Thursday, July 28, 2011

A summer with Emma

The biggest disadvantage to my job, is that I work every single day. Which means that I also work during the summer. I'm still lucky to get 2 weeks of vacation, but the kids have 6 weeks off, so you do the math. So my little sister Emma came to the rescue. Not only was this nice for her (make some money), it was also nice for my kids. They got to do all sorts of fun stuff with her, and I'm a wee-bit jealous (or maybe a lot). Things they got to do include

Dressing up Coco
Riding bikes
Decorating cookies
Visiting the petting zoo
Feeding baby goats
Being silly
Playing at the playground
Renting Bike-boats
Petting fuzzy animals
Playing at an indoor funpark
"real" bowling
Exploring nature
I'm so happy this worked out for everybody! This is about 1000 times better than spending the summer at a daycare for the kids. Emma got a fun summer job. And I probably wouldn't have had the energy to do all this stuff anyways. We all win.

Monday, July 25, 2011

9W5D

I just had a lighting speed ultrasound, and might end up with a whip lash from it. Seriously though, I had an ultrasound to ease my mind and make sure everything is still growing as it should. The doctor told me to undress -something I don't think I'll ever get used to after 3 pregnancies in the USA - had me hop on the table, started the ultrasound, located the baby, saw a heartbeat, checked the crown to rump length, and told me he was done. The whole thing was less than 2 minutes. I'm just glad this isn't my first baby, or I'd just... I don't know... demand more time?

And a picture that isn't fuzzy??

So my mind is at ease, and gradually letting myself get excited about the prospect of a healthy baby at the end of February 2012. But we're not telling anyone yet. Not until after our vacation. Or later, if I can get away with it. The only people who know, are Joe, Emma, Wendy, and by accident my dad. He just went and guessed it. It will be so fun to tell the kids. And my mom and in-laws. And all my other friends of course. Until then, I'll write blog posts without posting them, and get more and more frustrated with the fact that none of my pants fit me anymore.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Perfect location

As the end of summer is in sight, the month of November comes closer so quickly. What's so significant about November 14th? That's when Joe has his last class. Which means, we need to start thinking about our next move. No more bliss that you get right after you have made a big life changing decision. A bliss of no decisions. I mean, we can live off student loans and my mediocre job for a year, but that's about it. So the big question is: where do we go from here?

Although our original plan was to stay in Europe for 3-5 years, we can also see the benefit of settling down somewhere. It will be good for the kids, as well as my well-being. I love having friends, and building a circle of friends takes time. So if we want to settle, and not stay in Europe for more than 5 years, it only makes sense to make the move back to the US sooner rather than later. But the US is so big! And there's so much variety in landscape, culture, and climate. And if we decide to "settle" somewhere, we better make sure it's a place that we like.

In deciding which type of place we would like, several factors come into play:
-A good school system: we're only a few years away from high school. Of course we want the best education for our kids.
-Somewhere close enough that we can easily make weekend camping trips in the mountains (as in, less than an hour drive). These mountains need to be green, have good mountain biking, and preferably snow in the winter.
-This leads into the next point: 4 seasons. We are done with 100+ degree weather for 3 months straight! And we love snow! But not all the time. Rain is okay, as long as it's not every day of the year.
-Somewhat centrally located. We want friends and family to visit us, and we want to be able to visit them. It's not essential that it's really close, but close enough that you can visit over a long weekend (less than 6 hour drive). The tricky part here is, that we have family and friends all over the place.
-A strong ward. Over the years I have been able to directly link my level of happiness to the quality friendships I have had. The quantity is not as important, because when I have 1 really good friend that I spend a lot of time visiting and talking to, it's better than 5 friends that are just "so-so friends". Of course a best friend can be found in any place, but the chances of that happening rises significantly when you live in a large/young ward. In my opinion.
-A housing market that is affordable. We would really like to get away from the high mortgage payment. I some locations this is easier than in others. We've been "house-broke" for so many years, living from paycheck to paycheck, and have really learned that we don't like that. We currently live in a 1200 Sq/ft house, and that is plenty for us. Of course the layout of the house has a LOT to do with this.
-Joe needs to be able to earn money. Since he works in facilities, this probably means the city can't be too small. And it also needs to be big enough, that if needed, he could switch jobs as well. Very important, especially if we want to stay in the same location for at least the next 10 years.
-And last, and the hardest to satisfy: We'd love to live kind of "out" of the suburbs. I love the social aspect of subdivisions, but we hate the restrictions. And the need for perfection when it comes to the upkeep of things like front lawn, window washing etc. I love the quiet, and birds singing in the trees. We love the lack of nosy neighbors. And the freedom to make noise, and have whatever animal we want (like chickens)

As becomes apparent quickly, this place probably does not exist. We'll have to settle in one way or another. But which parts are the most important? I don't know! And that's why it's so hard to make a decision on where to go from here.

Any suggestions?? Pleas?? Bribes??

11 years

Hard to believe that it's been a whopping 11 years since Joe and I tied the knot! And what a wonderful and adventurous 11 years it has been!

For many of those 11, we have had the tradition of watching the "new" Harry Potter movie in a theater. Today we will do the same, for the very last time. I hope they come up with a new series of movies that come out right around our anniversary, so we can continue the tradition.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A snapshot from the past

As I was working on my blurb book (turning my blog into a published book), I found this post from 3 years ago. A few things have changed, but I thought it was interesting how much Ginger has stayed the same.


5 year old Ginger


Ginger loves to wear dresses.

She loves to sing.

She likes to wrap up the dog and carry her around.

She loves her daddy.

Her hair get curly when it gets wet, just like her daddy.

She loves her blanky that grandma Ashurst made for her.

She is good at playing alone.

She loves to dress up, especially with wings.

She has been potty trained for about 3 years, but still tells me every time she has to go.

She does everything the other kids do.

Her and Sterling, and Winter quarrel all day long.

She gives good hugs and loves to kiss on the mouth.

She is not quite as tough as she used to, but still not a sissy.

She doesn't mind getting herself dirty.

She doesn't like me to do her hair. -- a bad development

Every time I tell her "no" she says "why".

Her eyes are as blue as her moms.

She loves to play with barbies.

She loves going to class.

We call her baby - she still is the baby of the family.

She is growing up way too fast!


I Guess kids really do start developing their personalities early on!

9 weeks

I'm feeling very paranoid right now. I started cramping and spotting a little today, and all I can think is: "NO, not again! Of course there is enough information on the internet to say that cramping is normal, and that it just means that ligaments are stretching, but all I can do is compare it to my personal experience. And my personal experience tells me there's something wrong with the baby. There's a chance I'm working myself up for no reason, but I'm just petrified that it's not just my imagination. Other thoughts that come up in my head are: "I'm glad I haven't told anyone yet, so I won't have to untell", and "Now I'm another 5 months further ahead, and Ginger will be almost 7 by the time I could possibly have another baby. Maybe the best medicine for me right now, is to keep distracted with other things, and hope for the best. My next ultrasound is just 4 days away...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

While I'm at work

I am blessed to have my little sister Emma living nearby. We get along super good, and she's my best friend in Holland. My job is a 6 month contract through a temp agency, so the vacation time is limited to 2 weeks (very little for Dutch standards). The kids get 6 weeks off of school, so I had to find some type of daycare for them. I feel so blessed that Emma just happened to be looking for a job. So now she gets a high paying job, and my kids get to spend the summer with their aunt.

The weather has been less than perfect, so they have had to come up with inventive ways to spend their time. The kids love to be video taped. Together they put together this story. Since I have practically nothing to at work, I had ample time today to edit the movie, and set music to it.

Enjoy
video

Monday, July 18, 2011

Auto Pilot

My life is running on auto pilot.

Get up to the alarm at 6:45am
Eat breakfast and make lunch
Get dressed and ready for work
Drive to work
Sit for 6 hours, trying to find anything to keep myself occupied
Drive home
Try to figure out what to make for dinner
Sit around, and look at the miserable weather outside.
Play with kids and Coco or watch some TV
Eat dinner (or cereal for dinner)
Put the kids in bed
Watch TV, or spend all evening on my computer
Go to bed, and set the alarm.

Of course this is a little bit exaggerated, as there are some things to break up this monotony. For example, on Saturday afternoon we had a wonderful time at my dad's house, stuffing ourselves with Fondue. The sun even peeked through for a few minutes yesterday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

McDonalds wins

Tonight McDonalds won from Zumba, and has left me feeling very dissatisfied. The Big Mac was nothing like I remembered it from 10 years ago. As somewhat of a principle protest, I haven't even eaten at McDonalds since moving to Holland over 6 months ago. Wow, it's hard to believe it's been more than 6 months already! Back to the point... how did McDonalds win from Zumba?

Emma usually watches the kids, but she had to attend a wedding so the kids went to the daycare. A daycare which charges in day "parts". Morning from 7.30am -1pm, and afternoon from 1pm to 6.30pm. As I am working until 2.30pm, I didn't want to pay for the whole rest of the afternoon shift, so instead I decided to take off work early.

Joe's brommer is currently in the shop, so he had to take the metro to school. His school is of course in Rotterdam, and so is the Blijdorp zoo that we have memberships to. Since the kids and I had the afternoon off, and since Joe would need a ride home from school (so he wouldn't have to ride the metro back) the zoo seemed like a perfect solution.

The kids really enjoyed themselves. We really took our sweet time, and looked at every single fish in the aquarium. We must have spent 1 hour and 45 minutes in there, which is amazing, since it's a pretty small one to begin with. But as closing time of the zoo came closer, it became clear that Joe wouldn't be done with school until at least 7.45pm. The thought of killing another 2 hours of time with tired kids and self, didn't quite appeal to me. But by this time we were all starving. And I had no cooking planned, or even food in the house to cook. So that's how we ended up at the Golden Arches. With a Big Mac and a raspberry milkshake. And it was a disappointment. It wasn't until we drove past my gym, that I realized that my favorite Zumba class would be starting right then. Nothing to do about it. Because I had no one to watch the kids, plus my belly was now chuck full of greasy, fatty junk. C'est la vie.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Update

For those with Google reader: I just updated my birthday post

Cautiously optimistic

The dreaded ultrasound was this morning. Sure, I haven't had any symptoms of miscarriage, but with my past experiences I can't help fearing the worst. I was glad my appointment was early in the day, and I was able to sleep in for a while, so by the time I got up, there was only 1 hour to have my stomach in my throat from nervousness.

First of all, the healthcare system in Holland is very different than the US. Everything is more casual and relaxed. When they attempted to get my blood pressure, it was done in the same room where the nurses make their coffee. At first the nurse couldn't even read my blood pressure, and eventually she settled on 110/50. Maybe that explains why I am completely winded from just walking up a flight of stairs?

The OB did the ultrasound herself. No special ultrasound tech. No blood or urine tests. Just, hop on the table, and lets take a look.

Everything looks like it's on track! And even measuring 2 days further than I had expected. I am cautiously letting myself be happy with the possibility that this time the baby will grow healthy and strong. And that in a few weeks my now flabby belly, will start to look like a pregnancy bump. Since no one except my sisters know I'm even pregnant, I have been relying on looser clothing to field off any questions about my expanding waist line. Not that it should be expanding as much as it is anyways, but that might have something to do with the yummy pie I had yesterday for my birthday.

In order to satisfy my worries, I will have followup ultrasounds in 2 weeks, and again in 5 weeks. After the 13 week ultrasound, and if everything is still looking good, I'll probably start telling more people. Who am I kidding? I will HAVE to tell people, or they'll just see it by taking one look at me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One year older

I still feel the same. But I'm not, cause I'm a year older now. Not that 31 is a significant number! We wanted to celebrate, but on a small scale. Joe and I started by attending an Indian Festival. He is going to school with a lot of Indians, so when he saw the signs for the most famous Indian moviestar Shahruk Khan performance, he invited one of his friends to come with us to show us around. At the last minute he wasn't able to come, but of course we still wanted to get our dose of Indian culture. The dress code was "stylish Indian", and I had just the perfect thing for that: my Saree. It's always good to find an excuse to wear that.
We definitely felt out of place (or I should just speak for myself). The performances were fun, but we had no clue who the performers were, while all the people around us were going wild. That must be like an alien who comes to earth and wonders what the fuss is all about when fans are screaming for any celebrity.
A lady at one of the booths kindly I needed something to make me complete: a Bindi
I didn't want to fuss about feeding a boatload of people, so we had some people over for pie. Dutch Cherry Vlaai. The best pie if you ask me. Joe got me a new sound system for my car, which I was very happy with seeing that the old one was 25 years old. I can even plug my ipod into it, or my phone, and talk hands-free! I was also spoiled with some very thoughtful gifts including pampering stuff and a movie.

For dinner Joe prepared Navajo tacos. They are delicious, but a beast to make. My dad and Emma helped, and all together it was a great team. I think I'll use them more often ;) The only downside, was that I had already stuffed myself with the delicious guacamole before dinner started, and I ended up only being able to eat half a Navajo taco.
We were also able to skype with a lot of our cousins on Joe's side, who are all celebrating summer in Texas. It was a relaxing day (for me) and it made me wish it was my birthday every day. I would call that a success.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

6W5D

I feel like i have to puke. sure, I just ate 4 boterhammen, ontbijtkoek, and another deli sandwich... but I also felt sort of nauseous when I woke up this morning before eating breakfast. It was more of a nervous feeling, like you have before you go on stage for a big performance. But it still makes you feel queasy. Could this be the first time I am experiencing morning sickness? I hope not.

Monday, July 4, 2011

6W4D

This morning at work I started watching videos of ultrasounds. Mostly to know what to expect to be normal at my first ultrasound next week. I'm trying not to stress about all the things that could go wrong, but I just can't help comparing this pregnancy to the last 2 that ended in miscarriages. With my first miscarriage the first signs of trouble started at 5 weeks. The last time, I didn't have any signs until 7W4 days. So here I am at 6W4D, and all I can think of, is that I should still not think of myself as pregnant. And I don't. I'm not fantasizing about what this baby might be, or look like. Or even really think about being pregnant at all. Actually, writing this blog is making me think more about it than I have so far, and than I really want to. I'm not sure I even want to have an ultrasound next week. I'd rather wait until 12 weeks. I don't want to see a heartbeat, to then just be crushed when it dies a week, or 4 later.

But the truth is, everything is normal so far. I am always crazy tired. If I don't get to bed by 10:30pm, I might make it until after work, but then definitely HAVE to take a nap as soon as I get home. I also have other symptoms like sore breasts, gassiness, constipation, and occasional heartburn. These symptoms, although inconvenient, make me happy. It means my body is still working on growing a baby. I'm not worried until they stop.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Red, White and Blue

Funny thing is, those are the Dutch colors too. But today we celebrated the United States' independence day with a large group of other Americans. An American family from our ward, the Roberts, told us about this picnic that the US Marines had put together.

It gave me some insight into the ways of the American expat (watch out, great generalization coming up). Their kids all attend American school, they speak only English, wear bad shorts and and import American food by the boat load. We had some real hamburgers and Ballpark Franks, and there was even Root beer, Mountain Dew, and Wonder bread. None of those things make me jump for joy, or miss them while not having access to them.
But it wasn't all cliche, I have to admit it was fun to be among other Americans, speak English, and let the kids play on bounce houses. It was nice to hear the national Anthem, which actually made me realize that over the course of the past 13 years, I have really become to embody American sentiment and patriotism.
If I may speak for Joe, since he's seriously slacked off with his blogging, the coolest thing there, were the vintage Jeeps and motorcycles from the war. They are owned by Dutch collectors, who even came dressed in period clothing

Train day

Public transportation is surprisingly expensive in Holland if you're not a student, old person, or child. So when some train passes came on sale for a day of unlimited travel for 2 adults for €30, I jumped at the chance. When the purchase was made, I didn't know exactly what we'd use it for, but figured it would be hard to pick 1 thing out of many things. Turns out most interesting things to see are within a small radius of Zoetermeer. The only place that's fairly far away, that we try to visit regularly, is the city of Almelo where my grandpa lives. The time seems to fly by, and it had been almost 2 months since we last made it out there.

The kids were very excited for the first 5 minutes to finally get to ride on a train. Although you usually try to travel with as little stopovers as possible, we were happy for any variety.
Joe filled some of his time fixing his most beloved belt
So after a little over 2 hours on the train, my grandpa picked us up at his train station. We had fun fawning over Coco, talking about the tour de France, eating lunch, and looking at photo albums.
With the whole afternoon open, we decided to just look at the train route map, and pick a city to visit. We decided on Deventer, which is a fairly old city, and kind of on the way back home. As soon as we came out of the train station, we realized they were having a festival on Stilts, with performances all around the city. We saw a French theater company perform in a sea of spectators.

And even cooler, 2 people doing cool stunts on the side of a building. If you just imagine that the wall was the ground, it was some really cool effects.
We made it back at a reasonable time, and really had fun riding the train. Not so much that I'll be buying those train passes again any time soon though....

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