Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance, To Dream...

Niels is having trouble falling asleep at night. I don't know how common that is for eight year olds, but over the past couple of months it's become more and more of a problem. Partly it's to do with the long hours of sunlight here in Europe; the tropics were perfect for sleepy children with sunset falling suddenly and completely at 7:15 every night like a warm blanket.

Over here we've just had the longest day of the year and it's bright sunlight until 10pm and later. Light-proof blinds haven't solved the problem with enough light sneaking around the edges to keep him awake. Plus, who knows what else is going on in his little head. Niels has grown so much over the past few months, both physically and mentally, that perhaps it's just hard for him to switch off at night. Carl doesn't help of course: the two of them will keep each other awake, crawling into or under each other's beds to giggle and playfight until I'm ready to tear my hair out and the neighbours must wonder why I go charging up the stairs ten times a night.

But all this is about to end. Hubby and I have come up with The Plan.

Step A: we have blacked out his west-facing window completely with thick cardboard. Not the prettiest solution, but effective.

Step B was a 'sleep drink' for Niels: warm milk with honey and an aniseed flavoured sugar cube, which is a popular night cap in Holland. Hey, we're desperate here people.

Step C: new rules for bedtime stories. Henceforth I will read to them in my bed, one kid propped up on either side, and they must sit quietly and listen. No drawing, no flicking through other books, no wrestling/ fighting/ swordfighting/yelling/ get the idea.

Step D: Last night I downloaded an album of meditation sounds for Niels from iTunes, one of those hippy tracks of waves gently breaking on a beach. It was indeed mind-numbingly hypnotic, and it was all I could do to stay awake long enough to download it. That will fix the little sucker, I thought.

So tonight we put The Four Step Plan into action. First the sleep drink: that went down a treat and I could barely prevent myself rubbing my hands together with glee waiting for the placebo effect to kick in.

Next was storytime; this went reasonably well, both boys first signing a 'contract' promising to behave themselves and even adding points of their own. Which just goes to show they DO know when they are being right little sods.

Finally, the waves. Niels snuggled into bed, eyelids drooping, as I drew on his back with my finger in a last bid to relax him. I then softly padded out of his room, ready for a cup of coffee in front of the tv. I almost felt like offering up a little plea ("God help me to change the things I can, accept the things I cannot, and not to throttle my son's when they refuse to sleep at night then wake me a 4:30 am by bouncing Action Man off my head....)

5 far so good.

10 minutes...bathroom door bangs upstairs - hopefully that's just Carl.

15 minutes...I'm trying to ignore the noises but it's getting hard.

16 minutes...footsteps on the stairs and I huffily intercept Niels. "Sorry Mum but I needed to go to the toilet and Carl was already sitting on it..."

Shit.Shit.Shit. Go upstairs to discover that not only is the bathroom floor covered with pee, the mats are soaked, the rubbish bin splattered, both boys pj's were wet, and Carl...what are those two large wet stripes across the front of his shirt????? OH.MY.GOD.

So then I went through the whole palavar of stripping them both off, pushing them into the shower to wash pee off legs/arms/feet/hair/chests, chucking the bathmats and clothes (and one of our good fluffy bath towels which Carl had used in a fruitless attempt to mop up the pee) into the washing machine. Grumpily shove the giggling boys in the direction of their beds before getting the gear to clean the floor/walls/toilet/rubbish bin etc. With a final snarl warning them to stay in their beds I re-started Niels hippy wave track, tidied away the cleaning stuff and stomped back downstairs. I sat down and was glumming staring at the congealed milk on top of my now cold coffee, wondering why these things always happen after a really long day at work when I heard footsteps on the stairs again. The door burst open and Niels marched in and announced:

"And your stupid sleep drink doesn't work anyway!" before retreating back upstairs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What a screamer

Normally I am not a squeamish person. With the notable exception of cockroaches; after all it was an absolutely horrendous encounter with a monster cockroach which prompted me to start this blog as a cheaper alternative to therapy. But apart from that, spiders and bugs don’t generally freak me out. I still have a photo on my iPhone of a dead spider the boys and I spotted just before leaving Singapore and you have to admit, my naked toes are fearlessly close to its (admittedly dead) form.

However a couple of weeks ago I was rummaging around in the stationary stores at work with Jeanette, moving boxes of envelopes when I had a typically girlie hysterical over-reaction to an innocent spider. Jeanette was standing behind me and as I moved a box she shrieked “AAAAAHHH lookout-lookout-spider-spider-spider!!!!”
Assuming she was just scared of spiders I carried on with a calm “Really, where…”
When suddenly the UBER-SPIDER FROM HELL scuttled across the lid of the box just centimeters from my hand. This behemoth had clearly spent the winter devouring every other spider and insect in the building, had finished off the mice and was now moving human flesh to the top of its menu. Of course I screamed…then Jeanette screamed again….which made me jump and scream even louder…!”
This could have gone on all day but fortunately we realized we were now standing on the other side of the room clutching each other in panic. Two professional women standing in the basement of their workplace shrieking like children at a bug. We cracked up laughing, not only at the silliness of it all but the fact that not a single colleague popped their head out to see who was being murdered in the stationary cupboard. I went back to my office feeling quite silly.

But I am never sticking my hand in that cupboard again...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Forever Young...

People quite often ask me if I miss living in New Zealand. I wish I could show them this every time they ask that question...

...then let them draw their own conclusions.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Before you pick up the phone in a panic Mum, I'm fine; it's one of the kids that was mugged. Figuratively that is. We've noticed that whenever Carl is in the garden he instantly acquires a New Best Friend: Rocco. This wiley old bunny has figured out that the youngest bi-ped in the pack is frequently expelled into the garden to avoid making a mess with whatever he's eating. And that provides plenty of hunt-em -and-grab-em opportunities for somebunny.
At first Rocco sidles up to take a sneaky sniff at whatever Carl is eating under the pretext of getting a pat. He's not fussy, but his preferences run to anything high-carb, hi-sugar, and vegetarian. Other than that you'd be surprised how flexible his tastes can be considering his standard diet is grass, hay, grass, pellets, and more grass.
On this particularly occassion Carl had plopped himself down for an impromptu picnic next to Rocco's sandpit. Most people make the mistake of assuming the sandpit is for the kids; a mistake soon rectified once they see Rocco huffily rearranging any toys that have been moved, smoothing sandcastles he doesn't approve of, and re-excavating tunnels crumbled by careless bi-ped feet. It's his sandpit.
Carl's second mistake was to be clutching a plate of peanut butter sandwiches, an irresistable treat from the Gods for somebunny. Some crafty bunny anyway...
Luckily I was on hand to snap some pics of the mugging, although I unfortunately didn't get the final snap in which Rocco made off with his head held high, ears flapping wildly, wobbly bottom jiggling with effort, half of a peanut butter sandwich firmly clenched in his teeth. Of course he wasn't allowed to keep it - that would REALLY upset his gut - but he was allowed a piece of the crust and got a cuddle for a good effort.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Skip To The Loo...

The other day hubby and I were talking about when we will make our next trip to New Zealand to catch up with family, which would of course include a stopover in the ever-lovely Singapore (sigh, I miss you still!) when it occurred to me I had never published to photos of the fabulous loo at Singapore's Changi Aiports new Terminal 3. I know, weird subject for a post, but I DID promise here that I show you the pics I very serruptiously took on my phone during my last trip thru.

Ok, there may be some very posh restaurants with nicer toilets and admittedly there was no one to pass you a fluffy towel to dry your hands, but hey, this is an airport people. A very public space used by thousands of commuters. Compare this is the fetid pits of stagnant doom available at Deathrow oops I mean Heathrow airport or the stark and clinical (although usually clean) cubicals at Schiphol, Amsterdam. It's another shining example of how when the Singaporeans set their minds to doing something, they don't often get it wrong.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Het Land van Jan Klaassen; Local Fun For Everyone!

One of the inevitable side-effects of moving back to the sleeply little village of Lochem is that the kids are starting to crave more sophisticated entertainment than just cycling with their mates. Frankly, they've been spoilt with world-class entertainment choices in Singapore so I've been trying out some of the local attractions to see how we can amuse them. Today I returned to the Land of Jan Klaassen fun park, which I last visited with Niels before Carl was even born. Needless to say, he didn't remember it.
Located in Braamt, which is almost a suburb of Doetinchem for those who don't know the area, the park is aimed at kids up to about 8-9 years old. You won't find any roller coasters here; the only rides are two identical, rather sedate little trains, one inside, one outside. Fortunately the place caters for all weathers although if you were restricted to using just the indoor play space it wouldn't be half the fun. Outside there are loads of different climbing structures, slides, etc many of which are loosely based around rather odd looking Jan Klaassen, who seems to be the Dutch equivalent of Punch from Punch & Judy. Oddly, flagpoles flying flags from all around the world are dotted throughout the outdoor park, with absolutely no relevance whatsoever to the play area they are standing in. I spotted the Aussie flag and was puzzled to find a swing with orangutan shaped seats, a walrus slide and climbing frame looking suspicaiously like an alpaca! However it's definitely worth a visit and there are dozens of small, individual play areas crammed onto the site which kept the kids busy for ages.

In addition there are puppet theatres held three times a day; my kids caught two shows and found them side-splittingly funny. I suggest taking a good book and finding a comfy seat in the cafe for the duration!

The entry price is EUR 9.50 per person, whether you are an adult or a child. However we arrived at 10:30 and left at 4:15, when I dragged thm to the car, so it was a good days entertainment and one they are willing to go back to soon. You're allowed to take your own food and drink into the park, and on a sunny day it would be perfect for a picnic. Check out the website for more details.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We Are Sailing...

More accurately, the Aoka Mizu is no longer sailing, she is finally on location in the North Sea, about 120 nautical miles north-east of Aberdeen. Perhaps you can just pick out Holger on the bridge.
At long last, she is being connected up to the subsea risers that will soon be pumping a mixture of crude oil, natural gas and seawater through the on-deck processing plant. There the crude will be separated then stored in the vessels huge hull tanks, to be emptied by a shuttle tanker once a fortnight or so. The sea water will be reinjected back into the sea bed to maintain the oil field pressure, and some of the natural gas will be used as an energy source on board with the rest being exported to shore via an undersea pipeline.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Eagle has landed.

*Photo by Hans Verleur