In the recent past when I've lapsed between posts, it's been largely because there hasn't been much going on. Not so these past two weeks! We have been busy busy busy (and tired tired tired), so the blog has fallen to the wayside. I thought I'd grab this opportunity to catch you up on the latest goings-on.
The biggest change we've seen in the past two weeks is Ellie has started playgroup. In Holland, it's common for children of preschool age to attend playgroup, which is a sort-of preschool program that only lasts 2.5 hours each day. I have been looking into playgroups for Ellie in The Hague, and she was/is on waiting lists for three. The waiting lists are atrocious here, and I wasn't expecting much to come of it, which didn't bother me much because I'm excessively picky about where she would go and wasn't overly excited about anything I'd seen. An added struggle is that playgroups in The Hague require children to be at least two and a half years old, which happens for Ellie in March...but playgroups follow the school year and start in September. It made placement awkward. Still, we felt it was important to try. We wanted Ellie to have playgroup three days a week in the morning, especially after the baby comes so she'll have opportunities to play with other children that she can look forward to and I don't have to arrange.
Last Monday, I decided to contact a highly recommended British model playgroup in Voorburg, the next town over. I sent an inquiry email and received a call-back that afternoon with an invite to visit the following day. On Tuesday morning we went for a visit, and Ellie joined right in! After learning about the curriculum design and daily routine and seeing the environment for myself, I felt this would be a great spot for her. As it turns out, they just resumed after the holiday break and had openings immediately, only requiring children to be age 2 (smaller towns don't seem to sweat that extra 6 months). Ellie started on Thursday, and she will attend every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning.
This has been a big adjustment for both Jennifer and Ellie. I had initial big Mama guilt about sending her straight off, since I've always planned on that happening in March or April. I wasn't ready! But she was, and that's what cinched it. This was the first school (I call it that instead of playgroup) that fit all my picky picky criteria, but even better was that it seemed to fit Ellie's. She was happy there during the visit, and we decided to keep the momentum. We're happy too that this can be an established routine before the baby comes, so it's not going to be one more change for her to accept.
The adjustment for Ellie has been a bit touchy. She has never expressed unwillingness to go or claimed to be unhappy there, but she has expressed unwillingness for me to leave. I have waited until she was distracted each day and literally run away back to the car before she notices. She has been teary through smiles each day when I've picked her up, partly because it's all so new and partly because it just wears her out! This morning, though, that all changed. As soon as I'd taken off her coat, she walked off into her classroom and didn't even look back to wave good-bye. Routine established; Mama is old news.
The timing of the playgroup has been great as I've entered third trimester exhaustion. Sleeping soundly just doesn't happen anymore, though thankfully insomnia has been minimal. I've been so tired most days that I nap when Ellie naps and am a useless lump on the couch after she goes to bed (a big reason why blog-posting has fallen to the wayside). Last Wednesday night I had an unscheduled trip to the midwife at 8pm to check on some vicious Braxton-Hicks contractions. They were too irregular to be labor, but boy were they strong enough! Luckily, they subsided again and haven't returned. Baby is very busy in the belly, and we are getting close! 34 weeks this week! We got a reminder at the scheduled midwife appointment that Markus has to come with me next time so they can share all the labor/birth information with him. I can't believe that's where we are! We even started a "childbirth in Holland" course last week (one more thing on the busy schedule pile).
Although it feels like this topic should be a post of its own, I'm going to keep plugging along while I'm on a roll here. A few weeks ago, we changed midwife clinics from Bronovo hospital to a small practice called Mundo. Why? The Bronovo midwives only do hospital births, and we wanted to give ourselves the option of birthing at home. Home births are still incredibly common in Holland, and we felt if we were to try it, this would be the place. It's very safe and they have very strict eligibility requirements. If they decide at any point in my labor that we need to go to the hospital, Bronovo is only 10 minutes away at most. The nice part is I can also decide right up until the last minute if I want to birth at home or in the hospital. The midwife will just come with me if I change my mind. I like the flexibility, but I really like the idea of a home birth. If we are expected to have a normal, natural birth anyway, why go to the hospital at all, especially when they typically send mom and newborn home again after only a few hours? Once labor starts, the first requirement we have to meet is being at least 37 weeks along. Even 36 weeks and 6 days is too early and they will make me go to the hospital. Of course, there's no way of knowing when this baby will decide to make an appearance, but it's amazing to me that in less than three weeks, we could have the baby here at home if it decided to come. Wow.
Last but not least on the news front is that our water baby has finally regained her confidence in the pool and started swimming on her own this week (with the help of floaties)! When we lived in Qatar, Ellie was in the pool every day and LOVED it! Unfortunately, one awful moment in a swim class here ended all that. The instructor wanted the children to swim unassisted (excepting the floaties) to the other side of the pool. Ellie was new to the group and had never done that before, so I walked right behind her with my arms outstretched so she could touch me for confidence. When the instructor saw what I was doing, she came over and told me to step back, and without any notice, she grabbed Ellie and pushed her away from me in the water. Naturally, Ellie was terrified and began to cry. The crying lasted all that visit to the pool...and has taken MONTHS to undo. Since that moment, Ellie has been timid about the water. She clung to me like velcro in the pool and has been very nervous when it was crowded with other children. I've tried taking her at least once a week to get her reacclimated at her own pace, letting her set the speed and depth we enter the water and the duration of our stay. Sometimes it was as short as 5 minutes; other times, she lasted up to 20.
This week, she spontaneously asked to "do it by self" and paddled happily next to me for a minute or two before clinging again, though the fear seemed to be gone. I was so excited that I brought her back to the pool again two days later, and she walked right in and didn't stop for nearly 25 minutes! She swam and swam and swam, only taking a few short breaks to rest at the side of the pool or on my arm. She was so happy and proud! I wish there had been some way for me to record it on video or with a photo, because her smile was incredible! She wasn't at all interested in me guiding her or holding onto her. She is a free water baby once more!
So, yes, that's it! Whew! What a full two weeks we've had! We have plans for every day this weekend as well, and then next week it all begins again. We hope to take Ellie to the pool on Saturday morning so she can show off her new skills for Papa. If we make it (it's supposed to be rainy so the pool may be too crowded for her), we will take some pictures to share. Hope all is well on your end! Please keep the comments flowing. We enjoy hearing from friends and family!