Monday, December 28, 2009


happy birthday to my amazing girl, so wise, funny, and sweet, with her drawings, her stories, her endless questions, her brilliant ideas ('mama, ik heb een heeeel goed idee!'), her dancing, her singing, her soft skin, the smell of the top of her head, her sleepless nights, her nightmares and dreams, her barbies and playmobil, her chopin nocturnes and her mega mindy songs, with her jokes and her poetry, her eyes and her curls, her fragility and her incredible strength. stealing my heart, every single day. again. and again. breaking my heart, and mending it again. and again. with a single gesture. with a single sigh. with a single smile. with a single word.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


also known as tvorozhniki, these are the best kind of warm sweet treat on a day like this. i had to experiment for a while with the recipe, because tvorog, which is the main ingredient, cannot be found in this country (due to the fact that it is not kwark, nor cottage cheese, nor cream cheese, nor fromage blanc). in the end, a 1/1 mix of ricotta and full-fat kwark did the trick.


- 250 ml ricotta
- 250 ml full-fat kwark
- 2 large eggs
- 3 to 4 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of plain flour (depending on the consistency you like)
- optional: vanilla or lemon rind

mix all ingredients in bowl. heat pancake pan with a bit of real butter, and bake in batches one both sides (these are little pancakes, typically four to one pan, i use one big tablespoon of batter per pancake). i hear people eat them with jam, cream, etc. but really, they are just perfect as is. nice hot, lukewarm and cold (and you should try all three because the flavour changes quite a bit with the temperature).


Thursday, December 17, 2009


there are times when homeschooling feels like a miracle of bliss. on a silent and white thursday morning, to stroll around a wet-white-blanket forest, side by side with your very best friend, leaving the snow with its first human traces of the day, see that's us, right there, next to the bird-trail. immortalized for the day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

juffrouw minoes

up on the roof, talking to some cat
at Tibbe's typewriter...
... typing up the news
and, of course, up a tree (into which she was chased by a compliant Toini dog).

(for those who have no idea of what we're on about, see here.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

other way around

Isabelle discovered that by bending over and craning her neck, she can look at the world upside down. it is much more beautiful that way, she concluded. so i tried.

it is remarkably pretty. and slightly addictive. and i have a sore neck.

(on a similar, but horizontal-axis-oriented note, it turns out, amazingly, that google actually provides a number of answers to the question of what would happen if the world started spinning in the opposite direction. see for instance here. live and learn, that's our motto around these parts)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

today's questions (a small selection)

mama, heb ik nog zakgeld? hoeveel nachtjes slapen vóór mijn open les op ballet? wil je dat de theepot en kopjes in kerstballen veranderen? wil je een kopje kerstbal? hoe schrijf je 'ij'? hoe schrijf je 'ng'?
wat zou er gebeuren als de wereld de andere kant op zou draaien? mama, duurt het nog lang?
mama, mag ik een snoepje? mama, mag ik een plakje kaas? mama, mag ik wat worst? waarom heet het eigenlijk geen 'paarse' kool? wat is 'vaag'? wat is 'poetisch'? wat is 'schepping'? wat is 'stimuleren'? mama, waar is tijgertje? mama, waar is mijn ring? wat is de duivel?

(mama, do i still have pocket money left? how many more nights before my open dancing lesson? do you want the teapot and cups to change into christmas balls? would you like a cup of christmas ball? how do you write 'ij'? how do you write 'ng'? what would happen if the world started turning in the opposite direction? mama, is this going to take a long time? mama, can i have some candy? mama, can i have some cheese? mama, can i have some sausage? why isn't it called 'purple' cabbage? what does 'vague' mean? what does 'poetic' mean? what does 'creation' mean? what does 'stimulate' mean? mama, where is my tiger? mama, where is my ring? what is the devil?)

and my answers for today, in the disorder:
yes, yes, no, i don't know, something unclear, something that feels like a poem but isn't, the act of creating, 7, yes, yes, making something attractive so that people want more of it, yes please, IJ, NG, i don't know, i don't know, i don't know, i don't know...

Monday, December 07, 2009

a need to record

- jam boek (pyjama broek)
- boeksje (boekje)
- mejaninnie (mega mindy)
- jotap (rood kapje, i.e. red riding hood hand puppet which comes everywhere with us, and i am required to make talk)
- tom tein (thomas de trein)
- NOE!!!! (nu)

(amendment: jotot (likkepot); bah tink (bah stink! when he doesnt like something); boef tinken (borst drinken); jatiet (zwarte piet); snojok (sneeuwvlok); taat (paard); sjant (olifant); toka (orka); jiet (friet))

Monday, November 30, 2009


it was a lot of this. the sun rising over the mist-covered fields in the morning. infinite skies with giant clouds drifting by (look, mama, two dragons kissing, look mama, an elephant with a dog on its tail, look, mama! look). flocks of geese, ducks, seagulls drifting by on the wind. rain. sunshine. rain. sunshine. the wind, whistling endlessly through the house, through my head, through my babies' hair. the wind, suddenly dying, and the thickness of the silence. so much more than an absence of sound. the grass, holding the dunes down, the grass like the fur on a scraggly wolf's back, so soft from a distance, so strong and rough in our hands, as we clambered, and slipped. the grass with its oranges, greens, ochres, yellows, greys, blues, purples, browns, greys. the sun setting in the sea. at 4:15. or thereabouts. sitting with my son, on the top of the top of the dune, planted in the wolf's fur, staring out at the sea. day after long day. and the moon, right behind us, lit as if from within. growing rounder and rounder. night after dark restful night.
and then, back at the house, dear friends, good food, a fire in the fireplace, rosy cheeks, hot meals, and lots and lots of laughter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

getting ready

the saint...
... her horse...
... her jolly wee helper ...
... and his foot.
(after yet another very busy, enjoyable, and slightly cold-ridden week, we are off to the beach house up north for the week, looking forward to the wind, the fireplace and the company of friends)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


(october flew by, in a flurry of flu - possibly mexican, colds, more colds, more flu, and a multitude of books and movies. we are all better now - sort of- and as ready as we will ever be for the wet-windy-icy months ahead)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

last swim?????

...of course, there are also people who don't let anything, and certainly not the weather, stand between them and the sea.

Friday, October 02, 2009


last swim in the sea for me this year. from now on, it's feet only, and before you can say umph, i'll have my boots on again too. summer is gone.

this week i handed in my letter of resignation. as of the 1st of january, i will be unemployed. this marks the end of a long struggle, as well as the end of an era.

i arrived at the little brown building on the canal in the fall of 1994, a 20-year old, joyfully diving into an english language and literature degree after a failed attempt at mathematics. then came linguistics. a phd. a little teaching job here, and a little teaching job there, a bigger editing job, translating, teaching again, other stuff this time. the years went by. i slipped unnoticed from student to lecturer to coach. and for 15 years, every single morning that i had to get up to be somewhere, that somewhere was the same little brown building on the canal.

Sammy once said: "for someone who makes such radical choices in life with such seeming ease, you have been remarkably conservative in your career choices", which i took to be code for "what the flip are you still doing there?".

two children, one burn-out and two years of unschooling later, it has finally come to this. saying good-bye to the little brown building. and all that it has meant to me. the amazing people i met, the things i learnt. which also means saying good-bye to the fantasy of a profesional academic life. as far back as i can remember, i thought i would be an academic. instead, i turned out a thinker. and found out that the two are not really the same...

and now, having taken the time that was needed to work through all that had to be worked through, i am left with a feeling of deep gratitude for 15 years well-spent, and a tremulous yearning for whatever is to come...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


(there is a little story behind this (our first) visit to the efteling. a few months back, Isabelle and i found a wallet on the street, with cash, credit cards... the works. Isabelle was of the opinion that we should keep it. her logic was that we needed the money rather badly (she had just seen a lovely barbie in the toy-store), that the owner had probably given up on ever finding it, and that since nobody had seen us pick it up, the police was unlikely to trace us. my logic was that we should give it back because the owner would be sad if we didn't (except for the little squeaky voice at the back of my head that kept screaming 'keep it, she's right, she's right, keep it'). so we traced the owner, gave her a call and she came by that night. with two free tickets. for us. to the efteling... which is a lesson in something, not sure what, ...but i am almost certain that Isabelle will be returning most of what she finds on the street from now on. anyway, we went yesterday, just the two of us, for the whole day. by train. it was a real 'expodition', as she put it. the longest time we have spent alone together since Toini's birth. and it was soooooo good... must remember to do this much much more often)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

threads and leaves

more september inspiration: brand-new pencils; new ink pots. picking up threads let loose a long time ago: a friend visiting all the way from the US, the magic of connecting instantly across an 11-years-of-silence gap, an afternoon walk down memory lane. the first draft of an almost forgotten novel, pulled out of its drawer, dusted, read. considered.

did i mention how much i love september?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

the light of september

i love september light. so gentle, so roundly glowing, so melancholy. as if lit from within. with the warmth of the summer coming off the earth, and the trees swaying their leafy good-byes. we celebrated Mabon today, the day Persephone leaves for the underworld. with friends, pomegranates, pumpkin soup and a fire in the fireplace. and yet, to me, the thing that really gives it away, year after year, is the light.

apple time

apple-picking 2
(and a new lay-out. not quite sure about it yet.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

september treasure

such a gatherer soul i have. nothing nothing nothing gives me more pleasure than food generously offered, in exchange for nothing but a pair of good eyes, a bit of attention paid properly, at the turn of a footpath, right there, under that tree.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

happy belated...

...second birthday to my amazing boy, with his bike and his 'kraan', his 'Poeh-dingen' (various types), his laugh, his tantrums, his softness, his strength, his dimples, his twinkles, his auto's (some 'teine', but most 'groot!'), his books (mama lezen!), his clocks and watches (groote kok! kok zegt TING!), his wild hair, his even wilder heart, his stability, his depth, his lightness, the sunshine and power he brings to our life.

for this and much much more, thank you, Toini.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

math (an inner dialogue)

- you know, this radical unschooling thing...
- yes...
- i can't do it.
- why not?
- because i just can't, it's impossible.
- how so?
- there isn't enough time.
- what do you mean?
- well, think about it: the way i see it, in order to make it lovely, i would want to spend a lot of my time really connecting with the children, right?
- yes.
- as in, giving them my full attention, playing with them for real, getting involved in their projects, showing them exciting stuff, etc. right?
- yes.
- but... that's not all. i would also want to do things that i felt passionate about, things that are part of my growth and learning, because i get to unschool as well. right?
- yes.
- so there you have it.
- what?
- there isn't enough time.
- ah.
- and that's not to mention all the stuff that simply has to be done.
- ah.
- yes, yes, i know what you're going to say, a lot of that stuff doesn't actually have to be done, i could let go of most of it, it's just space-filling and time-killing and all that, and let's say you are right, let's just say that you really are right, and i decide to chuck most of it (not ready to do that of course, but just for the sake of the argument here), still, there will be some left. so there you are. definitely not enough time.
- hmmm.
- you don't sound convinced. seriously, though, i'd need two-for-the-price-of-one days. i mean look at our life now, i never get to do anything i like, i hardly ever have time to play with the children, and our house is constantly in a state of explosion, so clearly, i don't even have time for one of these items, let alone all three...
- so what do you do?
- what do you mean?
- i mean: what do you do with your days?
- i don't know. stuff.
- what kind of stuff?
- i don't know, stuff that has to be done. but how is this relevant?
- well, let's see, how many hours are there in a day?
- uh... 16 or so, if you don't count sleeping.
- ok, and how many of those hours would you like to spend giving your children full-flavour attention?
- in an ideal world?
- yes.
- i don't know, 6 or 7 or so? actually, that sounds like a lot. in a good way.
- right. 7 hours for them. now, how long do you think you'd need to do the stuff that has to be done?
- in an ideal world?
- yes.
- 2 to 3 hours a day?
- sure that's enough?
- yes. must be. well, maybe 4 if there is some amazing cooking going on...
- right, say 4 then. that's 11 hours so far. which leaves you with 5 hours to do things that you enjoy. and that's not counting the overlaps.
- 5 hours????????
- yes.
- every day???????????????????
- yes. not enough?
- are you kidding?? plenty enough. sounds insane.
- well, you do the math.
- it can't be right. we are forgetting something.
- what?
- don't know, whatever it is that i spend most of my time on now....
- and that is?
- ... actually, you know, if i think about it, on a regular day at home, i probably spend 3 hours on household stuff, including cooking, 2 hours or so really engaging with the children, and then maybe maybe, if i'm lucky, an hour or two in the late evening doing stuff for me. and that means, absurd though it sounds, that i spend an average of 9 hours or more a day doing ... what?
- i don't know... day-dreaming? planning? worrying? fantasizing? surfing internet? being bored? getting mad about having no time to do stuff? running this kind of inner dialogue?
- you mean not being there.
- i mean not being there.
- 9 hours a day.
- ...
- wow.

Monday, August 17, 2009


inspired here and there, we took ourselves to the fabric store to score a few yards of tule. she looked so grown, suddenly, handling those huge fabric rolls, laying them side by side, colour-combining, the endless streams of ribbons, until it was just right. then we cut and knotted, and cut and knotted. 'mama, she said, the nicest thing about projects is that we can work together'. yes, my sweet, that is truly the nicest thing...

Friday, August 14, 2009

thoughts on radical unschooling II

Photobucketin the very beautiful buddhist practice referred to as 'loving-kindness meditation', the practitioner begins by making contact with the open quality of her heart, and sending loving-kindness to herself, by uttering, in silence, the following sentences:

may i be happy
may i be safe
may i be healthy
may i be peaceful

after doing this for a while (say a few years...), she slowly expands her practice from herself to her loved ones (may you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful), and then on to people she feels neutral about, to people she dislikes and finally to the entire universe, in ever expanding circles of love and kindness. the underlying wisdom expressed in this practice is that it is only possible to truly feel love, generosity and kindness for another human being once you are able to feel such love and kindness for yourself.

small children often do things that might seem rude, unkind and selfish. they may want all the toys/attention/love/sweets/etc. for themselves, they may be unwilling to share, unwilling to apologize, unwilling to say thank you and please. this type of behaviour makes the parents of small children very uncomfortable (at least, it does this particular parent), and this discomfort has in turn often led me to intervene and somehow try to encourage (or bully, depending on level of said discomfort) my child into displaying more acceptable behaviour ('say 'thank you', sweetie!'; 'you've hurt him, say sorry!'; 'share it with your brother right now, you little twat, or i shall bite your head off!!!!'). now before you conclude that i am a monster, please consider the mitigating fact that this type of intervention is not simply born of my extreme discomfort, but also out of a real wish to help my child develop kindness, generosity, and, while she's at it, good manners.

but what if... says my new radical self, what if... human development actually follows the rhythm and pattern of the loving-kindness meditation (or, more likely, that the meditation practice itself mirrors the pattern of human growth). what if, for the first five or six years of their life, children are simply dilligently practicing sending loving-kindness (love, generosity, compassion, barbies, stickers, etc.) to themselves. what if these same children, if allowed to shower themselves with love and attention, to redirect towards themselves all the internal and external resources they need, and to do so without being constantly judged and corrected for their behaviour, what if they then are able, having reached the next level in their development, and replete as they are with love and acceptance, to genuinely feel and express kindness towards other people.

what if, with even the mildest of my interventions, i am achieving the exact opposite of what i aim to do. what if, by preventing them from behaving 'selfishly' today, i am actually preventing them from growing into their truly 'self-less' kind selves tomorrow.

what if, here too, the best way to help, is to simply get out of the way...
(well, not completely 'get out of the way', but concentrate on being kind and loving myself, and gently guiding them towards understanding of how their behaviour makes other people feel)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009