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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Grow


I have been meaning to write this post for months. My word for the year came to me early, I just knew what it was. It is already May and I haven't stopped running. But a time to pause and reflect is much needed. Last year my word (verb) was "to Marvel",  the year before that it was "Joy", and before that "Patience". This year my word is Grow.

There has been so much happening. I started January  happy and surprised with 4 cake assignments, one per weekend (well one of them was the one for Yu's birthday). Then we went to Mexico and I made a couple of cakes over there and another one when I just came back. Last weekend I had 3 cake orders for the same day.


I have a feeling that things are moving and changing this year, that I am evolving into something new, that slowly pieces of the puzzle that is life are starting to come together, by themselves.

There are challenges, the major one right now is weaning. I had originally planned to breastfeed baby Y. for 6 months so that I would be ready for our next round of  IVF soon after. Our breastfeeding start was not easy and by the time we hit 6 months we were so comfortable in our routine and she was growing so well that I postponed letting her go off the bewb until she could have cow milk. I have nothing against formula, I know it is a life and sanity saver in many, many cases and that there are many reasons, some simple, some complex to choose not to breastfeed. Sometimes it is not a choice. But, I was lucky that it was working really well for us, it was convenient, easy and pretty much free. And yes, I had my own personal boycott against the companies that make formula. It is silly, maybe, but I applied several times to work with them, I knew well I had the knowledge and expertise required for such positions and I was not even called for an interview. (That and the controversial ways these companies promote formula feeding in countries in development, where there is no access to clean water). So they were not getting our money if I could avoid it.


Fast forward to the beginning of this year, when we started the weaning process, we discovered that our kid would NOT take a bottle. After trying several nipples she takes them every now and then, mostly though she likes to play with them, she may drink 100 mL before bed time, but a bottle is not substituting me. We give her cheese and yoghurt, sometimes all-natural fruit milkshakes. During the day she is pretty much weaned, she does not ask for it anymore and since March I stopped offering as she is well into her solid food meals (I would still give it when she asked). Feeding her in public was getting difficult because she is so curious and distractable that she would not concentrate on eating and would much rather wave at strangers or play peekaboo with the swaddling blanket I used as a cover. So that part is going well, but, she is still waking up in the middle of the night and nothing but me, or more precisely, my bewbs, will make her settle down. We've read the theories, we know what we are supposed to do (either make her wait gradually longer and longer between feeds or reduce the amount of time she spends breastfeeding until it is not worth the wake up). It is not working and she will not tolerate being soothed by dad. She screams murder and we should probably be firmer, but I just can't handle her sad, helpless crying and I have a feeling neither can the neighborhood. In my gut I feel she is not ready, I kind of thought/hoped she would outgrow it and start sleeping longer and demanding less comfort from us but it does not seem to be happening any time soon. I get angry when I read about how babies are supposed to be able to self soothe (by 6 months none the less)*, about how rocking them, comforting them, breastfeeding them is all wrong and sleep be doomed forever if you do these things and why did you continue to do them when the book said it was time to stop. We have tried all kinds of things, like me sleeping in a different room so she can't smell me. She still wakes up.

 On the other hand, I am going to be 35 this June. That means I am going to reach the dreaded label of 'advanced maternal age' and our chances at being succesful for a second sibling statistically plummet. I am silly, delusional, hoping for that miracle pregnancy that happens to infertile couples once they had a first pregnancy. I know I should not count on it, but I am hopelessly optimistic and the “unexpectedly pregnant after infertility/adoption” thing is apparently not an urban legend. It does happen, even to Amanda's.  It is so hard, it feels so cruel to force-wean Yulia when she still appears to need me. But I don't want to be breastfeeding a 4, or 3 or 2 year old so we are going to have to do this if we want our family to grow, and I know this is absolutely not in our hands, and I feel greedy for wanting more when we have already been so blessed, but there it is, our deepest wish thrown out to the universe.

So that's where we're at. Late to this party, it is almost mid-year, but do you have any words, plans, projects, wishes for this year?

*that sounds to me like corporate productivity standards applied to infants. Baby should do this now, and should do that then, otherwise you are doing things wrong.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Diary of a couple of busy days


 I am feeling like super mom today. It is not always like this. Most of the time I am just barely able to do the things that need to get done. I spend my days running all the time, letting some chore wait while I collapse in the couch for most needed rest or decide to go out even if there is always something I  could be doing.  (I mean, look at all that laundry that has to be folded).

I normally wake up around 6:30 (when our alarm goes on), I like to be the first to shower, while everyone else is still asleep. It gives me some calm time and a fresh start. After showering I start preparing breakfast, normally some fruit (steamed apple or pear with cinammon, or melon or papaya or mango), bread with cheese and yoghurt for the baby and toast with jam and tea for us. I also prepare a sandwich and fruit for the husband to take to work. The baby usually wakes up when I am in the middle of preparations so things get exciting as she wants to see what is going on at all times. As soon as she is up her pacifier and bottle get sterilized. Either Mark or me give her a new diaper and after everyone is clean and dressed we have breakfast together until it is time for the boy to go to work. This is normally around 8 am.

Yesterday we had swimming class at 9 am, so I let the baby play on the floor for a while. In the meantime I run around preparing our backpack with towels, underwear, soap, bathing suits, sandals; and make sure our diaper bag has everything we need: pacifier, meals for the day, diapers, wipes. We walk to the swimming pool and then we get busy preparing all the stuff we need for after the class (dry towels, soap) and change both of us into our bathing suits.

After class she normally falls asleep quite fast with a stroller walk. I use this time to go for groceries and bring them home, then keep on walking around, taking advantage of the sunny weather. When Yu woke up from her nap we went for lunch at an ice-cream / café that I love because they have the nicest Italian latte's and the baby can walk on the couches by the window, people watching. We eat fruit, a panini with tomato, mozzarella and pesto and the afore mentioned coffee (for me) and  frothy steamed milk (for her). From there we go to the library (a few meters away) and I let her roam free, taking the books off all the shelves as she pleases. (I go around behind her picking them up, sometimes we arrange them together).  We choose a couple of books and a friend calls us, so we go to the center and meet at a park that has a nice playground. We think the girls (mine and hers) are going to fall down for a nap while we walk, but there is too much excitement at the park and they ain't gonna miss it.


So off they go to the slide, the seesaw, the swings. They play until they are, now, for real, extremely tired and it's already 17h 30. We head home.

I go home to a sick husband. He feels weak, he has a fever though he does not recognize it and he is in pain. I remember that by some kind  of miracle there is chicken broth in the freezer, with rice and vegetables, so I prepare it, along with some mint tea. I give him paracetamol, the Dutch's panacea and cure for everything. The baby is still napping while I cook, so we eat without her. When she wakes up, she has her dinner and plays around a little bit but she starts being fussy and edgy so she gets her night diaper and pijama and we start the (long) dance of getting her to sleep. She takes a while, then wakes up at 23h, 1h30, 4 am. Yeah, we are still doing that, and we don't know how it will stop. Theories are very nice in books. But well, we are used to this.

I wake up this morning, the husband is (still) not feeling well at all, I make breakfast, load the washing machine with diapers, do the dishes a million times, clean the table, bake 3 cakes (one after another), two of which are vegan and are looking really good, entertain the kid, make her go down for her naps, hang the diapers, make lunch.

I am feeling so efficient and yet I am not the best self that I could perhaps be. I know the husband is ill and I am doing my best to take care of him, making sure he eats and stays hydrated; but also, I am resenting that he gets to be on the couch resting and he gets annoyed when I ask him for help. I wish I could do all of this graciously and yet what I really want is praise and pats in the back. I want to be told how amazing I am for doing the routine things that are done everyday and are just the necessary things that keep us functioning, no extraordinary feats. So here we are, and it is (only) 14:06.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Royal Style

 This post is going to be silly, so beware. I like to pretend I am really smart and intellectual and do not care about things like fashion (too much).

 I live in a uniform of corduroys or jeans, patterned shirts and sweaters in bright colors. I mismatch everything because when I get dressed in the morning my eyes are still closed. I color clash in a non-deliberate way.

I do enjoy glossy magazines and gossip particularly when waiting at airports and I have to confess I am quite the fan of Taylor Swift and Lily Allen (other celebrities I wish I could be friends with are Emma Stone, Jessica Alba, Mandy Moore and Anna Kendrick).



  
Anyhow, that is how I found out that, on occasion, I have dressed like my favorite royals, Kate Middleton and Charlotte Casiraghi. 

 Last June we baptized baby Y and after watching too many chapters of Suits I decided to be adventurous and wear a pencil skirt for the first time in my life. It was a very light minty green and covered in lace. I wore it with a white top and my wedding shoes, which I had sworn I would re-wear. Well, Charlotte of Monaco baptized her son on the same weekend as we did (!) and when I saw the photos I couldn't believe we chose quite the similar outfit. 

Last summer, my mom-outfit of jeans and a striped gray and blue t-shirt was something Kate Middleton chose as well.

So I guess I am not as fashion-ignorant as I sometimes think I am.

It was a good summer... enjoying the warm summer warmth by the lake, and a baby on the bewb.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Living by the Sea


Spring is (finally) here and we have had a couple of truly warm days. I have really become a sun-worshipper, as soon as the first rays of warm sunlight hit us I bring out my summer outfits and run to the nearest terrace, garden, park, playground, outside location.

Last Friday we went to a beach with a close friend of mine (and Yu) and it hit me. I live by the Sea. I was one of those girls who grew up in the 90's dreaming of becoming a Marine biologist. I actually wanted to work at the Sea World. That place really impressed me in all the good ways as a child and I thought it was doing a great job at taking care of animals in a humane, scientific, state-of-the-art way. (Then I saw Blackfish and all those ideas were shattered.)


Ever since then I fantasized with the idea of living by the water, one of those dreams that you have there on a shelf and never really actively pursue. But then, there are those dreams that you do pursue and I did go live and study in Barcelona, first as an Erasmus (Biology) student, and later to go to Vet School.

After which I moved to The Netherlands. If I start counting, that makes it almost 10 years of living by the ocean and I did not even notice. Did I assimilate it? Was it so much a part of me that I did not stop to think about it at all?

It makes me really happy and grateful to realize that maybe unconsciously, seamlessly some of the things I thought I'd do when "I grew up" I'm actually doing.

Do you have any dreams or places that have pulled you once and again?
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