Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gift from the Stork

Our family grew by two feet overnight! A beautiful baby girl arrived at 1:10am on her due date. The home birth went perfectly, and she was delivered in the comfort of our living room. Ellie slept through the whole thing, despite some extremely loud and seriously sub-human noises Jennifer made during the pushing phase. The home birth experience was incredible, and we cannot recommend it more highly to anyone having a normal, natural birth. We felt as comfortable as possible, and the experience was so intimate. The focus was really on us, rather than the procedure as in a hospital. The midwife was there to help us have our baby, and afterward baby was given to Mama while recovery started at a natural pace. Baby was allowed to discover the breast on her own, enabling a perfect latch based on pure instinct. The entire experience was truly beautiful! Ellie could not be more proud of her baby sister, and she has been as sweet as can be to her today. She holds her so gently, gives her kisses and hugs, spent a good while discovering all her tiny features, and proudly pronounced her to be "ganz [very] small!"

You've probably noticed our new one's missing name, but it will be revealed shortly. Patience is required when a very Libra mama is involved.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Here we go!

Good thing I wasn't too argumentative as to contradict Markus on his timing guess. The midwife has been here to check, and things are underway! Look for a new posting sometime tomorrow or maybe the next day, but unless something unexpected happens, Markus is the date guessing winner (possibly to be shared by Azure if this lasts past midnight)!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Latest Pics

I have a few unrelated pictures from the past couple of days that I want to share, so we're just going to have a little photo posting.

First off: the two deranged animals who live with us. Bandit is the orange beast and Smokey is the grey one. Yes, our cats are Smokey and the Bandit. Hardy-har-har! Bandit has no shame. He is a slave to the love, and he must be draped over Markus at every opportunity. Smokey is slightly more dignified about it, preferring to snuggle in the crook behind the knees. I know the photo is blurry, but sometimes you just have to photograph your cats. Cat people know and understand this. I know the rest of you never will, so just skip right along to photo #2.

Those of you familiar with my passion for education are also aware of my enthusiasm for the Montessori method for children 5 and under. I have recently learned that Maria Montessori was living in The Netherlands at the time of her death, and she had requested to be buried where she died rather than returned to her homeland of Italy. The little town where she was living is Noordwijk aan Zee, a small beach town not far from The Hague. When I learned this, I knew I'd have to find the spot and pay my respects. Maria Montessori was an innovative and dedicated educator, committed to helping children develop into respectful, peaceful, independent contributors to their families, society, and (together) the world. Her methodology was radical for its time and continues to be highly relevant (though underutilized) today. She was a great lady, and I am happy I was able to go visit her resting place this past Sunday afternoon and tell her thank you.

Last but certainly never least, Ellie and I made our weekly Monday trip to the zoo today. The weather was sunny and pleasant and schools are out on holiday (unbeknownst to me until this morning), so most of Holland decided to do the same thing. The zoo was a ZOO! We tried to see a few of our favorites, and then we stopped for lunch in the Riverhall, where we made the best discovery of all: the prismatic effect! Sunlight streaming through a window and glancing off the edge of a large fish tank produced a rainbow on the floor. I tried explaining it to Ellie, but she was far more fascinated that I could make the rainbow appear on my hand. Who knew it would get extra thrilling when she made it appear on her shoes and pants?! We played in that rainbow for at least 5 minutes until the sun dipped behind the clouds.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Contest re-opened

Back by popular demand, the date guessing contest is officially reopened. Many thanks to my mom for finding the magic words to make me completely mellow about the waiting period. I can now sit back, relax, and just wait to see if anyone guesses the day baby already has in mind. Be sure to make your guess clear. No cheating by stating a date and a day that don't match (ahem, Meghan with Tuesday the 21st), and be sure to enter a gender guess for a bonus prize. The contest should be a little easier now, since the official due date looms (27th) and we can only go a maximum of two weeks beyond before the medical profession will intervene.

School days

I've been meaning to do an update about Ellie's school, but I just haven't gotten around to it. Thank you, Azure, for reminding me!

Ellie LOVES her school! We couldn't be happier with it. I was very apprehensive about sending her because we found out about its availability pretty much at the same time she started, so I hadn't prepared her or myself for the change in routine. However, as I wrote in the first post about it, I had an great impression from the start and I'm thrilled to say that impression has held. The school is excellently run. The teachers are kind and compassionate. The order of the classroom is amazing. The theme for this session is "family", and their group talk time discussions and craft projects all center on the theme. Their classroom crafts are displayed until the end of the session, and then the teachers gather them into binders which get sent home after the school year. They also work on phonics, colors, counting, shapes...(actually, all stuff Ellie knows, but she does have a teacher mama). They have a lovely routine (which is fabulous for Ellie because she really likes knowing what to expect) which allows for a lot of freedom of choice for the children (again fabulous for Miss Strong-Willed, Independent Wonder). Ellie really likes her teachers, especially Miss Marie, the head teacher in her class. Ellie paints a picture every day, and we have quite an extensive collection of her artwork already. Initially I had hoped to display her artwork as she created it, but since we have a daily painting, I may just have to take photos of each and display them in weekly or even monthly units. She is very matter-of-fact about her art. How so? On the first day, when she completed her painting, Sarah (one of the assistants) was taking it off the easel and asked Ellie to tell her what she painted. Ellie looked at her long and hard, took a deep breath and said, "Blue. Green. Red."
Well, obviously.

The school is concerned with legal issues of parents taking clear photos with other children in them and circulating such photos, so I haven't been able to capture school days as I would like to. I did get this one shot of her classroom through the window when I picked her up a few weeks ago, just so we could share the basic layout of the class (it's so nice they have so much space and light!), and of course, there's a shot of the super-happy critter at the end of her busy morning being dismissed by her favorite teacher, Marie.

School is only 2.5 hours three times a week, but we're so happy she enjoys it so much!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


If you think you're going crazy wondering if I've had the baby or not and, if not, when it will come, realize you aren't the one with a wiggly bowling ball in your pelvis and you might imagine how crazy it has been making me.
Markus and out-of-favor midwife both think this baby will follow the same schedule Ellie did and will arrive on-time (next Wednesday, the 27th) or maybe a day or two earlier. The moms who are convinced I'm having a boy are also convinced I will be late. One person has just registered a vote for two days late based purely on the cool factor of a Leap Year birthdate. I feel much more centered on the subject after a casual reminder from my mom to savor these remaining days of Ellie being an only child (a really good point! Thanks, Mom!). At any rate, feel safe in assuming that no posts means no news. Even with a newborn freshly hatched, I probably won't be able to resist sneaking to the computer to blog about him or her...and of course, show off pictures of his/her tiny, scrunchy, red little self.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Still waiting

Another two guesses bite the dust, but we have date claims every day for the next 4 days. Thursday is a full moon, which I'm told gets babies moving. We will see! So far, the baby is being a tease. I had contractions off and on all day yesterday, but they never developed a pattern and overnight they went away again. This has convinced two other moms here that we're having a boy who just wants life on his own terms. I just think we're having a baby who takes after Markus; baby has taken one glance at the temperatures and says there's no way he/she is coming out while it's this darn cold.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kroeller-Mueller Museum

This morning, we awoke to brightly sunny skies and freezing temperatures. It was a beautiful day to be out and about, but the temperatures told us "in and about" would be much smarter. With that in mind, Markus suggested we take a drive out of the city to the national park at De Hoge Veluwe and visit the Kroeller-Mueller museum. The Kroeller-Mueller Museum features a massive private collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings, and today we got to see quite a few new-to-us beauties. Remarkably, the museum allowed photography as long as there was no flash, so we managed to capture a few images to bring home with us. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of Jennifer's new favorite, a version of "Sunflowers" Van Gogh painted in 1887 that looks nothing like the uber-famous nearly-all-in-gold tones "Sunflowers" that Jennifer (okay, so lynch me now) doesn't really like. Here are a few beauties we'd like to share, just to give you a taste of what was on display today:

No stranger to museum strolls, Ellie made herself right at home, walking confidently from room to room, giving each work a casual appraisal before moving on. She also tested out the comfort of the occasional bench we came across...

Here, surrounded by studies for Van Gogh's "Potato Eaters", Ellie was overwhelmed by the darkness of the paint and needed to lie down.

To round out our fabulous day of new experiences, Ellie received a very special present this afternoon: a new bicycle. She has been fixated on children's bicycles for a few weeks now, which is a rarity for her (she is usually content to see but not have things). She asks often about bikes, and that makes sense given the prolific nature of cyclists here. Today, we found a bicycle in just her size. Though she has no interest in working her legs to make the pedals move (yet), she is most thrilled and proud to have a bike of her own, complete with baby seat for Lolo.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Belly update: no posts, no news

The 37 week mark came and went, so three of us are out of the running for the guessing game prize.
Today is gail's day of choice, and we've got another six hours to go. She tends to do very well in competitions, so I'm not ruling it out yet...but so far, no go.
Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are all claimed dates too, so we'll see.
The midwife who irks me thinks I have at least another week, if not longer, but I don't trust her. After all, even after the ridiculous ultrasound experience (providing concrete proof!), she STILL isn't convinced about position (a known factor) but she's very certain of the arrival date (a total unknown).
Markus still thinks boy close to the due date (in the 20s somewhere), so we'll just keep waiting.
Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Determine Whether or Not You've Exhausted Your Toddler

She goes down for a nap in the big girl bed and actually falls asleep there.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Belly pics

I have been nagging Markus for a while to take some belly pics. We thought of it after the fact with Ellie, and I wanted something to show for these nine months. Today, the weather turned gorgeous and gave us a great opportunity for pics at the beach, where we'd gone for a lunch picnic. I just wanted a simple side shot so we could see the belly so close to go-time, but we got the wonderful bonus of Ellie's belly love. Ellie LOVES the belly. Every day, she wants to look at it, talk to it, hold it, touch it, kiss it, hug it... She is sooooo sweet to the belly. Her love insists on seeing the bare belly up close and personal; none of this hiding beneath layers business (thus the exposed belly in the pics; this was Ellie's doing and insistence). As soon as I took off my jacket for the picture, she wanted to commune with the here we have the long-awaited belly pics with beautiful Ellie love too!

Each time after she's done a thorough touch/listen/look with the belly, Ellie asks, "Baby come out?" Not yet, sweetie. After contemplation, "When baby come out, Ellie hold it." She's going to be a wonderful big sister.

Friday, February 08, 2008

We gotta boogie!

We may have missed the year of disco Muses, but we still know how to party!

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"Dutch Story of the Month"

During my midwife appointment this week, I believe my midwife was having an off-day. In the practice I use, there are four midwives, and the one I saw this week was one I hadn't seen before. The appointment was rather unusual. At every other appointment, they check my blood pressure, do a dipstick in the urine sample, and then I hop up on the exam table (clothed) for a touch exam of the belly to check baby position and response before they listen to the heartbeat. That's it. It's gloriously brief and non-medical. They've been telling me since 30 weeks that this baby's head is down, and as you already know, at week 36 the midwife told me that the baby's head is WAY DOWN and in take-off position.
So here we are at the week 37 appointment with a different midwife than the others I've seen, and she can't tell if the head is down or not. "Oh, you're engaged all right, but I just can't tell if it's the head or the behind." Hmph. People, I can tell that the head is down (when I reported this to my girlfriend here, she said even she could tell just looking at me that the head is down, so what the???). When the feet are in your ribs, it's a good hint; an even better hint is a soft bumpy mass (butt) up near your ribs instead of a hard round mass (head). But then she proceeds to acknowledge the elbows as the feet (um, wrong end, wrong side) and says she's not sure of position even though my belly is lopsided with the baby's back clearly on the left. Her exam continues with enough pressure to be mildly painful, and still she can't tell. So now comes the joy of an internal exam. This is really not fun, and after that, she STILL can't tell. Now I have to get an ultrasound to be sure the baby isn't breech. Of course, they don't have ultrasound equipment, so I have to make an appointment somewhere else and it must be done this week (if you know anything about life in the Netherlands, getting an appointment for anything straight away is a laughing matter). All this, and she doesn't even check the heartbeat. I just have to go with the she-was-having-an-off-day assumption, because otherwise I will hate her and she will be the one to show up for my delivery. Despite the large inconvenience of all this to me, I can't blame the midwife practice for insisting I have another ultrasound. After all, it IS important to be sure the baby isn't breech. Although I'm convinced there is no problem, it would be rather awful to be wrong on such an important issue. If the butt was indeed wedged in take-off position instead of the head, it could be an emergency situation calling for a C-section and risking the baby's life if we didn't know until pushing started, so being sure with an ultrasound is a good thing, though in my opinion completely unnecessary.

Well...the ultrasound was today, and here's where the good story begins.

Due to the "emergency" nature of my ultrasound, the midwife practice had to make the appointment for me. They insist on using my maiden name on all my records (standard practice in Holland) although my name is legally changed and I don't use the maiden name at all. They made my ultrasound appointment at the Westeinde Hospital rather than Bronovo, which I can only assume was done because it would have been TOO OBVIOUS to use the hospital close to my home where I'm already registered (okay, it's possible they were booked, but really it was very silly). The only appointment they could get this week was for 10am. I drop Ellie off at school at 9am in another part of town. It took me 50 minutes of nothing but red lights to reach the hospital, where I still had to register before my appointment.

The registration process hands-down wins my "Dutch Story of the Month" award.

When I was called up to the desk, I told her I have an appointment made for me by my midwife but I need to register with their system, as I've never been to their hospital before. The registration lady asks for photo ID and my insurance card; I hand her my Dutch drivers license for ID and my health insurance card. She starts typing in info. She looks at her screen. She looks closer. Then she looks at me and asks the street name where I live. When I tell her, she tells me I have been to the hospital before. Surely I would have remembered this, but somehow I don't. I say cheerfully that I'm sure I haven't been there, but then she tells me in a voice dripping with annoyance that indeed I have or I wouldn't be in the computer. I ask if it's possible my midwife gave them that information to make the appointment, and she doesn't answer because now she's glaring at my driver's license. "What is your name?" Ignoring the fact that she's staring hard at a photo ID of me with my name in bold type, I tell her. She says, "No, it's not." Apparently, I fail the pop quiz on my own name. Stubbornly (while trying not to giggle), I insist that I'm pretty sure that's my name. "No." Hmmm. How to respond? Finally, she looks up, glaring at me with total annoyance and sharply demands my family name. I give it to her. "NO." Grasping at straws for the right answer, I offer my maiden name and hit the jackpot. "Yes, IN HOLLAND, we use our father's name, not the husband. Your driver's license is wrong." She looks at me hard, but I just don't know what response I'm supposed to offer here. Getting a driver's license in this country is no walk in the park and requires excessive documentation, so surely someone at City Hall would have caught my error had I made one. I told her that none of my legal documents (passport, residence visa, etc.) use my maiden name, but she is still holding my license hostage. "Well, your license is wrong." She won't give it back.

Am I confused? Did I have a traffic accident and wind up in traffic court with my license being legitimately questioned, or am I just registering for an ultrasound appointment?

At length, her colleague decides to jump in. She has an apologetic tone as she explains that in Holland, they do indeed use the father's name, but they know that "in America AND Turkey" (with emphasis, so I know this insanity isn't limited to one country) they don't use it after they marry. She tries explaining to the peeved registration lady that it's okay that I don't use my maiden name and that it's all right to enter my married name in the system. Peeved Registration Lady is having none of it. She holds my license in her colleague's face and insists that I have a DUTCH license so it should be the DUTCH WAY. Again, Colleague Woman is apologetic. She explains gently to me that they believe this practice of changing names is "ridiculous" and "cannot understand it." After all, people get divorced and then women still have their husbands' name and then what are they supposed to enter into the computer?! At this point, all I can think about is blogging the whole encounter as a way to suppress my giggles. Could this have gotten any less relevant to reality, I ask you? At least Peeved Registration Lady decides that calling me "ridiculous" (however indirectly) is satisfying enough that she returns my "wrong" license.

The ultrasound was fine, by the way. The man looked stupified that I was even there. At the end, the best he could offer was maybe the midwife just couldn't tell because the head was "so far down. This baby is really engaged!"
Yes, I know.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Place your bets!

In less than 4 hours, I will officially reach the 37 week mark of this pregnancy, which is the starting point for home birth potential. Before 37 weeks (even 36 weeks and 6 days), the baby is considered too pre-term and risky to have at home or even in hospital with a midwife, and the mother would be transferred to a gynocologist (whom she's never before seen or even met) at the hospital and left to labor in a hospital room with a monitor and occasional checks from a nurse until go-time. Sounds awfully impersonal and medical to me, especially since at 37 weeks I can at least keep my midwife even if I go to the this is the mark we've been waiting for in recent days. Why do I even bring this up? Baby 2 has dropped WAY DOWN. My belly resembles a ski slope. Kiddo is in position and ready for take-off. Of course, the midwife pointed out last week that this doesn't mean the baby will come early. Second babies tend to get into position faster because the body knows where to stuff them. That being said, she eyeballed me and said she didn't think it would come that week. Uh-huh. Then, our prenatal class teacher last night repeated the same info to the group (as I'm the only second-time mom in there and they were all eyeing me with trepidation lest I give birth before the coffee break)...but then she remarked later in the class that she isn't sure I'll be there next week. The professionals won't say it directly, but they clearly think I'm going early.
Early on in the pregnancy, I had a dream that the baby would come at 37 weeks. My mom recently had the same dream. As did a girlfriend of mine. This particular girlfriend is convinced I'm going to go into labor sometime tomorrow. She thinks my body is just waiting out that 37 week mark, and then it will just go wild. She's so convinced that when I called her to ask a quick question, she picked up the phone breathless and asked if I was in labor already. I think she's more prepared for this than we are. I feel like she should win a prize if she's correct, which brings us to the subject line of this post: place your bets.
For those of you who are pregnancy rookies, the typical pregnancy lasts between 38 and 42 weeks. 40 weeks is the "due date" (for us, that's Feb 27), but statistically few people actually deliver on that date. Every Wednesday rolls over another week (37, 38, 39...). When do you think this baby will come? If you guess correctly (gotta have a date, but don't bother with a time unless you're feeling very Type A), you win a prize! I promise it won't be anything gross. Enter your guess in the comment section (only those with names visible to all will count, so no email guesses) and we'll see who's right. Bonus prize if you guess the gender too (though you must have the date to win). For now, only baby knows for sure.

Big girl bed

Every day at naptime, Ellie wants to sleep in the big girl bed...but as I mentioned in a previous post, she doesn't tend to stay there once I leave the room. To date, I don't know that I've ever checked in during her nap and found her in the bed. She's usually on the floor (since we've taken away the changing table), though never in the same spot. I think she just plays or complains about her imprisonment until she passes out where she stands. It's pretty darn cute, actually. Even cuter are the carpet marks in her cheek each time she wakes up.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday afternoon fun

Now that our little monkey is happy again and the weather was pleasantly sunny (though freezing!), we made good use of the afternoon having serious fun in the back garden with bubbles and later inside with ball catching.

bubbles are meant to be stomped

Bandit does some bubble chasing of his own

Ellie taking seriously Papa's advice that she watch the ball carefully

While we're on the subject of afternoon fun, a few weekends ago, Ellie got her first kite, which we took for a test run on the Malieveld (big grassy field) near our house. After she and Papa got it high into the air, she was so proud to hold the string herself and control her kite on her own. "By self" is very important these days, and handling the kite independently was extra joy for her (watching her little proud expression was extra joy for us).

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Better days

After the typical feet-dragging on the part of our real estate agents, we did get a repairman to fix the heat yesterday afternoon! Hooray! I hopped in the shower within 15 minutes of his departure...what a treat! A hot shower feels like a bigger reward than usual when you have to wait for it like that. Plus, the house was starting to get quite cold. Ellie and I were both bundled up quite a bit for the indoors, so I was relieved she held out for her nap until the heat came back on. Apparently, the high winds came down the chimney and blew out the pilot light in the basement. It's not something that can be re-lit by a civilian, so I'm glad the repairman came when he did (and the wind didn't blow it out on the weekend, when no one would come).

As for the other part of the rough week, we seemed to get our girl back today. We had been caught in a bad cycle related to her cold from last week. She couldn't breathe well because she was stuffy, so she didn't sleep well, so she was cranky when she was awake, so she'd eventually cry and tantrum causing more stuffiness... The lack of good sleep had her waking up every day at 5:30 or so, and then she'd get overtired and wouldn't nap well... It was a mess, but it seems to be passing. She was a happy critter all morning, even when we had a sitter come for a few hours so Markus and I could attend a refresher infant & child first aid/CPR course.

Sleeping in the big girl bed continues to be a happy novelty. At night-time, she tends to stay put, but naptime is a different story. The ability to get up and play when she is meant to be sleeping is too much to resist, and she almost always plays quietly in her room for at least 30 minutes after I put her down. The beauty of it is she is super-quiet to avoid detection and feels she's getting away with something, while I'm just happy she's happy and quiet and I have downtime. Today, we had to take the diaper changing table out of her room. Two days ago, I entered her room after her nap to a terrific stench. She was already up on the changing table on her back ready for a change, announcing "Ellie made poo-poo!" Yesterday, I peeked in during her naptime, and she had climbed up and fallen asleep there. Not the safest perch (horrors if she had rolled over and fallen off!), so out went the table. We needed to move it for Baby 2 anyway.

On the Baby 2 front, we are now half-way through week 36. Getting close! We are now in the last month, so who knows when blast-off will be. Keep tuning in for the latest.