleash the hounds…

We have thought and read and talked a good deal about this decision. We have moved countries twice in two years. We have had a second child in March. We have also had health issues, for both boys, in addition to my own. Then in September, our eldest went to preschool for ten days. The first day, he was sooo excited. After we left, for just an hour that day, he cried hysterically for 40 min – until we came back, totally panicked, not understanding what was going on, though we’d tried to explain… And they had let him cry, when we were just outside the school… And when he’s already had so much to deal with and the language to get used to – we speak French at home and he barely knew a few words of English then. After ten days of trying, again and again, with the teachers, the principal, his crying not getting better and huge tantrums at home before bed, nightmares about being abandoned and walking home alone, I looked at what would happen if we took him out. Nothing, it seemed… Children are not obliged to go to school until they’re six, at least in Ireland. It is a parent’s right to teach him as he chooses. So we took him out, at first thinking that we would try again later that year, or next year. We would leave him time to settle after this very busy year.

Once the first decision taken, I started looking for groups of children, for socialisation, for activities, to keep us out of the house and away from the TV, and I found homeschooling groups (a lot is happening on Facebook) and books. We met people. I read and read and read until I find that I now strongly believe that the mainstream school system is outdated, based on the needs of our society more than a century ago. It may be bad for children, possibly bad for society now – how many schools teach critical thinking, the most valuable skill they should learn in our day (here Sal Kahn creator of Khan Academy, talk about our future)? There are too many children in classes (don’t give me that “it’s the same everywhere” it doesn’t mean it’s good). Closed in classes doing activities chosen by teachers rather than chosen by themselves (what are they, chain workers? I know some schools try to include some self-directed learning principles, but not where we live, or not at a reasonable price…), parked by age groups (a completely unnatural thing) rather than by interests or abilities, and going out on a macadam’ed space only for a few minutes a day even if it’s super sunny outside…

At 3.5 years old I believe he needs to play, to meet other children, to run and jump and experiment. Not sit quietly and give in to the control needs of the teachers (perfectly understandable given the number of children per class), ignoring other upset children, and having to let me leave even if he’s not ready for it… 

Don’t make me say what I didn’t, school is useful. It brings a lot to children whose parents cannot or would not be able to teach them. It has decreased the illiteracy rates in western countries. It may be good for some children, just, I believe, not mine, not now. He is not a number. He has his own needs, because of the language, his life up to now, his personality. One day he will be ready to stay in places without me – technically he was ready before the disaster with the school – like he was ready to stop with nappies, or like he’s now asking to do everything by himself (very unhappy if you don’t let him). He’s growing, he’s changing, he’s learning all the time by trying and playing and repeating what he sees and hears.

And so we meet with other parents, other children, he’s running in the forest and getting his trousers wet… Though less in winter or when sick… But just like his father’s dad or my mum used to do in the 50s. They didn’t turn out bad. If anything, they’re the most confident people I know.

In the meantime I’m also looking at alternative schools, ways to teach him (and his brother) myself – maths, English, reading and writing, arts, gardening, and all the other things my toddler is interested in, from the sound of birds to rockets, dinosaurs or playing piano… – how we can proceed if in two years he doesn’t want to go to mainstream school. How we can help him go to university if he, and his brother, wants to go one day, like we did. I believe the school system (and more generally our way of life) is changing and I want the children to benefit from that change – critical thinking and everything internet can bring. It gives me hope for them and for our society. It’s cheesy but it’s true…

In consequence, the blog is changing to become dual: me on one side (the mum not only mum) and our journey as a family and a homeschooling family on the other (our activities, or a sample of them). I believe this is what our child needs now and this blog might help me keep track of what we do, and to keep my motivation too!

P.S.: not that it’s anyone’s business, not any more than the other things I post here, but we’re still vaccinating the children. Looking for your own information and making your own choices is the way. I personally think the herd immunity is important so that’s our way ๐Ÿ˜‰

Some good reads on the subject of homeschooling – for those curious and interested:

– Children taught at home learn more, article from The Guardian

– Teach your own by John Holt
– Dont waste your time homeschooling by Traci Matt with lots tips
– Learning without school by Ross Mountney
– Homeschooling the early years by Linda Dobson, big American book not very recent
– One to one A practical guide to learning at home Age 0-11 by Gareth Lewis

In general for activities to do with children in the house:
– Tinkerlab by Rachel Doorley
– 150+ screen-free activities for kids by Asia Citro
– Also I love Djeco games, Orchard Toys, Melissa and Doug games, Usborne books including their sticker books ๐Ÿ˜‰

More generally, here is a link I saw yesterday with lovely videos on the subject of our lives, how we can link the way we live with the environment, live a simpler and healthier life closer to nature: Happen films

Us four

Let’s do it

It has been a while, with some major changes and happenings, in our lives and in the political and financial world.

Concerning our lives…

We decided not to buy the house in the end, between Brexit and our other uncertainties it seemed better to postpone such a big 30-year-mortgage move. In Amsterdam we had bought our flat right after the 2008-crisis. Afterwards the price just kept going down and we couldn’t sell and move out without losing a lot – not doing that again.

I am over 4 months pregnant with our second child! And hurray! the anxiety and the fear to lose it are back full time. Thank you hormones and messed up sleep… Physically everything is going well so I’m trying to deal with it one day and one night at a time with the help of my husband. Diseases and accidents, time with my son, guilt, giving birth (can I really do that again?), first weeks, sibling discovery. Out of the top of my head. One day at a time and a bit of crochet.


One of the joys of being a woman

I know no-one wants to be reading about this, but I went for a cervical screening today. Nice! A gynaecologist nurse or doctor put a speculum inside me, to hold the walls of my vagina while she scraped some cells from my cervix, a procedure which was previously called a smear test. That done she is supposed to send these cells for testing, to make sure I don’t have cervical cancer… Even better! Seriously, the only reason I went is because they sent this awful fact-sheet with the paper reminding me to take an appointment… It made me think of my baby boy, he needs his mama – scare people, people, and you get better public health results!

Anyway, I went this morning and I’m still feeling uncomfortable in the belly, like if my periods were about to show up… Sorry for the gory details, I had to put it somewhere.

And maybe take the opportunity to put a small word out there – do it ladies! We’re supposed to start from age 21 (I certainly didn’t) and go every 3 years between 25 and 49, the period we’re most at risk. It’s uncomfortable and not nice but it saves lives…

Good evening everyone!

A gentle push to achieve

I’m supposed to finish my PhD, after years of not working on it. Get the last parts of the thesis together and defend it, in public. The last time I properly worked on it, I was pregnant. Then I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, right after I had a series of panic attacks at 5 months, when my baby boy has just started to move in my bellyโ€ฆ If that is not scary, I don’t know what is.

I managed to avoid anti-depressant, just, by working on some of my issues with several professionals. I gave birth and didn’t suffer from post-natal depression (despite that doctor who told me that I had a 50/50 chance of having one, very helpful) or had panic attacks since then. It’s been just over two years (my baby boy is two!!).

Now I need to finish that PhD, so everyone who helped me can see it achieved and get their share of it, and so I can move on for good.

But it’s been a while since I worked on it and I forgot a lot of things. Just the thought of having to go back to the text and the work, and having to defend it in front of my old colleagues is freezing me. It would be just one of these PhDs that took too long โ€“ I’ve been to these defences and nobody feels like it’s a successful end to the work, most actually pity the defendor, it took too long, it has less value, and he/she is not even working in the field anymore. Most don’t see the effort it took to finally get there. To add to this, the defence will have to be in Amsterdam โ€“ meaning plane, hotel, etc. with a 2 year old boy โ€“ and without much time and help to prepare in advance.

So that’s it. I’m trying to deal with it one thing at a time. I will try to finish it and defend it, without losing it. I’m scared. I tried to tell my supervisor, and he understands, to an extent: you are scared, a lot of people are, it’s fine, you’ll manage and we’ll do our best to help you and get it done as fast as we can. It’s really nice of him and some of his ideas might actually help. But I know something that he doesn’t. That I may not manage. That it could get me over the edge with the stress and the tiredness and the depressing topic! Which would mean having to let go again, of everything, and then months or years of feeling crap, maybe having to take treatments, while waiting to get better. Is it really worth the risk?

After two years, I’m finally able to do things I couldn’t for a long time. I’m also taking care of my son and he is a lovely little person I adore. But I haven’t worked since I was pregnant. I keep having ideas of what I could do but stop even before I try. It is so ingrained, the feeling of failure, the lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. Maybe I am a bit stuck, and maybe if I finished that PhD, I’d get rid of that. Because, maybe, what I am suffering from is some kind of stage-fright which can be managed with some help. Maybe I could do it and be good at it and not fall over the edge. Maybe I am stronger than I think. Maybe it could free me and help me find another path for myself, and even make me a better mother for my son. If I don’t try I might always wonder. I might regret it. Or maybe I wouldn’t care, moving on!

Anyway, for now, I’m trying to finish that PhD, knowing that I still need to listen to myself and be responsible. My supervisor cannot really understand the reality of my situation โ€“ that the next time I fall I might not come back out for another 2, 3 or 5 years โ€“ which means that he could unknowingly push too far, and I cannot let this happen. My son is two and my health has to come first!