Meet Mom Broes from the Netherlands living in Belgium…
Hi, my name is Broes van Iterson (36), I am a childrens jewelry designer, Broesvi, and live in Antwerp, Belgium with my husband Roger and 2 wonderful sons Raf and Flynn (11 and 8). I love designing for children (boys and girls) and am delighted when kids are enthusiastic too! All of the magic of designing and making jewelry, happens in my atelier at home.
It has expanded recently, when we moved house. It is such a lovely space, I am happy to spend the whole day there. In the morning, I turn on the radio and start working. Even when I need a little break, I don’t have to leave, I check into twitter or blogs and drink a cup of one of my favo teas! I also write about jewelry on a freelance base, and I blog. So far blogging has been strictly about jewelry, but that is about to change! My blog will continue in its’ positive style, but focusing on anything I find beautiful. These finds may come from my daily life, things online, art or accidental encounters.
What kind of house do you live in – are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you find lacking or would like to change?
We have not been living in our new house for very long, so we are still busy decorating. The house was build in a clean, contemporary style with attention to the environment and ecology about 10 years ago, after the existing house had been completely torn down, except for one thing, the basement. We still feel extremely lucky to have been able to buy it! It also is also set in a great location for us, in a quiet street, but with all amenities nearby. We walk the boys to school and Antwerp city centre is only a 20-minute bike-ride away!
What is it you like best about living here?
When the sun shines, it lights up every room.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
I love decorating the children’s rooms (and get help from grandpa, which is sooo nice), but since they are 8 and 11, their own ideas are most important. They know exactly what they want and then change their minds! For example, Raffie could not decide if he wanted a low double bed or a high single bed. We were in favor of the double bed, as he will grow out of the higher one soon, but he wasn’t sure. In the end we decided to do redecorate Flynns old (half-high) bed, to suit Raffies needs. We glued black starred wallpaper on one side and drawing paper on the other. The black matched the dark desk -a large piece of grey MDF with two bookcases to hold it up- and he loves to draw on the paper, which can easily be replaced when full. It was his idea to place it against the wallpaper-trees-wall (which he also chose) so he could ‘sleep in the forest’. The green and white desk-chair, on wheels of course, was a birthday present.
Do you keep your children’s play areas very separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?
They live in the whole house and all the wanted and unwanted marks of that are clearly visible. But they have always had a room just for playing (in our old house and now also in the new house), apart from their bedroom. It is mainly being used as a big closet. Although, lately Raffie goes there to hide from the rest of us, he is growing into the awkward stage of transition into puberty.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
Anywhere I can get my hands on, or better my eyes on.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
At the moment..euhm Raffies’ skateboard, scooter and our constantly expanding array of pets. Recently a rabbit joined our cat, chickens and fishes. A bunny was the only thing Flynn wanted for his 8th birthday. He chose the sweetest little rabbit, which he called ‘Koninja’ (konijn = rabbit in Dutch and ninja because he is black and fast like a ninja) He loves taking care of it! After school, the first thing he does is pet his bunny. Koninja also turned out to be a very willing model for my childrens’ jewelry, specially the one featuring a bunny. In spring, we found that we had loads of salamanders in our pond. We had fun trying to catch them all when we were cleaning the pond. We kept them in a huge bucket, where the kids could have a good look at the salamanders. They loved counting them as well, at one point we had more than 50!
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
Although I do make them aware of the messy trail they leave behind, they do not seem to mind at all. So at least once a week (usually on Sunday evening when we are preparing for the upcoming school week) we get into tidy-up mode. Lots of encouragement is needed for the boys!
If you are living in a foreign country, how do you find it?
What is it that you miss most about ‘home’? We have been living in this ‘foreign’ country (Belgium) for nearly 20 years, and ‘home’ (the Netherlands) is only one-hour drive away. By now, there is hardly anything foreign about living here and quite a few things foreign about going ‘home’. I could write a book about the cultural differences between the Dutch and the Flemish! Apart from that, we spent a year in Minnesota in the USA when our eldest was one year old.
He loves the memories of that time, which we keep them alive with stories and photo’s. It helps that we have been back a few times since then. In 2005 we went to Australia for a year, the boys were 5 and 2 then. Our youngest, Flynn, thinks of Australia as ‘his’ country, since he missed out on living in the USA (although he was ‘made’ there). Whenever we get foreign visitors the boys love to chat and test their English, it has kept them curious! Although it was not always easy to live in a foreign country for a short time, having kids has really helped meeting new people and become friends.
I have to admit that we did cheat a little in Australia, where we already had friends, who we had not seen for 15 years, waiting for us at the airport. We hit right off where we left all those years ago! Making new friends in foreign countries is often not so difficult as long as you are open to other customs and willing to participate. They usually love lots of the things you are able to share with them about your own country.
How do the children adapt to the language, food and cultural differences?
When we knew we were going to Australia we tried to speak English with the kids at home. Raffie absolutely refused, saying he already spoke English and did not need to practice (although he was only two years old when we left the USA). Once at kindergarten in OZ he had a rough time expressing himself… Luckily a British boy had just started at the same time, being both new in the group, they became instant friends! After 2 months Raf spoke as much English as the other 5 year olds.
What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on weekends?
Saturdays are busy with the kids sports and activities. They both enjoy playing sport, Flynnie plays soccer and Raf field-hockey. Raf also likes his boys-scouts on Saturday-afternoon. On Sundays we sleep in if possible, we’re so happy the boys can play by themselves! We’ll have a relaxed breakfast, preferably with fresh ‘koffiekoeken’ (Flemish specialty pastries) from our local bakery. My sweet husband usually ‘volunteers’ to go to the bakery! Then, we often do some chores around the house and meet up with friends or family. On Sunday-evenings we’ll prepare for the week that is about to start.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
When they were little I got round to doing more crafty-things with the boys, now they start on their own and ask for my help if needed. They come up with wonderful things, like comics and paper planes. The other day Flynn made a huge road-sign saying ‘No talking in the classroom’ to help his teacher and as a reminder to himself, ha ha.
What do you do with all the projects your children make at home or in school?
Over the years we have collected quite a lot of projects! If I am being good (unfortunately I am very often not), I will take photographs of the works before the boys hand them out as presents. I have a special folder on the computer to keep them in.
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
Birthdays are a big deal! It is their special day and usually stretches into several days, celebrating with their friends and family at different times. We make sure every ingredient of a party is there, invitations, presents, decorations and birthday-cake. Also, the boys’ uncle is a baker and he always brings a huge cake, it is definitely something they look forward to!
Recently we hosted a very special party. Of course it was the best party ever! The occasion was our housewarming, Roger’s 40th birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. We decided it would be in Miami Vice-style; it has been great fun going back to the eighties!
Do your children have friends over very often? If yes, what activities would they do?
They love to play with their friends at home, especially if they stay for a sleep-over! What they do is up to them, although I do limit ‘screen-time’. Friends often come over on Friday-afternoon or in holidays, because that is when they are free of activities and HOMEWORK. Yes, the poor kids in Belgium have tons of homework from the age of 6.
What are some favorite games in your home?
The boys have a whole closet full of games, but the ones we play most are word-games. They are easy to do anywhere, and make long car-rides seem short. For example: I know a boy and his name is Raf, do you know one starting with F? Yes, it’s Flynn… (next one has to start with N, if you can not think of one in 30 seconds, you’re out)
What kind of sports do your children like to do and are you very involved?
Our kids enjoy playing sports and we encourage them to do so. On weekends, if possible, my husband and I both cheer them on. During the week it is mainly me driving them everywhere. I try to stay and watch as much as I can, and usually it turns into a social moment for me. But when it interferes with work, I am so lucky to be able to count on the other mums, dads and occasionally even the grandparents. Without them, there wouldn’t be as may activities for our boys! We are lucky with such an array of sports to choose from close to home. In summer, when Raf and Flynn play tennis, we feel particularly lucky to be able to cycle to the tennis-club and spend time there. It is a club founded in the 1938 and is still at the same place, with a clubhouse built in that typical beginning of the century- style and fully grown trees surrounding it.
Are there musical instruments in your house?
Since September both of our children started to play the guitar. We are so proud of them for sticking with it, even though practicing can be a challenge, especially for Flynnie. Not only does playing a musical instrument add to their upbringing, it gives them a sense of achievement, which is great! We also have a piano that the children love to ‘abuse’.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
Raf learned to read and write in Australia. When we were back in Belgium, he started to read Harry Potter in English, which we thought was amazing. Every time he finishes a book we do a special movie-night and watch the film. He is now reading the last one. Flynn enjoys reading anything from the Geronimo Stilton series. They are wonderful books about a reporter mouse, with different typography, fun drawings and even some smelling-pages, but written with full use of the Dutch language. Appealing to kids, and also educational.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
We all love to eat at our house and we like food from all over the world. I have to admit, I am acting as the food-police. Not only do I focus on a healthy, well-balanced diet, table manners are also important at our house! This takes patience and loads of repetition and can be hard at the best of times. We love to set a nice looking table, for friends and family to enjoy a meal! When we lived in the USA we brought a whole set of vintage earthenware home with us, which we use at special occasions. In fact, we used it the other day when we had an American friend over for a barbeque.