Friday, September 30, 2011

It's a boy!

The second the ultrasound machine hit my belly, the tech told me it's a BOY! It was so sudden, that I wasn't even really ready for it. It's a good thing he asked me in advance if I wanted to know. So now we can stop calling the baby "it", and refer to him in male form. Of course one of the first considerations is the name. It's such a big decision, and our criteria are pretty ridiculous:

-The name has to be rare (as in, you may know one person with it, but definitely not more than that)
-It has to mean something (winter=season, sterling=silver, ginger=spice)
-Can't be shortened to anything - so no david that will go by dave.
-Oh, and the initials have to be okay too. So no names starting with "A" (AA)
-Also, no names starting with "J", since Joe and I are "J"

We have a few front runner names already. One in specific, has been in my mind for years; Miles. But under criteria #1, I'm having doubts about this name. It seems to becoming more popular and widespread. It's a good thing we have another 4.5 months to make up our mind!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A nice day ended with backpack horror

I went straight into the heart of the backpack horror. When school cups slowly start disappeared throughout the week, I usually exhort the kids to bring them up every day. After a while though, the supply doesn't seem to get replenished with the kids' contributions. So tonight I dreadidly went to the backpacks. Those things are scary places! Some of the things I found included.... hmmm... maybe I shouldn't put this on the internet..... or start an anonymous blog......

Well anyways, lets just say I found a total of 5 cups, 3 bread containers, and 2 wet gym towels. So happy with my dishwasher right now! And with my washer and dryer.

On a happier note; we got to pick up our Indian visas this afternoon in Den Haag. Afterwards, the sun was shining through the car window, and I was wishing the weather would have been this nice a few weeks ago for my beach adventure. So the thought came: just go to the beach now. You have to take a nice day anytime you can, and just enjoy it to the max. Sure, I was wearing my high-heeled boots and turtleneck, but walking on the beach should be done barefoot anyways.
It was the perfect afternoon. The kids genuinely enjoyed playing together. Some might say they're crazy for running around without shirts on, but it was all we could do to keep them from taking all their clothes off.
Coco had a blast too, until she felt really brave chasing a big dog into the ocean, and just about froze with shock from the water temperature.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Unlock the door

A VW Golf is a great car, but has its limitations. Our family of 5 fits perfectly legal. However, when you add 2 more adults, it becomes quite iffy. So when we decided to visit the old town of Delft Saturday, we had to come up with alternative measures of transportation. The closest metro stop is just a few minutes away from our house, and we also have some great friends (the Engelbrechts) who have a few extra bikes sitting at their house that they were willing to lend us.

You can't visit Holland without visiting a windmill. When I first think of windmills to visit, I instantly think of the Zaanse Schans or the Kinderdijk, but those places are both far away, and major tourist traps. We just happen to have a working grain windmill in the next town over. A short scenic bike ride through the polders adds to the experience. We were the only visitors, so the miller spent a lot of time explaining everything about the area, mill, and process of grinding flour. The kids also got to help with the flour sifting process.
There's also a little store where earned money is used for the upkeep of the mill. I'd rather visit a mill like this one, and buy some cool treats, than go to tourist-infested mills and have to pay an entrance fee any day!Dogs are not allowed in the Mill, but Coco was, if she stayed in my purse
We planned to take our bikes on the metro, so we'd be able to bike around Delft and see more of the town than would be possible on foot. It worked great on the first leg of the trip, but for the second leg, we had to get on a tram that doesn't allow bikes, so we brought them all that way for nothing. Delft is great. There was a huge flea market, where many treasures can be found.
The sellers at this stand thought they'd make one of my children happy with a cute little egg holder shaped like a chicken. A lottery was decided upon, to figure out who to give it to. Sterling picked the number 8. Ginger picked 5. Then Sterling picked number 7, which was the correct number. However, Ginger was very offended and put off, because "Sterling isn't 7! He is 8!" She didn't quite understand how this lottery worked, and it took a lot of consoling, and Sterling lovingly trading his chicken holder for a more standard one that the sellers offered when Ginger sprouted tears. You can just never know what sets that girl off, and when she's set off, it takes a miracle to get her happy again.
Sterling's favorite find was this old "skeleton key", which he bought with his own €3. He tried many old doors to see if the key would unlock them.
Reluctantly Heather and Ruth took (tiny) bites of a raw herring.
And we were amazed a the crooked state of the church. It should be called the leaning tower of Delft!
Delfts blue was everywhere! From the lamp posts, to shelves stacked with the most beautiful porcelein. It's so hard to pass all of that by!
On the way home we met up with Emma at one of the metro stations. It was great to have extended family from both sides all together! We had a great dinner of bacon (again), potatoes, and creamed spinach, followed by a fun night of chatting and catching up. Towards the end of the night the sad realization hit, that less than 24 hours later our adventures with Ruth would end again.

I AMsterdam

Experiencing Holland is not complete without a visit to Amsterdam, although most Dutch citizens (who don't live in Amsterdam) rarely visit the city. We had a tight time schedule, as we had to stay within the kids' school hours. Amazingly, traffic was light and we were at the Anne Frank house by 9.30am. This was my second visit to the house in the past few months, but it struck me how different things stood out to me this time. Maybe I was distracted by the kids last time or focused on details.
After checking out the Dam and Royal Palace, the next destination was the Van Gogh Museum. Another newbie for me. Although the artwork was amazing (of course) I was very disappointed that all the painting were covered with glass. I can see how just one idiot could ruin a masterpiece if they don't take this precaution, but still: it takes away so much from the beauty. The most interesting part for me was the exhibit about the "behind the scene" of paintings. How paint layers have changed colors, and artists reused canvased so old works appear with infrared light.

After a quick stop at the I AMsterdam sign, we had some tram troubles and didn't make it back in time to pick up the kids for school. Luckily we have some amazing friends who are always willing to help us in need. By the time we got home, I was wasted. A long day in Brussels, combined with a day of sightseeing in Amsterdam was just all my preggo body could handle. So while I took a nap, Joe took everyone else to the Kringloop Centrum. This is pretty much just a secondhand store similar to Goodwill, but the contents are much more interesting. Since Holland is a much older country, items that are considered old junk here, are actually cool antiques. Another Dutch dish of Andijvie Stampot, and a movie finished off another great day with Ruth and Heather.

A miracle?

We've had the pleasure of hosting Joe's sister Ruth, and her friend Heather for the past few days. This was Ruth's first trip across the ocean, and I was so happy to be part of it. Thursday they were flying into Brussels, so I decided to join them for the day, before joining them on the train to Holland. We were going to meet at a train station at 9.45am. Around 9.30am I realized that I had no idea if they even made it onto the plane, and whether or not their planes were on time (they both flew different flights). Around 10am, I made the call to Joe, and found out Ruth's flight was indeed 4 hours delayed. I was happy to know this, as it gave me the freedom to explore Brussels a bit instead of waiting in a train station.
Manneken Pis - famous statue. I was very confused and disappointed to see him dressed.
When Heather called her husband (who then called Joe, who then called me) to tell him 1.5 hours after Ruth's landing, that she had no idea where Ruth was; I started to get a little more worried. However, we still had 4 hours before our train back to Holland would leave, so I settled into a bench by the train station, and knitted away. I'm currently working on wool socks for Joe with raw-homespun sheeps wool. Around 3pm, when there was still no sign of them, I headed to the other train station where our train would take off towards Holland. I paced the train platform over and over, until sadly, the train left without me or Ruth. By this point the last time we'd heard anything from them, was several hours ago. It made me wonder if I'd ever find them. We relayed to Heather's husband where I'd be waiting, and knitted some more. When they showed up less than an hour later, I thought they had talked to him for sure. However, this was not the case, and we just found each other through a pure miracle.

In the end Ruth and Heather didn't get to see any of Brussels, and none of us had any waffels. But, we did manage to get home before dark, and enjoyed a typical Dutch meal of Pannenkoeken, which was very well received by our weary travelers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

16W 3D

Tonight I definitely felt the baby move. The first time I felt it, I wasn't sure, but then when it happened again a few minutes later, I recognized the dull thump. Funny, but each time I get confirmation of the baby being healthy or even alive, I get emotional and happy all over again. As if I just found out I'm pregnant. And then again, it seems unreal. People might say: "but you've already had 3 kids, how can you have such a hard time believing this baby is really going to come?" My answer to that: "those times I was in total ignorant bliss."

Going to India pregnant, makes me aware to the possible dangers there. I've already gotten HepA and DTP shots, and bought a water purifying system. I've been shopping for mosquito netting and will slather on the deet to protect against malaria. Our visa applications are turned into the Indian Embassy, and mine will be ready for pickup very soon. Joe's on the other hand, will take a few weeks extra, because he has lived in Holland less than a year, and has a foreign passport. It's not until both our visas come back, that we can finalize travel plans.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Visiting friends and family

We try to visit my opa at least every 2 months. We won't live by him forever, so I want to make the most of this opportunity. For this visit my mom also happened to be visiting at the same time. I'm glad to have a recent group photo
Almelo (where my opa lives) is far away for Dutch standard: 2 hours. Since it's the same direction as the town where I grew up --Apeldoorn-- I like to combine this visit with some friends. Carla took us to the sand dunes. After just a few minutes of soccer, the ball was lodged firmly in the top of this tree.
Carla is the one who got me thinking about a Chihuahua, since she has one too. It was so fun for Coco to have a playmate who's equal in size and energy
Of course whenever there's sand, kids have to get buried
Ginger spent the majority of her time building her own fort (with Joe's help). After the structure was complete, she decorated it with pinecones

Thursday, September 8, 2011


We were going along as usual, until a few days ago.. For the past years several of the Benacs have been involved with the Pathway orphanage in India, and I've always admired the work they do. So naturally when Joe wanted to do a fundraiser as part of developing his many talents, Pathway became the obvious choice.

The other day I casually said to Joe: "Wouldn't it be great to visit the orphanage and see firsthand how things are run?". Going East has been a dream of mine for many years. However, with kids, and mandatory visits to certain parts of the world, it has always taken a backseat. But not anymore! Now that dream is becoming a reality! We are planning to visit India in just a few short weeks!! It's so sudden, that I'm still trying to wrap my head around this wonderful news.

Of course I immediately started getting to work on visas, babysitters, and research. It just so happens that Maaike, one of my coworkers, has been to India several times and has been telling me many fun and interesting stories. Today we will go to the Indian Embassy, which is conveniently located in Den Haag (20 minutes away). I still need to figure out if we need any vaccinations, and of course do the standard research on traveling to, and visiting in India.

A great adventure awaits!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coco's sweater

The combination of a short-haired tiny Chihuahau, and a job where I look at the wall all day, has turned me to knitting. While Coco was riding in the bike basket to pick up the kids a few days ago, she was shaking pathetically. He short coat doesn't give enough protection against wind and rain. Wrapping her in a blanket hasn't done the trick, as it just falls right off when she turns around, or stands her front legs on the edge of the basket to get a better view.

I started looking for jackets online, and while looking at the Chihuahua site, of course ended up looking at the other cute clothes. It crossed my mind to buy a sweater, until it dawned on me I could just knit on instead. One of my coworkers wanted me to knit during the many quiet hours for quite a while.

With the lack of a walmart, I had to wait until the next day to buy yarn and needles at a special yarn store. Much to my chagrin the boutique was closed... Luckily Talita knew of a "large" sewing and knitting store (from her description it sounded like a J0-anns) not too far. I went to the store with high hopes, and luckily low expectations. The selection was minimal, and I was lucky to find knitting needles the right size at all. It didn't allow me to be picky about the quality of yarn, or the material of the needles.

It's been a few years since I knit anything, so youtube came to the rescue. Anyone could learn how to knit with the help of instructional videos! I just went step by step through the whole pattern, and each time I got to a stitch that was unfamiliar, I just looked up a video. Of course the pattern also came free from the internet.

With all similar projects, including sewing and knitting, once I get started there's no stopping me. After hours of deep concentration and some frustration, I'm very pleased with the end result.
Coco seemed to like the sweater better before it had arms.
Originally I wanted to knit a bright pink sweater, so I'll have to do some online shopping for the perfect yarn.

Share buttons