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    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    End of the love affair

    When we first moved to the Netherlands just over 4 years ago I was in high spirits. I looked forward to building a life in Europe. I was disgusted by Bush, and by the way things seemed to be going in the US under his cowboy leadership. In Holland I saw a liberal and tolerant home. I admired the socialist system, the idea of a safety net for people. I had seen enough homeless in San Francisco to know that capitalism left many drowning in its wake. I knew enough people that were denied medical procedures or left with outrageous medical bills because they were under insured to see the benefits in national healthcare for all. I admired a country that allowed everyone to get married regardless of sexual preference, and somehow seemed to lack a religious right getting all up in arms over some so-called “moral deterioration”. I like the way the Dutch seemed to approach problems, not making everything illegal just to fight a loosing battle, but instead trying to control it by regulations (i.e. marijuana & prostitution). The only place that could possibly be more liberal than San Francisco was Amsterdam right?

    It was like when you first fall in love with someone and you only see the good things. There may be little things that bug you, like the way he wears the same shirt three days in a row, or how his fridge is always empty except for the six pack of beer. Those are almost non-issues, things you can look past or even try to change. I could look past the dog shit on the sidewalk and the lack of customer service. But like that guy with the empty fridge, once you move in and start to live together more things become obvious. He leaves his drawers and socks on the floor next to the laundry hamper instead of simply lifting the lid and putting them in. He drinks milk out of the carton and places it back in the fridge with only a few drops. His snoring keeps you up at night, and he always forgets to call if he is going to be late. Soon this adds up with those other little things you once found cute, but not anymore. Eventually Mr. Right is forgetting your anniversary and spending a bit to much time at the pub with the boys. Before you know it you see him flirting with your next door neighbor. That is it. The love affair is over and you are packing your bags. Well that is how it was for me. I tried to assimilate, tried to fit in. I took the language courses and the exams. Hell I even got my passport.

    But while I was working to become Dutch all those little things started to add up. I stepped on one to many piles of dog shit, got attitude one to many times from the cashier at the grocery store. On top of those little things, a bigger problem became obvious, one I could not ignore however hard I tried. No matter what I did I would always be an outsider here because of my accent and the country of my birth. Every day that went by I was actually feeling less and less welcome in my adopted home.

    The tolerant Dutch attitude has been greatly challenged by immigration. Like most of Europe, Holland has been experiencing an anti-immigration backlash, and racial tensions are obvious. The current Dutch government has been trying to “solve” what they see as the integration problem - why immigrants (mostly from Turkey & Morocco) are not assimilating into Dutch culture. Frustrations were only made worse last year when a controversial Dutch filmmaker was brutally killed by an Islamic extremist who held dual Dutch & Moroccan nationality. There was a national outcry and anger over the seen failure to integrate immigrants. Since then there have been numerous suggestions by government officials to try and bring the immigrants into the fold of society. Most of there are ridiculous, focusing on silly things like dual nationality (does holding a Moroccan passport make you more likely to become a terrorist?) or where one learns Dutch. Most recently the focus of this is what language immigrants speak not while in the stores or school but when walking on the street with friends or at home with their children. The Immigration and Integration Minister suggested last week a code of conduct which would emphasize that people speak Dutch on the streets only. She said it made Dutch people feel uncomfortable when they heard other languages being spoken on the streets. Her suggestion actually followed on the heals of the Rotterdam Code, a charter being unveiled in Rotterdam that stresses that people speak Dutch in the streets and in their homes as much as possible.

    Basically these proposals say that while I am walking down the street with my husband or my English friends I am not allowed to speak my native language, because people around me, who are not part of my conversation, can not understand me. This says that I should not speak English with my daughter; that she will not benefit from being raised bi-lingual. This is a form of discrimination. It is beyond asking people to learn Dutch; it is dictating what language can be spoken in ones private life. It is making it wrong to speak another language at all.

    That these are ridiculous proposals and that they will be impossible to enforce is beside the point. By a politician bringing this forward they are basically telling the public it is alright to feel uncomfortable when someone is speaking another language, it is OK to give people a hard time if they are not following these “rules”. It is OK for people to stare when they hear me speaking English to Mr. P or Pumpkin. It is OK for people to say: “je moet Nederlands spreken, hoor” (You must speak Dutch, OK?) when I am not speaking to them in the first place. A stamp of approval has been given to the public to harass anyone not speaking Dutch. My in-laws should be happy, their feelings have been OK’d by a minister, they can’t be wrong.

    I am glad that we have decided to leave. The Netherlands is a wonderful country with a great history, and it will always hold a piece of my heart, but it is headed down the wrong road. My bags will soon be packed, this love affair is at its end.

    I just wish I did not have to return to Bush and the Terminator!

    posted by Laura @ 8:37 PM   11 comments

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    Photo Contest - Love

    Here is my entry in the Queen of Spain's Order of Saint Anne Photo Contest for February. The topic this month is love. This is actually my favorite photo from our wedding. Strange since we are facing away from the camera, but I see it more as a symbol of us looking towards our new future together.

    We decided to forgo the complications and stress of trying to plan a large wedding with families on two sides of the globe and instead get married just the two of us on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. It was really a dream wedding, and I am so happy we decided to do it the way we did, focusing instead on us and our love for eachother. Plus who can beat that backdrop!

    (I know, my secret is out, I bleach my hair! I chopped it off and died it days after we returned - but it was short and blond when we met, so it was not a shocker)

    posted by Laura @ 6:31 PM   5 comments

    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    Just as you were forgeting me....

    Hey, were back!

    Our short vacation was both refreshing and relaxing. Germany’s HoogSauerland region is absolutely stunning -snow covered fields and trees, beautiful mountain peaks and classically German houses. I could only imagine being as lucky as to wake up every morning and look out my window to such magnificence.

    It was great to spend that time as a family, without the everyday distractions of life. No computer, no TV - well, none in a language I could understand - no laundry to be washed and folded, no house to clean, no phone calls, just the three of us enjoying the time together. I wish life could always be like that. I finished off 3 books, and am well into a 4th. I must spend more time like that in the evening, with a book in hand instead of the remote. Pumpkin did not enjoy the snow too much; she seriously lacks mobility in her snowsuit and is too small to be dragged around on a sled. But she loved the indoor swim center, and was moving about the pool in her float ring chasing after all the bigger kids. She may not be a snow bunny, but she sure is a little mermaid!

    Now that I am back, and close to the bottom of the huge pile of laundry begging to be done, I need to start catching up on the blog-sphere. You all have been mighty busy while I have been gone. When ever will I find the time to read all your posts! Please forgive me if it takes me a while to get caught up.

    You will hear from me again soon though. I have to post a photo to the Queen of Spain’s Order of Saint Anne competition. I am also working on gathering my thoughts about the “Dutch Code of Conduct” – otherwise known as the Language Police – suggested by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk while I was away (Thanks Laura for the heads-up).

    In the meantime, I leave you with a few photos to peruse. Mr. P and I just purchased ourselves a new portrait lens (Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 Macro Super II) for our Canon Digital Rebel and needless to say have been taking TONS of photos to break it in. Enjoy.

    posted by Laura @ 6:39 PM   5 comments

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006


    Mr P, Pumpkin and I are heading off onto our first real holiday as a family. We will be spending just over a week in Germany's Sauerland region, and along with a lot of rest and relaxation, we hope to also have a lot of fun in the snow. My box of books from Amazon arrived just on time, so I have plenty of material to keep me busy while sitting in front of the fire. I will also be sans internet for the entire time, so this will be my last posting till we return. Keep me posted here on the happenings in your worlds so I can quickly catch up on my return!

    posted by Laura @ 4:08 PM   8 comments

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Everybody is a judge

    Just last week my blogging buddy the Queen of Spain was attacked for her parenting methods and told she was damaging her children for life; that they would become freaks because of her. What was she doing that this person, who had never met her or her children, could make such an accusation? Was she locking them in cages? Did she beat them? Were they being sent off to work as child laborers? Was she smoking crack next to their cribs at night? No, nothing of the such. Her crime, the reason she was dooming her children to a life as outsiders and freaks, was breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping. She was rightfully very upset by this accusation, and attacked back at her accuser.

    This made me wonder, why is it that parents become so judgmental of other parents methods of raising their children. Why is the way one parent chooses to raise their children right while any other way of doing it is wrong? Why are there a plethora of books out there telling parents the correct manner of childrearing, that if they do not follow the guidelines set they will be damaging their children. Isn't being a parent hard enough? Aren't most mothers hard enough on themselves? Do moms need all this judgment thrown at them by some pricks who decide that because they have a PhD it means that they are a parenting expert? Do they need to be attacked by their fellow parents because they choose to approach childrearing from a different angle?

    I only breastfed for a month, I decided to stop breastfeeding because I felt it was the right thing to do for the relationship between me and my daughter. I do not co-sleep, but also do not use the cry it out method. Pumpkin sleeps in her own room, and has since the day she came home from hospital. I also respond to her when she cries, no matter the time. I wear her in a baby carrier as often as possible, and believe no baby can be held too much. I decided to cloth diaper and I make all Pumpkin's baby food. She has been learning two languages from birth, and we plan to introduce a 3rd language later. I quit my job to be a stay at home mom, but will send Pumpkin to school when the time comes, not attempt to school her at home. I do believe strongly in vaccination, and will not postpone or skip the recommended schedule. I do not follow any parenting philosophy, or take what the books say to seriously. I make my own way with what I have learned, and what I believe is right for us.

    Am I a bad mother because of my choices, or am I a better mother because of them? I am neither. We all make choices; look at what will work best in our homes, with our families. Why is one choice any better than another, as long as that choice is made in love? A bad parent is one that abuses or neglects their child, one that would purposely do them harm. The rest of us, we love and do everything we feel is best for our children. And our children will only thrive because of our choices, because those choices have been made with love.

    posted by Laura @ 6:08 PM   6 comments

    Very Disturbing Search

    Up till now I have not had too many scary or downright odd searches that have lead to my blog. But today someone found my blog by searching google for "mama and son sex".

    I am absolutely certain he (or she) did not find what they were looking for here.

    posted by Laura @ 5:03 PM   0 comments

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    National de-lurking week

    I am a bit late on the uptake here, but if you are out there please take a moment, say hello and tell me something about yourself. That is if I am not talking to myself...

    posted by Laura @ 2:00 PM   14 comments

    Thursday, January 12, 2006


    Mr. P got a phone call last night from a friend of ours. An old friend of his from university lost his wife yesterday. Tuesday she was fine, and Wednesday he was making the awful gut wrenching decision to detach her from life support. She was 31, a mother of a young son, and pregnant with her second child, due in June. It is all so tragic. One day she was planning her new baby’s nursery, perhaps picking out names for the child stirring inside her, the next day she was gone. The doctors think she had an unseen heart defect, a sleeping giant, which in one fell swoop took her life. I never met this woman or Mr. P’s old university friend, but I can not stop crying. I cried last night in bed, and this morning in the shower. I am trying now to type through eyes blurred with tears. I just keep thinking of her family. Her parents who lost their daughter and unborn grandchild, a grief no parent should ever know. Her husband who lost his wife and unborn child, left to raise his other child without the woman he loved. Mostly I keep thinking of that that poor poor baby who will never be held by his mother again. She will never teach him to tie his shoes, will never walk him to his first day of school. She will not ever be there again to read him a story, to tuck him into bed. She will never see him graduate, or walk down the isle. She will not see him grow up into the man she saw in his eyes. He may not even remember the woman who gave him life, who loved him with every part of her being. Maybe it is better that she never knew what hit her, never knew she would be leaving her child. I don’t think I could handle that knowledge.

    Life is so fragile, so precious. It can be here one minute and gone the next. Go hug your children, kiss them and tell them you love them. Sit down and play with them, even if the chores are piling up on you. Let the dishes overflow in the sink, the vacuuming can wait. Tell your spouse, partner or lover how much they mean to you. Live each day as best you can, enjoy every moment because it is a gift, and we should never forget that.

    posted by Laura @ 9:07 AM   5 comments

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    A Trip to the Big City

    Yesterday I went to the American Consulate in Amsterdam to file the petition for Mr. P’s Green Card, step 1 in the application process. By the time I got home, almost 5 hours after I walked out the door, I felt like I was in the 9th month of pregnancy. My back hurt, my legs hurt and I was absolutely exhausted. I think my relationship with the Baby Bjorn is near its end. I can’t cart around an 8 kilo baby on my chest for 5 hours. It does not matter that I gained more than that when pregnant. That weight was spread out (a lot taking up residence on my thighs and butt) and while towards the end it did feel like my womb was home to a future world-cup soccer champ, that weight did not fling itself around madly when excited, kicking my thighs and body slamming my chest. I thought using the Bjorn would be easier than the pram since we needed to take almost every form of public transport available (bus-train-tram and back again). It would be easier to navigate the security, pat downs and metal detectors that line the fenced entrance to the American Consulate, and Pumpkin would nap better while strapped to me than she would in her pram. On all counts there I was right. I just had no idea how long the trip would be, and that before we even boarded the train to Amsterdam, my back would be crying out for mercy.

    Yet I must have the sweetest baby alive. Pumpkin spent 5 hours strapped to her mama, bundled up like an Eskimo against the cold, lugged from place to place, and queue to queue – hat and gloves on and off, jacket unzipped and zipped. Even though she did not nap at her normal 1:30, finally falling asleep from pure exhaustion at 3:15, she was an absolute angel who charmed everyone she locked eyes with. My daughter smiles for and flirts with everyone. She could not get enough of the little girl on the train with the pigtails, and when the girl did not notice her, she broke into a chorus of loud shrieks and endless babble to get her attention. When the young (and incredibly sexy) Italian guy boarded the train at the airport, and sat next to us, she proceeded to grab at his arm and flash him toothy grins, which when returned she feigned shy and buried her head in my chest. She charmed the pants off the security guard at the consulate who swore no baby ever smiles at him. Upon finding the consulate too quiet for her liking, Pumpkin then broke into another chorus of babble which sent most of the glum people in the queue into laughter. The consular, who approved the petition, even tried to set her 9 month old son up with my beautiful girl. And when she abruptly awoke from her nap on the train (why oh why do people have to yell into their mobile phones?!) she did not cry, but commenced with the charm offensive, completely pulling the grandmotherly woman across from us from her book, and drawing smiles from almost everyone on the train. She only got grumpy when we rounded the corner for home, perhaps because she had no audience anymore.

    This is why I love baby wearing, she is at eye level with people, instead of looking at their knees. It is such a better place for interaction, especially for my social gal. I will miss carrying her around for long periods, having her that close to me. It looks like the pram will be getting more use, while the sling and Bjorn will be reserved only for short treks. It makes me wonder about that carrier I saw at the store the other day for babies above 15 kilo. What mom, besides a body builder or superwoman, can wear her 16 kilo baby!?!

    posted by Laura @ 10:24 AM   4 comments

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Tagged Again

    KDubs tagged me, and now I must reveal 5 weird things about me. That should not be too hard, as I think I am pretty odd indeed. But I thought I would make this a bit more interesting and let Mr. P tell you 5 weird things about me. Italicized comments are mine.

    1. She watches TV crooked, favoring the left eye. So it looks like she is facing something on the right of the TV, yet she really is watching the show. (Yes, this is true, I first had it pointed out to me when I was a teenager. I am not sure why I do this, but if I attempt to watch the TV strait-on, my eyes feel tired)

    2. Whenever the good (scary, embarrassing or exciting) scenes in a movie or TV show come on, she runs out screaming "no, no, no! I can't watch this". (Guilty as charged - I am the worst with those horrible embarrassing moments that you can just see coming... I think I watched half of American Pie from the hallway)

    3. She puts only 2-3 molecules of toothpaste on her toothbrush. (This is a slight exaggeration, we just disagree on how much toothpaste is necessary to clean teeth. I think that you only need enough to suds up your teeth, where Mr. P likes to cover his toothbrush with a huge stripe of paste like in the commercials.)

    4. No one I know is in and out of the bathroom as quick as her. (That's me, the quickest pee in the west - One bathroom, 4 kids- explain it at all?)

    5. She talks in her sleep, and can even have full conversations while actually unconscious. (Another one I can't deny. I have freaked out many people with this, including Mr. P when we first started "spending the night". I have heard it is very hard to tell that I am not awake. I have even been known to sit up in bed and start talking, and every so often even to walk in my sleep.)

    Tag, now you're it!
    Troll Baby
    Watching me grow
    Queen of Spain
    The Diaper Pail

    posted by Laura @ 7:08 PM   7 comments

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Mama doesn't like those kisses

    Yesterday I was playing with Pumpkin, she was sitting, and I was lying on the floor, my head resting in her lap. She likes to pull my hair and stick her fingers in my mouth. I usually enjoy her explorations of my face, but yesterday her curiosity went too far. Giggling she leaned down closer to me and BIT MY NOSE! Let me tell you those four teeth are sharp. I jumped up, tears in my eyes. My little lady just bit me, and hard! I still had little tooth marks on my nose when Mr. P came home in the evening.

    But did I learn my lesson? No, of course not! This morning I was again playing on the floor with Pumpkin, when I started to give her kisses. With my face in front of hers I puckered up and said “give mama some kisses”. She giggled, and to my surprise threw her arms towards me, leaned forward and wrapped her lips around my lower lip. Shocked, I did it again, and again she leaned forward and wrapped her lips around mine! Ah, the joy of a mother whose kisses are returned! She did it twice more to my utter disbelief when I called Mr. P to tell him that our daughter just KISSED her mama. He was amused in that sort of “why the hell did you just call me at the office to tell me that” way. So I hung up and leaned into Pumpkin again to claim another kiss. I should have stopped when I was ahead. This time she wrapped her lips around mine, and BIT DOWN HARD. Ouch! She actually made my lip bleed…

    So in the last two days my daughter bit both my nose and my lip. Added to the time last week when she gave me a bloody nose (I really should cut her nails before allowing her to explore the cavities of my nose with her finger) I think I can say I am being abused by my daughter. Is there a support group for moms like me?

    posted by Laura @ 3:28 PM   6 comments

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Life is like an amusement park

    I am not a risk taker. I was one of the few people in San Francisco during the dot-com boom who did not buy up IPO stock, who never amassed a tech portfolio. I much prefer to see my money gain slowly in a savings account than chance blowing it all on the stock market. I have only been gambling twice, and both times I stuck to the nickel slots, venturing over to the quarter slots and the $3 Blackjack tables only briefly enough to get a free drink. I tend to plan most big steps I make, down to every last detail, to avoid the possibility of anything going wrong. I don’t play hazardous sports, or travel to dangerous places. I live life on the safe side, and prefer it that way. I know bad things can happen no matter how careful I am, but I prefer to minimize the chance.

    My sister once made the perfect analogy; life is like a amusement park. You have the nice kiddy rides, the bumper cars and merry-go-rounds. They are fun but gentle and never make you sick to your stomach. Then there are the rollercoasters and the other big rides that spin and flip you about. They are exhilarating and scream inducing. Along with the fun though comes the gamble of loosing anything you did not tie to your body as well as anything in your stomach. I tend to live life mostly on the kiddy rides, and when I do venture onto the rollercoaster I make sure I have an empty stomach and nothing in my pockets to loose.

    Yet this move we are planning is risky, and that is already weighing on me, even though it is at least half a year till we leave. I am approaching the biggest and scariest ride I have ever seen. We will be packing up our lives to move back across the world. We do not have a home there, or guaranteed work. But we are going to sell our house, ship all our belongings, and start all over again. Yes, I have made such a big move before, over 4 years ago, when we left SF for Amsterdam. But Mr. P’s company sent us, so he had work, and they paid for everything including temporary housing till we could find a home. I am excited that we finally decided to go, but the risks are weighing on me. I know that these risks are necessary to get to where we want to be, and if I stay nice and secure, I will also stay unhappy. But I am scared to get unto that giant coaster with a lot in my pocket. What if I loose it all?

    So what do I do when I see the boogeyman around every corner? When I stay up at night thinking of all the little things that can go wrong? I start to plan, down to every last little detail. In the last week I have started the “BIG MOVE” file. Already there are lists, spreadsheets, pie charts and appendixes. Everything is outlined; there is a cover page and table of contents. There are links to movers and PDF files with health insurance quotes. My obsessive side is definitely showing. As the queue to the coaster creeps on and I get closer to the ride, it will only get worse and worse. Mr. P fully expects to come home some day and get a PowerPoint presentation detailing every possible bump in the road. Already I am driving him nuts with “it is all going to be OK, right?” and “we are doing the right thing, right?” The only thing keeping me sane is how happy I am to know I will be going home, even if I have to ride that coaster to get there.

    So internet, what do you think? Are we mad? Or am I just an old scardey cat destined to live my life on a merry-go-round. Would you get on that coaster?

    posted by Laura @ 2:24 PM   11 comments

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    2005 in Pictures of Pumpkin & Ms. Mama


    posted by Laura @ 2:08 PM   5 comments

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Happy 2006!

    Happy New Year!

    2005 was an exciting year in the Ms. Mama household. It was the year that Mr. P and I went from a twosome to a threesome; from a couple to a family. The arrival of Pumpkin changed our lives in wonderful ways which I can not even articulate. I can not imagine life before her, would not want to go back to our carefree childless days for anything. It is strange how it can seem like a short, yet incredibly long year at the same time. Short, because I can remember Jan 1st 2005 like it really was yesterday. Time does fly by in a blink of the eye! Long, because so much has happened in that year.

    This is a post from a personal pregnancy blog I kept for my family. It is dated January 8th 2005, shortly after the New Year. I feel it articulates better than I could now how much things really have changed.

    Weeks 19 & 20

    We I returned earlier this week from our trip to Cali for the holidays. I am finally feeling completely back onto this time zone so I figure it is about time I get something posted again on this blog!!! For those of you we saw, we had a great time and am so glad we had time to catch up, for those of you we missed, sorry, time just seemed to run out! I hope when we make our next trip over with the new bundle of joy we will be able to meet up.

    Our arrival back in the Netherlands began with a few reminders of my pregnancy (if the constant trips to the air-toilet were not enough). First and most excitingly while passing over Greenland I felt the baby move! It was very faint, and felt as a cross between a small bubble popping and a slight tapping. I have felt it a few times now since so am convinced they are "flutters"... It will be a while before I feel real kicking, and since my placenta is on my belly side the movements will also remain faint for a while. The placenta basically acts as a pillow cushioning the movements. But movement is movement!!! Our second reminder was not quite so pleasant. While my morning sickness has been gone for over a month now, it seems my stomach is not its normal self. Shortly before landing I started to feel slightly ill and asked for a baggy just in case. I figured it would pass, like most of my former morning sickness. And it seemed to go away, that is at least for a while. But there was a wind storm over Holland and we had a rather rough approach to landing. Not anything I have not experienced before, but less than comfortable. Yet I made it to landing without losing my breakfast... The problem was I did not make it long afterwards! All my breakfast decided to make a reappearance as we taxied to the gate. I have never been so embarrassed in my life!!! I just have to be thankful for two things, it was the end of the flight so I never have to see any of these people again, and I at least look pregnant - people seem to be more sympathetic than with someone who is simply airsick!! Again I blame the baby :-)

    Two days after our return we got to get another ultrasound. I have a photo and will post it once I go back to work and can scan it in. It was amazing! The last ultrasound our baby was 2cm head to rump. Now it is 16 cm!!! Everything looks perfect and growth is right on schedule! We saw the heart’s 4 chambers, the stomach, bladder, diaphragm, spine and arms and legs. Unfortunately our little one is a bit shy and had it’s head buried towards my back so we got no view of its face :-(Since we do not want to know the sex yet we had to close our eyes a few times when the technician was in that "area". I think that just made me more curious than ever! I just have to stick to our decision a bit longer; we have our 4D ultrasound in 3 weeks. This will be that last (unless god forbid we have complications). Hopefully our little one has overcome its shyness by then and gives us a glimpse of its face!!!

    It is hard to imagine I am writing there about our Pumpkin. I still can not believe that she is the same creature that first kicked while I was flying over Greenland. Hell, I can not even believe she is the same helpless creature that was handed into my waiting arms 7 months ago.

    2005 was a wonderful year; I think it will be hard to top. Here is hoping that 2006 is another wonderful year, if anything our move will definitely bring many more big changes before 2007!

    Wishing you all a wonderful start to 2006, and hoping that all your dreams for the year come true!

    posted by Laura @ 11:02 AM   2 comments