an ordinary week (with a few sprinkles)

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an ordinary week (with a few sprinkles)

I am such a routine fiend. I love having a plan and (mostly) sticking to it. Just love it. Lap it up. I get SO MUCH DONE when my days basically go the same, one after another, for four or five days in a row.

Which supposedly looks something like this:


Morning pages, breakfast, make kids’ lunches, bribe them to dress and eat and put on shoes. Walk Louis to school, Elena to kindy, and then walk home (via The Sign of the Takahe, for a bit of a sweaty but healthy start… if I’m feeling up to it.)

walking home from kindy drop-off

Walking home from kindy drop-off, in the lovely morning sun, with the shiny ocean view.

Next: writing-prompt writing and maybe a poem draft… then emails and social media. And then REAL writing, which at the moment is editing an old manuscript.

editing a manuscript

Lunch, and more writing/rewriting/editing. If I’m on a roll, I’ll run off to kindy pick-up at the last moment. If I didn’t walk after drop-off then this is my other opportunity to leg-it up to Sign of the Takahe and trek down for a work-out-ish-thing before picking up Elena. Then we grab loopy Lou from school and… and then do whatever. If it’s sunny, we often go to the school pool.

Monday night I have my practical theatre studies course so early tea for me and the kids. Luuk has to come home a bit earlier than usual so I can handover the kids. After theatre studies I do the groceries, then head home. The kids are in bed and the newest episode of Madame Secretary is waiting for us.



The morning runs the same: writing, food, kids, walk, writing, web stuff, writing, food, writing, walk, kids…

Once a month there’s the Committee meeting for the NZSA Canterbury branch. I often go early to the library where the meeting is held. I almost always forget to return the library books. gr.



Ditto the morning.

Ditto the avo.

walking to school

Walking home from school and kindy.

Basketball in the evening, at 6:30 or 7:15 or 8pm… and after yesterday’s game I’m NEVER AGAIN eating dinner beforehand. So Wednesday afternoons will from now on include a mammoth afternoon tea. And preparation of reheatable dinner.



Ditto the morning.

Ditto the avo.

Plus this is play-date day.



Ditto the morning.

Ditto the avo.

Luuk sometimes comes home earlier on Fridays… but not so much if he has to come home early for me to dash off to my class/basketball.


‘Tis the plan. It all goes out the window of course if I get called in to relief teach. But money… so, no complaints. Plus, I love being in the classroom. And I can usually still jam in a bit of writing at lunch time, or while the kids veg in front of a screen, or while dinner’s cooking…

more editing

Editing. And more editing.


This week is the first week of theatre studies and basketball, so they feel like special glittery things, but on top of that, I’m going to a parenting seminar… which is basically a girls night out because I’m such an old lady. My lovely friend Kirsty got an extra ticket, and I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert in parenting, so sure, I’ll go along.

Also, sprinkles this morning: I took a tour around Ngaio Marsh’s house. We’re planning a writing workshop – make a note in your diaries, for 19th March – and we’re going to have it there. Such a lovely spot!

A portrait of Ngaio Marsh

A portrait of the lady herself, on display in the Long Room.

Ngaio Marsh's writing chair

Ngaio Marsh’s writing chair. She also wrote in green ink, the guide informs me.

ngaio marsh, self portrait

A photograph of her, and a self-portrait. She loved all things theatre.

So much lovely art! The workshop will be INSPIRING and not only because the brilliant Zana Bell is facilitating, sharing her wisdom on ‘World Building’. Seriously, pencil it in. 19 March, from 9-3. Discounted rate for NZSA members.

Tomorrow’s glittery thing is the New Families BBQ up at school, by the pool… so weather, please cooperate.

And on Sunday, for a bit of something else entirely, I’m playing Clarinet at church. I hardly ever play at all so… yay!

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new digs

We’ve had three quakes in three days and so I think it’s fair to say that the country has stopped putting out the good china for us. We’re back to being ordinary kiwis again, except that we occasionally (all the time) yell at our kids in more than one language.

So, how are we settling in? I don’t know. My head is as all-over-the-show as the canterbury sky and let me tell you, that’s one damn interesting, constantly changing sky.

changing skies

I’ve finally got a little writing done, which makes things feel a bit normal. The kids are sleeping, concurrently, and I’ve pulled myself away from Sim City, which is fun but as dangerous as Candy Crush in this new iPad format. Great for a bit of down-time when chaos and boxes are piling up around you, but not great for feeling like you might be a little bit in control of your life.

Which I am.

I might be.

‘Tis possible.

We got back to Christchurch nearly four weeks ago and moved into this place exactly two weeks ago. We’re in a completely different neighbourhood than when we lived here before, on the hill in an otherwise pancake-like city. The feel of it is totally new to us, which is at the very least a good distraction from the complex combo of disappointment and confusion and coming-home feelings around returning, and at most a big help in that whole reverse culture shock thang.

helpful. So helpful.

A new kind of view.

So, two weeks in, we’ve been tapping away at the to-do lists. Louis will be starting Kindy in a couple of weeks, and we’ve found a play group, and maybe a fruit & veggie co-op, and we’ve joined Alliance Française. My 30th birthday party is in the works, so that will be a great big catch-up and I’ve been driving all over the city visiting old friends and colleagues. That stuff’s all great fun but not good for helping life to feel normal. There’s no real routine yet and oh how I need routine.

Kindy will impose something of a timetable. Come June, Elena will start Kindy too and then we’ll be in business, but in the meantime I’m going to have to be out and about and sociable or risk losing my mind, and my temper, at home with the wee ones all day, every day.

I know, I know, I’m an extrovert and doesn’t that mean I lap up the social stuff and… well, sometimes. Only when I’m spending a good chunk of the day, undisturbed, on my own, getting my writing done, not managing children’s activities and/or health & safety at the same time.

One of our weekly outings will probably be to the local library – all of 2kms away and containing both a playground and a cafe within its multi-purpose community centre-ish borders.

After the ‘how are you settling’ question, people usually ask, ‘are you missing France yet?”

Yes. The bread, obviously, and people: all my dear friends. And childcare. And the price of fresh mozzarella.

And the price of wine. We have a divine balcony and the sun is baking us just nicely, but I’m rationing the frosty drink that goes best with it.

That said, we have been enjoying the perks of NZ. The March weather has been fabulous, and we have a view which takes in a good portion of the southern alps and a sliver of the Pacific Ocean. Can’t complain. Also, we get four days off for Easter in NZ, and we went to the beach on Friday and Saturday. Two different beaches, in fact.

And they say there's no sun in sumner.

At Sumner, on Good Friday.

late afternoon on the beach, christchurch, nz

Same as ever… but not, in fact.

cliffs and containers

Containers, protecting the road in case earthquakes bring down any more of the cliffs. But a good half of the containers are also art now, so that’s cool.

Speaking of containers, our shipping is stuck in Singapore. Missed the boat and so we have to wait an extra week. So, basically, it’s going to arrive on ANZAC day, which is now a proper public holiday (if it lands on a weekend you get the Monday), but that means it’s going to be May, probably, before we see our couch and our washing machine and the kids’ beds. (They’re on mattresses on the floor in the meantime.)

I am looking forward to the arrival of that container so much, it verges on the ridiculous. Mum is being a laundry superhero in the meantime but still… we can’t settle yet. We unpacked all our storage in two or three days, in a mad rush, as if we could set up properly, but we can’t until the rest arrives and I must have realised that on day four, I’d guess, because I haven’t unpacked or organised anything in the house since then. Luuk’s done some building and buying and rearranging, but I’ve stalled.

I wonder if, having got a bit of solitary time and writing done today, I’ll start setting-up and rearranging the house again. It might feel less futile to sort out the space, now that I’ve done work in the space, and presumably will do more tomorrow, or the day after, or – hold the phone – both.

Wait for it…

Nope. No sudden hankering to put together the dvd shelves. Oh, but I could do an eclair citron.


Except I really couldn’t. Lemon mousse is more complicated than it looks.

But there’s a Tui and a couple of Fantails in our garden. So it’s a mixed bag this moving back thing. Pros and cons. Highs and lows. The kids are awake, but there’s a library just a short drive away. Maybe I can read a little more of my book.

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slow start

Monday was another May holiday, here in grey France. Spring is being particularly dumb actually. Summer is just a couple of weeks away but it must be hiding around a corner. The weekend was ideal for… board games. So Luuk and I spent quite a lot of it battling over A Few Acres of Snow in our very own version of Canadian/American history.

Versailles with the fountains on

Versailles – the first time we’ve been while the fountains are going.

We visited Versailles while it was sunny on Saturday, and we popped out to church on Sunday evening, so we weren’t hiding inside the entire weekend. On Monday we might have stayed in our PJs but in a nice turn of events, got a call from a friend inviting us to an impromptu afternoon tea and play-date. So that got us out of the house for a few hours. And wore the kids out nicely.

louis and jerome's discordant duet

Louis and his buddy, making music at our impromptu play-date.

Of course, with a day off the week starts pretty slow, in a nice leisurely kind of way… so long as you don’t need to get anything done. I had grand plans to start rewriting my ‘rugby romance’ (not the title on the book jacket, I predict) but have adjusted my expectations. I will REREAD it this week, and take some notes, but the rewriting will start next week.

Starting can be frustratingly slow but sometimes it’s the best way. And there’s more to life than writing (gasp!) – I had a bunch of other mums with 2-3 year old boys over for coffee and cake this afternoon, which was lovely.

The kitchen’s a bomb-site and nowhere else is really and truly clean, but there’s more to life than cleanliness (nobody gasps when I say that, any more…) but I might read chapter three – or not. Elena’s awake. Better sort the kids’ dinners as Luuk might be late (what with rain and traffic and not getting in early this morning – it was a slow start all around).

Better go.

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organised chaos

I love having well-organised plans. Of course it’s a rare day when things happen as I planned. In fact, I’m pretty good at letting the plan slip without flipping out – the plan is there to serve us, not the other way around, after all.

Mum and Dad leave this morning on several weeks of travelling around europe and it’s time for us in the Paulussen house to settle into a routine. I have this great desire to draw up timetables and schedules, daily to-do lists, and all that. The problem is that I’ve already actually drawn up a timetable but it got quite messy. Which is probably an accurate reflection of how things will actually play out. I don’t mind that life will be a bit chaotic. I hate that the schedule is though.

There are lots of predictable variables (the babies won’t sleep at naptime, I’ll have to spend half a day lined up at the prefecture, Luuk will have to travel for work and I’ll have the kids to myself for three days.) Then there are unpredictable variables, but I won’t even begin a list because if I could they’d no longer be unpredictable. And where’s the fun in that?

Today is Friday. On a normal Friday (if we ever get one), here’s the plan:

7ish feed Elena. When Louis finishes his breakfast (my rather lovely hubby gets up at some unearthly hour with our rambunctious toddler) he sits on the potty, you know, just in case – we’re not full-on potty training yet but breaking down some barriers, with any luck, so that potty training will be easier when we do commit.

before 8ish drink coffee, make breakfast, maybe eat some of it… Dress both kids. Check emails/facebook while the children’s television is still good. Eat breakfast. Drink remains of cold-ish coffee.

after 8ish put Elena down for a nap. Make sure Louis is busy and the knives are out of reach in the kitchen. Get in the shower. Get dressed. Barely tidy-up and open curtains – light! Hurrah!

9ish put Louis down for a nap. Coffee number two, perhaps, and write in my journal. Put on laundry and do a little bit more tidying. Then write!

10ish feed Elena and read or watch television. Play with Elena, maybe put on some music, put her in the bouncer, hang out the washing. (Today: write thank-you’s.)

11ish Elena goes down for a nap. More writing for me. Write write write.

until Louis wakes up.

12ish make lunch for myself and Louis and then we usually watch a little television. Sort out any errands that need to be done in the afternoon.

1ish feed Elena. Get everyone dressed and clean and decent, wearing shoes, jackets, hats whatever… and off to halte jeux (nursery)

2 – Drop Louis off at halte jeux then go for a good long walk and do errands. Today: buy envelopes for thank-you’s, stop by Mairie (town hall) with Elena’s birth certificate (which they issued) to register with them that we have two children, so that we can pay less for Louis to go to nursery… ah, sweet bureaucracy.

3ish coffee, at a cafe, if Elena is asleep in the buggy. I could sit there and read. It could happen. It really could.

before 4ish – go home, feed Elena, play with her. Do a pre-weekend tidy-up.

Put Elena down for a sleep and organise dinner.

5.45 – walk down to halte jeux and pick up Louis. Grab bread for Saturday at the bakery on our way home.

Dinner for Louis. Cook dinner for me and Luuk. Fingers crossed Elena sleeps but it’s that nasty time of day when anything can happen. Including take-aways.

before 7ish Luuk gets home, plays with kids. I might finish dinner or take the rubbish down to the basement, or print off some writing I want Luuk to proofread before I take it to writer’s group on Saturday… or I might be feeding Elena, really any time in here, because it’s just that time of day.

Sometimes they go to bed before we eat. Sometimes not. Then we might watch a little tv, or a lot. Or we might read, much around on our phones or the computer, skype someone on the other side of the world, get really crazy and sit on the couch and talk to each other, play a game, do the dishes (rare) … but we’ll probably just watch some tv. It’s a friday after all.

Today’s already falling off the wagon. It’s 9.40 and Louis only just went down, because he had a second go at breakfast at 9ish, and just finished. Elena is waking up and I haven’t written my journal. My second coffee is here beside me, ready to go, but I’ll probably feed Elena and it’ll go cold. Unless… (skulls hot coffee. Ouch.)

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Louis started at Pomme d’Api this week. This is like nursery, or early preschool, or daycare. I don’t know what all the different words really mean exactly but here in France they call it “halte jeux” or “halte garderie” which is closer to a direct translation of daycare.

“Halte” means stop or layover.

“Jeux” = play.

“Garderie” is, I guess, similar to carer. Similarly a nanny (and also the building caretaker) is a Gardienne (or Gardien if male).

Thus endeth the French lesson.

All ready for day two at the halte jeux!

This first week is called ‘Adaptation’ – same word, different pronunciation. Monday we went for an hour and I stayed the entire time (with Elena dozing in my arms then sleeping on the floor till another toddler tripped over her… awkward). Today Louis was there for an hour but I only stayed for half the time.

He’s never been much of a clingy kid but I was still relieved to see him busy playing before I left.

Luuk will like this: a toy drill! The drill bit even turns and makes a whirring noise when someone pulls the trigger.

… which perhaps teaches an unhelpful lesson about safety.

Tomorrow he will be by himself for a full hour, Thursday for two hours and Friday for three. He’ll be fine. It’s a great little place, just 500m from home, in this cute old house.

I particularly love the little room up top – which is where Louis’ class is! (It’s bigger than you can see – fills the roof.)

Nothing about this building is wheelchair accessible. We have to leave the pushchair in a shed out front and carry everything, & everyone, inside. Louis is an accomplished stair-climber now but it’s terrifying to watch him descend the stairs – and the inside stairs are steep enough to even freak him out.

He coped totally fine with my half-hour absence, from what the teacher said… from what I understood. I got lots done too, in my half-hour of freedom (well, almost freedom – Elena was asleep in the pushchair). I made a hair appointment and posted two letters. I bought bread and some petit pain au chocolat for me and Louis’s afternoon tea. He ate half of his… and I ate the rest but still only had as much as half a normal size pain au chocolat.

Good thing too as tonight is Lasagna night – beaucoup de calories!

Starting next week Louis will go three times a week. I am fantasizing (unrealistically, of course) about just how much I can get done while he’s there. I’m planning to take a walk after dropping him off – so as to mess with Elena’s sleeps a little less, and to get into an exercise habit.

Fortunately, the market is on tuesday and thursday – the days Louis doesn’t go to Pomme d’Api – so no temptation to get my exercise to, from and around the market. Fortunately, and unfortunately. Yes.


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Plan schman.

We have a kind of routine at our house. Today started ‘en forme’ and then this afternoon neither of the kids would sleep. All afternoon. That’s a long afternoon. Not that I don’t love hanging out with my babies, but they’re less and less fun the more tired they get.

I feel like I achieved nothing, and I suspect this is only because my plan went out the window. I achieved plenty: laundry, emails, filing, a yummy, nutritious lunch, a visit to the park and lots of cuddles with Elena.

I didn’t write in the morning because I’d left my notebook in Louis’ buggy… in his room where he was napping. Usually this wouldn’t stop me but I was in the middle of writing a conversation and uncertain exactly how it would play out. It’s a pivotal scene and I’m at one of those points where I can’t just jump ahead to the next scene.

And then when I got to writing this afternoon the conversation played out quite differently to what I had in mind… and now I don’t know what’s going on. I’m off the plan. Perhaps not permanently, but for now.

Louis was awake, while I was writing, so I was up and down a lot. Perhaps I should write it again. My characters are in the middle of a conversation that may, or may not as it turns out, change their relationship.

Hoping for inspiration in the fresh air, I took my journal with me when i took Louis to the playground. Unfortunately there were no other kids around so he got bored quickly. I managed to write (poor neglected Louis) a bit which I’m now realising could replace the bit I wrote at home, or it could go after, or the bit I wrote at home could go after. The morning after, perhaps… 😉

(the wink is easy, but how do you emoticon a nudge?)

I’ve got Louis eating baguette and watching men’s gymnastics on tv.

He’s so tired. He put his head down on the tray and when he sat up he had a piece of baguette stuck to his forehead.

(One of the first words I learned in French is ‘mignon’ or cute.)

Elena is sitting with me…

I’m typing one-handed. Slow. I’m resisting the pain au chocolat urge, though Luuk’s getting groceries on the way home so could be a while. Perhaps I should give in now. Less likely to spoil my dinner.

This parenting gig is a good lesson in letting go of control. I feel like a very slow learner.

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See it, live it, write it

Yesterday we went into Paris (we live about 30 mins south on the RER train) to get the right kind of particular photo from the right particular photo shop so that the kids can apply for Dutch passports. (The Dutch, particular? Never.)

I’m a New Zealander. Luuk is Dutch in terms of nationality but has lived in NZ since he was very young. He qualifies for dual citizenship but when he found out how much it cost he bought himself a new computer monitor instead.

Louis, being born in NZ, qualifies for dual citizenship. He has a NZ passport but as we’re in Europe life would be easier (and involve less beaurocracy) if he had European identification.

Elena, being born in France, doesn’t meet the particular Dutch requirements for dual citizenship. She can be Dutch, or a New Zealander, not both. She only qualifies for French if she’s living here when she’s eighteen. Life, for now, is easier if she’s European.

And so I’m going to be the only pure Kiwi, the only non-Dutchy, in the house. Eek.

In an odd twist, the kids, being parented by a Dutchy, are automatically Dutch, unless they take another citizenship and yield their Dutch citizenship. Meanwhile, they’re not automatically NZers, though their mum is, but they can easily become NZers.

Argh. Complicated. But, now that the decisions are made, I’m moving on. They’ll be Dutch. I’m not too fussed about it. Official nationality and patriotic feeling needn’t line up as far as I’m concerned, but I know others would disagree.

Being a bit patriotic: eating NZ fruit, all the way over here in France.
(not very environmentally friendly though…)

Perhaps if I was technically not a NZer I would want to become one because of sentiment, but I doubt it. Luuk feels like a NZer, but technically isn’t one. Perhaps Elena will too.

As my nationality has never been in conflict, I am, no doubt, ill-qualified to join the conversation.

And yet here we are. So I’ll move onto subjects I can comment on with less conflict.

There are a lot of train trips, lots of underground stations to traverse and people to watch on your average day in Paris. I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is that I love about being in a big city.

Luuk would much rather having forests and fields in our backyard. I like forests and fields but I’d rather visit them on occasion than be a long way away from people and cafes and galleries all the time.

Yesterday, while we were on our way through yet another Paris Metro station, I think I figured out at least part of the reason why I love big cities. We saw a couple fighting (verbally, not fisticuffs) in a stairway, there were musicians on the trains, and in the stations (some of them incredibly talented!), and then there’s the sheer variety of people – I’m judging entirely on appearances but I’m bound to right in the general sense, and inevitably wrong in half of my assumptions about any given individual (based on their flamboyant wig/transparent shirt/shiny pants…)

Big cities, by virtue of their population alone, can support independent artists – musicians, painters, and street performers abound. And then there’s the not-so-independent arts: concerts, plays, musicals, operas, ballets, exhibitions…

There’s the art itself, and then there’s the people the art draws: from all corners of the world, all corners of society…

All the life and colour and noise! I see characters everywhere, inspiration for so many stories, ideas everywhere! Love it.

A bit of crazy: a ride at Jardin d’Acclimitation
(we visited this park yesterday while the photo shop was closed for lunch)

If I’m honest, it’s inspiring but also exhausting, and I’m happy being close to, not really in, Paris. Different people need different circumstances/environments in which to create.

Most artists probably need some space – a quiet, still, empty place, on occasion.

Most artists probably need some of the crazy too.

The ratio is variable. I guess, part of being an artist is figuring out how much crazy, and how much quiet, you need to be productive and healthy. This changes, I’m guessing, throughout any life. There’s a time, a season, for everything, as the Byrds, and the bible, say.

I’m noticing a trend in my current season.

With two kids under two, a routine by the clock is just a pipe-dream. I would say that both kids are in a routine of sorts, but it’s very flexible and more like a sequence of events than a schedule. Every day, without fail, we bend or break the pattern, at some point.

I have a plan. Some days it goes well, but most days it doesn’t go perfectly, and there are plenty of days when it doesn’t go at all.

I’m noticing, however, that if I get a few words down first thing, even just a couple of sentences of my novel, then I get my head in the game. I find my thoughts wandering back there, and if I’m intentional it’s easy to think about it all day. I am keen as ever to get back to the computer and write some more. Given the opportunity I’m there in a moment, and within minutes I’m writing; I’m away!

Four days in a row now. The few minutes, half an hour tops, first thing when the kids go down for that morning nap, before they’re even asleep sometimes… that’s the key, it seems, to my making as much progress as possible in a given day.

Today’s reward for writing session number two:
a big fat slice of the lemon yogurt cake Louis and I baked earlier in the week.
(I’m running out of those stars…)

It could be a while before thing settle down and I can do anything except snatch time to write. But I’ll keep at it nonetheless. If I don’t I’ll regret and resent, I’ll see characters and stories and ideas, all around me, and feel guilty for doing nothing with them. It’s no way to live.

Je suis un écrivain, je suppose.
(I am a writer, I suppose.)