Thursday, July 31, 2014

Buscando tesoros

1. (La playa de la Haya) vista desde las alturas, 2. La hora del café (y las postales) en Leiden, 3. Banderas, 4. La Sombra (de una gaviota), 5. Tomados de la mano, 6. Estanque con un nido de Gallinula chlorops, 7. Juego de niños, 8. Una tienda bonita (la librería infantil "Alice in Wonderland"), 9. Un autobús en La Haya, 10. Un perro, 11. Un puesto de flores, 12. (3 molinos) al atardecer

Siento como si apenas haya sido hace unos meses cuando tomé la cámara por primera vez y salimos a caminar y a jugar el juego de Jackie, a buscar los doce tesoros que se escondían en la ciudad. Pero no, de eso ya hace 3 años, cuando este espacio-diario-lugar-de-desahogos-y-de-encuentros apenas estaba comenzando. Últimamente se me complica participar cada mes, por decidia, por falta de organización, por despistada. Hace un año empecé la búsqueda, pero sólo encontré dos tesoros. Este año me empeñé en encontrarlos todos y aqui están. Cada vez que encontraba un tesoro y escuchaba el sonido del obturador al cerrarse y encapsular una imagen la satisfacción y la alegría me llenaban. Me encanta este juego, porque me ha permitido conocer grandes amig(@)s y porque cada mes nos da una oportunidad de encontrar esos pequeñas instantes que encierran la felicidad. Y como ya hace 6 años que 'la vuelta al mundo' comenzó, el mural esta cada vez más grande y más lleno de momentos y de magia. 
It seems it was only yesterday that I played Treasure Hunt for "La vuelta al Mundo" for the first time, but that was already 3 years ago, when this place was only starting. Lately, it is difficult to find the time to go out and make the effort to play the game every month, but this time I was determined to find all the treasures and here they are. It was, again, so much fun to go around with the camera ready and my eyes and my senses alert, and such a satisfaction whenever I found a treasure and ticked it off the list. Here is the complete set, and here you can see the treasures found all over the world.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pregnancy weight and postpartum body

As girls, as women, it is difficult to talk about our bodies and all the complicated feelings we start harboring towards them as we grow up. It seems one of the biggest taboos is the postpartum body. Everyone seemed so shocked when Kate Middleton proudly showed her belly after giving birth and -oh surprise- she supposedly still looked a few months pregnant. As if by an act of pure magic, women are expected to go back to where they were as soon as the baby is popped out. Bodies are truly miraculous: to think that new beings can grow from what starts as a single cell; that these little wonders of nature can orchestrate their development, coordinate a whole set of new functions, from the synthesis of more than a liter of extra blood** to specifically cater the needs of the wee one, to the creation of a whole, brand new organ (the placenta), and so forth, it is all mind-blowing.

But to pretend or expect that all of these changes, changes that took approximately 10 months to take place, can revert immediately after an event that takes 12-24 hrs is nonsense.


When I was pregnant, I tracked and plotted my weight, for scientific curiosity and to keep a record of what was going on. As a point of comparison, I used an online application that gives you an estimate of an expected healthy pregnancy weight gain (within a range) based on your initial weight and height.  During the first months, the increase in weight was slow, you barely saw any difference. My clothes fit well until I was around 20 weeks pregnant when I finally gave in and started wearing the glorious, elastic maternity jeans. I did have a belly, but at the beginning it was not a round, typical pregnant belly. The last time I weighed myself was at 33 weeks, the day my waters broke and I was admitted at the hospital sometime around 4 a.m. By then I had already put 10 kg (22 lb). I think, had I reached full-term, I was probably going to put around 12 kg (26.5 lb).

33 weeks pregnant, 1 day postpartum, 1 week postpartum

 When I gave birth, I lost around 4 kg (baby Y. weighed 1.9 kg), and  my weight stayed that way for quite a while.  At around 8 weeks postpartum, a couple of weeks after the "official" 6-weeks recovery period, I had lost a further 3 kg, which means I still had around 3 kg. left.  At 12 weeks postpartum I was 1.5 kg above my pre-pregnancy weight. However, though, some of my pre-pregnancy pants (albeit elastic corduroys) fit almost straight away. I tried my most beloved pair of jeans at about 5 weeks post-partum. I was so determined to make sure they'd close that in doing so, I ripped the zipper.

2, 3 and 5 weeks postpartum respectively

But I think by around 3 months post-baby and after a trip to the tailor I started wearing them again. I had read stories of women who even when all of the pregnancy weight is gone end up with a different body shape. (This, by the way, is completely natural: bodies change with time, with continual exposition to hormonal cycles, with age related processes, with variations in metabolism). I certainly have a soft, curviness that wasn't there before, but I don't think my hips got wider after pregnancy and birth (probably because at 33, they had already done so).

Weeks 6, 10, 12 postpartum

This morning, 6 months and a half after baby Y's birth, I weighed myself and I am now 1.5 kg under my pre-pregnancy weight. I kind of suspected this because some clothes that used to fit just well are  starting to fall down my hips these last few weeks. I have the appetite of a trucker, I am taking  vitamins specifically designed for breastfeeding as well as lots of good fats and protein sources (plenty of avocados, chia seeds, full fat yoghurt, orange juice, eggs, beans, lentils, and red meat whenever I crave it).  I make sure I am eating enough. (But maybe I'm not?)  I credit breastfeeding for this apparent speed in my metabolism, though I still have to set myself up to start some kind of exercise routine to make my core stronger and to get some kind of semblance of fitness, even if such program takes place in the living room. Do you know of any good programs to follow? Preferably easy ones for a girl who has never been the sporty kind?

This weekend, 27 weeks postpartum. Note the flamingo obsession.

On a related note, have you heard of the 4th trimester bodies project? I think what this photographer is doing is amazing, empowering, and truly needed.

* First image via Elle Nederland
** Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy. Hytten F. Clin Haematol. 1985 Oct;14(3):601-12.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thinking about online security

A few weeks ago, rather accidentally, as the boy was looking for the website of a friend of his who's a photographer, we discovered that many, many posts of this blog had been stolen and posted in some random website. They took photos from the blog as well as arbitrary pieces of text (not complete posts, just some paragraphs here and there) and pasted them in several articles on a website. It seems to me that it was done by someone "playing" on wordpress, trying to learn how it works. There are of course no links back here, no way to comment on said blog, and no information about the "author". No email, nothing. We contacted the company hosting said website and we have had no answer. I do not know how to proceed from here. Some of the photos were just of museums and the things I cook or our city outings and such, but others were personal photos. I know I am naive, I knew this could happen at any moment, but I just trusted that almost no one was reading my ramblings and that those of you who were here, regularly, were here with good intentions (as I know you are).

As a result, I am a lot more wary of the things I share online, of what could happen. So, when I was contacted by SingleHop  (a provider of cloud hosting and IT infrastructure services), asking if I would like to write a post in collaboration with them about how to be safe online, mentioning the top 3 things I wouldn't ever share on the big wide internet, I agreed.
Three Pieces of Personal Information To Never Share Online

There are a lot of ways to share information about yourself on the Internet. Social media like Facebook and Twitter ask for a lot of this information during account creation. As we all know, this information is then displayed to anybody who stops by your page. Unfortunately, cyber crime is becoming more commonplace on the Internet. There is some information that should best be under limited sharing or never shared online to help keep you and your family safe. For instance:

Your Full Name and Birthdate
Both of these pieces of information should be kept off the Internet whenever possible. There are viruses that can target company servers that have your personal information stored in their database. Your full name and birthdate can be used to open up false accounts in your name. This is called identity theft. Identity theft can easily wreak havoc on your life, and it can take months or years to fix the damage it causes.

Your Home Address / Home town

There are many websites online that ask for your address as part of your membership creation. Once they have this information, they can do anything that they want with it. This can create situations where you're receiving mail advertisements from a company you've never heard of. While that may only be a nuisance, some of the mail that you receive could be a scam set up with the intent of stealing some piece of your financial information like your bank account or credit card number.

Your Real-time location
For a lot of people, posting where they are on Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare seems like a harmless way to tell friends and family what they're up to. However, this type of information can set you up to be the victim of crime. While you may only intend for friends and family to see your message, certain websites allow anyone who looks at your page to see what you posted by default. This means that your home could be burglarized because you're not there, or you could be kidnapped or attacked if you're out by yourself. These kinds of updates make it easier for criminals to act against you.

I truly feel this is important to share because it is easy to forget the scope of the Internet and what can happen when we post our information. The Internet is a great tool and resource for everybody, but, we often seem to forget, it is not without danger. We should study  privacy settings to make sure they are set up correctly on social media websites so that only the people you want viewing your posts are able to.

This is a non-sponsored post written in conjunction with SingleHop, a provider of cloud hosting and IT infrastructure services. They are based out of Chicago, IL, and pride themselves on their customer service. If you’d like to learn more about SingleHop and their products and services, check them out here.

I know a lot of this might seem obvious, we've heard these messages a million times, over and over again, and I feel a little bit silly posting stuff that everyone knows, yet, we can never be too careful. I guess I am still in shock at what happened, even if it seems harmless and spammy. Maybe I am paranoid, but now that we have a tiny one, the urge and need to protect her is extremely strong. I wish we could be more open and carefree, but I guess a bubble has been burst. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Breakfasts!

Last week I joined Marcela and Claire Stone on their 'Happy Detox Breakfast Challenge'. The truth is that as much as we (try to) eat mostly healthy food, breakfast is always, well, a challenge, because:

a). We adore sweet stuff: 1. Toast with butter, jam and a cup of tea, or 2. sugar-loaded box muesli with yoghurt are both fast, easy, convenient and delicious alternatives.

b). We tend to always go with options 1 or 2 above. Maybe pancakes, omelettes or sunny-side ups when we are feeling fancy on the weekends.

When I read about the challenge, consisting of a "change of usual breakfasts for the ones suggested, as a fun way to get thinking about breakfast differently, swapping sugary cereal for something seasonal" I was all in.  I mean, last summer I already hosted a bunch of you for 'The Breakfast Club' guest post series, in order to get inspired by your breakfasts, so I thought this might be just what we needed.

I have to say that I loved it and that I was surprised. The smoothies (all fruit, cereal, vegetable milks) were really life-changing. There was one that tasted like ice-cream and did not have any dairy in it. I already loved avocados, and I had once a million years ago during a beach vacation tried a coconut milk + banana + avocado milkshake, but I had forgotten how good this stuff is. To be repeated. I don't even know why I did not do this before, since avocado is probably my favorite  fruit (yup, it's a fruit).

Then, yesterday I made granola from scratch at home for the first time and it was so satisfying! I might never get it out of a box anymore!

The only thing that made me sad is the realization, once again, that "healthy eating" has to be so pricey, because the system is pretty much messed up. I mean, eating everything local, organic and non processed is crazy expensive (at least here), so much, that it is kind of a luxury. For example, 400gr. of quinoa (good for maybe 2 meals) is EUR 5. If you compare to 1 EUR for 1 kg of rice (which lasts at least 4 meals, maybe more) it is just not possible to substitute one for the other unless you really are not on a budget at all. Or if you want to replace milk with almond milk, it’s just really hard. We pay 0.6 EUR for 1L of milk, however you pay around 2 EUR for vegetable milks or around 3-4 EUR for a bag of almonds with which you can make the milk yourself. (Of course I could just stop drinking all milk and dairy products, but cheese!) Rice and Oat milks are an option, but their nutritional value is not comparable (they are both kind of low in protein).There were a couple of ingredients that I just omitted from the detox (millet flakes and raw cacao nibs) because they were 4 EUR and 6 EUR for 250 gr respectively.

I do realize this is all because after the "progress" in the food industry that happened after World War II we have gotten used to cheap food, but this is at the expense of our farmers, the environment, animal welfare… In countries like France or Switzerland.some farms only continue to exist because of government subsidies, otherwise they would be forced to close down. It seems that we are just not willing to pay for the real price of our food. At the same time I strongly believe that access to healthy food should not be a luxury. It blows my mind that highly processed food is actually way cheaper than simple vegetables and fruits, because these industrial processes are not even cheap. I guess we have to go back to the start: bartering, urban farming, following nature’s rythms. (There is a very interesting discussion on all of these issues on the 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' review for the #betterinrealifereadinglist).

What do you usually have for breakfast?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The bickering

The other day I read an article: 'Before I forget, what nobody remembers about new motherhood'. It was one of the most honest accounts of what happens right after you have a baby:

"...the post-partum experience (...) is immensely, bizarrely complicated. It is, at various times and for various people, grueling and joyful and frightening and beautiful and disorienting and moving and horrible. (...) It's hard to remember how distressing sleep-deprivation is when we're not actually experiencing it. It's hard to explain how upsetting it is when your baby cries.  You may find yourself a little weepy at the end of a cold, gray day in which you accomplished nothing but half a load of laundry, now moldering in the washer since the baby's surprisingly early awakening from her morning nap. You may find yourself unreasonably irritable when your partner calls to say that he or she is going to be home from work thirty minutes late."

I had read all kinds of books to try and prepare for what was going to happen. I read about childbirth, I read about breastfeeding, I read about French parenting strategies and about child development. But for some reason it didn't occur to me to read about how lack of sleep, tiredness and hormones would affect my mood, about the "biochemical forces moving within my body and beyond my control". 

I am not proud of this, but those first days were particularly hard because I got grumpy, I often snapped at the husband, at my mom, at anyone, really. I felt like I constantly had to prove whatever it is I was trying to say or else people wouldn't listen to me, wouldn't take me seriously. Mark and I had never really fought before. At the most, during simple discussions we would both go hang out to our own little corners of stubbornness for a couple of hours and then made up because being angry at each other was worse and less important than whatever it was we were arguing about.

It gets difficult when you have a child, a child whom you both love strongly and fiercely wish to protect, and then you don't really agree on how to do A or B or C. Simple stuff like "does she need an extra blanket?" or "well, I'll keep my sign there because I hate it when people touch her hands or face if I don't know they are clean" can turn into arguments.

It is something we are navigating together, something we are working on and getting better at with every day that passes. But I wish somehow, somewhere there had been a book, an article, someone that could have alerted me this was about to happen. That my mood was going to be dramatically affected, that my views on certain things were going to suddenly be very strong. All I can say now is that kindness, tolerance and being able to communicate are vital.Oh, and remembering that we are a team, that we are in this together, not against each other on a competition to see who is right. Of course we knew this, but we had not really had to live it.

Has this happened to you or am I crazy?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little free library, Minibieb, Kinderzwerfboek.

 The other day Mark came home for work and told me he had seen something from the window of his car while driving around and he wanted us to go explore it further. He said it was a little box filled with books outside of a house he passed and that it seemed that it was open to the public.

And indeed it was. Did you know about the 'Little Free Library' initiative? I didn't, but I am beyond excited. The concept, as it name says, is having small bookshelves with free access to books all over the world, on a "take one, leave one" premise. The movement started in the USA but it has soon spread everywhere. I am so excited to go on an urban search looking for more of these! Zarawitta and NLE I am looking at you and daring you too: there are two in Mexico, one in Mexico city and a second one in Guadalajara. 

In The Netherlands there is a similar initiative called 'Minibieb' (Mini bibliotheek), you will find a bunch of these in children petting farms (kinderboerderijen). And there is even more. On one of our walks I found a book laying on top of a bench, forgotten, apparently. The boy hates it when I pick up, or even observe, dirty 'junk' that lays in the world. But I saw a children's book that had a sticker on it that read: "Neem me mee, lees me... en laat me weer zwerven" (Take me, read me and let me roam again). And so I took it. This time the idea of "sending your books on a trip and following their adventures", or Kinderzwerfboek, comes from the National Fund for Children (Nationaal fonds kinderhulp).

 This makes me so, so happy. I've ranted before on how it makes me sad that over here access to so-called public libraries is no longer free for everyone (only for those under 18) because of lack of subsidies.

This kind of social, independent reactions to the system is what really makes the world a different, friendlier place for everyone.  Have you found any of this boxes of magic in your area?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The beach, parks, summer...

I spend a lot of time taking long walks with baby Y. on the stroller, because lately it's one of the only ways in which I manage to make her sleep. I don't mind though, because the weather has been glorious and I love going on city hikes.

Last Friday I decided to head towards the beach. I had ice-cream, I people-watched, I smothered the kid in sunblock and absolutely enjoyed every ray of sunlight. It was almost too warm, because after spending the first half of the day at the park and the second one near the sea I was exhausted. I also felt guilty because it felt so much like a holiday but the boy was stuck at work. And I wanted more. So, even-though rain had been announced we decided to take our chances and went again on Saturday. The sun came out again, we had tea and sandwiches at the terrace of the Kurhaus of Scheveningen.  We had plans to go to the Aquarium, but alas it got late and we had to go back for an appointment. (It got even later because just before we took the bus back home I went to get us ice-cream and we didn't finish it on time). We are going to have to plan that outing soon. Y. can look at the reflections in a bottle of water for entertainment and she always seems so mesmerized by light that I am sure she will enjoy looking at the little fish swimming around.

I always thought I would baby-wear a lot more than I am doing it. But even-though we have a structured carrier, and a couple of baby wraps, I am never confident enough to use the baby carriers outside of the house and I am always kind of jealous of moms who've mastered the art. I do baby-wear her at home, mostly to sleep her, and she loved being carried at the airport, and on short trips to get errands. Yet, I don't know what I'm afraid of. I guess it's because she did not immediately like being worn. She fought so hard against it those first months. I had to train her to accept it... it's just not as smooth as going out with the stroller (though getting ready to go out with it and everything that we need is our own moving circus). I'm thinking I should just try and go for a walk with it to see what happens. If you have a kid are you more of a stroller-person or more of a baby-wearer? What are your secrets to the latter?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

So, I'm back...

Finally babywearing! It's been a struggle... Y. used to refuse being held, though I've always dreamt of being a kangaroo-mom

It has been quiet around here because we went back home to Mexico for a full month. I was kind of unplugged from the internet. To be honest, the real reason for the disconnected-ness was that we brought so much stuff that my laptop just did not fit in our hand luggage.I say kind of because I was reading and checking in on the usual social media, but I was not as active as I usually am.

The finished goodie-bags for our fellow airplane travelers. Y. behaved, engines are magic.

It is always invigorating to go back home, to spend time with family and close friends, to eat familiar food, to stay in the house I grew up in, to take walks in the center and stop for ice-cream or treats at places where I used to hang out as a teenager.

Then, it's always difficult to come back to Europe. Packing, saying goodbye just before going through immigration, getting on the airplane... it always makes me cry. And yet, our life is now here, our home, our new routines.

We did so much, and it was so different, going there with baby Y. We were so enveloped by love and care from so. many. people.It was humbling.  We organized her Baptism, we went to the Baptism of a close friends' baby boy, we visited Mark's dad, we went on short day-trips to places Mark hadn't been to yet. I spent my birthday in Mexico for the first time in 9 years, that is, since I turned 25. Time literally flew away and now we are back... without knowing when we'll go back again. And yet, just last weekend was nice and busy. We finally met some of the couples from our childbirth's class for a picnic at the park and on Sunday we went to a baby-shower and then watched the soccer game with another Mexican-Dutch family.

I am still processing everything that happened, getting over jet-lag, unpacking, organizing and getting used to our days again. Yu changed so much in a month. She wants to sit all the time, she laughs, she is interactive, she can hold her own hands, she grabs objects, she's started teething, she's learning how to sleep by herself and we are starting to move her to her "big baby" crib in her own room at night.

Luckily, we've come to long, warm, summer days and so the transition is not as difficult as coming home in the middle of the winter. What have you been up to?

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