Messy play turned messier…

Mia and myself do a lot of arts and crafts. When Ava goes down for her afternoon nap, we get paint and brushes out and get creative. So far we’ve kept it fairly clean though, home made play dough and finger paint is as adventurous as we’ve gotten. Oh, and we made a fab cardboard dolls house…must post a picture of that soon.

But recently I’ve been reading a few parenting blogs and have been inspired by all sorts of messier play. The girls do loads of messy play in the creche. I’ve seen pictures where they’re covered from top to toe in paint, shaving foam, paper and glue, sand,… Parenting blogs suggesting messy play use food colorings, cooked spaghetti, dry pasta, loads of paint, flour, water, sand…anything at all really to stimulate the senses. Sounds great fun. But keep in mind that Ireland (and UK I suppose) has long winters, so a lot of that messy play happens INSIDE the house. Taking that the girls get a lot of the sensory challenges in the creche, you’d think I’d be happy to stick to the plain coloring in a coloring book with crayons bit in my own home. But to be honest…I feel like I’m missing out a bit. I want to see my girls live in action. See how they take to messy play. See how their creativity develops. How they deal with the sticky yucky textures. So last Friday I decided to give it a go with Mia. We put Ava into bed and I let Mia loose with paint (I know…this was a first, so we kept it fairly tame).

I gave her four different colours poster pain, a big paint brush and taped a large sheet of paper onto the kitchen floor. I stripped her down to her underwear and T-shirt and let her off. How did it go?

She went for yellow straight away, made a few dots onto the paper and looked at me. “Can I paint  my feet?” she asked me, thinking I was definitely going to say no. “Yes”, I said, “Go ahead Mia”. Big smile appeared on her face. Within a few seconds the kitchen floor turned yellow, because she of course didn’t get the concept of “stay on the paper Mia”.


Very cautious initially.

And just then my mum rang on Facetime. She was able to follow our messy play experience live. It filled her with horror. “Saskia”, she is walking around now”. “Oh yeah, that’s fine, not to worry”.


Getting braver.

It was going well, she picked out pink to paint her handies. As I was taking a few pictures, I was already envisaging a master work at the end of our session.



But yes, you hear me coming, we didn’t get that far. “I must go for a weewee Mama”, she said as she ran (spreading yellow paint out the kitchen as far as the toilet under the stairs now). I laughed and told my mum I’d better hang up, I could deal with a bit of paint on the kitchen floor, but didn’t fancy cleaning up wee. Mia opted for her potty, dragged it into the kitchen, put it next to her painting but missed target (don’t get me wrong, she is well toilet trained at this stage, never has any accidents, she was just too distracted and in too much of a rush so didn’t bother sitting down properly). As I gave out to her she stood up, only to spill whatever had ended up in her potty all over her ‘artwork’. That was the end of our first messy play experience. Slightly messier than anticipated. Her painting ended up straight into the bin, Mia into the shower.

Will we do it again??? Yes….but I might just make sure she doesn’t need to go to the bathroom. And maybe I should wait until the weather turns a bit warmer and we can do it outside in the garden. That said, if we’ll to wait for some nice summer weather we could be waiting a long time.


Getting stuck in.

Texted my mum after. She must have laughed and texted…”They’ll be off to college before you know it…might as well enjoy them”. And that’s exactly what I try to do…they grow up way too fast, I’ll be holding on to them as long as I can!

Snapshot – Monday Morning Chaos

The door bangs shut. Himself is off to work. After another bad night sleep, I am secretly dreading the day ahead, stuck inside the house with a sick baby and an argumentative toddler. I am desperately trying to get through the pile of dirty pots and pans from last night’s dinner, while my poorly baby is winging on the floor.

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Poorly baby – emptying out the cupboard.

The toddler comes into the kitchen, shouting she needs to do weewee, she runs to the toilet but misses her target by about a centimeter. As I strip off her pyama pants and look around for the nearest thing to wipe the floor, baby starts crying. I put baby in her seat for breakfast, when a smell of burn is hitting my nostrils. The porridge! Meanwhile, the toddler is still running around naked, so trying to find some clean clothes for her without having to leave baby on her own. Yesterday’s ironing is still spread out on the couch (now not longer neatly stacked- more resembling the pile I initially started out with), so I grab the first thing I can find out of that. As I shout for toddler to get dressed, I discover she is just about to start emptying out the recycling rubbish that was left in the hallway for himself to take out before leaving.

Three deep breaths later and hard trying to get things back under control, porridge is served up, baby’s antibiotics ready to be given. Alarm bells go off…in my head…it’s not the right bottle! I nearly poisoned my little one given her out of date antibiotics…

Surely…the day could only improve from there on…!!!

Key Incident

We’ve had two major key incidents recently. Both of them involved actual keys. And a toddler. The first incident took place a few weeks ago and showed us how our eldest baby has grown up into an independent and very determined little girl all of sudden. The second incident still causes me to break out into cold sweats and who knows what I would have done, if that same determined little person didn’t keep her cool that day.

Saturday morning, few weeks ago. I was upstairs with Ava, trying to settle her for her morning  nap. We were after a bad spell of illnesses and Ava’s usual laid-back approach to nap time was completely messed up. Feeding and rocking was the only way to get her to fall asleep. Denis was tidying up downstairs, while Mia was doing her own thing. As Denis went outside to empty the bin, the front door banged shut. He started calling for me, but I had Ava nearly asleep, so there was no way I was willing to run downstairs. He could wait a while. But Denis wasn’t so patient. And Mia was still downstairs. On her own. So he convinced her to rescue daddy. My toddler is not even two and half years old, but she looked her daddy straight into the eyes (through the letterbox), took his orders and within five minutes she had him inside the house again. How? Daddy told her to get the key. She knew exactly where to look for it (in a ‘secret’ place in the kitchen). So she ran in there, but came back within a few seconds telling daddy she couldn’t reach. Daddy then told her to get a chair to stand on (if social services ever find out, they’ll probably send someone to our house). So she dragged her little IKEA recliner seat all the way from the front room into the kitchen, placed it under the ‘secret place’, took the key, shouted at her dad ‘I DID IT’ and swiftly posted the key through the letterbox out to daddy. I’m not exaggerating, it took her less than five minutes, no giggling or messing about, just cool-headed fast thinking to get her dad back in.

I must say Denis and myself were beaming with proudness. I think we’ve a little rescuer in our hands.

The setting for the second incident was pretty similar. I was again trying to put Ava down for her morning sleep. But this time things could have ended slightly more messy. Because I was on my own with the girls. No daddy around. As I was in the bedroom, Mia was playing with her dolls. She put two of them in the moses basket in the bedroom I was in, kissed them goodnight and walked out. While I was still in the room. With Ava. Bye Bye she shouted before she closed the door…and…turned the key!!!From the outside. She locked me in. With her sister. And her dollies. But no phone, because I left it downstairs on the kitchen table. I can pretend I kept my cool, but I think I nearly started hyperventilating. There is honestly not one single door in our (rented) house that we can trust. None of them closes properly, all the locks are dodgy and the keys don’t turn easily. It was sort of a wonder that Mia managed to turn the key in the first place, turning it back the other way would be short of a miracle. I feared. And to add to the panic, just at that time she felt the urge to go for a wee (we’re potty training her – but that’s another story all together). So she started shouting for me and I had to tell her I couldn’t get out to help her. As calmly as I possibly could and against all hope, I demanded Mia to turn the key again.To the other side. And she did. And the door was open again. I don’t think I ever ever felt so relieved. And I couldn’t give a penny that the carpet on the landing was soaked in wee.

Two key incidents. With a happy ending. But the key of the bedroom door is safely locked away!


My Toddler Is Becoming More Irish With The Day.

Looking at her, there has never been any doubt she is Irish. Strawberry blond hair, bright blue eyes and (very) pale complexion. But she starts to sound and act more and more proper Irish too.

And I have mixed feelings about it. I think.

I’m back in work three weeks now and it’s like my influence is slowly but surely wearing thin.  Because although I have (mostly) been talking Dutch to Mia, she is now more or less speaking English only. She still understands everything I say in Dutch, but will nearly always talk back in English to me. I suppose I’ve always said that my main goal for the girls was for them to understand Dutch, that I would not expect them to speak Dutch fluently. I’m the only person they hear speaking Dutch, I do admit that I don’t always stick to it when we are in company and because of daddy not understanding a word we say, I even sometimes speak English to them when he’s around. So it’s me to blame, not the girls. And I don’t really mind, because I think it is important that they have one main language. I’m all for raising children bilingual, but I think it’s important that they can identify with one language as their mother tongue. English that is. But I am getting a little concerned about the Cork twang Mia is getting. She is all chat and making four to five word sentences no bother. But you should hear the intonation. She’s signing like a proper Corkonian already. When she says “C’mon boy” she sounds more Cork than any of her Irish cousins. And when she’s pretend playing in her kitchen she makes a “cuppa tea”. I am just waiting for the “like” to appear at the end of every sentence.

Like any other Irish person, Mia is obsessed with the weather. And talks about the weather. A lot! When she wakes we open the blind in her room and she will comment. Today it’s a “sunny day”. Or more likely…today is a “rainy day”. Immediately followed by the song “Rain Rain go away, come back another day“. On days we are at home she goes out to the window once in a while to check on the weather. And will notify me when it’s becoming a “windy day“.

I have always sworn my kids would not be wearing jerseys. Unless they are playing sport. But Mia has other ideas. She loooooves her Cork jersey. “Up the Rebels” she would say before trying to put it on herself. So who am I to try to stop her? Especially as they are so easy to wash and don’t need ironing!

It was to be expected, they are living in Ireland after all. But I do think it’s time to take my two Irish girls for a continental trip very soon. To meet up with their Belgian cousins, get a bit of styling advice from their Belgian Oma and some proper Antwerp Culture from Opa. And who knows, maybe even a ray or two of sunshine.

My very Irish girl. With Jersey. On a Sunny Day.

Spicy Chickpea Casserole

So I’m back to work. Two days. And it’s going fine. So far. The routine I planned out seems to be working, the kids are cooperating and the energy levels are high enough to keep it up. So far. Two days.

One of the major challenges of being back to work is finding time to cook some decent food for ourselves. Providing for the two girls alone sometimes feels like a full time catering job. This morning we started with freshly squeezed orange juice. I blended a fresh melon and pear with porridge for Ava. Mia had cornflakes. After that I had to express milk and get Ava’s bottles ready. Mia is a big girl now and she eats what they serve in the creche, but for Ava I prefer to bring in homemade food. I made brown rice with sweet potato, tomato, carrots and lentils. At lunchtime I drive back home to express milk again (working on getting a room in the office, but we’ll have to wait and see how that is going to work out). Coming home at half five and depending on what Mia had for dinner and snack improvise something for her. Mostly yoghurt with some fruit and slice of toast. Another dinner for Ava too. White rice with peppers, broccoli and sweet potato this evening. And a milk feed.

I really love cooking for the girls and trying different things, even though I must admit that the toddler is getting a bit fussier and probably prefers the not so healthy creche food over the food we try to give her at home. But it does mean sometimes that by the time I have a chance to think about making dinner for myself and Denis I’m too tired or without inspiration. So I started a weekly meal planner. And I’m trying to put as many one pot dishes on it as possible. I’m constantly looking for new recipes that are easy to throw together (all ingredients in one pot) and that can stew or cook away while we’re doing baths and bedtime with the girls. And although I was never a fan of what I would have considered “hippy food” i.e. brown rice, beans, lentils and chickpeas, I have lately rediscovered them and love trying out new ways to prepare them. Found a lovely recipe for spicy chickpea casserole the other day, served it with brown rice and chicken and it was very tasty. I’ll definitely be making it again.

Ingredients for six people

1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp dried oregano
olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 aubergine, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 chicken fillets, cut in bite size pieces
1 can of peeled, chopped tomatoes
1 can of chickpeas
200 gr of green beans
600ml vegetable stock
Fresh coriander (but I used basil as that was all I had left)

Start by dry-frying the cumin and coriander seeds in a frying pan. Add the oregano, remove from the heat and crush in a pestle and mortar. Heat olive oil in a large casserole pan. Cook the onions, red pepper and aubergine for 10 minutes or until softened. Add the crushed spice mixture, together with the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

In a separate pan, fry the chicken pieces in olive oil (I seasoned the chicken first with pepper, salt and paprika powder) until brown and tender.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, green beans and stock to the casserole pot. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour. Add the chicken pieces just before serving. Garnish with the chopped coriander (or basil). Serve with rice or brown bread.

Sunday Evening

Sunday Evening and having “that” Sunday evening feel. For the first time in about eight months. For all those past few months, Sunday evening was an evening like any other. But from tomorrow on everything will change. Because I’m going back to work. And with that comes “that” Sunday evening feel. A mix of slight frustration that the weekend was too short, a bit of anticipation but a certain degree of dread and anxiety too. Will work be all right this week? Do I have everything ready for the morning rush? I hope the kids will be in good form, that they don’t get sick.

I have really really enjoyed my maternity leave. Where as the first time the whole experience was probably a bit overwhelming, I was much better prepared for the hard work and sleepless nights the second time around. Maybe against expectations I found it actually much easier minding two little girls, compared to just one. Because Mia was that bit older she was actually great company. Ava has been a very easy going baby, who spend the first three months sleeping most of the day. It’s only the last few weeks that she started demanding more attention and that I was finding it harder to divide myself and give the two girls the attention they needed. I have definitely been more adventurous this time around too and we’ve been out and about a lot. When it wasn’t raining. I had a better social network to fall back to as well.

I know we will manage when I go back to work tomorrow. We’re not the only couple juggling two young kids with full time (well I’m actually only going back 4/5) jobs. It’s going to be tough. Financially, emotionally, physically. But we’ll manage. And I’m grateful I have a job to return to. And for the eight months that I was able to spend with the girls. If I was still living back home, maternity leave would have ended five months ago. So I won’t complain.

But I’m feeling anxious. And I know I probably won’t sleep too well tonight. I’ll be checking my alarm clock every hour (even though Ava will probably wake me before that). Going through the morning routine in my head all night. – Feed Ava, have a shower and get dressed, express milk, get the kids dressed, make Ava’s bottles, have their bags ready for  the creche, Denis will be gone by 7.30am so get the kids in the car for eight myself, bring them to the creche, deal with Ava being upset the first few mornings, rush to work. Still breast feeding, so will be driving home the first few weeks for lunch, express milk, rush back to the office. Work and worry about the evening routine. Drive home, give the kids dinners, start our dinner, give the kids their baths, Ava her milk, Mia her bottle, into bed by 7pm, have something to eat, catch up on washing and ironing, prepare food and bottles for the kids for the next day,…. Must sound familiar to millions and millions of parents out there. And if they can do it, we can do it too!

Wish me luck though. I’ll need it!