Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sleeping babies

This morning we drove again to the Burgers Zoo near Arnhem for some indoor fun and animal-observing. The zoo is beautifully designed, but there is a bit of a trek in the car to get there and back. Ellie ran an almost constant monologue during the drive. When it stopped, we took a look in the back seat and this is what we saw:

As I was uploading those pics, my little companion fell asleep again in my lap.

Stephanie is four and a half weeks old now. Where did that time go? In the past few days, she's suddenly become interested in the world. It just happened, like flipping on a switch. Newborns seem to wake up only for a reason: food, diaper, gas, whatever. When the need is met, they usually drop off again. Now, baby Stephanie wants to see what's going on when she's awake. She gets bored. She sits up tall to take a look around, and she keeps her head up on her own as often as she can (which is quite a lot for a wee one). Ellie was the same way. She just wants to know everything. Not too much to ask, right?

On a personal note, I have to brag about me while I'm bragging about the girls in this family. Yesterday, a girlfriend asked if I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans yet, and I told her truthfully that I really didn't want to know and I hadn't tried. Of course, saying I didn't want to know made me actually want to know, so...TAH-DAH!

I may have a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be a sausage, but I am indeed back in the jeans and am wearing them today. Hooray for me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tulips and Snow

When we first heard the weather forecast for Mimi's visit, we were disappointed: a mix of rain, sleet, hail, wind, snow, and maybe some sun for the next five days. Alas. Indeed, when she first arrived, a messy mix is exactly what we got. Mimi didn't mind, but we were hoping for better venturing weather so we could get out and about more. And then Mimi's wintry wishes came true: it started snowing. Yes, we still got wintry mix and no, it didn't stick much, but we did have snow every day. Beautiful, soft white, drifting, floating snow. Cold-weather-lovin' Mimi couldn't have been happier!

Despite our weariness of the other elements in the wintry mix, we defied dark clouds on Monday and headed to Keukenhof to see the early bloomers. The bulb season has just started, but we were hoping to show Mimi some famous Holland tulip fields in bloom...or at least some cultivated tulips gardens in bloom. Unfortunately, it's still a few weeks too early for most of the tulips, but we had a great time anyway. Keukenhof has gorgeous grounds that were starting to bud, and they maintain an incredible indoor display of greenhouse bulbs in bloom. Best of all was that beautiful, drifting white snow that started shortly after we arrived. I don't think Mimi would have minded walking in that snow even if there were no flowers to see at all.

Apparently, it was also the Dutch Red Hat Society Day at Keukenhof. Whether or not this was official, I cannot say, but there were LOTS of ladies in purple and red that day.

Alas, Mimi headed home today. We girls piled into the car to drive her to the airport, and off she went! We wish we could see her more often, but we are thankful for the great week we had! If only it could have lasted longer... Jennifer is not very good at letting others help her. Even when completely over-tasked and has obviously helpful people on hand, she still tries to do it all. Take for example last night when she was making dinner and dessert when the baby needed to nurse. Mimi eventually convinced Jennifer she could finish the cupcakes, but even then Jennifer was scrambling to finish on her own, as if Mimi weren't extremely overqualified to scoop batter into muffin cups. Surely Jennifer would have allowed Mimi to take over more as time went on. In another week or so, she might have given up cooking and cleaning to Mimi entirely. On the other hand, maybe Mimi is glad she left before that happened. The house has four floors, after all.
We will certainly miss her! Ellie loved having a Mimi playmate for the past days, and baby Stephanie was happy for the extra loving arms and warm lap.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mimi is here!

Mimi arrived Thursday morning, and we are so happy to have her here! She and Ellie are having a great time together. Ellie wants to tell and show Mimi everything. We've taken advantage of breaks in the crap weather to visit the Mauritshuis and Clingendael, and yesterday we made a trek to Antwerp in search of chocolate and waffles. Mimi says we are not to entertain her, but we can't help ourselves.

Baby Stephanie is growing every day. We can't believe she's almost a month old already! We even caught an accidental baby smile on camera.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Crazy weather

It's now the middle of March. All the bulbs are blooming. The flowering trees are flowering. And it's snowing.
This weather is insane.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekend doings

This weekend, we went in search of something different. Our routine (i.e., "Ellie's routine") is fairly set, but sometimes we itch to break out of the mold a bit. Of course, any breaking out has to be within the realm of what would still interest Ellie, so on Saturday we made a trek to Delft. Delft is a lovely city, only a short train ride away from The Hague (and Ellie LOVES riding the train!). If we were staying here longer and wanted to buy a home, I would want to buy in Delft. It's small, full of charm, and seems to be full of relatively friendly (and kid-friendly) people. During our first week in Holland, we visited Delft and discovered a lovely lunchroom/tearoom that not only has good food and friendly staff, but also has toys, a high chair and a changing table (you have no idea what a windfall this is in this country!). Now, we visit that spot every time we trek to Delft, and Saturday was no different. The new twist we added was a visit to Serpo, a reptile zoo with a lovely, accessible website (, which we thought Ellie would enjoy. She's taken a fancy to the critters in the Riverhall at Blijdorp, so it seemed a safe bet. In effect, we were right: Ellie did enjoy it. She likes looking at snakes and reptiles, and she is very interested in their names and colors. What we didn't count on was the total creepy factor of what is in reality a VERY home-grown (mostly deadly) reptile shrine (think of a small zoo that could result when the redneck side of the Adams Family was told by local authorities it's not allowed to keep alligators at home). I took a picture, but it came out too well to capture the icky factor.

Markus and I both expected to see a snake or tarantula crawling out from under a cage at any moment. We lasted about 10 minutes, and that was enough. The hairs on my neck crawl just thinking about it. Ew.

All was well again after a lunch of hot soup and bread, and an afternoon playtime of blowing bubbles in the garden.

On Sunday, we made up for it with a trip to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. As usual, our munchkins were the only munchkins in the place, but we're always proud of how Ellie handles museums. And now we can say that at the tender age of 2.5 weeks, Stephanie has been formally introduced to Rembrandt and Vermeer. The weather is still quite cold (nasty wind and drizzle!), so here's how Stephanie leaves the house:

Sometimes we have to force ourselves to remember that she is not even three weeks old yet. She has been such an easy addition thus far that it seems that she's been with us for much longer. Like her big sister, she is very strong and alert. She likes to look around and see what there is to see, and she tries to keep her head up (with decent success) when being held, which (as a total snugglebug) she loves.

The snugglebug side of her also wants to be held close while sleeping. Jennifer couldn't be happier to oblige, particularly during naptime. Ellie loved sleeping on our chests too, and we have missed it. Markus took this picture Sunday afternoon and managed to capture four happy nappers in one frame.

Now it's a start of another week. This week is special because Mimi arrives on Thursday to meet her namesake. We are so excited! Ellie can't wait! Every time she hears someone at the door, she looks up expectantly and asks, "Mimi?" We know my mom is going to be tickled to pieces over Ellie's vocabulary and Stephanie's baby sweetness. It's a good thing we have lots of space in this house, because we're pretty sure Mimi will never want to leave once she sees these girls.

Friday, March 14, 2008


In the interests of fair and balanced reporting, I need to update a little further on our 2.5-year-old's latest doings. While happy defiance and two-year-old tantrums do feature, they really aren't too bad when we've had some sleep, and there's lots of other good stuff to balance them out.
Within the past few weeks, Ellie's vocabulary has hit another noticeable explosion, and she now conducts conversations in (mostly) complete sentences. Although the grammar is a blend of English, German and toddler rules, she manages to make herself very well understood and she is often a marvel among the toddler set. This girl has something to say, and darn it all if she isn't going to say it! She gets very excited recounting adventures and often there's a lot of gasping for air in the midst of a sentence, as in:
"Yesterday (hunh hunh) Ellie's stripey hat (hunh hunh hunh) fell canowl" [that's "canal" for you laymen]. "Wind (hunh hunh) strong wind (hunh) blew Ellie's stripey hat (hunh) canowl. Yeah."
That "yeah" reminded me of another change: her attendance at the British school has almost entirely replaced Ellie's "yeah" with "yes", and of course during snack time at school she has fruit and a "biscuit" [cookie].
As always, we have to be very mindful of what we say, because it certainly comes back to us, and usually at the most unexpected times. For example, at bedtime, Markus will often have to wait several minutes before getting Ellie into her pajamas, because he has been told, "Ellie need put all friends in bed. Just a second, Papa. Please wait."
Even the happy defiance has its own accompanying commentary. This morning after scattering 50 animal-shaped plastic cookie cutter across the kitchen floor, Ellie stretched out her arms in amazement and exclaimed, "Look all these cookie cutters on floor!" Well, now...I wonder how that happened.

In other news, I have been tagged by gail for the "5 Things About Me" meme, so here goes:

1) I am a sucker for unexpected, romantic gestures.

2) Since having lived in New Orleans, I get nostalgic for food first when I reminisce about places we've been.

3) I eat popcorn with butter and salt nearly every day. I have had this addiction since the sixth grade.

4) When I was little, I used to spin and spin in my WonderWoman Underoos thinking that if I spun fast enough, I could change clothes just like Linda Carter did on TV. Now that I'm a mom, I just want to be ElastiGirl from "The Incredibles."

5) I often create large goals or projects for myself that I keep secret. Perhaps I don't want anyone to know about it in case I abandon it or fail in some way. Perhaps I just like secrets.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It ain't the GRE, but it's a big test all right!

Yesterday was Markus's first day back to work, which meant it was my first day alone with both girls. Baby Stephanie has been such an easy addition to the house, particularly while Markus was home. Ellie is such a daddy's girl that she doesn't want anything to do with me while he's around anyway, so I was able to cocoon my world around our newborn girl for nearly two weeks. By Saturday night, I was starting to worry what it would be like when he went back to work. Why? Ellie has been acting out in new and interesting ways.

Given that she is now two and a half years old, it's hard to say if it's her age or the baby or both (probably both), but she's moved into a phase of what I call "happy defiance" that leaves me ragged. Yes, she has tantrums. Whopper, nasty drama queen tantrums over silly things like not eating cupcakes for dinner, but those can be tuned out to a degree. The happy defiance is all new, and boy, is it effective at making Mama crazy. Ellie has always been obsessed with order. We never had to baby-proof the house. She has always taken good care of her toys and even better care of her books. But lately... It started with coloring on the table and chairs and floor. Within days, she'd evolved into throwing toys on the floor, dismantling the organization of the diaper stand at every opportunity (diapers everywhere!), jumping off of furniture... Yes, we know this is all typical 2 year old behavior, but it's VERY atypical Ellie behavior. The strangest part is she's gleeful about it. She had done similar things in the past while frustrated as part of a tantrum, but now she just seems to make me crazy for fun. She couldn't be happier about making a huge mess, and she just as gleefully refuses to participate in cleaning it up again (or doing just about anything I specifically request). One of her favorite responses is, "No, not today" (AKA: score Ellie 12,345,652; Mama 0). I've never heard the word "No!" so often in my life. So you see, I was feeling a bit of trepidation about this week.

I'm happy to report: so far, so good. Yesterday passed uneventfully, and we all survived unscathed. We did our usual trip to the zoo's Oceanarium, despite nasty gale-force winds and cold driving rain (not fun, but we had to get out of the house). This morning, Ellie went off to school without a care in the world. Maybe she's just happy to have her normal routine back. Maybe it's the calm before the storm. Who knows? We're just taking it one day at a time. Thankfully, baby Stephanie is happy to go along for the ride. She has been very easy so far, and we're very thankful! She only wakes up a couple of times per night to feed, and she doesn't cry much at all. During the night, I wake up to lip-smacking sounds rather than wails, which is pretty nice! Ellie was an easy baby too, so we weren't counting on being so lucky twice.

As expected, I feel behind on just about everything, but I will try to keep the posts coming. Please keep the comments flowing!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Breastfeeding Logic

After a few moment's observation of me feeding baby Stephanie, Ellie announced, "Ellie has nipples! Lolo wants to eat Ellie's nipples." Then she lifted her shirt and hoisted Lolo into position.
What a lucky doll.

Meet Stephanie Grace

Here we are at day six, and our little family is still doing great! Our new bundle is named Stephanie Grace, after Jennifer's mom. The suspense on the blog was necessary delay-time until the Mimi could be told her name first. Baby Stephanie is a sweet and easy baby thus far, and we are all happy and thankful. Ellie continues to be in a terrific mood and is thrilled to be a big sister, though her mood could also easily be attributed to Papa taking this time off and spending it with her. She's such a Papa's girl!

Yesterday was our last day with the kraamzorg, Astrid. Astrid was wonderful, and we are really impressed with this service. As I blogged before the birth, the Dutch have a system in place whereby mother and baby recover at home with personal care from a kraamzorg (maternity nurse). On average, the kraamzorg comes for 8 days, 6 hours each day. As this is our second baby and Markus is taking time off, we reduced that to 5 days, 4 hours each. The kraamzorg takes care of the mother and baby, providing not only post-natal care but also instruction on all new parenting skills from diapering and bathing to breastfeeding and maternal recovery. Astrid arrived each morning at 7:30 and made sure I took my vitamins and ate a healthy breakfast; then she bathed/weighed/looked after baby Stephanie and did some light chores (starting laundry, organizing baby items, etc.) to make sure I stayed in bed and rested as much as possible. Markus took Ellie out to play and do special activities while Astrid was home with me, and everyone was a winner! This morning is our first day without Astrid here, and we're doing just fine. It was an amazing service, and considering that it's standard and nationally provided is pretty incredible. Plus, we really liked Astrid (excellent bonus!), who also was here to assist with the home delivery.

Yesterday we also had a follow-up check-up with our midwife Christine, who was the lady here to "catch" when Stephanie arrived. Christine was a lovely, calm presence during the labor and the birth, and we are so happy she was the person on call that night! I hadn't had an appointment with her prior to that day, so THE night was the first meeting...but we were lucky to have her. She has been a midwife for 17 years, and she instinctively melted into the background and let that night be all about me and Markus and birthing our baby. The midwife practice has sent someone to check in with me four out of the past six days, but it was especially nice to see Christine again.

In the coming days, we'll just be waiting and watching for baby Stephanie to meet the three criteria for going out and about (cord stump fallen off, birth weight regained, at least 8 days old) and trying to rest and relax as much as possible. We should also be getting her started with the Consultation Bureau soon too, and we'll update on that as we have appointments to note. Ellie had school holidays last week, but she'll go back to that schedule tomorrow morning. Our new routine has begun!