Leaving card

My daughter’s very nice substitute teacher is leaving as her real teacher is returning after a prolonged period of absence. She’s had this substitute teacher since the beginning of term and as this has been her first term of school, I think it’s going to be a bit unsettling.

Tomorrow will be the leaving breakfast and so I’ve drawn a card for parents of the children in the class to sign. I drew it from one of the photos taken of their class outing to see Capuchino the donkey who lives a five-minute walk away from school.

Art Exhibition

8 years ago, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, I started painting a lot. I had just moved to Brussels to live with my husband and wasn’t working because I was recovering from repetitive strain injury in my arms that I got from my job as a Sustainability Consultant in London. I found painting therapeutic, and because I could control how much I painted each day and take frequent breaks it didn’t aggravate my arm muscles too much.

I’ve always had an interest in buildings and architecture, and I used to mainly paint cityscapes. Usually I’ll do a sketch and small watercolour painting or use oil pastels to try out different colours, before then doing a larger acrylic painting. Since the birth of my eldest daughter and then the birth of our second daughter I’ve not had so much time to paint, and I’ve concentrated mainly on drawing cartoons about my daughters. However, during the lockdown in 2020 I restarted painting but this time only things I could see from the window. Below are two of these paintings ‘View from the window’ and ‘The garden in autumn’:

Last month I submitted these two paintings for the exhibition of local artists at Woluwe St Pierre Community Centre. It was really nice to go to the exhibition and see my work up in a proper gallery for the first time and see how talented so many people in our local community are, and as a bonus I sold both paintings!


How do you tell your children about climate change?

This cartoon of my daughter aged 7 is basically a revamp of an earlier cartoon I drew when she was 4:

Her reactions have not changed in that time, she is still very sensitive and prone to dramatic meltdowns about the smallest of things, and I still haven’t had a talk with her or her younger sister about climate change. I’ve only ever obliquely made references to ways her future might be different:

I’ve been trying to get help and inspiration as to how (and when!) to talk about it properly by reading Parenting in a Changing Climate by Elizabeth Bechard, buying the Usborne Climate Crisis for Beginners book to read with them, attending a Climate Circle for Parents/Carers/Guardians and Climate Cafe run by the Climate Psychology Alliance, and doing a Courageous Conversations training session with Thoughtbox. (Thoughtbox also has some great teaching resources for teaching climate change to different age groups, that help children to cope with their emotional responses to learning about something that is obviously going to have a massive effect on their future and the way they live.)

I feel a bit more prepared now, but still not quite ready to actually do it. I’m torn between wanting to keep them in the dark as long as possible so it’s not something they worry or feel guilty about, and wanting it to be told to them in a way that is less scary/off-putting than if they hear it from an outside source, and a way that enables them to be mentally prepared to face what’s coming and to appreciate the nature that we still have and want to fight for it.

I also want them to know about climate change and the various ecological crises so they can understand why we live the way we do-why we don’t fly, why our house is smaller than most houses they go to, why mummy nags them about turning off the light and not wasting the water, why I don’t want to buy them a million presents, why I take them on the bike even in the rain, and hopefully soon why we eat less meat and don’t have a car (although these last two things have to be signed off by my husband too which is a whole other series of challenging conversations!).

I think what I’m going to do is recommend the ThoughtBox materials to my daughter’s headmaster and see if they can be incorporated in her curriculum soon, and I’m going to try start an English-speaking Climate parenting group here in Brussels -part book group to discuss climate books/part support group to make positive changes in our lives/part emotional support group for us and our kids.

Willingen

For the Autumn half term holiday, we went to a family friendly hotel in Willingen, Germany which is a four-hour drive from our house in Brussels. We left the day after the girls had participated in a Halloween trick or treat parade round our neighbourhood (so the three-year-old had had sweets for the first time in her life) and on the day the clocks moved backwards. In retrospect this was not a great idea. All the three-year-old wanted the entire journey was more sweets, and she woke up at 5:30am for the first three nights of our four-night holiday which was fairly gruesome given the buffet breakfast (and therefore coffee) didn’t start till 7am. The Sonnenpark hotel was amazing though, so well geared up for children with multiple outdoor and indoor playgrounds, child friendly buffet section, guinea pigs and rabbits and horses on site, swimming pools and a baby pool + water slide and childcare included, so it felt like Hugo and I could have a break for the first time in seven years! The town itself was nice too and surrounded by hills with cable cars & ski lifts & mountain bike lifts (which I did not know was a thing, but apparently is and there were lots of mountain bike trails down the hills), so we got to do some nice walks without the girls complaining the entire time as they were safely ensconced in the Happy Club!

A day under a flight path..

I’ve written about this many times before, but we live under a so-called emergency flight path that should only be used when there is a North wind above a certain strength. Unfortunately, it’s often in use much more than that, and the only way to describe how it feels when it is in use above our heads is low level torture that ratchets up the longer the flight path is in use.

There should be absolutely no night flights going over anybody (7pm -7am), and we need to drastically cut down on the number of daytime flights – at the moment community associations are calling for a cap of 220, 000 flights per year at Brussels airport, but if we are at all serious about limiting climate change and pollution that number should be more like 2,000. Not in 2050, or even 2024 but now!!!!

Peach

I recently put together all the cartoons I’ve done featuring my second child (her nickname is Peach) and had them printed out as a book on smartphotos.be. I tried reading it to her, but she doesn’t yet seem to like it!

Summer 2022

Summer already feels like a lifetime ago, but here is my cartoon recap of our 3-week mini tour of the UK to see friends and family. My memories of it are a bit marred by the fact we caught Covid at some point near the end of the holiday, and we did end up spending too much time in the car, but it was really nice to see the girls playing with their cousins and I got back into ‘wild’ swimming in the Lake District!

Covid with kids

Covid finally got us, two and a half years into this bloody pandemic.

2 days after returning from England for our summer holiday I started feeling more tired than usual (hard to judge when you have two small children and feel constantly tired anyway) and had a slight sore throat. I’m not sure whether I picked it up on the overnight ferry we took home from Hull-Rotterdam which was very crowed, or if I picked it up earlier from some friends – although none of them think they had it, so who knows. We relaxed a bit more than usual about Covid precautions while we were holiday and were more social than we have been for the past 2 and a half years (we had three meals indoors with different friends in the space of a week whereas our social life in Belgium is mainly conducted at outdoor playgrounds) so it was inevitable that it would happen.

It’s impossible to be ill while you have kids, all I wanted to do was lie still and watch terrible shows on Netflix all day and eat cornflakes and toast for every meal but none of that is doable when you need to entertain a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old and feed them vaguely nutritional meals 3 times a day +snacks.

The only silver lining was the timing was about as good as it could be for us, we’d made it home and so at least could be ill in our own house and luckily everyone was better and the quarantine period finished by the time school started 2 weeks later.

It took a few weeks before the 3-year-old had her usual energy levels, and I still feel like my heart rate increases more than it used to for the same amount of exercise but otherwise we’re OK. I regret letting our guard down over the summer and getting lulled into a false sense of security with the warm weather. Who knows how many times we can catch Covid before it does lasting damage if it hasn’t already. It feels massively depressing to be going into another autumn and winter period making the same kind of social calculations as last year…

…all the while knowing that at school and my husband’s office there are zero precautions and so even if we have no social life beyond playgrounds, we are still likely to catch it again and have another two weeks of our lives written off and a more chance of suffering from Long Covid.

Is the calculation by those in power that kids these days have no future anyway due to climate change, so the fact that practically all of them having had multiple covid infections by the time they are in their twenties will have serious Long Covid health problems just not an issue?