Quick thinking, exhausting holidays and crazy parties!

There are very few dull moments in Newman Towers and the last few weeks have not been an exception! The first six weeks of this school term have been all about finishing my novel, and after a lot of hours spent with my laptop, I have now taken a break for a few weeks which is a good thing as they have been full with other stuff.

In the school holiday, I took the little people to Holland for a few days. Hubby had to work so it was just the three of us. We had great fun going on the ferry and catching up with family. It was brilliant spending some quality time with my sister and even better seeing my awesome nephew. Jacob idolises him and it is great to see them all get on.IMG_1154

We all had a lovely time (including hubby who had a weekend all to himself), but it did mean that the little people went back to school rather tired as we got home at 21.30 on Sunday evening.

On the Tuesday it was the dreaded Halloween! I dread not because I don’t let my little people trick or treat. Normally we do something else special on Halloween but because we had just been away it didn’t happen. I’m sure they’ll live. 🙂

On the same day, another one of Elisabeth’s teeth came out, she had been wobbling it for ages so she was very pleased. Now a few months ago, her front tooth came out and I nearly forgot about the tooth fairy……..now you can see what’s coming…….this time I didn’t nearly forget about the tooth fairy…….I actually did!!!! Elisabeth came downstairs in the morning with a trembling bottom lip

“Mummy, the tooth fairy didn’t come.”

Ahhhhhh!!!!! Quick!!!!!! Think of something!!!!!!!!!!

“Maybe the tooth fairy was so scared by all the Halloween costumes yesterday that she was too afraid to come out?”

“Yes, that’s probably it, maybe she’ll come tonight.”

Pfew, that was close! The tooth fairy actually came that day ready for when Elisabeth came home from school. Nicely done, even if I say so myself 🙂

To finish off the crazy weeks, my dad came to visit over the weekend to celebrate bonfirenight and our 12,5 year wedding anniversary. For some reason it is tradition in Holland to celebrate this, according to my dad it’s because the Dutch love a good party but because a lot of marriages don’t make it to 25 years, we celebrate at 12,5 as well 🙂 no idea whether it is true or not, but any excuse for a party is fine by me!

It was complete chaos with 4 kiddos under seven, 9 adults, food, drink and lots of fireworks, but it was awesome. A perfect way to celebrate.

I have to admit though, that after all that fun, it is quite nice for things to get back to normal for a bit…..until Christmas that is………………

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Mummy, my yawn hurts

I love it when kids don’t know what something is called and, rather than ask me, make up a word themselves to describe what they mean. With Elisabeth we never really had this pleasure, she talked very early and never really said anything wrong.

Jacob however, is the absolute master at this. He has always been very good at communicating what he means without necessarily talking or using the correct words. When he last had a cold he said:

“Mummy, my yawn hurts.”

He meant that he had a sore throat, which makes perfect sense because when you have a son throat, and you yawn, it can hurt like hell. Easily worked out. Nice job Jacob.

Now this morning we were getting ready for school, so the school uniform goes on and just before we leave we do socks and shoes. A brand new pair of shoes, which he loves. But just as we are walking out the door I can see that he is limping a little.

“What’s up Jacob? Are your shoes not comfortable?”

“No, they’re hurting my foot wrist.”

“Your foot wrist?” (just checking I heard right)

“Yes, my foot wrist.” (said in a ‘surely you know what a foot wrist is’ kind of tone)

“Do you mean this?” (Me pointing at his ankle)

“Yes, my foot wrist.”

“Ok, that’s your ankle.”

“Yes, my ankle.”

“Ok, when you get to school ask your teacher if you can take off your shoes if it hurts too much.”

(At school talking to his teacher) “My foot wrist hurts.”

Love him!

Frunt teef

It’s amazing how quickly kids grow up. It feels like only days ago I could hold Elisabeth in just one hand. Now she is nearly as tall as one of my best friends – admittedly my friend is 4ft10 so that is not a massive challenge, but Elisabeth is only six. And not only that, she has also lost her two front teeth to make room for her grown up ones!

Elisabeth had her first wobbly tooth when she was 4. I was so not ready for this, I thought it wouldn’t happen until she was at least 6! Clearly I was wrong. Anyway, little 4 year old Elisabeth was very excited because when the tooth would come out the toothfairy would come! 

Wouldn’t it be lovely to just for a few days to go back to that world where there is a toothfairy, a Father Christmas and an Easter Bunny? 

The first few wobbly teeth were all excitement but the two front ones have been a bit troublesome. They took ages to come out and it hurt when she ate, dinner often ended up in tears until she as fed up with it and asked me just to pull it out! Brave girl. 

The first of the front teeth nearly caused quite a drama. Elisabeth had put the teeth in an envelope with a drawing for the toothfairy in it. It was all ready to be swapped for a few coins. A few hours later I’m in bed all ready to go to sleep. I am dozing off and all of a sudden I am up right in bed…

OH NO! The toothfairy!

I had totally forgotten about the toothfairy! So there is me in my half asleep state, wobbling down the stairs to find some coins – please let me please have some coins!!! – and write a note from the toothfairy. Phew, close call. I can only imagine how distraught she would have been waking up and realising that the toothfairy had not come! 

For the second front tooth Elisabeth wrote a note with a question to go with the tooth…


Just in case you can’t read it, it says:

To tooth fery how do I eta a apple with no frunt teef

Love from Elisabeth

To be so innocent again that your main concern of the day is how to eat an apple with no front teeth.

Jacob and the big world…

A couple of weeks ago, Jacob went for his first day at pre-school. He was super excited and so was I because the first day I was allowed to come with him. So after lunch I changed him into his school uniform which he wasn’t partuclarly keen on but the promise of some chocolate seemed to help quite a lot (bad parenting, I know). 

He had great fun for the first hour, lots of new toys and a great outside space – pretty much Jacob heaven. But then it was tidy up time……and sitting still on the carpet and singing songs…….and having to wait until everyone finished their snack before being allowed to play again – pretty much Jacob hell. Not the best of starts.

The next day he seemed happy enough to get changed into his uniform (probably thinking he would get chocolate again) and walk to school. He seemed a bit cautious when going in but was ok. I was the one who was worried. I could see him spend all afternoon on the ‘thinking cushion’ (their version of the naughty step) because of not listening. Imagine my surprise to hear at pick up that he had been perfect and he had listened really well! I was proud of my boy, he’d done well.

Last week he started to realise that this isn’t a temporary thing and he was going to have to go to school every day now, apparantly this was somewhat unexpected and on Thursday he cried and didn’t want to go in at all. The teacher took him in and he was fine all afternoon but later that day he told us in tears that he doesn’t want to grow any bigger, he wants to stay small. It was rather heartbreaking, he obviously just wants to stay at home with mummy bless him. 

Unfortunately Jacob, that is not how things go in the real world and school is something you are going to have to put up with every day for a very long time, poor little lamb ❤️❤️❤️

I’m back!

It’s been a while. A long while. A way too long while since I even logged on to WordPress, let alone wrote anything! But I’m back, well I’m trying to be (I imagine Arnie saying “I’ll try to be back” wouldn’t have made quite the same impact – ha ha).

Jacob has recently started pre-school 3 hours a day, and the weeks leading up to that, a lot of my sentences started with: “Well, when Jacob goes to nursery I’ll have a bit more time to do that…” so I planned to do a lot of things, and I mean a lot of things.

First things first though, I increased my hours at work. Working only two days a week is lovely, but it does not help ones financial situation much, so half of the hours Jacob was going to be at nursery I agreed to work. Luckily the amazing company I work for are really flexible and were happy to let me do the extra hours from home.

After taking off time that I spend walking to school and back to do the now 3 school runs a day, this leaves me with about 3 hours at home to do other things. In those 3 hours I decided to do the following:

  • Go for at least 2 runs every week
  • Cook lots of meals to go in our freezer for the busy days
  • Write at least 2 or 3 blog posts a week
  • Become a domestic goddess whose house is so clean it barely looks lived in
  • Catch up with some friends I haven’t seen for a while
  • And write a book

All of that in 3 hours a week.

I don’t think I need to explain why this hasn’t happened. Although in the first two weeks of Jacob’s new adventure (for details of this you will have to wait for my next post) I did go for 1 run, cleaned and tidied up our dining room and generally got the house in a state that, although it very much looks lived in, you don’t stick to the kitchen floor anymore. And the best bit is that I have actually finished the first draft of my first ever novel – eek!

Oh, and I have just written a blog post, but obviously you already knew that 🙂

 

Tough cookie 

When you have kids, life can change in a moment. An amazing fun day can turn into a nightmare within a fraction of a second if a child hurts himself, or a rubbish day can turn wonderful just because of something  they say or do. And then there are days that go a bit like this: good-bad-wonderful-slightly annoying-horrible-nice and quiet-nightmare-lovely-thank God they are in bed!  Last Frifay was a bit like that……

Everything started off fine, Jacob was awake at his normal time (6am)  and Elisabeth slept quite late (the closer it gets to half term, the longer she sleeps). Elisabeth got off to school ok and I treated Jacob to some tv time, he has come down with a bit of a cold and as last time he had one we ended up in hospital for two nights because he had an asthma attack I thought it would be wise to keep him as calm as possible. This worked for a little while, but he is two and a half after all and they can sit still for about two and a half seconds. It didn’t help that we started him on preventative asthma medication the day before. He has never taken this before and reading the potential side affects freaked me out quite a lot (it was a huge list but it was the suicidal tendencies that really got me!) but I thought ought we should at least try it. He wasn’t himself all day, all the little naughty things he normally does seemed to be magnified and I really struggled to get him to listen, I say struggled, I mean failed! Luckily he had a nap so I could get some chores done and sit down for a cuppa for 10 minutes. 

After school we went for a playdate atone if Elisabeth’s best friends and it was there that it became really clear that he wasn’t himself. Normally he loves playing there and he plays really nicely with the girls. But not yesterday, I actually took him home after only  being there for a little while, luckily Elisabeth was able  to stay a bit longer and was dropped off home a bit later. Jacob calmed down a bit after coming home but he still wasn’t right. 

We sat down for dinner and both kiddos tucked in happily (sausages always does the trick) and all of a sudden for no apparent reason Jacob falls down from his chair, head first into the floor, the very hard, tiled kitchen floor. 

It felt like my heart stopped for a second or two. I scooped him off the floor and checked for blood, thank God there was none. After a few minutes of screamin he said “I’m all better now mummy”.  He is a tough cookie and clearly recovers from a shock like that a lotquicker than me! 

After all this we had a lovely movie night watching “Tangled” with popcorn and lots of cuddles, but my word was I tired after all that! 

Kiddos talk

“Fishin!” is what Jacob shouts when he is finished with his snack, dinner, or whatever else he happens to be doing. This is an improvement to what he did before, which was throwing his hands up in the air and shout: “Silly!” 

He is the complete opposite to his sister when it comes to talking. Elisabeth didn’t really say a word until she could talk in full sentences and she rarely said anything wrong. Jacob however is not too fussed about the correctness of his words, as long as we know what he means he is happy. So we get “fishin”, “bicyscle”,  “stool” (for spoon), “ass cream” (for ice cream), “ups and down”  (for  upside down)  and “mana” for banana. 

And whilst Jacob is trying to get his words right, my darling Elisabeth says things like : “you’re the best mummy in the world, even better than the Queen!” 

Happy Friday everyone! 

I wasn’t scared……well, maybe a little

A few months ago I found a little lump in my breast…..slight moment of panic. A few days later……it was gone……sigh of relief. A few weeks later…..it was back…….moment of: what the heck do I do now!?!

To be perfectly honest, the temptation to just ignore it was pretty strong. I spent a couple of days doing jsut that and I did really well. But no matter how hard you try to pretend these things aren’t there, they niggle…..and niggle……and niggle. You can ignore them but they never quite leave your brain.

So I decided to have it checked out. The doctor I saw couldn’t feel anything and I wasn’t actually that worried. I am not sure whether this was just complete denial of the whole situation or a genuine feeling, but I assumed it was nothing to worry about. The doctor shared my lack of concern but still referred me to hospital to make sure. 

The appointment came through quite quickly, and still I wasn’t worried. 

The day of the appointment came, and still I wasn’t worried.

I drove to hospital and got myself a cup of tea because I was early, and still I wasn’t worried.

I find the right department, let reception know I was there, sat down, and still I wasn’t worried.

I had a look around at the people in the waiting room and the numerous leaflets with titles like ‘coping with cancer’ and all of a sudden it hit me; today could be just a routine check with a positive outcome and I’ll be home for lunch, or it could be the start of a long horrible journey. 

A lady of similar age to me arrived for a post treatment check up and all I could think about was whether she had children and whether they knew what their mummy was going through.

Luckily I didn’t have to wait very long. The nurse who saw me was lovely and she didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but she sent me to have a scan anyway.

The scan confirmed that it was just a bit of dense tissue and I was sent back to the nurse with the result. By this time the waiting room was so full that it was standing room only and it was a very strange feeling to know that not everyone in this room will be as lucky as me. Some people will, like me, be home for lunch and that be the end if it. But for some this will only be the start, and their lunch will be truly ruined by the prospect of the awful journey that is ahead of them. 

Again I didn’t have to wait long to be seen and the nurse confirmed the resukt of the scan. She also pointed out that I did the right thing by having it checked out. Then she sent me on my way.

And I went home, and felt lucky, damn lucky.

Not so bad, considering

Yesterday morning I was all ready to sit down and write a post about how tiring and not nice my day was on Friday. Being a mummy is the best things in the world and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but there are days when you’re so tired, when the kiddos are so naughty and when there is so many colds, ear infections and other things going around, that you just can’t enjoy it all. 

So I was all ready to write and just popped onto facebook to check out how some of my Dutch friends were doing (I love facebook for enabling me to keep up with what people in Holland are doing even if I don’t get round to speaking to them) and it hit me right in the face…..

What was I complaining about. 

One of my oldest and dearest friends (one of those ones you don’t see but will always have a little place in your heart) has been dealing with the immense pain of a loss of life so awful that I have no words to describe it.

Another friend of mine, who is part of an awesome charity called Global Clowning (look them up and donate a few pennies if you can), is currently in Greece, dressed up as a clown, handing out food, clothes and a bit of laughter to refugees out there.

And I was complaining about a bit of tiredness, an ear infection and a cold. I felt ashamed.

I know that I am allowed to moan about my little problems even if there are millions of people have it much worse, and I know I will. 

But not now. Not today. Today I will mourn a loss that is not mine, today I will hope the poor refugee children will end their day with a banana in their tummies and a smile on their faces. And today I shall be grateful for what I have. Please take a moment to do the same.

Thank you and good night.

Around the corner from Anne Frank

Most people in my life know that writing is one of my biggest passions and ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. But then I did grow up, and well, life happened and becoming a writer didn’t.

But when my wonderful Elisabeth was born I decided that I was not ready to let the dream go and I would somehow become a published writer one way or another. A lot of writing projects were started but very few were finished, apart from one. One that meant an awful lot to me because of the person I wrote about.

Just writing the story was incredibly satisfying, but I wanted the world to know about this amazingly brave person, and I was over the moon when ‘Dutch Magazine’ (dutchthemag) was willing to publish it.

This is the story of how Anna Elisabeth Van Nes-Visser, my beloved grandmother, saved the life of a young jewish girl during the second world war.

 

Around the corner from Anne Frank

Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank and “Het Achterhuis”, but Miep Gies, who looked after the Frank family, wasn’t the only one who, during the Second World War, risked her life by hiding Jews. There were thousands of them. It is estimated that 25,000 Jews survived the Second World War because they were offered a hiding place. Some people hid Jews to make money, some did it because they thought it was the right thing to do and some because not doing it didn’t even occur to them. Anna who lived at the Leliegracht in Amsterdam, around the corner from where Anne Frank was hiding, was one of those very brave people. She was also my grandmother.

In the summer of 1943, the house where Liesje, a young Jewish girl from Amsterdam, and her family lived was raided. Liesje was the only one who managed to get out of the house before the German soldiers took her whole family. She was hidden by the family who lived next door but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep her. They put her in touch with someone who moved her to Utrecht where she found a place to hide, but in the winter of 1944 she was no longer safe there. This is when Anna was asked if she would take in a Jewish girl who had nowhere else to go.

Just over a year before, Anna’s father had been executed in Camp Vught. He was given the choice to either tell where Klaas, Anna’s husband, was hiding or to die. The Nazis did manage to find Klaas in the end, and he had been in Camp Vught for almost a year when Anna was asked to take Liesje in. Anna felt she needed to do something because of what the Nazis were doing to her family, and she agreed. After the war she often struggled with her reasons for this decision. She came from a very religious family and feelings of revenge weren’t generally accepted.

Liesje moved into Anna’s attic room. Anna tried very hard to accommodate Liesje’s Jewish traditions and Liesje tried to be as little a burden as she could. From March 1944 until May 1945 Liesje lived in Anna’s attic. She would only come downstairs for dinner, this was risky of course and the door to the attic was always left open just in case she had to go back upstairs quickly, but Anna insisted that dinner was eaten at the dinner table. This was her way of bringing some normality into the girl’s life.

Liesje helped out where she could. Anna had three children under five and had to go out every day to queue up for food. One day when the two youngest were ill and it was freezing cold outside, she left her three children with Liesje. All went well until someone she had known for years, and who knew that her husband had been captured, asked her: “Anna, where are your children today?” Anna didn’t expect the question and didn’t know what to say. She made up an excuse about her oldest looking after them. Luckily her lie had been believed, but that was the last time she ever left the children with Liesje.

Liesje lived in the attic until the end of the war without ever going outside. If she ever looked out of her window, she could have seen “Het Achterhuis”, but she wouldn’t have known there was a girl hiding there, just like her, living through the same fears. If they had both looked at the same time, they could have seen each other, and maybe even given a careful wave.

The stories of these two girls, Anne Frank and Liesje, are very similar. Both of them were Jewish, both were scared, but both of them were lucky enough to find a woman brave enough to risk their lives by hiding them. But the end of their stories couldn’t be more different. The Franks were betrayed and arrested. Little Anne died in March 1945, two months before the end of the war aged only 15. Liesje on the other hand struggled to walk normally when, on the 6th of May 1945 Anna took her outside for the very first time since she arrived 14 months earlier. Little Liesje, or Auntie Lies as she would later be known to us, died a happy woman aged 82.

After the war there has been some debate over what actually happened. Two parts of the story have different versions. The first is what happened to my great grandfather. My grandmother’s account is that he was executed because he wouldn’t give up my grandfather’s location, but my grandmother’s sister has always insisted that he died of pneumonia in Camp Vught. The other part where there is some doubt, is how Liesje ended up with my grandmother. The story that she has always told her children is that Liesje was living next door and escaped into my grandmother’s garden when their hiding place was raided. She hid in her coal shed overnight and knocked on the back door in the morning. A written account that we have from Anna however, tells us that she was asked whether she would take Liesje in. This document also mentions my grandmother’s struggle with the reasons why she decided to hide a Jewish girl. We do not know for sure what actually happened, but in my opinion the way I have written it here makes most sense. It seems likely that the execution of Anna’s father would have instilled the feelings of revenge that made her decide to help Liesje and that she later struggled with. This could also explain why she told a different story of how Liesje came to live in her attic. If she would have found Liesje in her back garden it almost takes away the conscious decision of taking her in and therefore the hiding of the girl is not a decision based on feelings of revenge.

We will never know for sure what really happened, but regardless of which version describes history most accurately, the plain truth is that Anna, without a shadow of a doubt, saved Liesje’s life, and so did so many other brave souls who risked everything by offering innocent people a place to hide in their homes. Their stories need to be told. And never forgotten.

 

 

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