Aug 25, 2010

Two boys, one fly,

. . .and some construction workers. They keep me entertained and, in the case of the fly, annoyed.
So we're supposed to take the garbage and put it out on the street each Thursday morning, when the garbage truck comes and picks it up for us (it's a magical thing). Taking the garbage out is the husband's job, as was decided by wives of old, and who am I to question that decision? He does a wonderful job at it too, except for once in a while when he forgets to take it out. 

When you live two stories up in the big city, you don't have a driveway, or a yard to keep your garbage out of sight (and smell!), you have a balcony. And in our case the tiniest balcony you have ever seen. It will fit 4 bags of garbage if stacked correctly, which just so happens to be about the amount of garbage we produce on a weekly basis (don't judge me, I have 2 boys in diapers. Boys poop. A lot.).

Two weeks ago my otherwise near-perfect husband forgot to take out the garbage and that's when the trouble began. It wouldn't have been so bad if the weather two weeks ago hadn't been completely hot and sunny for a few days in a row. There was lots of food waste in those garbage bags you see, and we live near the sea which means we get a lot of seagulls circling overhead, in search of their next unhealthy meal (they always seem to find their way to my neighbourhood... hmm.). Seagulls can smell through plastic. Don't ask me how, but they smell the food waste I have in my garbage bags that sit on my tiny balcony and that have been roasting in the sun for a week. Actually, come to think of that, after all of that they probably just go wherever the swarm of flies seems to be emerging from. Flies circle the bags in the hope of finding a way in, seagulls come wanting the food as much as the flies but actually having a handy beak to facilitate getting into said bags, and many disgusting happenings ensue. The bags are ripped to shreds, the seagulls nibble on what strikes their fancy (which often seem to be the poopy diapers, eeeew) and the flies mate with my garbage or something because the next day things come crawling out of my garbage. Have I mentioned that the balcony can only be reached via the kitchen? Where I prepare meals for my children? 

Here's how I fixed the situation: After welcoming my husband home with a kiss the following Wednesday evening, I let him eat his dinner in relative peace (we do have four kids) and then proceeded to tell him to fix the mess he had gotten us into by not taking out the trash last week, while I was at the movies with a friend.
There was no way in H-E-Doublehockeysticks I was sticking around while he was carrying maggot-infested trash bags through the house, and hosing down the balcony afterwards. 

Though the balcony has been clean since then, and the trash has been taken out each week, we haven't really been able to completely rid our house of the fly infestation, though it's gotten better each day. I think the fly that's trying to kamikaze its way into my eye right now might be the last one. Kamikaze away I say, an eye seems a small price to pay to not have bugs in my house anymore (we already had a grasshopper plague earlier this summer. Why do they come all the way up here??).

Next post I'll tell you all about the construction workers. . . 

Aug 23, 2010

music monday V1.9 - AKA 'ouch'

Did you know that giving birth to a baby is not the end of excrutiating pain? If you are an inexperienced, expecting mother then you might not want to read on because there are, well, quite a few spoilers. They certainly spoiled things for me. 

First there is the afterbirth (placenta) that doctors will happily punch you in the stomach for to get out. Then (if you're really lucky) there are the stitches that make sitting and going to the bathroom a literal pain for days or even weeks to follow. Next up are the contractions that cause your uterus to shrink back to its normal size. Think menstrual cramps but a quatrillion times worse. 
Last but not least we have the nipple pain. I've heard that not all women experience this and I don't know whether that makes me happy or furious (if I have to deal with it then so should everyone else, right? It's only fair!) but I guess I'll lean towards the 'I'm happy for you if breastfeeding turned out to be a breeze'. For me that has never been the case. Breastfeeding might just be the most painful thing I have ever had to do, and the source of the greatest insecurity I have ever experienced. I've been through just about every trial breastfeeding has to offer. Allow me to sum them up.

It all began when Lara was born and I found out I was one of the lucky women who has very sensitive nipples, so it took me weeks to be able to nurse without curling my toes in agony. That's when the thrush set in and I just about cried at the mere thought of having to nurse. Thrush is basically a fungal infection that causes nursing to feel like hot daggers being stuck into your breast, and this pain doesn't stop when the baby latches off. You get cracks in the skin of your nipples, they often bleed, and the risk of a bacterial breast infection is greatly increased. I was given medicine to combat the thrush, but it did nothing for me. When Lara then also began to look kind of skinny (not a good look on an infant!) I decided that enough was enough and I switched to formula. She instantly started sleeping through the night, gained weight, and I felt like a person again. I was sad I didn't nurse Lara longer, and for a long time I've felt very guilty, because I always pictured myself as an earth-mother who gives her children the best of all what nature has to offer, breast milk being number one in that. 

Then along came little Julia! I was ready to give it another try and felt confident that this time things would be better. 
They weren't. 
The thrush came back with a vengeance, and I got a bacterial infection to boot which caused me to have a high fever and feel utterly miserable. Then I noticed that Julia's right nipple was extremely swollen and red. I knew that because of the mother's hormones that pass on to a baby through the milk, a baby can start producing tiny amounts of milk themselves, a very common in both boys and girls. This seemed a whole lot worse though, so I took her to the doctor. The verdict? Poor Julia also had a breast infection and needed an operation to clean out the infected area when she was only 10 days old. Never had I considered the possibility of my milk making my child sick! I tried to pump milk while Julia was in the hospital and I wasn't allowed to nurse, but don't even get me started on pumping. Basically I can't get any milk to come out that way, so because she wasn't nursing, and breastmilk is produced only when it is being drunk, I stopped producing. There ended the breastfeeding for Julia.

Max was a different story! Again there was the horrible start-up pain, and again the thrush paid us a nasty visit.. but this time the medicine we received took, and the pain actually went away! I was able to nurse Max for a good 5 months before he started looking skinny like Lara had done and he quit sleeping through the night. I tried letting him latch on more often, and longer, but it didn't help. I figured I was grateful I had been able to nurse him for as long as I had, and that now was the time to switch to bottle feeding. At least it wasn't a painful and traumatic ending to breastfeeding like with the girls!

Finally there is dear sweet little Elliot, who is such a good drinker. He's been gaining weight really well from the get-go, the start-up pains were minimal and we have both been enjoying the feedings so much! Finally I understand how nice and really how easy it is to nurse your child, always having his sustenance on hand and in the correct amound and at the right temperature. Things were going great.... until. Until that nasty thrush came and tormented me yet again. Luckily Elliot didn't get it, but for me nursing has once again become agony! I recognised it really quickly because of my past experiences, and went to the doctor the same day and got the medicine. I've been using it and doing everything I can possibly find on the internet to help get rid of this thing, but it's been nearly a week and today the pain got worse again instead of better. To boot I'm coming down with the worst head and throat cold you can imagine and I just don't have the energy to deal with this! I need to run a very busy house and for that I need my energy to go into doing the dishes, caring for my children, washing the laundry, making a gazillion trips to school and back, cooking dinners. I can't be using up all that energy on trying to get through another feeding without crying! 

So this is it. I'm done. I feel no guilt, though I do feel sad that breastfeeding once again has to come to an early end, especially considering how much I had come to love it over the past couple of months. 
I'm going to have to nurse Elliot a few more times to relieve the milk build-up (otherwise I might explode) but other than that I'm saying goodbye to the pain. 


Now that I've made you sit through that horrible tale I had better reward you with some music right? I figure a couple of lullabies are fitting, as they are soothing and sweet and make you feel comforted. I can do with a bit of comforting today! Let me share with you the songs that I sing to my children before bed.


Aug 15, 2010

music monday V1.8 (girl power!)

Let's get right to it, shall we?

Leslie Mendelson - I Know You Better Than That
I think I'm still in the nice 'n easy summer songs that sound like sunshine mood.

Diane Birch - Valentino
I chose this video because it's cute and clever and makes me smile, but seriously, take the time to listen to some of the other songs off her album that are on youtube, this kid has some remarkable song writing skills.

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
This song, oh Jenny, this song! Sigh.

Malvina Reynolds - Turn Around
This is the same woman who wrote that delicious 'Little Boxes' song you hear on that tv show. She is known for her political lyrics but I love her for this song, being a mother of 2 girls and all. It just makes me all weepy and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to get through this song if I were to try and sing it myself.
(this version is also beautiful)

Do you ever do that thing where you're coming across so much good new music and you just cannot stop listening to every single song the new-to-you artist has ever put out and also a live rendition of as many of those songs as possible, that you suddenly find yourself still awake at 3am when your baby wakes up for his night feeding? I do.

School is back in, real life has once again begun and I have to face up to a few realities:
1. My legs are going to hurt bad from peddling The Beast to and from school.
2. I'm going to have to start getting out of bed before 9am.
3. Muffins and brownies and cakes are not a food group.
4. I need to find the girls' gym clothes.

Wish me luck!

Aug 12, 2010

bon giorno!

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but my husband is very good at thinking of romantic and fun things to do for our anniversaries. He keeps track of 2 anniversaries, and to him both are of equal importance. The first is the anniversary of the day we first met: April 28th 2000. The second, and more traditionally, is our wedding anniversary: September 12th 2001. 

He has taken me out to dinner, surprised me with lovely gifts and flowers and even whisked me off to Paris. He really outdid himself on one particular occasion though. It was when I was 6 months pregnant with Julia, and April 28th 2005 was drawing close. He had informed me that he was planning an entire day, consisting of 3 different parts, and that everything would be a surprise up to the last minute. He kept his word! First he took Lara and me to Madurodam where we had fun strolling around and looking at all the miniature buildings, and where Lara got to meet Nijntje. Then we went home so Lara and I could have a little nap (yes he even incorporated nap time!) after which we drove to a park and had an elaborate home-made picnic. Then I was sent out shopping with my mother and she had been told to keep me occupied until she received 'word'. 
After a few hours spent walking around down town and window shopping our eyes out, she finally got the call. She was to take me over to a parking garage on the edge of the shopping centre. When we got there we were met by my friend Liz, who basically stuffed me into the elevator, pushed a button, handed me a note and left me in there with a very puzzled look on my face. The note read: 'The higher you go, the better it gets.' For a minute I was worried Sander had gotten his hands on some drugs, but that worry was quickly taken away from me when the elevator reached its destination: the 15th, and very top floor or the parking garage. I stepped out and was greeted by a very well-dressed husband, holding a rose. I looked around and was amazed at what I saw: from the 15th floor you could overlook all of The Hague, a beautiful view especially now it had gotten dark out. Millions of little lights in every direction. That was not the best part though...

I noticed the entire parking floor was empty, and the entrance had been sealed off so no cars could get on besides our car which was parked in a far corner (apparently parking garage owners have a major soft spot for romance). The car doors were open and soft music was coming from the stereo... and a little bit away from the car there stood a beautifully set table, with candles, and more roses and candles surrounding it. It was gorgeous! Sander had cooked us a 3 course meal (he made his own pasta!) and we spent hours eating, talking, laughing, and just sitting and enjoying the view and each other.

 So this year we've been together for 10 years, and married for 9, and Sander told me yesterday that he's taking me to Venice, Italy for 5 days in September! I CANNOT WAIT! We're bringing Elliot with us (like we brought Max with us to Paris when he was 3 months old) and I believe various babysitters will be 'hired' for the other kids. It's gonna be awesome, even more awesome than the scones Lara and I baked today.

Oh and the pictures for this post don't actually have anything to do with what I've written about, as you might have noticed. Just some pictures from the past couple of days taken by my cousin Jiska who came to stay with us this week.

Aug 9, 2010

music monday V1.8

Let me start this post out by saying thank you for all the great feedback I've received on the short story I posted last time. I'm not quite sure how that story happened, and I'm still a bit scared to read it back (nope, I haven't actually read it since writing it). I sat down at my laptop, intending to write a post about something entirely different and this came out instead. And when I say it came out, I mean it poured out. My fingers started typing something that was inside of me and I couldn't stop until I suddenly saw the story had come to an end. That whole experience was odd in itself, but to then go and hit the 'publish' button is still what mystifies me most. Even though the story isn't really autobiographical, there are of course large portions of my own feelings in there and certain details stem from reality (the name and make of the car for instance, Lara named our car 'Sandy' one day), so I feel very exposed having put that story out there for anyone to read. I know I write all sorts of things on here and share many pictures and sentiments and opinions, but I don't often really really bare my soul, and that is a scary thing to do.
I know I'm not a writer by nature. Even though that story flowed out of me with relative ease, it was an draining experience and I was worn out afterwards. Still I have received really sweet responses and uplifting critiques, and I thank everyone again for sending them my way either by commenting on the blog, on Facebook, via e-mail, on the phone or in person. Don't expect it to happen again soon! It's not what I intended the blog for and it's not something I often do outside the safety of my personal diary.

Now let's get to the music!

1. Elbow - Mirrorball (Peter Gabriel cover)
This band has a serious talent for covering great songs and making them just as great, or in some cases (in my humble opinion this is one of those cases) even greater.

2. The Deep Dark Woods - Charlie's (is coming down)
The album version of this son is also awesome, listen to it here. I prefer this more naked version though, the violin is beautiful with it. I seem to be enjoying the violin a whole lot as of late..

3. St. Vincent with Andrew Bird - Black Rainbow
I think that if I were a man, I would be seriously in love with this girl. Lucky for me I am a girl, so I get to be seriously in love with mr. Andrew Bird.

Enjoy, and dont forget to share any tips you might have!

Sometimes Lara steals my phone to take pictures with it. Among the dozens of blurry shots of her feet or the tv, I sometimes come across a little gem:

Last week of summer vacation, here we come. Let's hope for just one more day of beach weather for everyone to enjoy. Try not to get sick like all of us did last week.

Aug 4, 2010

the secret of sunshine

Once upon a time there was a girl named Sandy. She was named after a car. Yes, there is a car named Sandy and it is a red Nissan Micra. It's not as silly to be named after a car as it is silly to name a car, but both the girl and the car loved their name. 

Sandy was a happy and generally good girl, but her need to have secrets sometimes got her into trouble, which troubled her a lot. 'Why do I enjoy having secrets so much?', she often wondered to herself. It wasn't that she enjoyed hiding things, and it wasn't that she wanted to keep other boys and girls out of certain parts of her life. She just needed to hide away every once in a while, or keep something to herself just for the fun of it. It felt nice to her to know that there were certain little things that nobody knew but her. 

Another added bonus of having lots of secrets was that it was great for strengthening friendships. Sometimes she would meet another boy or girl whom she really liked and wanted to stay friends with forever and ever. She knew that forever was impossible and unattainable because no friend had stuck around that long yet, but still she wanted it. Just to know what it was like, or something.

What Sandy would do when she found such a seemingly eternity-worthy boy or girl was that she would take them into her room in a quiet hush. She would sit the boy or girl down on her bed and inform them that she was about to reveal a secret of the greatest importance and sensitivity to them, and that they had to swear to never ever ever reveal it to anybody else, forever. They always promised, because every single boy and girl in the world loves being let in on a secret. It makes them feel special.

Once the promise had been made, Sandy would blindfold her new friend and lead them to the secret corner of her room under the window. She would fold away the loosened bit of wallpaper there, and reveal the biggest secret she had: on her 9th birthday she had secretly taken her dad's permanent marker and peeled away a bit of her wall paper, and in wobbly 9-year-old handwriting she had written 'sunshine'. She had already figured out at the age of 9 that love was the biggest thing in the world, and the most desired and she had thought up a secret word for love. By showing her friends her secret word for love in her secret corner, she was really showing them she loved them. Perhaps even more so, she was showing them how much she wanted them to love her back. She had other secrets, but that was definitely the biggest one.

So far she had let 3 boys and 4 girls in on her greatest secret of all. She had been so excited each time she moved the little bit of wall paper to the side and shown them the 'sunshine'. Each time the boy or girl in question would react so wonderfully! Their eyes would get a little twinkle, their cheeks would redden just a touch, and a big smile would appear on each face without fail. Even though that moment was pretty darn great, it wasn't Sandy's favourite moment. Her favourite moment was the one that came immediately after the smile: it was the hug. Everytime her newly endowed friend would hug her and thank her and she would feel their smiles against her shoulder. Oh, the warmth it sent shooting through Sandy's chest, and Sandy was as happy as she could possibly be. 

I wish I could end the story here, on such a high note, in such a delightful place, but that would be beside the point. You see, without exception there would come a moment following that favourite moment of Sandy's after she had revealed her secret. It usually didn't follow immediately after, but it always followed, and it equaled the favourite moment in strength of emotion. Without fail each and every one of her friends would leave her.

It usually wasn't sudden but it always happened. She would ask them to come over on a Wednesday afternoon to play catch in the back yard, or she would invite them over for a tea party with her new doll, or sometimes, if her parents were in a good mood, she would try to arrange a sleepover. As she picked up the phone to call her friend she would be so excited, nearly as excited as when she was on the brink of unfolding her great secret to them. Her voice would be light with glee and she would ask her friend what she had planned for the both of them. 

Then it would come. The Disappointment. She had always understood all too well what they really meant by 'not feeling well' or 'having other plans'. After mustering an empty 'oh, that's fine, maybe next time', which would be followed by her friend's insincere reply of 'definitely, I'll call you!', she would hang up and the Dark would set in. Sunshine had been chased away and she was left feeling heavy and alone. 

They didn't call back. 

Actually one girl did call back once, and got her planner out and everything to arrange a time for them to get together and play, but on the day itself she didn't show up. She didn't even call up to cancel and leave a lied excuse, she just turned into silence.

It was dark and heavy and lonely for a while, but Sandy was a happy and generally good girl and always bounced back. She didn't enjoy feeling sorry for herself, and even though these spells seemed to start lasting longer and longer, she would rid herself of this darkness and little by little start feeling the sunshine on her skin again. She once again began to enjoy having secrets. In fact, she began building a secret world that started in that secret corner under her window. 

I can't tell you what her secret world looks like, because, well, it's secret even to me. I was let in on her great secret of sunshine once. It felt wonderful to see the word written there, so plainly and innocently. It felt exactly right, and I hugged Sandy and was grateful to be considered friend enough for her to want to show me this beautiful hidden corner of her room.

But soon I grew overwhelmed and intimidated by the very thing that had made me so happy and warm when it had first been shown to me. There was so much love in that one word that I couldn't really understand why she had chosen to share it with me, and I started to distance myself from it. I distanced myself from Sandy and made excuses when she called me on the phone to find out if I wanted to come over and play. 

I feel a bit of her loneliness and heaviness when I think of her, but I'm sure she is fine. Still I wonder about her beautiful secret world and I, secretly, want to go back to her and hug her again and say how sorry I am, and that I want to be a part of that world. I know she will let me back in. She is ready again right now, as I write this, to share her secrets with a special someone. She is sitting on her bed wondering to herself why she enjoys having secrets so much. She waits patiently until I am ready, and she hopes that I will keep her sunshine safe forever and ever.

Aug 2, 2010

music monday V1.7

1. Annimal Liberation Orchestra - Girl I Wanna Lay You Down

2.Jónsi - Go Do

3. Mason Jennings - Ain't No Friend of Mine

4.Camille - Ta Douleur

5. The Cramps - Goo Goo Muck
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