Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Celebrating Summer and Light

 A few days ago I was contacted by Paperless Post** to ask if I wanted to participate in a collection of inspirational posts about celebrating the Summer and I thought it was a really nice idea.

Summertime is one of my periods of the year. The warmth and the long days are definitely worth a celebration, particularly in the Northern hemisphere.

I remember celebrating 'la noche de San Juan' -St. John's Eve- when I lived in Barcelona. It is a truly magic night. People go to the beach, set up huge bonfires meant to scare evil forces away, party the whole night and enjoy the light. Reading a bit further I found out this was a christianized pagan holiday in honour of the solstice, marking the longest day of the year. It is a night where fairies and other creatures of the underworld are believed to run lose, among which La encantada, a young, beatiful girl with long hair appears near caves or water streams, combing her hair, carrying a mirror. The legend, dating back to medieval times, is associated with Lamia and other folkloric creatures (like mermaids or the greek nymphs) and symbolizes fertility and youth. The mirror she holds is a symbol that represents a door to other dimensions. On St John's Eve, anything can happen.

Marking the seasons brings us to the moment, makes us reflect where we are.  Lately, I spend life running constantly, doing those everyday things to keep us all going. I reach the end of the day quite tired (brain dead would be a more appropriate term). But occasions like this are perfect for taking a pause, for remembering to appreciate the light around us, to celebrate the little things: taking long walks, painting my toenails bright and shiny, admiring the beautiful peonies that only bloom at this particular time.

Do you celebrate the summer solstice?

* Painting of Lamia by William Waterhouse
**This is a non-sponsored post, I just thought it would be fun to participate in a series focused on celebrating summer time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A flamingo-themed nursery

This post was due ages ago. I never shared Y's. nursery, but we put so much effort in it that I thought it was as good a time as any to show it to you!  

When we started putting our baby’s room together, we didn’t really have a colour scheme, except maybe: "mix all the colors". Little by little, though we found the bits and pieces that “glue” it all. We first chose the fabric for the curtains. These were actually a project for January Joy,  but we ended up asking our local Turkish tailor to make them because it turns out we are both completely clueless with the sewing machine .

We also had a pair of flamingo wall-stickers that we got in Barcelona just before I moved to The Netherlands. At the moment we did not know where they would end up, but we knew they would be a part of our home together. When we were dating (and still now, when we travel) we visit zoos whenever we can and we always end up taking a photo with the flamingos, so they are a bit special to us.

For the furniture, we knew we wanted colourful items, which are often difficult to find, or else, they are called "designer items" and are priced accordingly. At the baby shops everything was in the boring tones of white, grey, wood or black and the ready-made rooms were extremely expensive anyway. We chose a simple drawer chest (a Hemnes, from Ikea) to be used as a changing table, that we found in red, score! We have added some porcelain knobs in different patterns to give it a quirky touch (found here). We liked the ones from Anthropologie, but after a bit of searching we were happy to find a great selection of porcelain knobs at a local source and at accessible prices (€2.95 per  piece).

As for the walls... we wanted to continue with the flamingo theme.  I had a postcard from the famous ‘American flamingo’ painting by John James Audubon, and a Mexican flamingo-maraca that we put by her small bookshelf. My mom quilted her a lovely Flamingo-and-chick blanket, to go with her light blue crib that we first saw during a day excursion to Ghent. 

After searching quite a bit  (read going crazy) on Pinterest  I found some quite unique vintage Alice in Wonderland prints  on Etsy, from a 1950’s edition illustrated by Marjorie Torrey  that we hung on one of the bare walls.

Choosing the frames was kind of hard, but in the end we settled for good old  Ribba’s from Ikea that  the husband managed to convert into transparent "floating" frames by using glass in the front and in the back of the frame, so that the original pages of the book are still readable from the back. 

When she was born she received a WWF flamingo plush from a dear dear uncle and now she has a yodeling dancing one that she loves to play with.  Oh, and let's not talk about the flamingo-obsession that started with her birth. We have quite the collection of flamingo paraphernalia: onesies, leggings, shorts, a sweater, toddler-sandals, postcards (that I am hiding from the husband, using them as bookmarks), a lovely winter-hat, a couple of dresses, a t-shirt....

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Papadag (Daddy day)

This post has been written by the husband. Though he has written a couple of other posts he will most likely not be a regular feature, but maybe now and then we'll get to hear M's voice (If i can convince him to write more!)

When we found out that Amanda was gonna start working full time we had to look for a daycare for Yulia. Normally daycares in the Netherlands have  huge waiting lists, but luckily, we found a really nice one that was able to take Yulia on short notice. Their philosophy however is that no child should be in daycare for more than 4 days, so we had to find a solution for the 5th day. Since 3 of the 4 grandparents live in Mexico and the grandmother in the Netherlands is still working. We had to find a different solution.

So we did some calculations in Excel and we came to the conclusion that I would be able to take a papadag (daddy day). A papadag is a day (or in some cases more than one) in which the dad stays home and takes care of the child(ren).

My first day I was a bit scared. Sure, I had taken care of Yulia before. I knew how to change her diaper, give her food, entertain her, but I had never done one full day of baby tending. I didn’t know how to organize myself and the day in such a way that stuff would get done and Yulia would be happy. Also, Amanda advised me to go to a playgroup that Yulia loved and Amanda attended with her every week. I didn’t like the idea of going to a place with only women talking about women stuff.

Up until now  I have had four daddy days and I love it. I love our morning walk to the playgroup, I love playing and dancing with her at the playgroup, I love having fancy lunch with her at M&S and going home to play some more.

During the playgroup I talk to the different moms (there are 2-3 dads as well), nanny’s and au pairs and during her nap after playgroup I have time (2 hours) to run errands (Amanda edit: this means going to the french bakery and getting éclaires). I know that Amanda is going through a huge change and misses Yulia a lot, but I am very happy that I get to spend quality time with my amazing daughter.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

5 years

 I can't believe that 5 years ago today, on a Monday morning (not a Sunday), the boy and I got married for the first time (the second ceremony would take place later that year, in September).

I still remember how emotional and happy we felt that day. We were supposed to be going almost by ourselves, only joined by our witnesses, 4 of our best friends, but when our parents and close family heard the plan they were like nuh-uh, we are coming as well.

We felt so happy. So fresh and ready to take life together.

Marriage is hard, last night at 3 a.m. we were screaming at each other eventhough (or perhaps because) we were both more asleep than awake. I am not proud and every time we fight I can't wait to make up again because staying angry kills me inside.

There is always a new day and we keep coming back to each other. I admire M. so much and he pushes me, inspires me and makes me be a better person everyday.

My best friend is staying with us and we spent the day visiting Rotterdam, walking in the rain and then having celebratory tea and crêpes Suzette.

I hope we will be blessed with many more days together.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The children literature (kinderboeken) museum in The Hague

 A couple of weeks ago, on the last week before I started working, we went to the Kinderboekenmuseum in The Hague* with Yu's best baby friends. It is such an amazing place. On the second floor, the section of the museum 'ABC met de dieren mee' is particularly great for toddlers and children up to 6 years old.

 Babies and small children follow the letters of the alphabet, through tunnels, holes and hidden paths that take them to rooms dedicated to characters of their favorite children classics, many of them Dutch (Nijntje, Pim en Pom, Kleine Ezel, Vos en Haas, Dikkie Dik, Kikker) but some others known internationally (The hungry Caterpillar, Elmer).

Babies can literally follow the path of the hungry caterpillar as he eats his way to become a butterfly. Elmer is a very big puzzle made of colorful wooden tiles. There is a frozen sea where icebergs represent letters and sentences and stories can be built.

The Nijntje room has a table where you can draw her with the aid of stencils engraved on the wood itself, a slide takes you inside her corner; there is a bookshelf and puppets at the cave of Vos en Haas. 

Yu liked it so much that we went there once again, as the first time was so fun, but also so overwhelming that we did not have the chance to explore all the rooms. Both of the times she had a blast. If you are visiting The Hague and you are traveling with small children, you should not miss this place, particularly if you are experiencing typical Dutch weather (gray, windy and rainy).

*(Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5, very close to the train station Den Haag Centraal).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

So I guess that makes me a working mom.

Yesterday was my first day at a new job.  This time it was completely unexpected, as in, I wasn't even actively looking for a job. 4 years ago, when I was doing everything to find something remotely related to my area I handed in my CV to all the work agencies I could, and I put it up in the major databases. Nothing ever came out of that.

And then, out of the blue, I was contacted by one of these agencies, telling me there was a position that was very suited to my profile and that the company was very interested in me. I was interviewed once, then a second, and a third and a fourth time. It all went very smoothly. I really liked the feeling I got, the team, the management, the idea of being helpful to society (and to animals, at the end of the spectrum). Then I got offered the job and we had to think long and hard.

It was so difficult.

This time with Yulia, these almost 16 months with her have been precious. I love watching her grow, develop, change and evolve and become her own person. She discovers new things every day and learns new tricks all the time. We've done so much together: playgroups, library visits, walks to the park and to the beach; swimming and music classes, museums, playdates. I am going to miss her so much.

I wish I could stay with her for longer.

Then again, the job search has been so, so hard. And the gap in my CV keeps growing. With a lot of faith we decided to take the plunge, to try it, to think of this as an investment. As much as I would like to be with her now, as much as I have loved taking care of her, there will be a point when she will go to school and I am not sure if an opportunity like this will come back then.

In my heart, I know she will be fine. She is a friendly, social kid, she enjoys being with other kids. And I am in love with her daycare: they promote and follow each child's explorations, they grow and cook their own warm meals each day, it is a very calm, peaceful and happy environment.

I cried so much. I cried when I got the offer (sad and happy tears at the same time), I cried myself to sleep once I had accepted, wondering if we had made the right decision, I cried yesterday, when I said goodbye and left for the day. (She didn't, but if this is going to be hard for someone, I prefer it's harder on me).

Maybe it is too early to say, but it feels good. It feels good to be using my studies, it feels good to be out in the world again, it feels good to come back to our family at the end of the day.
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