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Friday, 30 March 2012

What digital photography and laundry have in common

I take a lot of pictures. I actually have a good reason to take pictures. No, sorry, I have 2 little reasons and one big reason to take pictures. Of course I want to keep the most important events for eternity. K. looks cute? Take a photo! J. smiles? Take a photo! The both of them fly through the air in a summersault? Where is my camera? A peacock attacks K. to eat her muffin? Where is the camera? Nonono, luckily, the children don't fly through the air yet. But if they would I'd want pictures.

Before digital photography, taking pictures was easy. Because the process that started with pressing the shutter and ended with the printed-out picture was much longer, people took photos differently. You would make a 100 photos, and maybe one of them was perfect, and the rest was fuzzy, or just plain bad. But you would take more care in photographing.

Since digital photography was introduced, this has changed. Now we would make a 10000 photos, and 1000 would be perfect. The rest can be fixed with Photoshop, and those that can't be fixed go into the dustbin folder. But you still end up with thousands of pictures on your computer. 

I take many pictures (not 1000, but many) and I spend a lot of time doing something about those pictures. I have to copy them to the right folder, to name them, to sort out the bad photos and delete them. I also have a Web album for the children's pictures, and that requires a lot of work as well- for that, I have to sort out the best photos, and to upload them. But when I am done, I feel proud of myself: I have managed to do work that will make my family and my friends happy. And seeing those beautiful photos of my beautiful girls, makes me happy as well.

But right when I am done, my husband says to me:“I've just remembered that I have so many pictures on my mobile phone that I took like 5 months ago.” My parents send me pictures from when they came to visit, or when we were in Poland. My parents-in-law also take some pictures and I only learn about them when I'm done. So, it's back to work I go. 

So what does digital photography and doing laundry have in common?  Just when you're done you realize that you actually have even more work to do: because the bed sheets, they need washing. Or because my husband just remembered that he has even more photos. or because K. and J. looked so awfully cute again. Doesn't matter: "More than ever hour after hour, work is never over."

And what laundry DOESN'T have in common with digital photography? Taking pictures is so much more fun!
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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Springtime, crazy time

So, spring. In my garden, the flowers are in bloom. They are beautiful. Finally, there is sun and a clear sky. We can have breakfast in the yard, we can welcome guests there, and our children can play outside without even having to leave the house. It’s the time when everything wakes up. But spring is also the time where my mind and my body have a little disagreement.

My mind wakes up, singing Simon and Garfunkel to itself: “Hello lamp-post, what's cha knowing, I've come to watch your flowers growin', Ain't cha got no rhymes for me, do-it-do-do, feelin' groovy!”. My body, however is sleep-deprived and tired, and the winter was a long one. It is more in a Velvet Underground mood and it responds:  “ I am tired, I am weary, I could sleep for a thousand years!”

My mind has billion ideas per second. I know it’s been very active lately, what with the blog and all that, but it is even more creative in the spring. It goes, to put it in Coldplay’s words: “And I could write a song, a hundred miles long”, to which my body answers with some Beatles lyrics: “Please, don’t wake me, no, don’t shake me, leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping!”

On top of being sleep deprived, and tired, I am dealing with two different children, who each have two different issues that are extremely hard to coordinate. First, we are currently potty training K. She’s been using the toilet for a while, and we let her go when she wanted- still with diaper on.

At some point, I heeded the advice to let her run without diaper. The results were such that I had to clean after her all the time because she refused to tell me that she had to go (which was no problem when she had a diaper on). And so, diapers it was, and when she said she had to go, we did go.

And so it went until I had enough. I went cold turkey on our daycare where I told them Klara doesn’t have a diaper on, and can they please deal with it. It usually goes well until around 5 o’clock when she is tired, and has an accident.

Transitions. From weaning off to eating adult foods, and now potty training. With K., it is difficult. Not because she is afraid of changes. On the contrary, she is brave, and loves trying out new things. But she is also The Girl Who Does Everything Her Own Way And Takes Her Time Doing It. Not that it’s a bad thing doing things your own way. But potty training? Sorry, no. That’s much more mess that I am willing to accept.

We’re making progress. Now she lets me know she has to go even without her diaper on. She can go long stretches during the day without diaper. It’s just so frustrating because it seems it’s taking forever for her to reach the point where I don’t have to get involved.

Besides taking care of K’s… output, we’re working on J’s input. See, she’s not gaining weight as well as she should be, and last month she’s even lost some weight. And she’s so little. I don’t mean being little is a bad thing (says who?), but that when a little child is losing weight, that’s not good at all. And that is not easy, either, especially with the drinking. Because J. can't decide which type of bottle she likes most. One day, it'd be the read one with the soft "nipple". The next day, it's the green one with a hard beak. Sometimes, she prefers to drink from her sippy cup as if it was a normal cup- without the lid on. And other times, she really likes me to give her milk with a spoon. Yes, a spoon. Argh.

Seriously, this is the worst timing ever to change the Consultatiebureau, but this is what we had to do. The nurse at the new Consultatiebureau gave me advice that was perfectly contradictory to the advice we got from our old nurse, who seemed really reasonable. She said we should feed Julia 5 times a day (and it’s totally working because now she’s gaining weight again). The new nurse said that 3 meals a day are enough.

Oh, and the service at the new Consultatiebureau? Don’t get me started on that. In our old place we could see the nurse in her room even if we went to the so called inloopspreekuur (every Consultatiebureau devotes an hour on one day to parents who don’t have appointments- for example to see if the child is gaining weight and they don’t want to wait for the next appointment). At the new place, the nurse was sitting in the waiting room, where all the mothers were changing and dressing their babies. They could hear all my questions. I had to stand, J. on my arm. She never invited me to sit down, and made it very clear that my questions were a waist of her time. Her advice was nothing special (the type that is all over the Internet), and I probably knew more about some things than she did.

Potty training takes up much of my time. But so does feeding a child who has to be fed regularly and I never know which bottle J. will prefer any given day. I never know when K. is going to have an accident. Of course, she can sit on the potty herself, but that doesn’t prevent her from proudly bringing me the potty to inspect and admire, splashing its content all over the place. And of course, this has to be dealt with immediately, or well, you get the idea. But J. has to get the time she needs to eat and drink as much as she needs. How to do that? 

Did I mention that I am sleep derived and tired? J. doesn’t nurse anymore but she still wakes up in the night for other reasons. Sometimes, K. does, too. The first whole week I get to sleep the whole night through every day, will be a cause for celebration. I am so tired that it’s getting dangerous. I have almost cut off my nail while cutting some bread, and K. has just managed to cut off some of her hair with scissors she grabbed in that second I wasn't looking. I must be more careful.  And that is even more tiring.

Other than that? My mind and my body have managed to agree on a solution. They will go shopping together. This is both relaxing and creative. I think I will join them.
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Sunday, 25 March 2012

My experience with physical therapy

I wrote this post a while ago, and since J. has made progress, I was already thinking of deleting this story. But I though that I'll share it anyway because of the guilt that I felt when I heard the words "physical therapy". And maybe there is a mother who feels the same way, and she shouldn't feel guilty because first, it's not her fault, and second, for any problem that a child can have, a good therapist can really help.

J. can sit now, but cannot sit up on her own (update: she can now), she only learned to scoot backwards at 11 months, and only did it when stimulated by me or my husband. I thought that she was just taking her time with crawling and walking. After all, her social and fine motoric skills are fine, or better than fine. She's making progress.

However, the doctor at the Consultatiebureau decided that she might need additional help. The doctor didn't seem worried but told me it would be a good idea if J.  was seen by a specialist.I told her both me and K. were late walkers (15 and 14 months, respectively). The doctor agreed that it might be hereditary, but also said it couldn't hurt if J. went to see a physical therapist.

So we went to our first visit. The therapist turned out to be a very pleasant lady. She's Polish, and her husband works in the same office as mine. She confirmed that J. needs additional help with her motoric skills development. We've been there twice (Update: now it's much more), but it seems that it's actually working.  

For example, the last time we went there, J. couldn't scoop forwards, and only rolled involuntarily. Now she can do both, fluently and with a great speed. She loves to be held in a standing position, even though she can't stand up by herself. But she enjoys doing that and the therapist thinks it's a good sign. 

She has shown my several exercises that I can do with J. at home. And J. just loves it when somebody gives her attention. Maybe it's her way of getting more of it? The thing with J. is that she doesn't really cry. But with our last visit at the Consultatiebureau she also seemed to have lost weight even though she didn't seem to be hungry. When I started giving her food 5 times a day, she started to gain weight again. Maybe she can only thrive when she can count on me for knowing what she needs?

I always thought that children cry when they need something. K. always let her needs be known, loud and clear. Apparently, children can have more  subtle ways to communicate their needs. Then I have to be more careful to meet them. I'll have to give her more attention.

Since I wrote this post, we have come a long way: J. can sit up all by herself, and she is preparing to stand up. She is getting stronger, funnier, and cuter every day. She is a delight to watch! She is also extremely lucky to have in K. a hilarious, clever, and considerate yet adventurous sister.
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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Back from the Land Where They Speak a Lot of French Every Day

After all the stress with buying the new house, and settling in there, we decided that we needed a break. When friends of us mentioned that they wanted to go on vacation somewhere, we considered this a great idea and booked the flights and hotel in a little village in Southern France.

The telephone discussion I had with the friend of mine prior to the booking is particularly worth mentioning because it shows how differently men and woman handle organizing. See, I was a little bit confused and still thinking about all the stuff that needed to be done around the house. So when that friend called me and said that the hotel we had picked was real nice and they wanted to go there with us, I was more like: “Oh, maybe we can discuss this later”. I didn’t feel like discussing anything final. And then my friend made an extremely wise move: she handed the phone to her husband. And so did I. Three minutes later we had the flight tickets, the hotel was booked and we also rented two cars to drive around in the neighbourhood. Well done, gentlemen!

And so we went. We booked the tickets with Transavia. I am telling you this so you would consider other options of traveling before you book a flight with them. Their service is ridiculous. They wouldn’t allow to bring our double stroller to the gate with us, so one of us had to carry J. and K. had to walk through the whole Schiphol airport. My friend told us that she had to unpack her luggage because it was 2 kg too heavy. You get the idea. And the tickets are not cheap, either.

Nevermind, we landed, fetched the cars, made it to our village, and hours into our arrival there, we already commited a horrible faux-pas. See, we had the nerve to be hungry at 5pm. Who is hungry at 5pm? Not the French, obviously, because most restaurants were closed for a break and those that weren’t only served drinks and beverages.

So we sat down in one of the brasseries, and asked the waiter what we should do. Remember, we were hungry. And you know what happens when I am hungry. My friend? She was pregnant, and visibly so. The waiter then nodded in sympathy with our husbands, and pointed to a bakery and said that as soon as we buy drinks we are invited to eat our pastries and sandwiches on their premises. The waiter didn’t want to deal with one pregnant lady and one crazy lady and he was right. I wouldn’t want that, either.

The rest of the stay was wonderful. I managed to get some rest. We got to eat great food. K. must have been thinking that she had arrived in the Paradise of Cheese. She loves cheese, the smellier, the better. Every Saturday and Wendsday, there was a market where we could buy fresh fruit and vegetables. I bought Coeur du Beuf tomatoes which are like the best tomatoes ever. They look like little red wrinkled pumpkins but the taste is devine. I also bought avocados, but you already knew I would. I was also very tempted to ask the fish seller whether his fish were fresh but decided against it.

Our friends had a child just the same age as K., and K. played really well with her. Those girls were quite different but they seemed to have a really positive effect on each other. K., my little ball of energy on legs, showed the other girl (whose name I don’t want to mention here to protect her privacy) how to take more risks, and be more spontaneous. On the other hand, the other girl tought Klara how to share, and be more polite.

The day before we left we have commited our second faux pas, or even two of them. First, my pregnant friend and I ordered tea. With lunch. The waitress is probably still under shock. Secondly, we didn’t order the kid’s menu for K. because she probably wouldn’t eat it. K. eats everything but not every day and not in every quantity. And that’s OK, I prefer her to eat what we eat anyway.

Her little friend ordered the kids’s menu and didn’t eat it, so the girls shared their lunch which was nice. And of course, the French kid’s menu wasn’t much different that the usualy adult’s menu, it just came in smaller portions. The girls also ate bread with olive tapenade and loved it!

We ordered the whole menu and it was delicious. All of the courses served were fantastic, and the portions were just perfect so I could try everything (a starter of eggplant and bell pepper with cheese followed by baked lamb with purple! potatoe puree) and still had place left for dessert, a lovely chocolate lava cake. It was so yummy! I love France!

We also made little trips to other villages, and even went to the sea-side, where K. picked stones for everybody, as the beaches were full of them- they were not the sandy type. Basically we had a great trip. In the meantime, J. turned 1 year old, and made huge progress on her motoric skills. She also decided that she is too big to drink mommy’s milk. Yees! Freedom! However, we still have to convince her that nights are for sleeping, not for drinking.

You might ask me, why a title like this? Don’t the French speak French and isn’t it obvious? And you might be right. But French and I, we have a history. I have family in France, and my father grew up there, and French was my parents’s secret language when they didn’t want my brother and me to understand what they were saying. However, soon enough it turned out that I could understand it anyway but I didn’t take a course until much later, as German and later English became my priorities.

When I passed the Biggest Exam Any English Learner Could Take and couldn’t possibly pass any more exams in this language, I had the time and the mindset to start French again. It was easier for me than for other in the class. I could speak better and I understood more than they did. But I had problems with writing. At some point I went to live with a French family, my parents’ friends to work on my French. And it was great, and interesting, and I learned a lot. But the first day I arrived early in the morning, I went to see the city of Nancy (very lovely, I assure you) to do some shopping, I kept my head down and tried to make myself invisible so that nobody would attack me with their French. Hence the title.

I still feel the same way. Maybe it’s because I somehow seem to think I should speak it better. However, while my spoken French still works (but only when my partner in conversation doesn’t speak anything else), my reading skills are rather poor, and my writing is disastrous. Maybe I should get back to learning it, but I don’t have the time, and right now, Dutch is my priority. 
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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Food withdrawal syndrome

Funny thing, hunger. Makes you behave in a totally weird and illogical ways. I don’t know if anybody has this as bad as I do. People with diseases like diabetes, probably. But I do not have diabetes nor, to any of my knowledge, any metabolism-related disease. But when I’m hungry, I do strange things. When I’m hungry, I’m angry. So I thought I’ll write about this thing I have, this thing that I call food withdrawal syndrome.

See, everybody gets hungry once in a while. And mostly, if they can’t eat at the moment, they will resist the urge to eat, and eat something later, without any consequences. Only after they haven’t eaten for a few hours, they start to feel something. My husband can go a day without food. But me? NO.

The reason I call this food withdrawal syndrome is because my syndromes will not be so different to those shown by drug addicts when they couldn’t get their fix. So what does happen to me? I can go from OK to freaking starving in seconds. No “I think I might eat something” to “I’m a little bit hungry” to “I’m very hungry” to “I’m going to kill you if you won’t give me something to eat NOW”. See, I just pass the middle stages and go straight for the killing- you- stage.

I might have a nice conversation with you one second, and the next second I’ll be staring hollow-eyed at the wall because my head is spinning and I’m seeing dark spots in front of my eyes. I might get dizzy and nauseous. My thoughts disappear save for the one: “FOOD”. Or I might start yelling at you TO GIVE ME SOMETHING TO EAT.

People have been shocked by the change in my behaviour when this happens. And it happens without warning. See, my parents actually know that I’m hungry and they know that when I get food, I’ll be back to nice and normal. My brother is actually the same. But imagine me, sitting with my in-laws and I suddenly leash out on everybody just because I went too long without food. And usually, I am such a gentle, well-behaved person. But when hunger hits me, I want to hit someone, just anyone, except for the person who brings me food.

I could never take the glucose intolerance stress when I was pregnant. Just the thought of going somewhere without breakfast and take that gross shot of sugar made me dizzy. And when I actually did go to take that test, I did get dizzy and nauseous and sick. The doctor saw this and we decided that we won’t do this test. Speaking of pregnancy, the only time when I actually could go longer stretches without the need to kill out of hunger was when I was pregnant. Might be that the no-body-fat-theory is actually right.

Other than that, the food withdrawal hits me bad.  I feel my cognitive abilities shutting down, one system after the other: thinking, moving, talking, understanding. When somebody starts talking to me, all I hear is “blah blah blah blah”. I might understand sentences like: “This is your food”, or “You can eat now”, but no more. I go into survival mode, with the only possible movement possible being lifting a fork and a knife to eat. Funny that I don’t fancy sugar at this point, I want a whole meal. Snacking won’t help. Eating more at meals won’t prevent it. Eating more often might but I never know because it sometimes happens even if I just ate 3 hours ago.

But funny things happen when I eat. See, I don’t drink much save for the occasional drink with my mommy friends. I don’t smoke cigarettes, nor do I do drugs. But I think I'm the only person who can get high on a chicken curry. I can feel the nutrients from the food enter my bloodstream, and I totally space out. Talking to me would be wrong at this point. No, I am not interested in how your day went because I am eating and doing two things at the same time is just so difficult. And when I’m done with eating, I am tired but happy and feeling like a human being again. 
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