Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pest control

As the weather has turned cooler outdoors, we've noticed an increasing bug population indoors. The most frequent invaders are little grey bugs I know as "roly-polys". I noticed one making its way across the kitchen floor this afternoon as I headed towards the bathroom with a poopy diaper and made a mental note to put him back outside when I was done before Ellie (our resident bug trauma victim) could see him. Too late. I had just started washing my hands when I heard a shrill and urgent cry:
I assured her I'd be there in a minute.
Again, too late. As I reached for the handtowel, she emitted an equally shrill, equally urgent cry:
That, my friends, is pest control.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

At least she's not allergic...

Yesterday afternoon was rather eventful around here. To reward excellent behavior during some boring errands, I decided the three girls in this family deserved some playtime at the river. I parked the car, removed their shoes and socks, rolled up pants hems, and off we went! Ellie ran on ahead, headed straight for a flock of hapless birds that needed scattering. Baby Stephanie and I motored along at baby Stephanie pace...until about 1 minute 45 seconds into our outing, when Ellie began to SCREAM. IN PAIN. I snatched up Stephanie and ran to the spot where Ellie had fallen to the ground, clutching her foot and wailing in agony. If you have any idea of how much Ellie HATES for someone to touch her foot, you have some clue as to the challenge before me. I had no idea what had happened, and of course, it was a massive struggle to wrestle her foot into a position where I could take a look. During the battle, I scanned the area for clues, but there was nothing to see. She was in the sand. There was no blood. It wasn't glass. There was no piece of trash or buried old metal or anything. When I finally got a glimpse of her foot, I could see what appeared to be a splinter near the ball of her big toe. I have no idea how she could have gotten a splinter on the beach, but my task was to soothe Ellie as best I could and get it out despite Ellie's screams of pain and extreme protest against my touching her foot, all while managing to keep baby Stephanie from scooting on her little behind right into the water where she wanted to play. Luckily, there was a larger bit on the end of the splinter that prevented it from going further in. I managed to flick it out with my fingernail before Ellie writhed away from me, but it happened so quickly that it popped off into the sand and disappeared before I could take a look to see what it was. Ellie was still wailing and would not be soothed. The whole situation just seemed wrong somehow. At the swift glance I'd gotten, it did seem to be a splinter, but a splinter should not produce this much mayhem...or swelling. The area around where the splinter had been was starting to swell. I needed to take her home to clean it off better and calm her down. Under extreme duress, I managed to get them both back to the car and strapped into their seats. Ellie was still crying, complaining of pain (which shouldn't be the case since I was sure the splinter was out).

Using her carseat as my aid to restrain her from further foot-touching mutiny, I took another look before I let her out and I was unhappy to note that now the pad of her foot and her big toe were swollen and red. I called our family doctor, who was of course unavailable. The receptionist advised me to take Ellie to the children's hospital emergency room. I could see it now: "Yes, my daughter had a splinter. No, it's not in there anymore. Yes, we can wait for 5 hours to be seen..." I WAS NOT AMUSED. However, the problem remained and I definitely wanted someone else to see it. I had no choice. Off to the emergency room we went. The children's hospital is in an awful location, at the intersection of a busy one-way road and an even busier main thoroughfare. It took me nearly 30 minutes just to find somewhere to park, at which point my frustration boiled over and I started crying too. Fortunately, it was a slow day for trauma, and we saw a doctor very quickly (how old did I feel to notice she was younger than me?).

I have to say Ellie was AMAZING. She didn't fight the doctor for a minute. She let her look at her foot, touch, poke, prod...shine a light on it to be sure there was nothing left of the splinter. Stephanie had a blast too. She loved the spiral cord that attached the light to the wall. The emergency room visit was a non-event, especially when the doctor decided it was no issue since she couldn't see anything, the swelling should go away on its own and we should just go home.

Last night, Ellie slept fitfully at best. She woke up A LOT. She might have been too hot (it was warmer last night than it has been), but I suspected that darn foot. Wouldn't you know this morning it was every bit as swollen as yesterday afternoon when I rucked up at the emergency room? She had no fever, it wasn't discolored (just red), and she could put weight on it (though she didn't want to), so I let her go to school. There, I ran into a grandma who noticed her limping and thus was treated to the whole story. Without batting an eyelash, she calmly said, "She stepped on a bee."
That is exactly what it was. In retrospect, it all makes so much sense! Even at the time she was wailing in the sand, Ellie kept screaming, "It was a jellyfish!" when I told her it was a splinter. I knew the pain was wrong for a splinter, but I also knew a jellyfish hadn't been the cause. Of course, the pain felt the same to her. It was a powerful sting! She stepped on a bee. I'm off to write a letter to Princess Margaret Hospital now, thanking them for their kindness and quick service, but suggesting they might take a lesson in diagnosis from a grandma.

Pronunciation: \ˈgran(d)-ˌmä, -ˌmȯ; ˈgra-ˌmä, -ˌmȯ\
Function: noun
Date: 1867
Definition: mama with experience
(all but definition found on Merriam-Webster's online dictionary)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grumpy day, beautiful night

Last Saturday was a grumpy day around here. The weather was not nice (cold, grey, drizzly), and the girls were taking turns whining and complaining and grumping. Baby Stephanie was exhausted but wouldn't give in to a nap. Every time we put her down, she'd be wailing within minutes. By mid-afternoon, Markus gave up and took Ellie to the beach, hoping the extra peace in the house would allow Stephanie to rest. Less than an hour after that, my neck was two inches shorter (stress of baby wailing!) and we followed.

The grey day had given way to a lovely evening. The water was oh-so-inviting, and Markus suggested a swim might do me a world of good. You know about my ocean fears, but I was so wrecked at that point that I was willing to put them aside. Oh...he was so right! The release of floating free in the gorgeous ocean did me more good than anything. Of course, it was an extra bonus that I wasn't eaten. I might have stayed in there for ages if I hadn't heard baby Stephanie resume her wailing. It was time to go!

The sun was low in the sky as we left the parking lot, and I was sorry to miss the sunset. Little did I expect the sky to be even prettier as we drove away from the shore. The sun had lit up what remained of the storm clouds, and the array of colors was brilliant! Bad day gone! Beautiful night remained!

Oh, and baby Stephanie did finally stop wailing. She caved, ate like a horse, and passed out cold for the whole night. Go figure.

New friends

Here we are at another weekend, and I still haven't written about last weekend. I must go back, because it must be shared! After several weeks of debating and then waiting, our new kayak arrived last weekend. Markus always waffles for ages over items that indulge his interests (though never for a second when he indulges me or the girls), but he has been wistful over the Hobie Adventure Island for quite a while now. Hobie makes unique kayaks in that they don't require use of a paddle. The drive system is pedaled by foot and operates two fins beneath the kayak. The rudder is hand-controlled by a small steering pin, and you wouldn't believe how quickly that thing can scoot! Of course, this isn't just about the drive system. The real draw of this kayak on Markus's outdoor-loving soul is the sail and outrigger system. This kayak has it all! Okay, okay, I know I sound like a salesperson, but this kayak is seriously cool. When you come visit, I promise we'll let you have a go.

Anyway, we picked it up on Saturday, and by Sunday morning, we were both eager to give it a go. Markus went on ahead to the river to set it up, and the girls and I soon followed with a picnic lunch. The day was gorgeous (as ever), and the conditions could not have been more pleasant. I just wanted to try the kayak part, so Markus disassembled all the rest and pushed me off the shore so I could drop the drive system fins. As soon as I started to turn out into the river, there was a large splash off to my immediate right. DOLPHINS! Ever since I first learned to kayak on open water, I have wanted to paddle with dolphins...and here they were! Two of them had been swimming along without surfacing until I pushed out. They must have been curious, so they popped up to see what I was doing. They were off like a flash, but I was so excited that I wasn't about to let them get away. I chased them, and instantly appreciated how quickly that drive system allows the kayak to move. I caught up with them and doing so renewed their interest. They swam with me for several minutes, slowing each time they got ahead so I could catch up again, dancing and turning beneath the water (so clear I could see them well), watching me with their lovely eyes, surfacing on either side of me again and again...I was in seventh heaven! I was laughing and talking to them and pedaling for all I was worth to make it last as long as possible. Soon, we were out near other (large) boats, and my new friends swam away. I was elated. I pedaled back to shore in a euphoric stupor. No, I didn't have the camera. There are no photos to share. But those dolphins gave me such a joyful gift!
I never would have kept up with them in a regular kayak. I may be the biggest fan this Hobie kayak ever had.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Weather forecast

The weather has been incredibly mild of late. We had two quite cold windy nights a couple of weeks ago, but then it mellowed out again. The back door stays open all day long. We don't need heaters at night. Even the duvets have seemed a bit heavy the past couple of nights. Temperatures don't seem to dip much below 20C. We're told this is unusual for April, but we're enjoying it while it lasts!

This morning, the weather changed quite quickly. Dark clouds rolled in, a strong cool wind kicked up, and cold rain began to fall. We were on our way out, and I insisted Ellie bring a jacket (an unusual request to this point). Once she stepped outside, she understood. Despite the fact that this is Dutch summer weather (it's still around 16C), her pronouncement was:

"Yes, Ellie does need a jacket! I think it will snow!"

Truism de-bunked

Whomever said "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" obviously didn't find this on the side of the road:

I took an unusual detour on the way to the zoo Monday morning, trying to avoid a messy intersection, and I ended up passing through a neighborhood that was awaiting its quarterly bulk junk pick-up. Although it is in my genes (inherited from my Dad who ran a bonafide foster home for random trash), I have not ever salvaged a roadside piece o' junk...but then again, I had never seen something like this. I wanted it! I circled, came back, pulled over, and kept two zoo-crazed children waiting while I called Markus and plotted how to get this desk back to our house. The varnish was a peeling mess, but the wood was good, the hinges worked, and the metal wasn't rusted. All it needed was serious sanding, re-varnishing, and love. It wanted to come home with me!
I went back again on the way home from the zoo two hours later, and someone had taken it. It was mine, I tell you!
I spent the rest of the day sulking, pining over my lost piece o' junk.
I really wanted that desk.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back to the Cuddly Animal Farm

On Tuesday, we drove once more to the Cuddly Animal Farm in Swan Valley. I can't remember a week since our first visit that Ellie has not asked to return. While large (or even semi-large) animals make her incredibly nervous, Ellie adores all tiny creatures. Baby Stephanie love love loves animals, and now that she's more mobile, she got as much enjoyment out of the farm visit as did her big sister. Markus just set the camera in movie mode and took a dozen clips of the girls during our visit, and I pared them down and strung them together for sharing for this week's video post.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Joyful discovery

We don't watch TV, so I've never actually seen an episode of American Idol or any other country's version of it. When a girlfriend who knows of my TV aversion forwarded this link to me, insisting I watch, I knew there had to be a good reason. Now, I have to share it with you! The link is to a performance on "Britain's Got Talent" by a 47-year-old unemployed and (this is important) unattractive woman named Susan Boyle from Scotland. When she strolled out and announced her dream of being a professional singer, everyone (and I mean everyone!) scoffed, not least of which the infamous Simon the Nasty. The turn in the audience is as amazing and beautiful as her performance. We all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but how quick are we to do just that? The clip is just over 7 minutes long and worth every bit of your time. I have no idea of the follow-up to this show, but wherever you are, Susan Boyle, congratulations and best wishes with your stunning talent!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter weekend

In the US, holidays are long-term in the shops (buy decorations weeks if not months in advance!) and short-term in the days off. As far as the business world is concerned, Easter falls on a Sunday, so no holiday required. In Europe, I grew accustomed to Good Friday also being a day off, which makes sense in terms of religious significance. "Easter Monday" off is also quite common, mostly as a holiday to give people time to travel home from wherever they've gone (traditionally to spend Easter with family elsewhere). Here in Australia, we are being introduced to the idea of Easter Tuesday as well. While a few places are open, most are closed. Markus's office is closed. It's a five-day weekend for almost everyone! New to us, but who are we to scoff at extra family time? We're having a blast!

Ellie's last day of school term 1 was Thursday. She will go back again on Wednesday the 29th, so we've got two weeks more to play with and enjoy. Markus took the remainder of this week off, so for 3 vacation days, he gets 10 days with us! We're vacationing at home, and it's great! Due to the school holidays, most people head down South to Margaret River (gorgeous beaches, world-class wineries) or to Rottnest Island (so popular over Easter that there's a lottery for cabins held back in November!), but that means both places will be overrun. We've opted to stick around and do a few daytrips from home. In terms of kid-friendliness, we couldn't vacation anywhere better than here anyway. The beach, the river, the playgrounds, the backyard...all while maintaining our normal eat/sleep routines. It's pretty darn good. The weather is cooperating beautifully. There has been a fluke hot spell that has kept the evenings warmer than usual, but it's not hot enough to require the A/C. Yesterday, we had a rare overcast, then rainy day, but even that was enjoyable. Markus and Ellie did some work around the house, and we all went for a post-storm walk on the beach. There was such a range of blues and purples in the sky and blues and greens in the ocean...a camera couldn't capture them. It was breath-takingly beautiful. If we had painted it, we would have been accused over over-exaggerating the colors, it was so stunning. All at our doorstep. We are feeling very spoiled.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter! Frohe Ostern!

Easter morning dawned clear and bright, so before breakfast had even been cleared from the table, Papa headed out with the girls on the Mother Ship. They hadn't been gone long before they called home and gave directions to a new spot along the river. It's public waterfront accessible from parks at either end of a long stretch of private homes. Beautiful!

It had the added bonus that morning of being in the wind shade as well. I trekked on down with some Easter eggs, hoping we might do our first-ever Easter egg hunt there, but the girls were too absorbed with sand play to be bothered. I did manage to pop on their bunny ponchos and snap a few photos.

With all the moving and to-ing and fro-ing we've done in the past few years, we haven't really celebrated holidays the way I grew up doing and always intended to continue. Ellie has never had an Easter basket; she doesn't know about the Easter bunny. Many parents don't tell their kids about the Easter bunny from the moral high ground that it's wrong to lie to their children. We aren't quite so philosophical (ethical?). We haven't done it because she is terrified of Santa Claus, so we figured why risk another holiday of trauma for a creature that isn't real? Being in school, however, does introduce her to the idea of chocolate eggs and chocolate egg hunts, so we decided to "do" Easter this year.

The Catholic church up the street has a big sign posted this week that reads "THE EASTER BUNNY DIDN'T RISE FROM THE DEAD." Though that's a bit melodramatic for my taste, they do have a point. Easter is a religious holiday. If you consider the meaning in Christian tradition, Good Friday and Easter are far more significant than Christmas, though celebrating Easter is more about springtime (tulips, flowers, baby chicks and bunnies) and candy than anything else. Since we don't go to church, we didn't have an obvious in for explaining the holiday to Ellie, but we tried anyway. If she's going to associate the holiday with a character she cannot meet or quite understand, I'd much rather tell her about Jesus than the Easter Bunny. Judge me as you will.

Thinking through all of that made me reflect on my own most prominent Easter memories. First and foremost is hunting for Easter eggs with the church group in Sunset, Utah, where we lived when I was very small (ages 3-6). Of all the churches I attended as a child, that one is most clear in my memory. If you plunked me down within a mile of it to this day, I could take you there and show you around. I still dream about it sometimes. Don't ask me why. The next biggest Easter memory that is forever burned in my brain is the first Easter Markus and I were together in New Orleans. At the risk of making this a ridiculously long posting, I'm going to share it with you.

While we were in New Orleans, we often drove over to Ocean Springs on the weekends. Markus loved getting out of the city and unwinding on the bayou, so I usually attended my favorite church from high school while we were there. That weekend, we drove over on Saturday night. About halfway there, I realized I'd forgotten my church shoes. I had packed a white suit, so unless we wanted to turn back, I needed to find white, heeled shoes on the night before Easter in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Our only shopping option was Wal-Mart. I was not hopeful. Markus, on the other hand, was surprisingly supportive and enthusiastic. He would help me. We would look together. Divide and conquer! Scour the shoe racks until we found something wearable and white. And if there were no white shoes, we could buy another color and spray paint them.
Yes, folks, my second most prominent Easter memory is the night Markus first embraced his inner redneck.

Happy Easter to you all!
Frohe Ostern to our friends and relatives in Deutschland!
And Happy Birthday to Uncle Bob!

Friday, April 10, 2009

500th post!

When I started this blog in the fall of 2005, I used it to share photos and our doings with friends and family, much as I would have done with a mass email. Mass emails aren't much fun to receive and often get lost in the shuffle, so I thought the blog would be a good place where people could check in whenever and however often they wanted to (or not). Ellie was brand new, and we had lots of baby cuteness to share. We were living in Houston as "displaced Americans" from Hurricane Katrina, not knowing that storm would be the first of many major events to follow rapid-fire in the months and years to come. Since then, we have lost both of our fathers, moved internationally three times, and had another baby. It's been a whirlwind! Through it all, I've tried to maintain this blog. Email communications have been dropped off and on over time, phone calls prove challenging with 12+hour time differences, letter writing is so rare...often, our blog has served as the only communication coming from us as we muddled through the mayhem.

Recently, SouleMama wrote a post about why she blogs, and it has had me thinking ever since. Why do I blog now? What is the purpose of my entries? I was surprised to realize that I wasn't really sure of the answer to that anymore. Talking it out with Markus helped me realize how the blog has evolved and changed over time. To maintain regular posting, it has become less of what would be a mass mail and more of my thoughts and experiences through a filter, snapshots of our lives that do not attempt to encompass the whole but still a little glimpse for those who are too far away to share. Particularly during the times when all other communications dropped off, this blog has been a little forum for sharing that I have enjoyed as much as an outlet as anything else. Curiosity led me to add the sitemeters, and I have been fascinated to see how internationally our blog is read. This led me to write more generally, hoping for more dialogue and commentary...which in turn led to great frustration on my end when there was none, even when requested. I would love to know who is reading this blog and why. Do you come back often? Do you like the stories, or are you more interested in seeing photos and videos? Would you like daily photos, even (or preferably) without stories? More about living overseas? Nothing different? What brings you here?

As I write this, my 500th post, I also want to know what brings me here. There are a few people we know and love who check in here daily and regularly give me feedback. Part of me knows the reason I am here is just for you! The fact that you check in makes me want to be sure there's something new here for you. Because of your enthusiasm and support, I know I will keep blogging. I'm just not sure of the content and format right now. If you have suggestions or feedback, you know I'm all ears.

In the meantime, as a reward for slogging through this stream-of-consciousness (or a happy scroll down for those who skipped right past it), here are some pics to make you smile:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Weekly Video Post

Okay, so the weekly video post hasn't been very weekly of late. Sorry. Often the cuteness happens with no camera in sight, and camera in sight often ends the cuteness. Sigh. Not so yesterday afternoon, when I was able to capture baby Stephanie's new favorite game. Scooting away from Mama is more fun than you can imagine, and it cracked up both girls to no end!

Unfortunately, baby Stephanie had a bit of a wipe-out at the end of the clip there. I think it hurt her feelings more than anything else. Scooting at top speed does have its occupational hazards.

Monday, April 06, 2009

How Ellie views the world

One of Ellie's most favorite activities is taking pictures with the digital camera. We turn off the flash, snugly fit the strap around her wrist, and she's off! Extreme close-ups are her forte, and often the camera finds itself so close to (i.e., touching) its subject that the image is black. She also likes to keep things flowing, so most of her images are blurry as she moves on to the next subject while the camera records the image. There are also many, many photos of her feet, which she snaps as she walks between items of interest. She takes an average of 100+ photos each time she gets hold of the camera.

The first time Ellie took photos was during our city trip to Berlin, and we were amazed at how the images revealed her perspective and interests. What caught her eye? What did she find interesting? Since then, she's used the camera countless times. Most of the time, I delete the images because they are, as I wrote above, blurry or too close and dark or too difficult to discern; however, I finally realized that even these blurry, funny, close-up shots still reveal quite a bit about Ellie's view of the world, what she'd like to record, and what she found interesting in that moment. With that in mind, I have set up a flickr account just for her. I can't keep 100s of Ellie photos on the hard drive, but I will dump them into flickr for your (and her!) perusal. I'll even be adding a flickr badge of her images to the sidebar, so check that out any time you are so inclined. When you have the opportunity to look into Ellie's view, you might be surprised at what you see. Thankfully, I have editor's privilege. I just loaded up the latest batch and was faced with an extreme close-up of my bum, fresh from the shower. Excellent.
And no, that won't be on flickr.

Online addiction

They say don't knock it 'til you try it, so I gave facebook a whirl.
I don't like it.
I do, however, like Ravelry.
I have a bit of a Ravelry addiction. I can't even consider getting on there unless I've set aside a chunk of time for it, because once I'm in, I'm lost. If you knit or crochet, don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Changing seasons

The weekend before last, our clocks "fell back" with Daylight Savings, and the weather decided to do the same. Now, it is officially heaven here. The days are still sunny and warm and wonderful, and the nights and mornings are blessedly cool and crisp. I begin to understand why the locals are so fiercely protective of their bubble. While they get a bit overzealous (it is, after all, quite far away from EVERYWHERE), this is a beautiful place! I'm starting to be convinced that there could be no more ideal climate for outdoor living. We have the beach, we have the river, we have a big backyard...what else is needed? The isolation keeps the population relatively low, which means the beach and river aren't usually too crowded. Our favorite spots remain our favorite spots; no one else has claimed them yet. And now they are better than ever, because the sun isn't barbeque-ing us in our skins. Okay, it does if you are in it directly, but it's lower in the afternoons now. This weekend was the first time I went for a decent paddle in the kayak, because I was able to do most of it in the shade...and it's still warm enough outside that Ellie can hose the kayak off in the buff when we come home. How I would love to post a picture of that (it's too cute and funny!), but there are freaky people out there who do not need access to such an image (alas, the perils of sharing with family and friends and the whole world at the same time!).

It's funny how the change in weather has revealed my internal programming. I stepped outside on Saturday morning to head to my knitting group, and it was so cool and lovely that I found myself thinking of designing our Christmas cards. IN APRIL. Yes, I am a Northern Hemisphere person in a Southern Hemisphere life. It's very odd to think that it is the start of cooler weather in what I know as the springtime, but so it is. At least I can hope this will motivate me to knit up a storm and have homemade gifts for loved ones completed by Christmastime. Usually that motivation kicks in at the start of autumn in October or so, and I run out of time. I've got several more months to play with this time, so we'll see how it goes.
I am having so much fun with my knitting group, by the way. I am the youngest person there by about 20 years, and most of the women have been knitting since before I was born (many have been knitting since before my mom was born). My knitting is very slow, but I do enjoy it a great deal! It is so fun to create something beautiful with my hands, even when it comes together more slowly than I would like.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

He's Got The Funk!

On Monday night, my throat felt a bit sore and scratchy, and I was all prepped to seek out pity points when Markus came home. I didn't feel great, and I was ready to hand over the parenting baton the second he came home from work...except he came home in a far worse state than I was in. For the next two days, Markus stayed home from work SICK. The poor man. When he gets sick enough to stay home, you know it's bad. When he's sick enough to fall back asleep mid-morning with the curtains open and the sun brightly shining, you might want to check his breathing. This is a man who does not nap, who cannot nap, who cannot be paid good money to settle down his busy behind even when he's ill. But those two days at home seem to have helped a lot, and he's back at work, trying to recoup in a sea of meetings and spreadsheets. I seem to have skimmed over the top of the funk, but I've come out exhausted on the other side (of course, that could also be due to the extra loud weekend and the week since of early wake-ups as we readjust to "fall back" on the clocks). Thank goodness it's Friday!