Monday, October 20, 2014

Engaged Wedding fair

 This coming Sunday (October 26) I will be participating at Engaged Event, a very uniquely catered wedding fair in The Netherlands.

It is the first time I participate in such a big event and I am happy and excited, preparing everything, testing, collecting trinkets for our stand and painting cakes. The baking will start later this week.

If you are getting married in Holland, or if you know anyone who is, or if you are into decoration / design / baking / event organizing, I think you will love it and shouldn't miss it.

The fair will take place at from 10.00 – 18.00 at  Lijm en Cultuur, in Delft [Rotterdamseweg 272, 2628 AT Delft ( here's a map)]

You will find more information here .

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baking again

 In the last couple of months I got some orders for my hand-painted cakes. I was so happy to be working in the kitchen, focusing on getting a project done the best possible way.

Since baby Y. was born I made some cakes and cupcakes for birthdays, as a thank you present to the nurses and medical staff at the NICU and for home, but I hadn't really got back to baking for other people.

It feels so good, though it takes my organization skills to a whole other level: I have to use every single moment wisely and take advantage of nap times. Lately, though, baby Y. has been awake more and it is nice to have her in the kitchen with me observing what I do. Maybe one day she will grow to love baking too.

I had a few days last month where I was feeling exhausted, scattered and all over the place because there is so much to be done and even though I am running and doing things the whole day I never finish projects. I guess just doing one thing at a time is key, while letting go some things, particularly the pressure to do it all. If A or B or C does not get done, it's OK. It is also OK to rest, to take walks, to make time for reading and for fun things, to sit in the couch staring at space.

How do you manage time? Are you organized or chaotic? Do you have specific assigned times to do things just for you?

Friday, October 10, 2014

To Paris with the baby

A week ago, we were running around the house, packing last minute things, washing the diapers one last time before we left and getting ready to take baby girl to Paris for the first time. My best friend from my time at the University of Geneva was here to see a professor (she might move back to Europe!) and we hadn't seen each other for 8 years. I was so happy and excited, specially because we discovered Paris together for the first time 14 years ago. That time we took the train and arrived in Paris without a place to sleep because a 'friend' who was supposed to host us cancelled on us at the very last minute. Luckily we found a youth hostel as soon as we arrived and we did not actually end up sleeping under a bridge.

  It was amazing, Yu loved going on long walks all over the place and stopping at cafés for hot chocolate and french fries (she tried her first!). We went to the Jardin de Plantes, the second most ancient zoo in the world, which opened its doors in 1793. We also walked along the Seine, as has to be done, saw the Pantheon, the Luxembourg gardens, La place des Vosges, La Bastille, the beautiful green mosque. Paris is child-friendly in that there are a lot of parks and activities that can be done with kids, but when it comes to public transportation it gets tricky with huge strollers, because only the biggest metro stations like Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon, Louvre, Bastille or Austerlitz are equipped with elevators. Sometimes the doors to access the platforms are so narrow that we had to take a wheel off the stroller to be able to enter. But this was not a general problem for us because we tend to walk a lot, and we only used the metro system 2 or 3 times, at the end of the day when we were really tired and just wanted to get home fast.

We stayed at the Ibis Daumesnil Porte Doree and I think it is going to be our go-to hotel whenever we go back to the city of lights. It was practical, simple, clean and not too expensive (with a long-weekend deal we were able to find). It is located right in front of a Metro station and if you are a walker like us, you will reach the center before you know it, going through characteristic neighborhoods and markets. The hotel provided a baby cot, that Yu used as a play box. Does your baby sleep in "Pack 'n Play" type of cribs? She wouldn't, we're not sure if it was because of the temperature or because she was too close to the floor, but she ended up sleeping between us, sneaky baby. We were afraid she wasn't going to sleep on her crib when we came back, but luckily she is back in her room, no problems.

Another pro-tip: we took  our beloved Babycook steamer-mixer and it was the best decision ever. We got some fruit and vegetables when we passed markets or small fruit shops (so many! and so much variety... we could get peaches, which we haven't been able to get in Holland for the last 3 weeks) and we made her food and packed it in glass jars early in the morning, before breakfast.

Now, getting to Paris was not as easy as we thought it would be. Yu has been on car trips many times before, and it had never been a problem. We've taken her to Amsterdam, to Utrecht, to the Keukenhof, to Hilversum (45 min. car rides) and while we were in Mexico we went to places like Puebla, Tepoztlan, Cuernavaca and Mexico city (all 3.5 to 4 hour drives each way). At the very beginning she used to sleep in the car-seat, it was magic. She was a newborn and then a small baby. When we were in Mexico she was around 5 months, and during the summer we still went on day trips here and there or to visit friends. Well, this time it was fussy town all the way. She just would not stop crying and nothing we would do would make her settle down.

 On Friday we decided to leave at 14:30 p.m. soi-disant (supposedly) to avoid traffic. Well, we ended up getting traffic at the south of the country, all the way to Belgium. The kid was having a meltdown and hating her baby seat. We had to make a stop in Antwerp to kill time until the traffic more or less stopped. So we walked to the center through a very hip neighborhood, where we managed to find an Argentinian bar (Bar Buenos Aires, at Koepoortbrug 3) where they had the most delicous empanadas. We tried Spinach and Ricotta and Meat and they were really good. They also had real meringue alfajores, Mark's favorite.

We took the opportunity to find some sales and restock Yu's wardrobe on onesies and a couple of other items for the next size up. We love Petit Bateau and Du pareil au même, the last one being always so happy and colourful.

Do you have any tips for taking car rides with babies? Is she crying because it's uncomfortable or because she is outgrowing it (though it is supposed to last until she's 15 kg...  she has yet to double her weight for that).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Efteling: land of magic and fairy tales

 Last weekend was amazing! My mother in law has a very important birthday coming up and we have been celebrating the whole weekend, starting by a delicious Thai dinner on Saturday night (where baby Y. socialized and then proceeded to fall asleep in dad's lap) and following up on Sunday by a surprise visit to De Efteling, what used to be the largest amusement park of Europe (now it's second to Euro Disney).

The place is amazing. It is themed around fantasy, myths, legends, fairy tales, fables and folklore. Right up my alley.

"De Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks in the world, located in the town of Kaatsheuvel, in the municipality of Loon op Zand.  Since its opening in 1952, Efteling has evolved from a nature park with a playground and a Fairy Tale Forest into a full-sized theme park.  It is twice as large as the original Disneyland park in California and predates it by three years."

 Yu was allowed to go on her first-ever amusement-park ride, the "Dreamflight", where you  float and glide through a dream world full of castles, elves, fairies, trolls, woodland spirits, fauns and King Oberon. It was amazing. She is mesmerized by light and lamps, we were a bit afraid that she would get scared and freak out, but she was calm and happy. It was so nice to see her enjoy. I wonder what kind of memories this will create in her! 

The Sproojkjesbos must be my favorite part of the park. As you walk through the woods you encounter creatures (an ent!) (a dragon!) (Rapunzel!) (The little mermaid!) and places that bring classic Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen, The Grimm brothers and Perrault among others come to life. You will find Hansel and Gretel's House, the red Dancing shoes, the house of the 7 goats... 

Definitely a place to visit for young and old alike (there are more than a few rollercoasters, water rides... ). A magic place for sure!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The ridiculous dance of nap time

 Babies change all the time, it's a known fact. We have gone through a couple of phases where Y. has modified her behaviour,  with us trying to adapt fast to her new ways and needs. We thought we had it all figured out in such a way that there was some sort of a flexible routine to our days together. 

There was a time when making her sleep was as easy as rocking her to a couple of Natalia Lafourcade songs while dancing with her and that was that.  There was the very beginning when she would eat and sleep, then wake up, eat and sleep. There were those two glorious months when she slept through the night (only to stop after we came back from Mexico and decide that waking up to feed is fun! Aren't parents supposed to survive on very little sleep?)

A couple of months ago we started using a baby sleeping bag, and we invented a routine that consisted in darkening her room, putting her in the bag, getting her lovey, her pacifier and a musical light-show and she would "understand" that it was sleepy time, calm down, and fall asleep (many times with the help of us rocking her at the very end)  At night, after nursing, she gets a nappy change, a bath and her pijama. Then she goes on the rocking chair with dad. All of this was working.

There was a time when I would put her in the stroller and we would enjoy long walks around the city, to the center, to parks, to the beach, to meet friends... The movement would make her sleep and she would nap beautifully.

Lately, it's a fight between her and me. I want to ensure there is some kind of (flexible, open) routine to her day, some cycles that get repeated: sleep, nappy, food, play... But, she refuses to sleep with all her might and nothing that used to work seems to work anymore. Our city hikes have turned into a crazy act where I walk really fast while swinging the stroller to the sides while she spits the pacifier away and complains that she wants to see the world. It got to a ridiculous point last Sunday, when we all went for a walk to get groceries. She wouldn't sleep and I wouldn't calm down until she would. I was almost running, seeing how she was tired and almost reaching the point where she sleeps, but wouldn't get there. Mark is a more go-with-the-flow and let-her-be kind of guy, so he was annoyed at my trying to force her to sleep when she clearly didn't want to. Also, because he knows it is driving me crazy, making the half an hour before she does fall asleep a period where I am very close to losing my mind. His philosophy is, if she wants to be awake, just let her.

I am sad that this is happening because I used to enjoy our long walks so, so much.

For the last couple of days the only way she'll sleep is if I put her in the kangaroo and walk around. But she is already almost 7.5 kg and that is just not doable if I want to also carry other stuff besides her. The idea of carrying her and a backpack makes me sweat just from thinking of it .

I found this article the other day and couldn't help but laugh:

"Think of it this way, babies are constantly changing, so anything you do today can all go out the window tomorrow.  Some people think of this as a negative: “You better be careful when he starts teething because you’ll lose all of that sleep training progress.” Whereas, I think we should think of it as a positive: “Who gives a crap if she sleeps in the swing all night? Next week she may have it totally figured out because she isn’t going to be 22 at college sleeping in her Rock n’ Sway.”

Do what works now and pat yourself on the back for knowing what that is. Mine was strapping him to my chest and bouncing on an exercise ball while humming during the day and co-sleeping at night. My friend’s baby would only go to sleep if the Gypsy Kings were playing while she drove her around the block. My other friend’s baby would only sleep in his rocker in the downstairs shower stall because the echo seemed to soothe him. Sure, you always want to move in the direction of the goal – whether it be a Pampers ad* or just sleeping without a soother – but don’t sweat it in the meantime and if you don’t push the peanut today, well tomorrow’s a new day, another night and possibly a totally different kid."

When do babies stop needing to nap? When can we play all day without having to play this game that's driving both of us crazy? (Not dad, no, he is such a patient guy that this does not affect him).

*Speaking of Pampers ads, have you seen this Japanese one? I really don't consider myself emotional and it got me all teary eyed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The kraampakket and Stichting Baby Hope

 One of the most shocking things for me, as a Mexican, was to find out how, culturally, giving birth at home is the norm in The Netherlands. The whole midwifery system in Holland is based on a low-intervention, conservative approach to birth, when possible. But, when an emergency situation arises, the system does not hesitate to provide the best care that modern science can provide nowadays, as we attested personally. I was a bit afraid of all of this, as I find comfort in being surrounded by nurses, doctors and machines. But, it all went well. And yes, if it is not your wish, no one forces you to give birth at home, you can still choose to give birth at a hospital, where most labor wards are led by midwives, but gynaecologists, neonatologists and other specialists are always very close.

 Well, when you find yourself pregnant in The Netherlands, your insurance company will send you a "kraampakket", a box filled with goodies in preparation for the baby's arrival. I was very curious of the contents of this box. As it turns out, it comes with everything you need for a birth at home: a plastic mattress protector, sterile gloves, alcohol, gauze, a clamp for the umbilical cord, a teddy bear seal, pads for the glamorous post-partum period, mesh panties, puppy-pads... It was quite the surprise, how deeply ingrained home-births are. I just can' get my head around that fact, but that is just because modern medicine makes me feel safe.

An important piece of information is that if you give birth at a hospital in The Netherlands, you can choose to donate your 'kraampakket' to Baby Hope, a foundation that collects and delivers medical material for birth in sanitary conditions in different countries. Childbirth is still a matter of life and death in countries where access to universal health care and hygienic conditions are not a given, and so, this organization collects unused material to send it to their projects supporting mothers and their children in countries like Gambia, Guatemala, Senegal, Birma, India, Albania, Ukrania or Tanzania.

 On a related note, did you know that Finland's government also has the tradition of gifting pregnant women with a box?

Except the Finnish's box is full of pretty much everything your baby will need on those immediate first months:  things like a mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt, a snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties, light hooded suit and knitted overalls, socks and mittens,a knitted hat, bodysuits, leggings, a hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash clothes, cloth diaper set and muslin squares, a picture book and teething toy, bra pads and condoms.

Moreover, the box itself is often used as a crib for the baby too? Amazing! I wouldn't mind a box like that one!

Last two images via this BBC article.

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