Category Archives: Out of the mouths of babes

Everything I need to know about life I learn from my 5 year old

Nestor {from the back of my bike, where he is always the most inspired to talk}: “Mama, leven is leuk.”

I {Instead of the only life motto you need, I hear a grammar mistake. Adults are funny like that.}: “Yes, darling, life is good. Het leven is leuk.

Nestor: “Nee, dat bedoel ik niet. Ik bedoel” (No, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant: It is good to live.)

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Filed under Daily gratitude, Out of the mouths of babes, Raising multilingual children

Latest Nestorisms



Nestor: “Mama, M (the new kid in his class) does not speak Dutch, only German and English. I think he is really sweet so I am helping him learn Dutch. Today I thought him to say “In a galaxy far far away”.

I: “Very sweet of you, Nestor. And very useful, indeed.”


I: “Nestor, what would you like to do today?”

Nestor: “Build technology!”

There is no hope for this one either. {The photo below is Una’s first technical design of a boat made from milk carton. At the age of 6. }



Nestor: “Mama, I am so happy you were born.”

I: {sometimes there just are no words}.

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Filed under Out of the mouths of babes, Raising multilingual children, Uncategorized

My work here is done, folks

{This morning Una climbs into bed next to me for a cuddle. The nasty flu has kept me out of the normal family life for three days and the first she does is she feels my forehead to check whether the fever is gone. This already starts melting my feverish heart. What happens next finishes it off}

Una: “Mama, I love you more than anything in the world. You, Daddy and Nestor. {Pause} Sorry mama, but I actually do love Nestor a tiny little bit more”

Una The Nurse caring for her little patient with "broken" leg

Una The Nurse caring for her little patient with “broken” leg (check out the paper “cast”)

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Una’s latest

Una: “Mama, do you think I could be a strip tekenaar (comic book artist)?

I: “I think you could, what do you think?”

Una: “I kind of think so too. I am quite good at both drawing and creating stories, so I thought this could be a good choice for me”.



Una: “Daddy, could you help me find a good app, I would like to start learning Chinese”

Mark: “?X$$%%#%#%#”

{And there we wondered whether she could handle being trilingual}

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Filed under Growing up too fast, Out of the mouths of babes, Raising multilingual children

Well, at least we are all smiling…

In the past few weeks, Nestor’s class has been working on the theme “Family”. The kids drew their families, made them from clay, talked about their favourite memories with the grandparents (Nestor’s key words: turning radio on and off (?), 8100 (??), fake grandfather, building towers – his fantasy world is truly fascinating).

This is how Nestor sees his family. It looks like one of his parents is in a serious need of a diet, doesn’t it? At this age Una could already make a very clear distinction between her mum and dad, if nothing the hair would give us away. With Nestor, it remains a mystery.



Filed under Family, Out of the mouths of babes

Sorry sliced bread…

…but having an older sister is best thing ever.

I knew this, of course, I have one (in fact I owe her my very existence as my father, an only child himself, was perfectly content with one child, and I was born because my sister begged for a sibling).

But here some additional proof from our family:

– We celebrate Christmas twice. On Dec 25 and Jan 7. Gregorian calendar, Julian calendar, mixed (a)religious family, long story short but Sinterklas into it and our kids are thrilled with this never-ending celebration. The down side is that by the time the “second” Christmas (disputable, my dad used to argue that our Christmas comes first, the rest have to wait almost a year :)) rolls around we are kind of tired of all the merriment. Add to it that by that time everyone is back at work/school and the holiday feeling is gone, I always get slightly nostalgic for “real” Christmas atmosphere. This year the “second” Christmas fell on a Wednesday, Mark took a day off and we decided to let the kids go to school since Wednesday is a short day anyway (til 12) and asking for permission to take a child out of school in NL is a pain. As soon as he opened his gifts on the 25th, said his thankyous and proclaimed his undying love for the toys he received, Nestor started counting down sleepies and talking about  the”next” Christmas to anyone who would listen, or not listen, he doesn’t really care. So on Christmas Eve, Una told Mark that she thinks that it would be wise if we talked to the teacher in the morning and explained that today was our Christmas and that Nestor will probably talk a lot about it and other kids may tease him that he doesn’t know when Christmas is. But if the teacher knows she can help him if other kids make fun of him. Neither of his parents even remotely thought of that, she did.

– One day they came home from school and Nestor told me that no one wanted to play with him during recess. I was kind of surprised as he makes friends very easily and even though he had just started school a couple of months earlier seems to have found his place. I told him that I was sorry and asked him what he did then. He said: “Una saw I was alone and came to play with me. And then a girl from Una’s class started teasing Una that she has to entertain her little brother” I said that that was not a nice thing of her to say and asked what Una did then. Peer pressure is no joke at that age, and Una is a very sensitive little girl. Nestor was puzzled: “Nothing? She continued playing with me”.

– She is as sore a loser when it comes to board games as her mother. Today, she let him win. She went so far as to ask me to let him win. If that is not love I don’t know what is.

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Filed under Out of the mouths of babes, Siblings love

On coffee addiction, toy guns and will we ever get sleep again?


Una: “Ahhh, not again, I have had enough coffee for today!”

{It was Mark and mine 12.5th dating anniversary on Saturday so the four of us went to have lunch in town. We decided to check out a new place which turned out to be cute but rather overpriced, sort of smelly (weird old wood smell) and with very limited menu. They did have “children cappuccino”, which is basically steamed milk with cacao. Una and Nestor naturally decided to have a cappuccino like their parents. After that we did some shopping, got frozen and Mark suggested we warm up in our favourite coffee place. Una decided to protest with the sentence above}


The same day, while walking in town, we ran into Sinterklaas with his Pieten on the main square. I will write a separate post about the Sinterklaas craze around here as it seems all we talk about these days. For now, as soon as Nestor and Una saw the Sint, they let go of our hands, ran to him and Nestor ever so gratefully said:

“Sint, thank you SO much for my toy gun!” Sint chuckled and told Nestor that he was very welcome.

{a bit of background story – we are really uncomfortable with toy guns in our house, so neither of the kids have had them before. Una got a NERF foam dart gun as a birthday present from a friend, and Nestor has been drooling over it ever since. So we gave in and ask Sint to get him one of his own.}


Nestor is going through a phase where he is scared at night and anywhere from 1am onward climbs into our bed to cuddle, talk, sing, muse on the meaning of life, in short anything but sleep. Needless to say we are all TIRED.

The conversation at breakfast this morning:

Mark: “Nestor, will you please stay in your own bed at night?”

Nestor: “Yes, Daddy. I will. One day.”

Mark: “Not one day, Nestor. Tonight.”

Nestor: “Not tonight. Monday”

The end.

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Filed under Out of the mouths of babes, They are outsmarting us

The One Who Knows (Almost) Everything

I was away for three days for work and when I came back it shocked me how much Nestor changed in those three days. All of a sudden he is giving these all-knowing, cheeky answers in English, talking about things he had never talked about before and all in all just seems, I don’t know.. a lot older? I guess this is what going to the “big” school will do to a four year old.

So yesterday, while Mark and Una were at the pool for Una’s swimming lessons (she now does snorkeling and advanced swimming, so proud of her!), he was telling me about what he did at school while I was away. I can’t remember exactly what but he answered something in such a wise way that totally threw me off and I said: “Wow, you know everything now!”

With a slight sigh he replied: “No, mama, I don’t know everything.

I: “Sure, no one knows everything, I just meant you’ve learnt so much.”

Nestor: “No one knows everything, indeed. But Una knows almost everything.”

Not his parents, not his teachers, not even his one-year-older best friend. His big sister.


Dancing together

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Navigating the maze together


Needs no caption

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Filed under Out of the mouths of babes, Siblings love, They are outsmarting us

Taken by the hand

One summer day, many years ago, I was in my early and my sister in her late teens, my mum called the two of us to the attic of our holiday house to have a “serious talk”. My mum was a loving but rather strict parent, so a serious talk would imply you were in some sort of trouble. She told us that she wasn’t feeling well and while it was probably nothing serious, she wanted to tell us a few things, you know, just in case. For whenever it happens. Now, this sounds quite morbid, especially for my mum who is an eternal optimist if there ever was one, but put into perspective it makes more sense. My mum lost both of her parents in her twenties, within a couple of years of each other, and a lot of things had been left unsaid which made her loss even harder to bear. So she went over a few practical things, on the level that was appropriate for us, drilled some more of “you have no one closer than each other” as though the previous 13+ years weren’t enough (it worked though, my sister and I are very close) and to our huge surprise totally skipped the studying hard/making sure we could provide for ourselves thing she made sure we grew up with and instead dropped the unexpected “and my biggest wish for you both is to, one day, take {a child*} by the hand”.

Fast forward more than a decade, I brought my firstborn baby to the same house for the first time. I was in a bit of a delirious state from the exhaustion accumulated over the sleepless months, sudden weight of responsibility and conflict of my own identity. That first night, my mum told me how thankful she was that both her and my dad have lived long enough to see me with a child (my dad had suffered a massive heart attack when I was 8 months pregnant and the doctors thought he wouldn’t make it; her own health was declining and other than the fact that it was a neurological condition we didn’t even have a diagnosis yet).  And then she added that she doesn’t need to worry about me any longer. I wanted to tell her that she should actually start worrying now because I don’t have a clue what I am doing with that child of mine and that I am probably doing it all wrong, and that I find it so very hard at times and at the same time so exhilarating and that the depth and rawness of emotions I feel sometimes scare me and… I can’t remember how much of it I actually said, most likely I fell asleep mid-sentence.

Fast forward almost seven years,  on a Thursaday afternoon, my second-born and I are walking along Oude Delft to fetch my firstborn from school (that baby is now in fourth grade). Or better, he is running and I am trying to keep up with him; these days he says so seriously: “Mama, now I HAVE TO run” and runs off to burn all that energy of a three year old. I walk behind him, wanting to take it all in, maybe snap a photo, it is all so beautiful, the canal on the left side, Oude Kerk in the front, Uit de Kunst to the right and my running boy amongst all of it. But my mind is heavy with the events of the work morning and choices and decisions to be made, and deadlines and timelines and uncertainties and it all feels too much. I try to shake it off and come back to this moment but it won’t go away. Oude Delft is a long street, and my boy’s legs, however long for his age, are still small, so he gets tired and starts walking next to me. I praise him for running so long and so fast, he says that he is just taking a break and will run some more. He walks a few more meters, turns to me with a sparkle in his big brown eyes and says: “Mama, give me your hand, let’s run together!” He takes me by the hand, pulls me and we start running. He holds my hand tightly and laughs with the full heart of a three year old and I feel the weight of my self-inflicted worries lifting off, I can’t even remember why they were so heavy after all. He laughs louder and louder and I join him, and we eventually stop running, exhausted, still laughing. And while catching my breath I finally catch the true meaning of my mum’s words. She doesn’t need to worry about me, I am taken by the hand.



*(in Serbian the phrase take by the hand implies taking your own child by the hand)

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Filed under Cherished moments, Life in Delft, Mindfulness, not such a zen mama, Out of the mouths of babes

… Deda, deda, deda, niko te na svetu ne voli k’o ja

Much like his nature in general, Nestor is quite chilled about his bed time routine. He asks that we lay by him for a few minutes, but for the rest he is pretty flexible. A book, a song, a tickling session, he is not picky. This time we read a book and I started singing to him.
Nestor: “Is that a song that ends with …good night, good night?”
I: “Yes”
He: “I don’t want that song”
I: “Ok, which song would you like me to sing for you?”
He: {long pause}. “Sing the song that Deka (grandpa) used to sing for me”.
I: {a few seconds to put myself back together} “Nestor, which song was that?”
He: “The one Deka used to sing, in Serbian. {starts singing} Dekaaa… Love… I …
I: “Nestor, I would love to sing that song for you but I really don’t know that song”.
He: {visibly disappointed} “Aaahh, ok. Sing the goodnight one first then, maybe you’ll remember…”

And so I sang the consolation prize song, frantically digging through my memory to find the song my then-2 years old child buried in his memory, almost 2 years ago. Listing the Serbian children music CDs in my head, recollecting the voices of beloved children music singers in hope I’d stumble upon the words, the melody, something, anything.
And then I closed my eyes and heard his voice, the voice of my childhood and my children’s childhood, and saw the goofy dance moves that became goofier over the years.

And the song came.
The song about the grandpa who loves his grandchild the way no one else does. And the grandchild who loves his grandpa more than anyone else does.

And with the song came silent tears, and gratitude, and more tears, and memories, and pain, and disbelief. All of it in a children’s song.

And my child drifted off to sleep, comforted by the reminder of the love he probably can no longer consciously recall. The love that remains deep in his early toddlerhood memory, in songs, in smells, in nicknames. And for that I am forever grateful.

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Filed under Cherished moments, Daily gratitude, Grief, Out of the mouths of babes, Tata