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    Monday, October 31, 2005

    Cultural Limbo

    The last few months I have decided that I now live between cultures, and between countries. Even though I have lived in the Netherlands for just under 4 years, have learned the language and have recently been granted citizenship, I do not feel remotely Dutch. I do not like the food, and in fact love to insult the bland fatty diet on a regular basis. I do not eat sandwiches for breakfast and do not like mayo on my French fires. I will not go near raw herring and can not stomach the idea of eating raw hamburger meat spread on a cracker. Unlike everyone here, I do not ride my bike everywhere. In fact it took me almost 3 years here before I even purchased a second hand bike and I have only used it once in the past 10 months. I can’t stand the lack of service in the stores, and the fact that you can’t find anything even slightly unusual. I don’t watch football (soccer for Americans) and do not care if Rotterdam or Amsterdam wins (though I do cheer loudly for Holland during the European and World cups). I have little in common with my neighbors, and would prefer if they just left me be. I miss the idea of privacy in a culture that is very open. Being blond and white skinned I may not stick out like a sore thumb, but I am not Dutch, and wonder if I will ever feel like I fit in here.

    Yet being away from America for the last 4 years, I also do not feel completely American anymore. There are things there that just bug the hell out of me. I do not understand the need for an SUV to drive from your house 5 blocks to the supermarket, and can’t contemplate the reason anyone needs to have a Hummer. I roll my eyes when people groan about paying $2 a gallon for gasoline when we pay the equivalent of $6 a gallon. I hate that the minute you get the meal in a restaurant you also get the bill, and that the waitress stops by your table every two minutes to see if everything is alright. I am baffled by the ignorance of so many people, the fact that many have not seen anything outside of their closed little community; yet feel that they can comment on what is right and wrong with the world. I do not understand the need some people have to force their ideals on others, and the fact that religion is creeping its way into government and into everyone’s lives. To me it just feels more and more closed minded and oppressive every time I go back.

    When I am in Holland I miss America, and when I am there I can not wait to get back to Europe. So what am I if I do not belong here or there? Will I eventually become more Dutch and feel like this is my home? Will I become more and more alienated with the country of my birth? Or am I to remain in limbo somewhere between cultures, not fitting into either place? And what about Pumpkin? Is she going to be more Dutch than American, or will she be a blend of both? Will she feel comfortable in both places or will she also feel slightly alienated by each? What is the fate of our cross cultural family?

    posted by Laura @ 9:33 AM   4 comments

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    One of Those Days

    Today was just one of those days.  It was too good to be true.  Looking at the weather outside I thought it would be a marvelous day.  We were having weather more appropriate for the end of August than the end of October.  And since it had been cold and rainy and just downright gloomy for the last week I was jumping at the bit to get my ass outside.  So after Pumpkin woke from her noon nap I loaded her into her stroller for a walk into town.  Just yesterday I had bought her a new pair of tennis shoes, cute little white ones with pink stripes, and I had to put them on her and show them off (yes, I am sick people).  The diaper bag was full of all the necessities, she was all strapped in and happily chewing on her toy, and I was ready to get a last glimpse of the sun before it disappeared for good into the autumn and winter gloom.  

    I should have known the moment I walked out the door it was best to turn around and walk right back in.  I could see it was going to be a pain just to maneuver the stroller past our front door.  On either side of our house the ultra narrow sidewalk was blocked.  On one side by a bike and the other by the combination of a planter box and a car parked half on the curb.  Normally I just cross the street, but the cars were parked bumper to bumper in front of me.  I was almost trapped.  But damn it I needed to get out of the house!  So I maneuvered the stroller here and there and possibly scraped the tailpipe of one of the cars, but I was out and on my way to town.  

    It is a ten minute stroll to the center of our city along cute canals and past small shop fronts.  It is a walk I do almost daily in good weather, and at least once weekly in bad.  I could walk the route in my sleep, and I guess today I was.  Upon arriving downtown, I stopped to hand Pumpkin her tipsy cup with water.  She has not mastered the art of this cup yet, but can sip assisted and likes to play with it none the less.  I gave her a sip and looked at her feet.  She had only one shoe on!  Where was her other shoe.  I looked behind me, no shoe in sight.  I tore apart the stroller, damn it where did she kick it off!  So I turned right around and walked all the way back home looking for the missing shoe.  No sign of it.  How can it have just disappeared?!?  Who would pick up and walk off with one baby shoe?  So I turned back around and walked again to the center of town.  Again no sight of the shoe.   Well shit, there was nothing I could do, might as well go shopping anyways.  

    Cussing silently to myself over the loss of the brand new shoe I wandered to a few shops, making a few purchases.  At one of the last shops I looked at Pumpkin in the stroller and realized, she was all wet, the stroller was all wet, and the tipsy cup was empty.   Damn it!  At least it was warm out; there really was nothing I could do.   I dried off the drenched stroller as best I could (who would of thought one little tipsy cup could hold that much water) and proceeded on.  The plan was to sit down on a terrace and have a drink and a snack and feed Pumpkin.  But all the terraces were full.  There was not a single place to sit.  And dammed if I was going to pay to sit inside on a day like this.  Still upset about the shoe, grumpy about my drenched daughter and downright irritated about the lack of anywhere to sit down I stormed back home, looking along the way of course for the missing shoe.  

    Arriving home I was hungry and thirsty, and Pumpkin was getting hungry and irritable.  She cried and cried as I maneuvered the stroller again to get to our door.  She screamed as I opened the door and howled like a banshee as I took her out of the stroller.  I could not get her out of her wet clothes and a bottle into her mouth quick enough.  Finally, dry and nourished she quieted down, and I was able to get myself something to drink.  I really should not have left the house at all.  Next time the weather is unusually warm, I will just plop my but out in the back yard.  

    Note: The shoe did finally show up, turns out Pumpkin kicked it off during my stroller maneuvers and a neighbor kid found it shortly after I left.  She picked it up, which is why I could not find it on my return trips.  An hour after we returned home the girl rang our doorbell to see if the shoe belonged to Pumpkin.  She had been taking it to every baby home on the block to find its owner.  So my little Cinderella has her glass slipper back.

    posted by Laura @ 8:06 PM   3 comments

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    I've Been Tagged

    The Queen of Spain tagged me! 7's!

    7 things I want to do before I die:
    1) Go on a safari
    2) Go back to Saint Lucia where I was married
    3) Celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary (48½ years to go)
    4) Dance at my Daughter’s wedding
    5) Sky Dive
    6) Travel Around the World
    7) Strike it Rich

    7 things I cannot do:
    1) Roll my tongue
    2) Ski
    3) Run a Marathon
    4) Carry a tune
    5) Spell
    6) Pronounce anything correct in French
    7) Play a team sport.

    7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
    1) sense of humor
    2) intelligence
    3) honesty
    4) glasses (mentally linked with #2)
    5) ass
    6) accent
    7) ability to deal with me

    (7 things I say most often:
    1) Are you hungry?
    2) Did you make a poopie?
    3) Time for a nap
    4) Blog
    5) I love you
    6) Mommy needs to….
    7) I’m hungry

    7 celebrity crushes:
    1) Val Kilmer
    2) Aiden from Sex & the City
    3) Brad Pitt
    4) Johnny Depp
    5) Ewan McGregor
    6) Sean Connery
    7) Sawyer on Lost (always loved the bad boy)

    7 people I want to do this(sorry if you did it already, just ignore me):
    1) Mommy’s Busy Take a Number
    2) Midnight Musings
    3) You and Me and Baby Makes Three
    4) Daddy, Papa & Me
    5) Slush Turtle
    6) The Reign of Ellen
    7) Mr. P (honey, just do it in the comments)

    posted by Laura @ 1:13 PM   2 comments

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Adult Sanctuary or Nursery?

    We used to have a neighbor across the street with two children. I would walk by the house and look in the window every day on my way to and from work. Looking in other peoples windows is normal here, in fact it is a given that if your blinds are open people will look in your window, and if you close your blinds you have something to hide. This stems from WW2 when Holland was occupied by the Nazis and people kept their windows uncovered to prove they were not up to anything illegal or suspicious. But I digress.

    So I would look into the living room of this home on a daily basis and see a house completely taken over by the children. There were toys everywhere, a highchair right next to the couch, a play pen sitting near the coffee table. It looked more like a nursery school than a home. The mother usually was either standing ironing in the middle of the room, folding laundry on the couch or shoving food in her children’s mouths.

    Mr. P and I would discuss this home regularly as what we did not want our home to look like at any time. We would swear that once we had children the toys would stay in the bedrooms and the living room would remain an adult area where the children were guests. They could play with their toys there and then the toys would be returned to said bedroom. I also quietly told myself that my daily chores, such as laundry and ironing would not find its way from the spare room down to the living room.

    Fast forward to today. As I sit here typing on Mr. P’s laptop, which has taken up almost permanent residence on my dining table, I look around our once stylish living and dining room. Next to the no longer so white couches is a playpen full of toys and stuffed animals. Between the TV stand and dining table is a highchair. A play mat lies in front of the fireplace and a bouncy chair sits alongside the coffee table. The baby bjorn lays strewn over the arm of the couch and the diaper bag graces the dining table. A tipsy cup and bib lie on the coffee table. And what is that, partially hidden behind the door to the kitchen, could it be the ironing board, just moved from the spare room so I can iron while watching ER reruns?

    Granted, we chose a dark wood playpen with classy toy storage baskets underneath that fits nicely with our furniture, and the old style white wood highchair also fits well. Most often I do manage to put all toys, diaper bags, tipsy cups, spit rags and bibs in their proper homes after Pumpkin goes to bed. However the playmate stays in front of the fireplace unless we are having company, and the bouncy chair has become a normal addition to our furniture.

    Only goes to prove that again, you really can not judge another till you walked a mile in their shoes. I am sure that when Pumpkin starts walking, and we add another child or two to our home our adult sanctuary will be completely turned into a nursery. As it is, I am certain that the childless couple that moved into that neighbor's house now look into our window and say "Our home will never look like that".

    posted by Laura @ 2:07 PM   5 comments

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Yet Another First!

    The saying ‘There is a First Time for Everything’ takes on a different meaning when you are a parent, a more literal meaning. Pre Pumpkin, it meant that I may have never been sky-diving but why the hell not go and try. Just because I have not done it, does not mean I can’t anymore (however, like in the case of skiing, it is often proven one can not teach this old dog a new trick).

    I never realized until Pumpkin came into my life just how many firsts there really are, and how obsessively I would check each one off. The first time she rolled over, the first time she grabbed a toy, the first time she brought said toy to her mouth and on and on and on. Hell there are firsts that I did not even think would be firsts till she goes and does it. Just the other day I called Mr. P up to tell excitedly tell him that Pumpkin was making raspberries! It was a first, the first time my daughter put her lips together and proceeded to blow spit bubbles while making the most entertaining fart noise. A baby is a blank little human for whom every new thing is a big first, most often cheered on by a crazy parent (or two) grasping the video camera in one hand and the photo camera in the other.

    But in the world of firsts, my Pumpkin has reached some big milestones the last week. First she got two teeth, which erupted suddenly from her gums taking me completely by surprise. Then Friday she started sleeping 12 hours without waking for a feed. 12 hours! From 7pm to 7am. She is such a big girl.

    But to top it off, and make me really cry to Mr. P that she is growing up too fast, we gave her her first bite of real food yesterday. She loved it! In fact she finished off the entire cube of sweet potato puree. While much did end up on her face, more made it into her mouth. And though I try not to share too many photos of my Pumpkin on this blog, how can I avoid sharing this adorrable face with you?

    posted by Laura @ 4:09 PM   1 comments

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    When is it Right for Number Two?

    Before Pumpkin was born Mr. P and I discussed how many children we wanted to have and how close together.  We decided the magic number was 3 and the closer together in age the better.  Six months had sounded like a reasonable post-pregnancy recoup time.  That would mean that in one month from now we should put aside the condoms and start trying for baby number two.   However that was all decided prior to the 52 hour labor, the ensuing hospital stay, the weeks of sleep deprivation and the true realization of how much work a newborn really was.  

    In the final hours of my excruciatingly long labor, when I ended up at hospital with a Picotin drip to try and progress my dilation, I swore to Mr. P that this would be the LAST TIME I would ever do this and he better enjoy this baby because it would be the only one he would have with me.  I am sure I am not the only mother to make this declaration in the heat of labor, and I am sure I am not the only one to think she really meant it.  However the moment Pumpkin was born and handed to me I knew I did not mean it at all.  I looked at Mr. P, both of us glowing, despite two nights lost sleep, with the happiness only such a miracle can bring, and I told him we would most definitely be doing this again.  

    Then I had to stay two nights in the maternity ward with four screaming babies and three other snoring moms, where I did not get any more sleep than the two nights I had been in labor.  After that we brought Pumpkin home, where she woke us up every 2 hours to be fed, and needed to have her diaper changed even more often.  Where the laundry and dishes and grime plied up and the lack of sleep and lack of experience started to weigh heavily on our shoulders.  I asked myself how ever would we do this again with a toddler in tow?  How did my mom do this with my brother, her fourth child, with three girls also demanding constant attention?   I looked at Mr. P one day, baby blues tears running down my face, and told him perhaps we would only have one child.  We could love her exclusively and give her all the opportunity in the world.   I just could not see myself doing this again.

    Then the baby blues went away, Pumpkin slept longer and longer stretches at night and was awake and adorable during the day.  She tugged at my heart with her first smile, her first coo and every time she looked at me.  I wanted not one but ten of her.   How on earth could we not do this again.

    So we are back to the magic number of three, the question now is the spacing.  When is the right time for number two?  There is no way we are starting again next month, or any time before Pumpkin is one.  But then?  Is that a good time?  Should we wait longer till when Pumpkin is older and can understand it more and be less work herself.  When she is out of diapers?   Should I spend more quality time with her before bringing another baby into our lives?  One of the women from my pregnancy class is already pregnant with her second, and another is going to start trying next month as soon as her husband returns from Afghanistan.   An old colleague is expecting her second daughter in two months, when her first will be only 15 months.  And Mr. P’s sister is expecting a new lil’ man in February, when my nephew is just 20 months.  I think they are all nuts.  I guess this means that we will not be trying for number two any time soon.  I miss being pregnant, but am not ready to have another baby in the house.  But I wonder would I be ready in nine months?  After all it does not happen immediately, conception could take months and then the baby does not arrive for another nine.  So when would be the best time?  How will I know when we are ready?  How did you know you were ready to start again?


    posted by Laura @ 2:11 PM   2 comments

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Swimming and Sweet Dreams

    Pumpkin had her first swim lesson today. She loved it, the moment we walked into the water she was smiling and splashing. She giggled and screeched with joy. She gabbed and squealed when another baby was near, and did not even cry when she was dunked under water. I am not sure which she enjoyed more, all the other babies, or the water. But regardless, we will definitely be going again next week.

    While the group was all Dutch women, it was nice to be out with other moms. I may not have known the songs the group was singing, and every instruction was not clear, but the women were friendly, and the common ground of having an infant made chit chat easy. It was especially nice to see I am not the only one to not have reverted to her pre-pregnancy belly yet. I am sill not brave enough to change my one piece skirt suit for my pre-pregnancy bicini, but I do feel a tad better about my figure.

    But the best part of swimming was that Pumpkin took a 2 hour nap when we came home. Two whole hours of peace to surf the internet and catch up on e-mails! I am not sure what hit me. Normally I am lucky if she naps for more than 45 minutes at noon. Can we swim every day?

    posted by Laura @ 2:07 PM   1 comments

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Pearly Whites

    I can see the tops of two pearly whites.  They are breaking through Pumpkin’s gums, leading to broken nights and a tad bit of fussiness.  I can not believe how fast she is growing up.  I am both proud of my big girl, and sad that her toothless grin is going be soon be a distant memory.  Why does she have to grow up so fast?

    posted by Laura @ 11:57 AM   1 comments

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    It's Official, Pumpkin's First Cold

    Just Saturday Mr. P and I were bragging to friends how Pumpkin has not yet come down with any cold, flu or other baby illness.   Beyond her gas problems, she has been a perfectly healthy baby for the last 4 months.  But it seems, even with all our knocking on wood during that conversation, we have jinxed it.  Our luck has run up.  Last night, after giving Pumpkin her bedtime bottle, Mr. P crawled into bed mumbling that little Pumpkin seemed to have a stuffy nose.  Low and behold this morning I woke to a little snot monster.  She seems to be indifferent to the fact that she is sniffling and wheezing, that every two minutes she has a long booger dripping down her face and that a few times every hour she sneezes, shooting snot across the room (and usually all over mama).   I know for a fact that if I was that gooked up in my head I would not be giggling and chatting.  Can I hope that she handles all her childhood illnesses with this little trouble?

    posted by Laura @ 10:16 AM   2 comments

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    A Break in the Clouds

    Pumpkin woke up from her nap an hour ago with the biggest grin on her face and a huge messy poop in her diaper. She always wakes up happy, chatting away to her mobile. I can not help but grin ear to ear. Even at 6:00am her smile cheers me right up. Then, heavens upon heavens, she finished her bottle. It was not without a fuss, some crying and lots of farting. But she FINISHED it, to the last drop in 20 minutes!!! Ah, the gods must have decided to cut me some slack

    This was followed by a phone call from Mr. P. After going to every store in a walking radius of his work he found one store with the colic formula in stock! I have to say I love this man. He spent his lunch hour, the time he is supposed to shoot the shit with the guys and go looking at new electronic toys, searching store upon store for baby formula.

    Then it reminded me of the SMS he sent me this morning:

    Sweetheart, I love you so much. Lets get married! I will be a great husband,
    but I might need some fine-tuning work. How about it?

    We already got married, a year and a half ago on the beach in St Lucia. I would have killed him if he actually proposed to me over SMS. But the SMS was just so cute, and so him. I have tons of little messages from him like this saved on my phone, little reminders of just how lucky I really am.

    Honey, I love you too. I know you are worried about me, but don’t be, every time I see you or Pumpkin the sun shines a bit more. You are the best husband, lover and friend any woman could ask for.

    posted by Laura @ 3:17 PM   4 comments

    Ahhhhhh! Just EAT already!

    She will not take the bottle, this is the second bottle today, and the second bottle she has screamed and cried through, shaking her head and arching her back. She is hungry, takes two frantic sips and then spits the bottle out and screams in pain. This is the same every day, some bottles do go down fine, and I breath a sigh of relief, perhaps it will be better now. It did get better, for about a month she had cramps only once every few days. I could deal with that. But once we got back from our holiday it came back with a vengeance. And I so can not deal with it any more.

    Every day for the last 4 months I have worried and worried about Pumpkins eating. First it was WHY does she scream and cry at the boob, why will she take the nipple and then spit it out and scream for hunger but not take it again? Why were my nipples becoming inverted again after doing everything in the pregnancy to bring them out? Why is this such a struggle every feed every day? I spent every feed crying along with her, till finally I realized I dreaded when she would wake up again to eat. So I decided then to switch for the heath of our relationship.

    She took the bottle wonderfully, she would down a bottle in minutes, and no crying! But she was always hungry. So I worried about feeding her more than the box said. Would I get a fat baby, you know, one of those "fat formula babies" everyone talked about? But eventually she slowed down and she was drinking the allotted amount, gaining weight at a good schedule. Then the cramps started. And every day I wonder will today be bad? Will she eat or will I have to sit for over an hour waiting for the gas to pass so she can drink?

    We decided to take the advice of the doctor and try again the formula for colicky babies that we tried a few months ago. Back then it made her spit up more, turned her poops to an awful green mush and did not make the cramps any better. In fact she REFUSED to eat at all. She would simply smell the bottle and start to cry. But the doctor said perhaps now it will help. So I went out to buy the formula. But of course, in the way that my life works the freekin formula company decided to change their packaging and obviously planned VERY bad, because NO STORES had the formula. I went to 5 stores looking, and Mr. P looked at various stores near his work. But no-one had the formula.

    So here we are, she still screams through every bottle, and I cry along with her. Frustrated and feeling like a total incompetent mother who can not even get her baby to eat, who can not stop her pain. I will go again to look for the formula today, and hope that they have it, and hope that it helps. But right now I think this will never get better.

    posted by Laura @ 11:00 AM   2 comments

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    Out of Sorts

    I have been a bit out of sorts lately. I feel sad and lonely and overwhelmed. I can't explain it really. I just do not feel like myself at all.

    I knew I may feel lonely not working and all, but it hit me all at once Monday. I just sat down in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs and cried, and cried. I do not miss working at all, and I am so glad Mr. P and I have the financial means for me to stay home and take care of Pumpkin, but I do miss people. I miss meeting colleagues on the train and chatting on our way to work. I miss just shooting the shit in the coffee room. Hell I even miss the obnoxious receptionist who had to tell me every little detail of her divorce and non-existent sex life. I miss those people. People who I would never really see outside of the office, but who were a regular part of my life. Right now only Pumpkin and Mr. P are my regular company. I have some friends who I met through my pregnancy class, and we used to get together for lunch once a week, but they have mostly all gone back to work now. The one mom who isn't working spends most her time flying back to the UK so she is never around. As for Dutch moms, they really do not have any mums groups. They seem to have all the friends they want and not try to meet any more. I am not sure if it would be any different if I were in the states right now, I may be just as lonely, but it sure as hell could not be any worse, and at least there I would not be "the foreigner". I am trying to get out of the house though. Friday I will go to a mums group for foreign moms, so at least that is something to look forward to. And I think I will start going to the baby swim classes on Wednesday mornings, get out there and gather with the locals, who knows, they may be nice :-)

    But loneliness is not everything. I am tired and overwhelmed. Pumpkin is having problems with eating. She has really since she was born, but now it is just getting to me. She cries and cries during being fed. She gets gas and cramps and just cries and refuses to eat. Every feed is a struggle and I hate being in public when she needs to eat. Everyone stares and has comments. I just want to disappear into the woodwork. The doctor and well baby clinic really do not know what it is. Since she is happy when not eating, it is not colic, and since she is gaining weight (thanks to Mr. P and I sitting through her fits to make sure she comes close to finishing a bottle) they are not worried. But now that she is over 4 months she is past the normal stage for cramps. We are going to try and see the doctor again this week, but I have no hope they will say anything different. I knew being a mom would be hard, I just did not know so much guilt would come with it. I feel guilty because she is in pain and I can't do a damn thing about it. I can't help but wonder if I had stuck with breastfeeding a bit longer she would have gotten over her problems there (another story for another day) and she would not have the gas cramps now. I feel like I have failed her. She is only 4 months and I have already failed her.

    Someone tell me am I normal? In the beginning isn't it normal to be so moody and overwhelmed, but is it normal to still feel that way now? Pumpkin is a wonderful happy baby and I love her to death. Her smiles light up my day. But why do I just feel so down and like the whole world is crashing in on me?

    posted by Laura @ 7:46 PM   0 comments