Friday, May 30, 2008

Self-portrait mit Bebé

Sometimes we have a little too much fun with mirrors.


Markus's mom, Rita, and his sister, Ulla, are here visiting this week. Ellie has been enjoying showing Ulla everything around the house. For days, Ulla has been the person of choice for puzzles, books and bubbles.

Rita is enjoying more time with baby Stephanie, who at 3 months is really starting to interact more. She blows raspberries, does lovely baby talking ("ah-goo!"), and is a big smiler. Baby Stephanie is a very receptive audience to Oma's antics, and they get along great!

Rita and Ulla will be here for a week. The weather has warmed up nicely for their visit. If only the clouds would clear...but we are in The Netherlands after all. Maybe tomorrow will be better for a trip out and about, seeing something new. This week, we've just kept up the usual routine to help Ellie stay in good shape. She hasn't missed a day of school, which makes her a happy girl. We've had a lot of trying Mama's patience lately, vying for attention and experiencing baby envy. Sometimes it's all a bit too much for this mama and I feel like losing it, but I try to remember sometimes it's all a bit too much for Ellie too. I recently read a mommy blog post in which that mommy claimed, "I've really sucked lately. He's sucked too, but then again, he's 3 so he has an excuse." I hear her!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ellie says

Let's count yesterday's post towards last week for "Ellie says", because this morning produced another quote too cute not to share.

I had just filled my cup from the tap when Ellie wandered over and asked if it was her water. I offered to share; she accepted, took a sip, and then announced,
"This sparkling water doesn't work!"


We ordered it just before our trip to the States. What a great way to get around!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ellie says

Our daughter is a petite gourmet. A supremely selective eater, she has been known to enjoy lobster bisque, fresh pasta with pesto, and Belgian chocolate. She drinks sparkling water from a wine glass. She knows what she likes.
Last Friday, after careful sampling, Ellie thoughtfully pronounced,
"Boogies are yummy!"

The Economics of Sleep

If you have been curious about the recent lack of posting, please see the in-depth analysis below for a general synopsis of our past week or so.

Sleep works just like a bank for energy. Your body needs a certain amount to get by. That amount varies from person to person, and you must budget accordingly. One night you may get less sleep than you need, resulting in "sleep debt." You can repay it the next night or save it up for the weekend, paying it back all in one go. The best plan is to keep it balanced or even accumulate some savings. That being said, parents of young children have no savings. There is no extra energy in the bank. We spend as much as we earn, so when a heavy sleep expenditure comes along, we plunge headlong into debt. It can take days or weeks to undo the damage.

Currently, we are in a recession.

International travel across several time zones is bound to disrupt the internal clocks of even the hardiest travelers. Days and nights are spent trying to normalize, and the jet lag is always worse for small children who cannot force themselves into the new rhythm and instead adjust one hour per day. Our return visits from the States usually have a particular pattern. Bedtime is normal, with a night-time wake-up and playtime before sleep returns; nap times are long. The night waking and partying happens first at 3, then 2, then 1 and so on until we just start going to bed a bit later until the whole time difference is beaten. Of course, the problem with patterns is that children live to mix things up and keep parents guessing. The pattern didn't happen this time. There was no rhyme or reason to Ellie's waking and sleeping the first week after our trip back; instead, she and Markus (the super-duper-trooper Father of the Year who got up with her while Jennifer stayed in bed with baby Stephanie, who didn't have jetlag but rather has no sleep schedule at all) averaged 3-4 hours of sleep per night, with Ellie paying into her sleep deficit account with naptimes and earlier bed times than her papa. Last night was the first time she has completely slept through the night in over two weeks. Now the sleep deficit remains heavy on the parental side.

Debt is a heavy burden, and it requires regular repayments and upkeep for it not to worsen. Markus has been repaying his sleep debt unwillingly. Naps sneak up on him like demons while he's sitting on the couch or trying to watch a movie. Give him 5 minutes of peace and quiet and he is out like a light. Jennifer lies in bed each morning willing the clock to back up a few hours so she can catch some extra Zs. If we budget ourselves carefully and stick to a strict repayment schedule, we imagine we will be fully back on track just in time to move to Australia.

Oh dear.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Back in The Hague

After a whirlwind happy visit to friends and family in Virginia, we are back in The Hague and are relearning the dynamics of existing on toddler jetlag. We shouldn't complain too much, though. Both girls are EXCELLENT travelers, and that is a huge gift! Ellie surprised me with being able to return to school today. She was wide awake and raring to go, despite about 5 hours of sleep last night (though she did pass out cold the moment we returned home).

Our trip was rather busy and full, but we are so happy we went. The only downside was camera-failure the last night, which was the night of a big family get-together. Alas. Jennifer's brother, sister, grandfather and his wife Barbara joined us for Mothers Day dinner at my mom's house. Great photo op that rarely occurs...and camera crapped out on me. Argh argh argh. Barbara had a disposable camera with a few shots left on it, so let's hope those come out! If so, I promise to share.

Another important event of this trip was a bridal shower I threw for my darling friend Meghan, who is getting married in October to her dream man we lovingly call Rocket Boy. Meghan is a dear girlfriend from college, and I wouldn't let just any ol' guy marry her...but Rocket Boy has everyone's blessing. We are sure they will be very happy together and wish them the best life has to offer! Unfortunately, the grey-haired old men in The Hague sent up the white smoke in a way that prevents us from attending the wedding. Perth is just too darn far away, so I maximized the trip this time and threw Meghan a lingerie shower at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. The food was delicious, the setting was elegant, and the bride was...well, the bride was crazy, but then again she always is and that's why I love her.

Check out the humongous red satin "novelty panties". I didn't give them to her, but I sure am glad somebody did. We had way too much fun with those.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Out of the loop

We're not TV watchers. Movies, heck yes, but TV is a no. Commercial interruptions make me crazy, the increased volume makes Markus crazy, and the products they promote are (in our opinion) often pointless. Many TV shows aren't much better, so we just opt out of the whole deal. Of course, I know this puts us way out of US mainstream. Americans are a TV watching people, but I have to say I was still surprised to find a TV on the gas pump this afternoon. I had an empty tank, so hi-ho-hi-ho, off to pump gas I go...and found myself watching "NBC at the pump". I am so out of the loop.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Ellie says

I should start a weekly post of my favorite Ellie sayings. My current favorite is her stopping Markus mid-song by holding up her hand and announcing, "Wait! Let me get the tambourine!" But that's a couple of weeks old now. Our drive to the 'Burg on Tuesday provided this week's sample. We didn't bring her CDs with us and the iPod wasn't working in the car (too many radio stations to play the iTrip), and she was dismayed. Finally, she surrendered to her fate and began singing herself. Ellie has never done this before, so it was extra cute! We did our best not to interrupt or distract her, but she eventually faded out and announced, "It's turned off!" Guess that iPod influence has extended further than we thought.

This one is for Meghan

Meghan, you were worried we would be unhappy about you giving Ellie so many stickers because you were afraid she'd be sticking them all over the furniture. Silly girl. There is a much better place for stickers!

Virginia Beach and Williamsburg

On Tuesday, we drove down to Virginia Beach to visit Great Grandma Marion, Jennifer's grandma. Great Grandma Marion has a HUGE backyard, and Ellie had a blast exploring every inch of it. We had a picnic lunch in the lovely spring weather and enjoyed fabulous conversation with the family matriarch. We were very happy to introduce baby Stephanie to her great grandma, and Ellie enjoyed spending time with her for the first time since she was around 9 months old.

On the way back to Mimi's, we stopped over for a few hours in Williamsburg so Jennifer could stroll her alma mater and Markus could see a bit of Colonial Williamsburg as we wandered the Duke of Gloucester Street (AKA "DOG street, CW's main drag). Markus hadn't seen much of the campus at William and Mary before, so we strolled through the Wren Building and circled the Sunken Gardens, crossing the Crim Dell Bridge as a family. Ellie had a fantastic time running around in the grass and mulch. When Markus asked if she would like to study there, she took a good look around, smiled and said, "Yeah." That's my girl!

already behaving like a college kid...that's my wallet she's digging in!

The meandering along DOG Street didn't impress Ellie much. After having been to Dubai, Paris, Pisa, and Amsterdam, I guess there wasn't much to see...excepting all the rocks. Ellie liked the rocks. And the trees. And she was very aware of all the horse poo-poo in the street. Colonial Williamsburg is an excellent place for the Toddler Walk of Discovery. (see her below, digging in the rocks beneath the tree)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Little notes

Oma went home today. We're happy she was able to see the tulips and meet baby Stephanie! We'll see her again in a few weeks!

Tomorrow we head stateside to visit the Mimi. Hooray! Look for postings from our trip as we go.

For those of you unfamiliar with the flickr display on the left side of the blog, it's a collection of photos we've decided to share that include but aren't limited to what we post within the blog text. Click on it to take a look at more if that's your fancy!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Beautiful Day

This morning, Markus, Ellie and Oma headed to Keukenhof so Oma could get a peek at the glorious tulips while Ellie hit the playground.

Having already been twice this year and survived a failed attempt on Monday (road closing that caused a 2 hour car ride with no viewing), Jennifer and Stephanie opted to stay home and visit the Escher Museum that is literally around the corner from our house. We hadn't been yet as there just never seemed to be a time to go. When something is that close and available, it's easy to put off for another day, and I was starting to think that day might not materialize before we move! I am very happy I went. The joy of visiting museums that center on one particular artist is seeing works I have never seen before or even known existed. While I am intrigued by Escher's images and impressed by his skill, I've never been a huge Escher fan per se; therefore, I hadn't known that he spent a great deal of time in Italy and created a body of realistic images based on what he saw there before he ever created the optical illusions that made him so famous. He apparently transitioned into abstraction and recreating the plane when he moved back to flat Holland and Belgium and lost the views that had inspired him in Italy. Who knew? The museum itself is a converted palace, once the residence of the great-grandmother of the current queen of The Netherlands. It was fun just to walk inside and visualize the grand rooms when they were occupied. When it was converted into a museum, some seriously crazy chandeliers were commissioned; we're talking a huge skull and crossbones chandelier, a guitar, a shark... The third floor of the museum is dedicated to optical illusion exhibits and experiments that are a lot of fun! Stephanie slept the entire time in the baby carrier, so she had a good time too.

This afternoon, the weather cleared up beautifully, so we all headed to the dunes at Wassenaar for a stroll. The afternoon light made everything look incredible, and the air was crystal clear after two days of rain. The kids burned some energy, and we all enjoyed ourselves!