Thursday, July 31, 2008


This past Sunday afternoon, we stopped in at the American book store to look for some books on baby feeding. I never really understood what to feed Ellie when she was a baby, and now she is one of the most difficult eaters conceivable. Although I attribute a lot of that to (yet another) battle of the wills, I think at least part of it had to do with how and when I introduced her to foods (or failed to). Having no desire to repeat that with baby Stephanie, I was in search of some good material. Baby Stephanie has recently shown serious interest in what we are eating and drinking. She is READY. She lunges for our plates, cups, utensils... Water bottles have become her favorite chew toys when she can get her hands on them. This girl wants to expand her culinary horizons. So, being the dutiful mama I fantasize about being, I bought a whiz-bang baby food machine that steams and purees and reheats frozen food and does everything short of actually adding the ingredients in the first place. Now, what to add? Off to the store we went. I did find a book or two, and I'll let you know how the feeding thing goes (we're going to wait until after the move, now that our date is August 17th. To Perth, Lee. PERTH!). The extra find that caught my eye just as Ellie's patience wore out was a baby sleep book by Polly Moore, PhD called "The 90 Minute Baby Sleep Program". It was small and seemed approachable on a brief perusal, so I added it to the book pile and brought it home.

Sleep is another tricky area in our household. We had a devil of a time with Ellie's sleep as a baby and toddler. I assumed that mostly had to do with how spectacularly we mucked up her routine during her first year of life. While we were in Houston as "displaced Americans" post-Katrina, she was sleeping through the night with nary an issue. But once we moved to help my dad and then to Qatar and then back to my dad's and then to Qatar and to The Netherlands and back to Mississippi AGAIN, forget it. I think I cried more in the night than she did. I didn't know what to do and I just couldn't take it. All the advice I read and received from well-meaning people were a variety of parenting philosophies that just didn't work for us or mesh with our instincts. People who were concerned and loved us would say, "You and Ellie need more sleep! Stop going going going and just sleep." That just wasn't helpful. We had too much to do (see number of moves above) and we couldn't rest well even when we did stop. Ironically, overtired babies sleep poorly, so we quickly got into a vicious cycle and I didn't know how to help it. Putting her down to nap at the same times every day in the same place every day didn't always work, even when we weren't moving. The "cry it out" technique was just not for our family. We couldn't take it. I still can't take it. We needed something better and something less imposing. Many of the techniques became more about how to parent "correctly" than helping solve a problem, and I hated the condescending tone. Eventually, I surrendered to subsisting on little to no sleep. Ellie sleeps now, right? We're okay. Except...Stephanie has started having trouble sleeping now too. Enter Polly Moore, PhD, and her N.A.P.S. program.

On Tuesday evening, I just about drove my poor husband crazy raving on and on about N.A.P.S. and how its discovery qualified me (that day) for Mother of the Year. Dr. Moore is not telling me how to parent (and her writing style is conversational, not condescending). She is a sleep expert (works as Director of Sleep Research in California)! She noticed with her own baby that a 90 minute Basic Rest and Activity Cycle (BRAC) on the internal clock applies to babies. During the 90 minutes of alertness, it is virtually impossible for baby to fall asleep, no matter how exhausted he/she is. At the end of that cycle, the body is naturally primed for sleep; all that is required is recognizing the baby's sleep signals and helping soothe him/her to sleep at that magic time. It is so natural, simple, and straight-forward...and it works! Like a charm.

No wonder poor Ellie couldn't sleep. I was trying at the wrong times. I knew she was tired and I tried to help, but I wasn't helping when her body was ready. And even when I was, I was too exhausted myself to soothe her well. I started N.A.P.S. with Stephanie before I was even 30 pages into the book, and I have been amazed.

Just yesterday, I received a monthly email update on "Your Baby's Development", and it contained a link to advice for sleep problems. The advice was all the stuff that failed with Ellie, and N.A.P.S. was nowhere to be found. I knew then that I had to blog about it, in hopes some other desperate parent will see this and give the approach a try. I don't want to go into more detail on the how, because Dr. Moore deserves to profit from her book. I cannot say enough good things about this program.

I really must write that woman a thank you note.

Of course, now it's HOT in The Netherlands. Hotter than it has been since we moved here. And neither of my children is sleeping. Oh how I miss air conditioning! Both of them hate the breeze of a fan, and they can't rest in the heat. Poor Stephanie is completely miserable, and I can't even nurse her down because being held so close to me makes her sweaty and unhappy too. Praying for a cool spell...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life in Holland

When we decided to live near the city center, we had no way of knowing that this would be the year they would rip up all the streets in our neighborhood for months on end for once-every-20-to-30-years maintenance on the pipes. Sometimes we get notices (in Dutch) pushed through our mail slot warning us of impending inconvenience, but not always. This morning was a case in point. We opened our door for our morning outing and discovered this:

At least they provided a board (albeit not wide enough for our stroller).

Once again, the weather was overcast, so we headed to the indoor shopping arena of the Megastores. I have never really shopped there, but we were in search of a particular item that Papa had spotted there once upon a time, so off we went. The nice part about the Megastores is an open area with restaurant seating shared by McDonalds and La Place where kids can meander around. Ellie felt the need to introduce her friends, Lolo and Sunny the Giraffe, to the clown.

She also felt the need to photograph this moment herself.

Further examples of Ellie's foray into the photographic medium are currently available for your perusal on our flickr account. Ellie found great inspiration in the streets of Berlin and worked to capture the details so easily overlooked (such as sand on my shoe, the grey tone of a shadow on the hotel wall, the brightness of the flash rebounding off of the hotel wall...). For you true art connoisseurs, this exhibition should not be missed.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Scheveningen Pier

Monday morning greeted us with dreary gray drizzle, but it wasn't cold or windy so we headed out to new adventures. Ellie really enjoys riding the tram, so we took Tram 9 to Scheveningen. That's Dutch for "the beach" (no, not really; that's the name of the town that has the popular beach here). Try saying it 5 times fast. What a word. Yow. Anyway...
We took the tram to Scheveningen to stroll the length of the landmark pier opposite the landmark Kurhaus hotel. The pier is glassed in and covered, so we kept out of the rain and did something different. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see on that gray morning, but at least we got out of the house. The view from the end of the pier back to the beach and hotel looks like this:

Not bad.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leonidas Tea Room and Lunchroom in Delft

Since our first week in The Netherlands, the Leonidas Tea Room and Lunchroom in Delft has been one of our favorite family eat-out spots, whether its for a hot cup of soup in the winter or just a coffee and Belgian waffle as a snack. The staff there are incredibly friendly, there is a toy bin, children are given colored pencils and drawing paper, AND there is a changing table in the bathroom. After all that, we almost don't have to care whether or not the food is good, but it is! So anytime we go to Delft, you can bet we'll end up there. This was true on Sunday. We had the idea of cycling to Delft and renting a paddle boat, but as you see in the "Ellie says" post below, we were too darn hungry when we arrived to think of much other than eating (that's what happens when the kids both decide 5am is a good time to get up for the day and you eat breakfast at 5:30). At least we could be sure Ellie would enjoy herself, no matter how long we sat around in their courtyard.

Stephanie enjoyed it too. She was particularly interested in Ellie's block tower. If only she could get one of those blocks into her mouth... Yellow ones must taste particularly nice.

Cafe culture

When Ellie was a baby, we purchased the board book "Urban Babies Wear Black." It contains all sorts of fun urban baby moments (urban babies visit museums, urban babies appreciate architecture, etc.). We bought the book for a laugh, though much of it started applying to Ellie early on. Now after spending nearly two years in The Hague, we've pretty much solidified her urban baby traits. As we parked our bikes in Delft, we realized we were quite hungry. I asked Markus if he just wanted to grab a bite somewhere or if he'd rather sit in a cafe. Before he could respond, Ellie piped up with,
"Let's go to a cafe! I will have pancakes, some cake, and a cuppy-chino!"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sisterly love

If you think this is cute, you should watch baby Stephanie watching Ellie (a huge smile every time she sees her)...and the two of them laughing together. It just doesn't get more precious than that.

Good-bye, dear friends

The time has come to say good-bye to Ellie's nap/bedtime schnullys. The friendship has been long and intense (much longer than we had planned); nevertheless, it is time to part ways. Farewell, dear schnullys. You saw her through some very sleepy times, and we thank you for your tireless service.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dance across the planet

This video makes me so happy that I have to share it. People are people everywhere. The world needs more dancing. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, "Save the planet so we'll all have a place to boogie." Exactly.

This Week's Happenings

Once the news of the visas came through, we knew the scramble to close things out here would begin. Although it's a pain, I don't mind one bit, probably because Markus has to do most of it but mostly because I am so happy not to be in limbo anymore! As it works out, we have two full weeks after this weekend before the movers come. We've got a lot to squeeze into the remaining time, including a week-long visit from Oma, but I know we'll do it.

This week, Ellie had two playdates with her friend Sophie. She is soooo excited to see Sophie every time. Monday we had the hideous weather, so we met at the Naturalis Museum in Leiden, where the girls proceeded to go insane at a high pitch. They did have fun, but boy-o was the change in weather later in the week most welcome! On Wednesday, Sophie and her mom came to The Hague by train and we all cycled to Clingendael to play. Look at these cute girls in the bakfiets!

This morning, we made a quick trip to the huisarts (family doctor). Ellie woke up from yesterday's nap with a large bug bite on her arm. This morning, it was twice as large and concerning her mama. There are no poisonous bugs in Holland (lucky!), but there was definitely a reaction happening there that I'd rather have checked. This was initiated with trepidation on my part, because the last two visits to the doctor with Ellie proved to be heart-breaking nightmares as she panicked and sobbed her way hysterically through the appointments. Since then, we've done more doctor-prep-talks and hoped today would be okay. She likes the toys in the waiting area. She really liked the doctor's kit and was keen to try the stethoscope after a brief demonstration. Funnily enough, she was afraid for me to use it to "hear" her heartbeat even after I demonstrated on myself and baby Stephanie. She liked using it herself though.

The bug bite is fine, by the way. Diagnosis: just a big reaction to a mosquito. The doctor prescribed some cream in case it starts to bother her more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


In preparation for our move out of Europe, we decided to risk a city break with two small children and visit Berlin for 5 days. While it is fully reasonable to argue against the wisdom of this choice, I have to say we managed to do quite a lot without doing quite a lot. Make sense? There is so much to do and see in Berlin that even doing the little we did at Ellie's pace and interest was still impressive. The weather was fairly unpleasant (drizzle every day, although not constant). We would say it was gross, except we returned to find it FAR WORSE in Holland. Here it was cold as well as rainy and windy on our return, so by comparison, the weather in Berlin wasn't so bad. An occasional cool breeze and rather inconvenient drizzle there, the weather did affect our visit and limit us a little. You will see lots of umbrellas in the photos, though we did get some good sun on the zoo morning. We visited the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), the Siegessaeule (Victory Column), Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag dome, the Fernsehturm (landmark TV tower), and the Pergamon Museum. We took a boat tour. We strolled through parts of the large Tuingarten (Berlin's equivalent of NY's Central Park) and past numerous architectural sites, including the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), the Deutscher Dom and Franzoesischer Dom (German and French Cathedrals) and Schauspielhaus/Konzerthaus (concert hall) in the Gendarmenmarkt. We quickly scanned shop windows in the Hackesche Hoefe and found a few fabulous spots to eat scattered through Mitte. And of course, we spent time at the Berlin Zoo, where Ellie discovered the greatest playground of her life (far more interesting than *yawn* polar bears, panda bears, big cats or *double yawn* the well-designed nocturnal exhibit). Who needs wildlife when one can BE wildlife? Without further ado, let's take a look at the highlights in the order we tackled them. As always, there are TONS more photos in the flickr sidebar for those interested.

First stop, the Brandenburg Gate, a landmark Berlin structure. Perhaps most interesting about this site is the close line-up of the US, British, French and Russian embassies, all very nearby. The US Embassy is just to the left of the gate, as you see in the picture. History is history, and it's amazing all that has happened in Berlin in a time that is really not so long ago. The Berlin Wall used to run behind this gate, but there is a road there now (a section of the wall was left intact as a memorial, but we'll get to that later). Ellie liked this site tremendously because we bought her an ice cream nearby. At this rate, we will have an impressive photo album of her sampling ice cream in fabulous locations worldwide. I just know she'll appreciate that someday.

Close to the gate is the Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament. Recently renovated, it features a fabulous glass dome on top from which you get an amazing panoramic view of the city. Secret bonus feature: VISIT WITH A STROLLER. In a rare and precious discovery, we learned that visitors with small children in stroller get to skip the snaking line out the door and go to the handicapped entrance (where there is no line) and board the elevator to the dome first. Who would have thought? VIP treatment for parents of small kids is a rare and beautiful thing! Thank you to whomever came up with that lovely rule!

The next morning, we took advantage of sunny weather and headed to the Berlin Zoo. Well laid-out among the trees and green, the Berlin Zoo has an impressive collection of animals and lovely grounds. Yet, so spoiled without realizing it, Ellie found nothing extraordinary about the lovely zoo. After all, this is a girl who visits Blijdorp nearly once a week. Even the rare panda couldn't grab her interest. She had brought her own and was too busy feeding it bamboo to look at the live one in the enclosure. But the playground...oh, the playground! A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and this is true of playgrounds. Whoever came up with that playground knows kids. There is a section for kids ages 3-6 and a section for kids up to age 14. Of course, the older section is more enthralling and has high slides AND trampolines!

I think the biggest tantrum poor Markus has ever witnessed was thrown as we tried to pry Ellie from the playground after an hour so we could head back to the hotel for naptime. She could have stayed there forever and would have had it not been for her most unreasonable parents.

Unfortunately, we missed nap time that day so we headed out again in the afternoon for Jennifer's favorite German tradition (kaffee und kuchen) and new sights. We found the best spot for coffee and cakes! There is a little cafe hidden away in an inner courtyard among little galleries. There they make delicious butter cookies (house specialty) and delicious cakes! Amazing almond cake and The Best Cheesecake EVER. Of course, it's not in our guidebook and I lost the card I took away with me, so I don't have a name for you. If I find it, believe me I will post it in the food blog with pictures. Needless to say, we went there more than once.

Having selected a hotel in Mitte to be close to the major sights, we decided to walk to the Fernsehturm to test accessibility with the kids. Is it better to take the metro or walk? We had to know. The answer is metro, but the walk was nice (though tiring!) anyway.

We made our way up to the Alexanderplatz, the Rotes Radhaus (Red City Hall) and the Fernsehturm. From there, we took the metro to Checkpoint Charlie, an overly touristy spot but one that should not be missed for historical value.

This brings us to the end of day 2. As usual, I have no ability to tell the short version of the story. Apologies to those of you with better things to do than read this lengthy blog about our trip. Skim through the pictures and be happy.

We woke up on day 3 to mucky weather, so we opted for the Pergamon Museum and its famous altar. On our way there, we passed by the Berliner Dom across the street from what was once the royal palace and is now a construction site wasteland (palace destroyed during East German rule, replaced with concrete government monstrosity which has now been torn down as well).

The museum was hugely disappointing. The guards responded to our entrance with Ellie as if we'd brought in a blaring stereo and several cans of neon spray paint. They were glaring at her, talking on their walkie-talkies about her, and following our every move. I must point out that Ellie is exceptionally well-behaved in museums as a rule, so we were incredibly offended by this hostile hovering and left within minutes. I want to see the art, but I don't want to see it that badly. Losers.

Not wanting a repeat of the previous day's lack-of-nap misery, we made sure Ellie got a good rest in the hotel before heading out again.

We got such a late start that it was back to our fabulous-find of a cafe for snacks and then on to explore some neighborhoods in search of cool kiddie spots. We came across a built-by-kids playground.

There are many of these scattered throughout the city. I had read about them in an IHT article, but I hadn't seen one before this trip. What a brilliant idea! The city provides the space and the materials are available on a check-out basis from a supervising adult. Kids build it up themselves. The report I read claims that there are far fewer injuries reported on these playgrounds than on traditional playgrounds, presumably because kids perceive the danger in saws, hammers and nails and are more cautious. This place was hopping with the pre-teen set, and I would have been happy to join them had I been allowed. What fun! Ellie was very sad she was too young to go in.

Our wanderings took us past an apartment building with these little plaques inlaid in the sidewalk out front. A touching, tiny monument to the struggles people endured in this place. Beautiful and sad.

The next day, we found a playground for Ellie in the Tiergarten. We strolled along and found a lovely picnic spot at the base of a monument looking across to the Victory Column.

That afternoon, we opted for a boat tour. The weather was lovely when Ellie awoke from her nap, so a boat tour seemed just the thing. How could we have known it would start pouring 10 minutes into the trip? Of course, we hadn't brought raincoats or umbrellas to face the clear blue sky when we left the hotel. Alas. The first part of the tour was quite pleasant. The English translation was SAD SAD SAD. I'm glad I could catch snippets of the German, because the English translation was pathetic. My favorite part followed a three minute German explanation of some features to be translated as: "On your left is the Red City Hall, so named for its color." That was it. Oy.

Our last day only allowed us a few hours before our trip to the airport, so we went to see the Berlin Wall Memorial. The city left a piece of the wall intact, including the wall barricading people from the actual Wall with the open "death corridor" in between the two.

The barbed wire and guard stations are gone, but the impact remains. That site made me terribly sad. It drove home how hard it must have been to be trapped on the East Berlin side of the wall, especially right next to the wall. This section went right down a street, so that people who lived in a building with the door on the East Berlin side looked out their windows on the West Berlin side. Some jumped to freedom; others weren't so lucky. It's amazing how recently that was reality. And we've been there. The end.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Yippee! Wee-hee! Woo-hoo! Hooray!
I know you are waiting for a post about Berlin, and that's coming soon. Right now, I'm just too busy dancing around the house with glee because our visas are FINALLY ready (woke up to the notification this morning) and we can get this move on the move! My back was breaking from months of limbo, but I'm working out the kinks with my celebration dance! Once I settle down, I'll roll that Berlin post out. Please bear with me. I am one happy chica today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekly Video Post

Ellie learned this song from her Oma. We wish Oma had internet access so she could see this. Too sweet!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Non sequitor

I realize this doesn't flow with the usual content, but I must register a complaint. As a fairly tall girl who does on occasion try to look presentable, I object to the fact that any and every pair of attractive-looking, well-fitting trousers SHRINK after an average of three washes. Here I am in Berlin with one pair of jeans and one pair of nice trousers only to find that the trousers I brought with me now offer a five-inch view of my lower legs when I sit and a fully-realized WEDGE at any posture. Thank you very much, textile industry, for my current (and yet all too familiar) state of woe.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

This poem summed up my week last week far better than I could have. I meant to post it last Thursday, the toughest day of all. Last Thursday was day four of incessant cold nasty drizzle. Our spirits were low. None of us had been sleeping well (or much at all, given frequent night wakings of both resident munchkins). And then on the way to school, we had not one but two near-miss accidents with some very aggressive and inattentive drivers, leaving Jennifer shaky and completely frazzled. Home again, I worked all evening to prepare homemade teacher gifts for Ellie's last day of school...only to throw out all of the results as completely unsatisfactory. I even had to toss a chocolate cake I made to console myself because it was way too sugary. I was overworked, overtired, and over-stressed. Millay's "First Fig" seemed rather fitting that day.

This week, we're bouncing back (we always do!). Ellie's last day of school was actually somewhat of a blessing. Though we were very happy with her school, the commute was rather tiresome. Out of the 2.5 hours she spent there, I spent over an hour in the car to and fro, leaving little productive time in between. Frequent talk of school ending for summer holidays made Ellie stressed. She started having trouble parting in the morning, would cry and cling as she had never done before, and she would wake up in the night with bad dreams (unrelated to school in content, but I think related to the changes and worry). The last day was the hardest. Both classes joined up for a party, and she didn't seem to know how to handle the big change of so many kids and teachers in one room. Fortunately, she adored two of her teachers, and they saw her through. Marie, the head teacher for her class, was a great blessing, and we are so thankful Ellie was in her class. She understood Ellie quite well and encouraged her in all the right ways. We know Ellie will miss her.

The other teacher Ellie adored is Sara. Luckily for us, we may be seeing Sara sometime soon. She gave us her email address on the last day with the offer to come play with Ellie anytime. She "loves her too much not to see her anymore", so hooray for us! We are going on a little holiday ourselves this week, but I'm sure we'll be urging Sara for a visit when we return next week!

Although she doesn't really understand that school is done for the summer, Ellie does seem content in the home routine again. Today we were raw-ther fabulous and went out to a cafe for a morning treat. Ellie decided she must wear her princess dress this morning (thank you, Mimi!). After an errand on the bakfiets, we stopped at our favorite local cafe for a croissant and a drink. At first, Ellie ordered a glass of milk (yes, dah-lings, she orders for herself!), but then she decided to take it to the next level and go for the kinder-chino (frothy milk in an espresso cup). Don't you know she even drank with her pinkie in the air. We were feeling rather posh and fabulous, let me tell you! I must have taken 20 pictures of her in that cafe. I was too tickled. She was very proper. I think she's taking "Fancy Nancy" (another fabulous Mimi treat!) to heart.

Stephanie snoozed the whole time. One must have priorities.

This evening, we will be packing our bags for a few days away in Berlin! I am so excited! It has taken years to wear Markus down enough for a holiday in Germany. Just because he's seen it doesn't mean I can't! I am really looking forward to all Berlin has to offer. Even if we have to keep it quite real for the kiddos, I'm even excited to visit the famous Berlin Zoo. I think the time away will do us all some good! This ridiculous move limbo is driving us crazy. It will be nice to take a holiday and forget about it for a while. We'll be back on Sunday, so look for some vacation information (and of course, numerous photos) then!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Art Appreciation

On Saturday morning, we woke up to yet another day of rain (after a whole week of it!), so we headed to Rotterdam to visit the museum there, a new stop for us. Thankfully, it wasn't raining in Rotterdam. It was actually sunny, which turned out to be a double blessing because the museum wasn't open. We arrived at 9:30 to find the opening time of 11. Sigh. Turns out there was a lovely garden in the MuseumPark behind it, so we wandered there for a while before visiting the small "Natural History Museum" (in quotes because it was more someone's taxidermy collection than anything). In the garden, we came across this sculpture:

Before I could make any smart remarks, Ellie caught sight of it too. Without ceremony and purely matter of fact, she simply stated:
"That is someone's bottom."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My New Sculpture

We have noticed in our window shopping through many towns in Holland that miniature sculptures are quite popular here. By miniature, I mean under 12 inches in height and usually much less (some quite small at an inch or two), most commonly cast in bronze. Being an art lover, I enjoy seeing these sculptures and have wished to own one myself. There was a lovely abstract sculpture of a family of four in a gallery in Delft that I admired for months before baby Stephanie's birth. I didn't want to jinx us by purchasing it before we were a family of four ourselves, so we waited it out. Markus took Ellie to Delft in the days after Stephanie was born...and the gallery had closed down. That sculpture was gone. Sigh.

This week, Markus bought me the perfect sculpture to celebrate baby Stephanie's birth. Given the sculpture's size and shape, we call it my "Home Birth Oscar."

Stephanie's home birth was a huge achievement and a precious time for me and for us as a family. Although it's not for everyone, I am so happy we went with that choice. I would like to thank our midwife Christine for giving us the space and the confidence to get through labor as a team, and for making the entire experience the polar opposite of a medical birth. We were so happy to get to know Stephanie in the time immediately after her birth, and we appreciated how you gave us that time without question. I would also like to thank Astrid, our kraamzorg who assisted Christine after the birth and took care of me and baby Stephanie for five days afterwards. Your warmth and knowledge helped us become true believers in the kraamzorg system! Thanks must also go to our Ellie, who amazingly slept through the entire birth process, even when I was making serious amounts of noise in the living room (where Stephanie was born). And of course, thank you to my life and labor partner, Markus. I could not have done it without you.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Progress and a Request

On Friday, we made a little progress toward our move. First and most importantly, we sold our car! Someone at Markus's workplace waffled about it for ages (you have no idea how appalling the color white on a vehicle is to people here), but he finally realized that he would be foolish to pass it up for the steal of a price he negotiated. In addition to the peace of mind of having it sold, the good news on that is he isn't in any rush to pick it up. Since he's with the same company and knows about these international moves, he's going to wait a while before he sells his current car, so we can just keep using ours for a few more weeks. Also on Friday, the moving company sent a man to survey our stuff and evaluate how much time/manpower it would take to get it packed up and moved (the answer: A LOT). That motivated us to start weeding out things we've been meaning to weed out for ages, so we do feel we're making progress on the move. Of course, still no word on our visas, so no move date. We are the Limbo Kings.

You may or may not have noticed the ClustrMap addition to my sidebar of late. Being able to see many of the locations from which people log into our blog is fun, but much more fun would be knowing who you are! It's so discouraging to see entry after entry with zero comments. As Markus pointed out to me, most people browse the web for content and don't feel the need to leave a mark; understood. Even so, my request for today is please leave a comment, even if it's just this once, and let me know who and where you are and maybe how you found us. I'd really like to know!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Weekly Video Post

Here we have proof of Ellie's dramatic skill. I had the camera handy during one particularly fake tantrum, and to my surprise, she was willing to demonstrate her range. Do not let the ice cream smear on her face distract you from the genuine artistic demonstration at hand...

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Today we visited Efteling, a theme park in Holland about an hour's drive from The Hague.

After making our way through the grand entrance (the structure was really amazing!), we headed for the forest trail that took us through the tales of Hans Christian Anderson. There was a troll in a tree, a dragon perched protectively above a treasure chest, Rapunzel, the little mermaid, Rumpelstiltsken... Ellie observed with great excitement from the safety of Papa's shoulders.

If you take a look at the map on their website, you'll see the area of the park called the "Fairy Realm", and that's where we spent our time. Why? They might as well rename that section "Carousel Heaven", and if you know Ellie at all, you know there is no other place to be. This is the last weekend before the start of the busy season (when school is out), so the park was relatively calm. This allowed Ellie to ride the carousel over and over and over again. Sometimes, the controllers didn't even make all the kids get off, because there weren't too many waiting for a turn. There were two small carousels next to each other, a carousel of swings, and a butterfly carousel that went up and down over little hills in the round track. Just to give you an idea, Ellie and Mama rode the standard horse carousel twice in a row before trying out the swing carousel, which we then rode three times in a row. By then, Mama was feeling a bit green from all the spinning, but Ellie wanted the butterfly carousel, which we rode twice before Mama declared it unwise to which point Papa resumed carousel duty for another two rides on the horse carousel. And all this was after she'd ridden the horse carousel multiple times with Papa, a snail ride once and took a minor break for lunch.

We finished our visit with an ice cream cone with sprinkles (obviously)! Just recounting all this spinning is making me feel dizzy and green again, but Ellie had the time of her life! Baby Stephanie was, as usual, happy to be along for the ride (no, we didn't take her on all the carousels). These days she's happy if she can gum something, baby Bjorn included (or a handy water bottle).

My favorite park moment of the day was while we were eating lunch. Two clowns came marching through. The first was the grand marshall of the parade. Bringing up the rear was a clown playing marching tunes on his drum. The parade itself was made up of several tall grey geese, following their peppy leader wherever she went. If I worked at Efteling, I would so want that to be my job!

We couldn't have had nicer weather for our visit. It was sunny and warm but not hot. One of the nicest features of Efteling is the layout amidst all the green. They left so much of the forest intact, and there was abundant natural shade. The structures were all incredibly well-designed and visually pleasing. I know there are millions of Disney fans out there who will think I'm crazy, but I find Disney parks too visually overstimulating. This park didn't have that problem. Things weren't technicolor bright, and that was pleasant. The section we visited was delightfully child-sized without being too crowded or small for adults. It was great! Markus only recently learned about it, but I think our timing was perfect. Any younger and I think Ellie wouldn't have been willing to try out much or stay as long. As it was, I was amazed at how much she enjoyed all of the rides. I was most surprised by the swings, which spun rather quickly (ooooo, still dizzy thinking about it) and had her laughing with joy. You can see more pictures (as ever) over on the flickr sidebar. I need to go lay down now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Our 4th Anniversary

Four years ago today, Markus and Jennifer exchanged vows and rings in Venice, Italy.