My name is Hylkia de Jong (46) and I live in Wassenaar, the Netherlands with my patchwork family: husband Perry (49), my step-son Elwin (10) and daughter Demi(13) who live with us one week on, one week off (with their mum) and my daughter Dafne(15) and our two pets-a fluffy dog (Eevee) and a furry cat.(Dropje) I'm originally a fashion designer with a passion for illustration, and I love to do trendwatching, illustrating and some photography on the side. I have my own business 'Hartendief", I'm designing and manufacturing lampshades, mainly for kids rooms.
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 live in a corner house of a row of houses, built in 1995, so relatively new. It's a kid-friendly area, low traffic, lots of bike trails and walking space. It's not a big house, but it really has its charm. It’s a bit quirky with lots of strange corners and angles.
What is it you like best about living here?
We practically live at the edge of the town, right behind the gate of our back yard is a nice park. From there on it's an open landscape with meadows, sheep and cows, we can hear the seasons coming and going with the birds around us. In winter there are lots of geese, in summer loads of singing and chirping kinds. I love to take a walk each morning with the dog. And at night it can be so enchanting when the full moon is out.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
We changed almost everything in the house since we moved in together. We moved the kitchen from the middle to the back of the house, and made three huge skylights in the living room and kitchen, so we would have more light in. We created a small office space for my business-which sometimes is so stuffed with lamps that I think I need to find a separate storage for it. On the other hand, working at home is really ideal with kids around. We rebuilt the two upper floors last year, the big balcony on the second floor which we didn't use, plus the attic, were transformed into two girls rooms. We created bi-level rooms for both the girls. One room has the attic as a lounge and chill -out place, the other has a bed there. There's a small door between the two rooms, when the girls want to hang out together they can open it. It's like a big dolls house. They love sleepover parties with friends.
On the first floor we made two bigger bedrooms out of three smaller ones, and completely rebuilt the bathroom. It was a huge job, and because we did a lot ourselves, took us over a year to finish. We're really happy with the results. We rebuilt practically every corner of our house except for the tile floor and toilet downstairs. We'd really like to change that. And there's some little tweaks that still need doing.
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 all have their own space, but we share the living room and the kitchen. They all got to choose what kind of room they wanted, so we have a soccer room, a bling-girlie room and a Hawaii-room, all with a separate bar so they can hang out, play music and drink lemonade with friends. Having a bar appealed greatly to them all, so we can now do a bar run in our house ;-) There's just one tv in the house- in our living room-don't like them to have their own tv. Society individualized so much already, we feel it's good for them to watch tv together. Besides that it's a good way of questioning all that you see. Although the kids don't always agree on that ;-) They'd rather all have a tv in their rooms.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
Anywhere. I always keep my eyes open. Whether it's books, stores, movies, internet or exhibits, I love to visit cities to look for inspiration, big or small, close or far. Whenever there's an opportunity, I'll go.
On the internet I love Pinterest, which is a big pool of inspiration and a stepping stone to thousands of wonderful blogs and websites. I can spend a dangerous amount of time in the virtual world….
I read all kinds of mags- Wallpaper, Elle Decoration, EH&I, Milk magazine, Flow, Delicious, etc.etc. and I love to visit all kinds of stores. I read many blogs, first of all Bloesem (of course!), but also Kids Stylefile, SFgirl, Etsykids and many, many others. But I have to limit myself, I tend to go overboard with my time….
I really like the "Wereldwinkel"in Holland, I recently bought beautiful wooden plates there, and a beautiful straw basket for the cat to sleep in.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
When they were smaller Perry built them a bus from cardboard and tape. It looked exactly like the real thing. With a sliding door and all! They played a lot in that. When they grew out of it he donated it to daycare.
I myself love the "Plint" poster-collection. I have a lot of their art in our house. They have a great collection of Dutch poetry posters with great lyrics and images on them. I would love to design one for them one time.
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
We really want our kids to help around the house. They clean up the kitchen after dinner, it took three months for them to stop complaining. Now they even sing while cleaning! And we have them vacuum and clean their rooms. It should be a team thing, not just parents cleaning up the mess and kids being the kings and queens. To keep your head organized as a WAHM I recommend the site of Flylady or books of "de Huishoudcoach" Els Jacobs. They are very useful!
What's it like to raise a child in your town?
It's a great town to raise children, in-between cities but relaxed and with a lot of space around- the beach is nearby, and we have a fair share of woods and land around us, a thing you need when living in this crowded land.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
I never really picture a perfect day. I like that every day is different with them and bless that.
What is a normal day with your children?
They go to school by bike, and when they get home they first relax a bit and then do homework routines. In the evening after supper they have time for themselves- usually they spend time on the computer or just go outside and play with friends. Especially in summer they love to stay out and play in the neighborhood.
What do you do on weekends?
In the weekends we usually just relax and enjoy our free time.The kids like to hang out with friends, our oldest has her musical classes. I like to bake bread or cook something nice.
Tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made.
The kids make hilarious remarks sometimes and develop a great sense of humor. I love the little notes Perry's son made: like the fake police ticket he made for "throwing snowballs and soaping with snow without permission".
And he gave all the neighbors tickets too. Our next door neighbor got one for cycling on the sidewalk. He got fined for 210 euro's. And paid it in full! He rang the door with a pack of real Dutch 'centendrop'- coin shaped licorice. Hihi.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
We hold honesty and integrity very high. And we emphasize sharing, which is very difficult in this individualizing society, and with three growing teenagers who feel they already own the world. They need to learn that they are responsible for their actions. We just count our blessings and try to teach them to appreciate even the smallest things- life has many surprises-pleasant and unpleasant.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
I used to like drawing and doodling a lot with them. Or do paper maché. Perry's son had a phase where he used to draw miles and miles of roads with supermarkets, police stations, hospitals and fire-stations. His whole room was decorated with it like wallpaper.
Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
haha, no, just enjoy it and worry about the mess afterwards...
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
I don't know really. I think both a bit. In our last building project I even learned how to drywall. My hub can make anything from tape and cardboard. I used to do a lot of paper maché and like to pick that up again, it's a great way of shaping things although it takes ages to dry. Paper cutting is great too. I made an enormous amount of clothing in my life but hate to spend time behind a sewing machine now. Just give me paper and ink and I'll be happy. I like designing on the computer too but still need to learn a lot. And last year I tried etching.
Books, websites, local shops you can recommend to get tips and ideas for kids crafting?
Second hand stores have piles of 70ties craft books. Wait until macramé knotting shows up again!
What do you do with all the projects your children make at home or in school?
We keep some of the best, either as decoration around the house or in containers in the attic. The rest we throw away. You can't keep it all.
Any decoration ideas on how to hang, keep or use them as presents?
I just try to fit them in somewhere. There's always a corner.
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
We always like to cook lots of different foods and have family and friends over. We have a table full of snacks and cake and just enjoy the company.
Do your children have friends over very often? If yes, what activities would they do?
Our kids have friends over all the time. They take them home after school or in the weekends to play or hang out. They love to go to the supermarket by bike and buy things (mainly sweets!) from their pocket money. And they play outside a lot, soccer or with a skateboard or skelter, and with their bikes at the skatepark nearby. Our oldest spends most of her time inside, playing piano, singing or chatting.
What are some favorite games in your home?
We love to do word-games. Pick a word from the dictionary and everybody writes down a fake explanation. Only one person knows the right explanation. And then we guess what is the right answer. Or put a sticky on a persons forehead with a silly character on it-for instance mr. Bean. The person has to guess who he or she is by the hints the others give him. Or we play card games- lying, cheating, 21...
What kind of sports do your children like to do and are you very involved?
They mainly play outside. They did many sports over the years though: volleyball, scouting, gymnastics, judo, street dance….
Are there musical instruments in your house?
We used to have a pianola, one where you would have these scrolls like a street organ. The mechanism didn't work, which was a pity. But it got out of tune all the time because of the floor heating. It's ended up in a church. Our oldest daughter now has an electric piano in her room. She loves making music and plays piano and sings.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
ooh, where to start. I have a weakness for children's books, especially when illustrated well. I'd love to illustrate a children's book one time, and it might even happen….a friend wrote some great kids poems and we already have a few poems with drawings on the shelf. We just need to find time to take that project to a finish line!
My favorite? Vos en Haas, By Sylvia Weve, illustrated by Thé Tjong King.
How do you get your books? Bookstores? Online?
Either way. Mostly from the bookstore, even now the kids are bigger I still tend to fall for books all the time. I really have to keep track of time when in a bookstore. I recently bought a old time favorite on eBay, a book by Bouke van der Jagt called "de Pozzebokken" Great story. Hard to find though.
Do your children read books online? Do they go to the library?
They're more do' ers than readers. They need to read books in school, I doubt if they would be reading if they hadn't. Although one of them recently read the whole Twilight series. In English. ;-)
What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?
Take the bike. Go for the beach and just bike around. It's the best way of discovering the nice surroundings. And when visiting Holland, try to visit the Waddeneilanden. I love their atmosphere.
What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them too?
We always loved the series of "Buurman en Buurman" the clumsy DIY neighbors, a great animated series. And the "verhalen van de Boze Heks" by Hanna Kraan that Didi Hoving animated so brilliantly with moving silhouette puppets and lights. VPRO.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
Both, I love to cook-I'm infatuated with baking Artisan sourdough bread at the moment, when I have time. It's a family thing, my sisters and brother can really talk about food for days. No dinner anywhere without making a picture of it. Foodies, definitely. We have a thing for great cookbooks too.
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
Sometimes. They like to make pancakes or bake brownies with friends. Dad cooks most when I'm really busy. He jumps in with everything when times are really hectic. Cooking, cleaning, kid-control ;-) you name it- he's the man.
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and without the children?
The place we most often go is Portugal. Our sister in law lives there and it's such a wonderful place. When the kids are with us we love to go to the beach and climb rocks together and swim. It's so beautiful. When just the two of us we just enjoy being together, talking and breathing the atmosphere. And discovering new places.
Do you keep some sort of travel journal with the children?
I don't but I love to make pictures.
What kind of souvenirs can they bring back home?
They always bring some stones and shells. In Portugal you find these rocks with holes in them. The Portugese place them in every house: for good fortune.
How do you prepare for a trip, any useful tips?
www.flylady.net- she has a great packing and preparing list!
What place do your children love to go to?
When they are young they love to go wherever you go and are happy with somewhere to swim and sleep and a book to read or some crayons. When older, they like to be more active: climb, canoe, swim, shop. And best together with friends.
Tips for traveling in a plane or a long road trip with children?
Be inventive! One of the best things is a book on tape. They can hear a story while traveling. Older kids like having their ipods or game- thingies. But pens and paper go for any age. They're the absolute all-time must.