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    Tuesday, November 29, 2005


    It is quickly nearing December 5th and the Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas (or St. Nicolas Day). I am not one to insult any culture’s holidays, but this one rubs me the wrong way, and has since I was introduced to my first Zwarte Piet (Black Piet) 4 years ago.

    In Holland Christmas is a low-key affair, and Sinterklaas attracts the most festivity (though the commercialism of Christmas is slowly taking hold here too). For the weeks leading up to the holiday, white haired Sinterklaas (similar to Santa, but thinner, dressed as a bishop and slightly less jolly) are seen all over the streets accompanied by their man-servant, Zwarte Piet.

    Zwarte Piet is usually a white person with their face painted in layers of dark makeup wearing a fuzzy wig and sporting thick red lips. They always wear colorful costumes and are adorned in gold earrings and feathered hats. They are also often portrayed as simple almost childish people. Their roll is to assist Sint by delivering presents down chimneys and recording the names of naughty and nice children in the book of names. On the evening of Sinterklaas children who have been good receive presents from the white skinned Sint, and naughty children are told they will be put in bags and taken back to Spain by the black skinned Zwarte Piet.
    Most Dutch don’t seem bothered by the black skinned character and most lightly claim that Zwarte Piet has black skin from sliding down the chimney, though one would think that if the black is really soot, Zwarte Piet would also have sooty clothing and there would be no need for the kinky hair and fat red lips. Most outsiders, like me, though see the character as an old fashioned stereotype and a racist symbol. The real origins of Zwarte Piet are unknown, but it is said that he is most likely Saint Nicolas’ Moorish servant.

    What I find hard to reconcile is this obviously racist character with the very liberal attitude of most Dutch. I mean Holland was the first country to allow gay marriage, and both marijuana and prostitution are legal. The thing is that the majority of Dutch are not racist, and they do not see Zwarte Piet as a racist symbol. Parents who paint their children’s faces black for the occasion are not doing something they see as racist. This is just a tradition dating back many years and they see no need to do anything to change it. Yet when you ask most Dutch from Surinamese or Antilles ancestry, they do not celebrate the holiday with their children at home. To me this says that they do find the character offensive.

    My problem is though, what to do with my daughter? She is too young to enjoy the holiday, though we will celebrate it this year with Mr. P’s family. But in the years to come what will I do when she wants to paint her face black like Zwarte Piet because all her friends at school are also doing it? I do not plan to boycott the holiday, and will allow her to celebrate the day both in school and with Mr. P’s family (since we plan to spend most every Christmas with my family in the US, I would not deny his family the holiday festivities with their grandchild). I will even buy gifts to put in her shoe from Sint. But I draw the line at painting her face black. How, and when (if at all) should I explain to her my objections to Zwarte Piet? Or am I just being too American and too overly sensitive, too PC in my reaction? What would you do?

    posted by Laura @ 12:03 PM   5 comments

    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Happy 6 Month Birthday Pumpkin

    Happy 6 month birthday baby! I can not believe you are already half a year old. Half a year ago you burst into my life and altered it forever. I am a forever different, more patient, younger woman thanks to you. I can’t help but lay on the ground with you and play with your toys, to just sit and hold you and enjoy the way you grab at my face and pull on my hair. I miss you when I put you down for bed at night, and can’t wait to get you up again in the morning. The way you greet each and every day with laughter and a smile, how you giggle when your papa walks in the room, it makes me see the world, if just for a moment, through your innocent eyes. When we go for walks I stop and point out the passing dog, the blooming flowers and the changing leaves. We bring bread to feed the ducks, and take the longer route just to pass through the park. I look at things differently now, notice how you may see everything, new and fascinating and so beautiful.

    You are becoming such a big girl, have grown so much from the little 2.9kg parcel that was handed into my waiting arms. You were so helpless then. In the last six months you became a little person, who smiles and laughs, babbles and screeches, and knows her mama and papa. You can sit up and can play with your toys, can roll over from front to back, and back to front, and now do that repeatedly to get across the room. You eat two meals a day of fruit and vegetables, and devour them all. You even like green beans, much to your mama’s surprise. I can see your quirky personality, get a glimpse of the girl you are becoming, the woman you will some day be.

    I now understand how a mother will do anything for her child, how she would put her life down for that of her child. I want to change the world for you, make it a softer, kinder place. Baby, I can not explain the way you grab at my heart. You are so beautiful, so perfect. Your tears make me frantic, your smiles and laughter melt me. I love you so much, I am so glad you came into my life. Now I just ask you to please slow down, mama is not ready for you to grow up just yet.

    posted by Laura @ 8:51 AM   4 comments

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    She is on the move

    We have movement people. It is not forward movement, and does not remotely resemble crawling, but my Pumpkin is officially on the move. If I put her on her belly on the floor she is soon in a new position about 1-2 feet from her original location. She does this cute attempt at scooting where she rolls on her right shoulder and pushes with her left foot. This tends to move her to the right side, but does often get her to the out of reach toy. Sometimes though she instead manages to scoot backwards. I am not quite sure how that happens. Give me another week and I may grasp her method. But the funniest is how she is trying to move forward. She lifts both arms and both legs in the air and rocks/bounces frantically on her belly. Of course she does not get anywhere doing this, but she gets plenty of laughs from whoever is watching. I captured plenty of video of it this weekend to show her future suitors…

    But this glimpse at her soon to be mobility has put Mr. P's and my efforts at baby proofing in overdrive. The heater covers are almost done, and all the outlets have the childproof things in them. The corner protectors have been stuck to all visible sharp corners and I have purchased the door stoppers. We still need to do the drawer and cabinet latches and buy the stair gates (all 4 of them!). Am I forgetting anything? Any suggestions from you experienced parents?

    posted by Laura @ 3:36 PM   5 comments

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    Memories - Phonecalls in the night

    I will never forget the way the ringing phone jolted me out of my sleep that morning. I looked at my clock; it was shortly after 1am. I am unsure now of what day of the week it was, I think it was a Thursday. It was all so long ago. But that ringing phone, I can hear it like it was yesterday. I am not sure how long it took me to answer, probably no more than 4 rings, otherwise my answering machine would have picked up. I must have said hello, even with phone calls in the middle of the night I still answer with a polite, though puzzled hello. On the other end was my friend, and she was sobbing. I asked her what was wrong. What she said, those words, I will never forget.

    “There was a car accident… Shirley… dead.”

    As those words made their trip from my ear to my sleepy brain, and the processing of that information began, my mom stormed in my room to demand an explanation for the phone call in the middle of the night. As she started to yell “You better tell your friends…” I chucked the phone at her and ran, crying from my room. I did not make it further than a few meters, collapsing in a heap on the floor of the hallway. My mother must have retrieved the phone and spoken with my friend, since her arms were soon around me.

    She pulled me onto her lap and there we both sat crying. I am vaguely aware of my father and my siblings emerging from their rooms, of my mother sending them back. I am unsure how long we sat there, me, a teenager, curled on my mothers lap like a child, sobbing, her stroking my hair and sobbing with me. I know why I cried that night, it was for the loss of my best friend, a wonderful and vibrant girl, who could light up the room when she walked in it. Why my mother cried, I don’t know. I think her tears were for the loss of my friend, and for my pain. But I also think she sobbed for my friend’s mother, who had to have been going through the ultimate unthinkable pain of loosing a child. And perhaps she sobbed because she was glad, glad it was not me lying in a morgue that night.

    Eventually I went back to my room, and my mom to hers. Though the next morning one could see neither of us had slept. The days that followed, realization that this was no dream, the nightmare of the wake and funeral; it is all a blur of eerily vivid memories entangled together. One thing, though that stood out to me then, and stands out even more for me today, was the day before the funeral. It must have been the most awful day of Shirley’s mother’s life. It was Mother’s Day.

    posted by Laura @ 3:26 PM   10 comments

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Lessons Learned

    Lesson #1 – Make Backups!

    Earlier this week Mr. P bought a 250 GB external hard drive since I had managed to fill up the 80GB one we got just last year. He had not even had a chance to install the new hard drive when the 80GB drive went poof. Now we are looking at recovery costs for 80GB of photos and video. Luckily we have most all our photos backed up on DVD and on Smugmug.com. And I always keep the original DV tape of all our video. So I think the real losses are very minimal. But I do not look forward to uploading all the video again. Does anyone have any better backup ideas? A DVD is good for photos and data, but way to small for all our un-edited video footage. Plus I would like to have a backup we can store out of the house in case of (god-forbid) fire. Update: seems it will cost over €400 to try to recover the data on the hard drive. Since we have almost everything backed up I will just have to declare the rest a loss.

    Lesson #2 – Sometimes it is better just to lie

    This is a lesson for my mother. She always taught us to tell the truth, and most of the times the truth is best. However, mom, sometimes it is better just to lie. Like when you send a package to us with Christmas gifts, please do not declare the true value of all items in the box, and NEVER mention you are shipping DVDs. We just had to pay €26.50 in taxes for our own Christmas gifts. European governments want you to shop in Europe, not in America, so when they see you are sending children’s toys, books and DVDs from America, they tax! Especially with DVDs. Importing DVDs, for some strange reason (which goes along with the fact DVDs have different region settings), is a big no-no, including extra fines. That is over 16% tax on every cent you declared. So next time make up something and say it is worth only $20. Didn’t you learn your lesson last year when you told the customs guy upon re-entering California that you had tulip bulbs in your bag? He took them away didn’t he? Now if you had just fibbed, you would have nice tulips in your garden, not his wife.

    posted by Laura @ 7:01 AM   2 comments

    Friday, November 11, 2005


    The other day CityMama, who I read religiously, posted a beautiful letter to her daughter Bunny, expressing how lucky her younger daughter Wallie is to have her as a big sister. As I read her post I was both crying and smiling. I am the eldest of four children, three girls and a boy, and can testify to the power of sisterhood. While there were times that we fought and screamed and even had to have our parents physically pull us apart, there is nothing quite like the bond I have with my sisters. I love my baby brother to death, and most anyone who knows us can tell you that I act as his second mom, but the bond and understanding that I share with my sisters is completely different.

    My sisters are my best friends. They know every gory detail about my life, every stupid mistake I have ever made and every silly thing I have ever done. They remember the time I ran away from home, how I plastered my bedroom walls with New Kids on The Block posters and my later unhealthy obsession with glam rock. I in turn know everything about them. We joke sometimes with each other, teasing about those moments one would often rather forget; like the time I broke the neighbor’s car window skipping rocks in the street, or how my sister would puke on almost every car trip and had a special bucket in the car for her. But behind that joking is the understanding and the affection that only we share. As we grow older that bond changes and grows stronger as we have more and more in common. We’ve shared loves and broken hearts, laughter and tears. While everything may not be explicitly discussed, we are always there to listen and support each other. Our journeys into adulthood were only made easier with each other there.

    I miss my sisters, and wish we did not live a continent apart. We try to call each other often, though not as much as I would like. When the phone rings at strange hours I know it is my sister, home from the late shift at the restaurant, or up late studying for a midterm or final. I retreat to the bedroom to talk, happy she is there, only a phone call away. I can see her sitting on her porch swing, sipping a glass of wine, smoking a cigarette, relaxing after a long day. Sometimes the thousands of miles slip away and I am sitting there on the swing next to my sister, talking and laughing, enjoying the evening with her.

    posted by Laura @ 8:24 AM   3 comments

    Fall has Arrived

    After the warmest October on record, with temperatures resembling those normally seen in August, fall has arrived in all its brilliance.

    posted by Laura @ 8:17 AM   1 comments

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    My Mommy Guilt (long)

    Being a parent seems to come with lots of guilt. Every mom I speak to has some sort of guilt she is constantly carrying around, some feeling that in one way or another she did not do the best by her child. My biggest mommy guilt is that I did not succeed with breastfeeding. It is a guilt that smacks me in the face every day when I see a nursing mother or read on a blog anything about breastfeeding, a guilt that sometimes consumes me. It is a guilt that I need to let go of, I am just not sure how.

    Before Pumpkin was born I read every breastfeeding chapter and pamphlet religiously. I regurgitated all I read about the health benefits to everyone who asked and swore I would breastfeed my baby for at least 6 months. I purchased two little plastic suction cups for a ridiculous 75 euro to pull out my inverted nipples and wore them every night up till the last two months of my pregnancy when they became a risk of inducing pre-term labor. I knew it would not be easy; I was prepared for the sore nipples, for the difficulty latching and the engorgement. Mr. P also read all the literature and was 100% in areement with me to breastfeed. We knew exactly what we were going to do, that is till reality slipped into our plans.

    Due to a very long labor and medical intervention Pumpkin was born with little desire to nurse. After 52 hours I was exhausted, but knew I needed to get her to nurse in the ‘golden hour’ for the best start. Laying there, still in the delivery room, the nurse tried to manipulate my nipple and get Pumpkin to latch. She just would not. Great start I thought, but at that point too tired really to object when the nurse said to just wait. I am not sure the next time I attempted nursing, my hospital stay is a blur of nurses grabbing my breasts trying to help my baby latch to my inverted nipples. As soon as I had to nurse my nipples pulled out by the suction cups went right back to their shy inverted state. Every nurse seemed to say something else and I was completely confused and frustrated. Then one nurse weighed pumpkin before and after a nursing session and came back to tell me “sorry, but she drank nothing”. I tried to argue that the first few days all they get is a little of the colestrium, and that of course she did not put on any weight while nursing. She explained that Pumpkin had not yet urinated and they were not allowed to release us until she did so. Due to my inability to argue effectively in Dutch, my lack of overall confidence, and an overwhelming desire to get out of the hospital (I had planned on a home birth to avoid having to be in the hospital at all) I submitted when she said they wanted to give her a bit of formula. Shit, I could not even stick to my guns for 1 day.

    After 2 nights in the hospital, Pumpkin peed out that formula and we were released from hospital. Here in the Netherlands you get home care for a week after you give birth. They do minor checks on mom and baby (reporting to the midwife who also makes 3-4 house calls), show you how to care for your new bundle of joy and help with household tasks. When our homecare nurse asked what her highest priorities should be we responded helping to establish breastfeeding. I have to say she was WONDERFUL, I cried my eyes out when she left her last day. I had no idea how I was to manage without her. She had numerous suggestions on how to establish a better latch with my inverted nipples showed me various breastfeeding holds and assured me I was doing well. Before she left us my milk supply was excellent and Pumpkin was above her birth weight without any help from formula.

    Unfortunately while I could get her to latch with assistance, we were still struggling on our own. She would cry and scream every time when she could not get the nipple in her mouth. Once she got the nipple she would suck for a few minutes and release screaming again. We would have to start the whole latching process again, me trying to manipulate my nipple, Mr. P holding her arms back (because she would push away in her excitement to nurse) as I placed the nipple in her mouth hoping she would take it. One nursing session would take well over an hour, and one to one and a half hours later she was crying for more. I was stressing more and more. I felt I could not leave the house because there was no way I could discreetly nurse in public with her flailing arms and screaming. Also since I was pumping for a minute before each nursing session to try and pull out my nipples, there was no way I could do that in public. I was feeling caged up in my house afraid to even go to the store because she might get hungry.

    After two weeks Mr. P went back to work. I nursed Pumpkin in her room at night to try and avoid waking him, however since almost every time I nursed I ended up crying along with Pumpkin in frustration he would stumble into the room to calm us both down. During the day no one was there to help and while she would nurse well once or twice, the most times were disasters. I was exhausted and frustrated and starting to dislike my own daughter. I dreaded when she would wake again to eat. I cried all day and called Mr. P continuously at work. It was not going well at all, definitely not as we planned. When the well baby clinic nurse made a house call I mentioned my troubles and how I was thinking about switching to formula. She, just like everyone else, said “it will get better, just stick to it”. But when? When would it get better? Where was that bond you are supposed to feel? I hated breastfeeding; no one said that I would feel like this – not one of those books or pamphlets said that some mothers do hate breastfeeding. What was wrong with me? That night Mr. P bought a box of formula at my request. We decided that while breastmilk was important, it was also important for Pumpkin to have a happy mother, not a mother who cried all day and wished her baby would not wake up.

    Pumpkin took to the bottle like a champ. For a while I pumped to relieve the encouragement and gave her bottles of breastmilk rotated with formula. Then my milk dried up and she was officially a formula baby. There is not a day since that I do not question my decision. I wonder if I had just stuck to a bit longer, if I had had more support from somewhere. Perhaps it would have gotten better, or perhaps I would have become more and more depressed. I do not know. Mr. P says I need to get over my guilt; we did what we did because it was best for us. We gave her a good start with a month of breastmilk, and formula is not poison. She is thriving on it, and our relationship is so much better than when I wished she would not wake up. Somehow though I can not let it go, I see disapproving looks when I feed my daughter (half of which I am sure are in my head) and feel I have to constantly justify our decision to everyone. I hope breastfeeding does go better with our next child, and I think I have learned much from our experience. But mostly I hope that eventually this guilt goes away.

    posted by Laura @ 1:12 PM   18 comments

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005


    Yipee its Promapalooza!! Unfortunately most of my awful photos are buried in my moms attic back in California, but I was able to find these in my box-o-photos. These are by far not my worst dressed or hair photos, but they are all I have here :-(

    Homecoming 1992 (Notice how the hair is longer on one side? This was done on purpose!)

    Prom 1994

    You know what is scary is how unhappy I was with my body then. I actually thought I had a big butt! Man what I would not do to be that skinny again!

    PROMAPALOOZA contestants:

    Sarah and the Goon Squad


    Live from the Wang of America

    I'd Like to Buy a Vowel

    Because I'm Your Father


    The Reign of Ellen

    Queen of Spain


    Go to ALIBLOG WEDNESDAY to vote for worst dress and hair !!

    posted by Laura @ 8:18 AM   7 comments

    Daily Quote

    In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anythingdone, ask a woman.

    -Margaret Thatcher-

    posted by Laura @ 8:16 AM   0 comments

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Attack of the Snot Monsters

    Saturday night the snot monsters came to pay us a visit.  Sunday morning Pumpkin and I both woke up with nasty booger dripping colds.  She seems to be handling it pretty well, though for some reason she keeps sticking out her tongue.  Mr. P and I both have to laugh as our little gal looks up at us, with snot running down her face, sticks out her tongue and makes the most adorable groaning sound.  “ugggg – ogggg”.  I on the other hand have turned into a whining sniveling baby.  I hate colds, you just feel miserable, but not miserable enough to shut out the world and retreat to your bed.  Give me the flu any day over a cold.  At least with the flu I can say “I’m sick – I’m not going to the grocery store… you will just have to do it”.  But with a cold, I just have to trudge about moaning and groaning doing my daily shit.  And flu’s last only a few days, where I usually get colds for weeks.  Lets hope the snot monsters make this a short visit.  

    posted by Laura @ 9:27 AM   0 comments

    Today's Quote

    I just love quotes, so I though I would start posting a daily quote. Here is the first one :-)

    Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.

    -Charlotte Whitton-

    posted by Laura @ 9:12 AM   0 comments

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Kitty Kitty

    Our cat is still at the vet. We dropped him off Thursday evening and he is still there, refusing to give them a pee sample. Personally I am a bit concerned that he has not urinated since Thursday evening, but the vet says this is actually good, since it most likely means nothing is wrong with his kidneys (which is what we feared). Supposedly when an animal has kidney issues they tend to drink and urinate a lot. He on the other hand is holding it in for whatever reason. But the sooner he pees, the sooner he can come home.

    In the past three and a half years we have had him, he has cost us a fortune in vet bills. He had kidney stones, which he receives a daily pill for, and a special dietary food (which makes him FAT!), but even with this he still had recurring attacks which landed him at the vet where they helped get the stones out of his urethra. The last time they decided to cut him open and clear out his bladder, suspecting a large stone was caught there breaking off bits which then blocked his urethra. This seemed to have done the trick, and we went over half a year with no calls to the vet. Until last month, when he started vomiting all over the house. The vet tested his kidneys and decided it was most likely a stomach infection, and sent us home with pills. At first this seemed to work, but last week the vomiting started again. So we brought him back to the vet who is completely baffled.

    I miss him right now. This is the longest he has stayed at the vet ever. There is not cat scratching our furniture to yell at, and no cat under my feet as I lug Pumpkin's bathwater to her room. I miss him curled up on my legs at night and meowing next to his food bowl in the morning. I miss the way Pumpkin reacts every time she sees him, screeching and flapping her arms wildly in the air. The way he patiently lets her tug his ears and thump his head, while if I did that I would be prying his teeth out of my arm. I keep looking for him, then realizing he is not here. Mr. P is to call the vet today to get an update. I hope they will know something, or at least let him come home. I just want my baby to come home to us.

    UPDATE: My kitty is home :-) The vet thinks he just has a really tough stomach infection so we have to continue medication. I am so happy to have him here, even though he immediately started to scratch the dining chairs.

    posted by Laura @ 10:00 AM   0 comments

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    It will just have to wait, my Amstel calls

    I have been bad, there is so much I want to write about but I have not had the time actually to do it. We had another hectic interesting day today which involved a baby group, a very strange mom, getting completely lost in The Hague, running a red light, trains being down due to a collision, and being yelled at as I tried to get on a packed bus with a pram, car seat, diaper bag and overly tired cranky baby. To top that off my cat is sick and is at the vet. Right now I fear he may need to be put down, and am very emotional about it all. So forgive me if I wait till the weekend to really tell you all about it, but right now I just want to drink this cold beer and eat my take out dinner and forget about it all.

    posted by Laura @ 7:22 PM   2 comments