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Friday, 25 May 2012

I think the Dutch really dig motherhood

In German, the word lecker means delicious. But, with a few exceptions, the Dutch don’t have much food they can call that. Oh I know there are the stroopwaffels and the poffertjes and the nieuwe haringe and there are several other things but I think you really have to agree that Dutch cuisine is not famous for its refined food.

Maybe this is the reason why in Dutch, the word lekker means so much more. Lekker warm people say when they see Julia nicely wrapped in her blanket to keep her warm in her stroller. Ze is lekker an het speelen- the nannies at Klara’s daycare tell me when I come to pick her up.

My personal favourite is lekker slapen- to sleep deliciously. It is my favourite for two reasons. First, we have a similar expression in Polish, smacznie spać. And secondly, look at your children when they’re sleeping, and tell me you don’t want to eat them! My children look so sweet when they sleep I totally have to control myself. You can’t have your toddler and your baby and eat them, too.

But then there are two expressions that are not so obvious. The first one is lekker belangrijk. This means Yeah, that was really important. NOT. The lekker, while denoting something very positive is used to make the belangrijk less belangrijk, less important. The other one? To explain the other one, I have to tell you a story.

I had a gift certificate for a haircut and wanted, nay, was desperate to make use of it. So I took the tram, found the hairdresser and waited my turn (it was “zonder afspraak”, people!). When I finally sat in that chair and explained to the stylist how I want my hair done, she started making the usual “haircut small talk”. At some point I told her I had children and that they were still little. To this, she replied: Oh, 2 kindjes! Lekker druk!

To me, the lekker druk made no sense. To be druk means to be stressed, to be very busy. But what is the lekker doing there? And after a while, I understood. She was acknowledging the fact that motherhood, while delightful and joyous, was also tiring and just plain difficult. And I agreed with her. I felt grateful that she didn’t tell me to enjoy every minute of it since they grow up so fast.

We really, really enjoy being with our children, and playing with them, and reading and singing to them. Children are fun and a great opportunity to learn. But we do not enjoy every minute of raising our children. We do, however, enjoy most of the time with our children. And people who tell young mothers to carpe diem either didn’t enjoy parenting their children themselves or managed to block out the bad memories and held on to the positive ones.

The Dutch are very direct people. But at least they are honest. They tell you that having children is druk. It is a lot of work, and it’s hard work, too. But they also tell you that having children is lekker: delightful, funny, and yes, delicious!

I am lekker druk. I bet you are lekker druk, too!
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Friday, 18 May 2012


Are you Pinterested? Follow me here: http://pinterest.com/olencjaba/
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Beware of false friends!

No, I don't mean people who were supposed to be our friends, but really weren't. I mean linguistic false friends. These are words that sound the same in two different languages, but they mean different things. You can find them in all languages, even if they are as far apart as Polish and English. For example, the word "conductor" has many meanings. It can mean ticket inspector. Same in Polish. However, in English it can also mean "concertmaster". This meaning is not present in Polish, we say "dyrygent" instead. In funniest cases, some words can mean something neutral in one language, and something very vulgar and obscene in the other. The most typical example is the word "curve", or the German: "Kurve". A similar word is a common swearword in Polish. 

However, I think this happens a lot with languages that are close to each other. I have a Russian friend who was very shocked to find that I call my daughter "żabka" (little frog). For me this is a very cute name for a very cute girl. Also, I think that little babies look like frogs, like very cute little frogs. But in Russian, it means "toad". My friend said to me: “But you say it with so much love, I can't actually believe you're calling her a toad." I explained, and she understood. 

With German and Dutch, it's similar. Some examples of this are actually very funny. Take, for example, the Dutch word "huren". See, sometimes Dutch words are like German words, and sometimes they are like English words. "Huren" is related to the English word "to hire". But in German, the same word (as a noun), means "prostitutes". So if you're German, and you're visiting the Netherlands, you might be surprised. And you might think that the Dutch really are tolerant.

A German lady from my playgroup told me the story of how her husband helped a lady pick up her keys that she had dropped in the supermarket. He fetched the keys, smiled, and said: "dat is niet zo slim”. But that poor pady was offended because while in German the word "schlimm" means "bad" (as in: "This is not so bad"), in Dutch "slim" means "clever". So what the man actually said to her was: "this was not so clever". No wonder the lady was offended. I am aware of the differences in Dutch and German, I still have to stop and think a while when I hear the nannies call Klara “een slimme meisje”. 

The book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", describes the possibility of getting a simultaneous translation of any language by using a Babel Fish. The Babel fish, as weird as it is, seems pretty useful. But it can cause problems, too: "The reason the Earth has been shunned for so long is also due to a language problem. On Earth, Belgium refers to a small country. Throughout the rest of the galaxy, Belgium is the most unspeakably rude word there is." Why Belgium? I don't know. But I can't help but wonder about what this might say about the Netherlands.

So, beware of false friends - Linguistic, and human ones alike. 
But maybe you have some more funny examples to share? 
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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Whatever-works parenting

I wrote this a while ago but it seems perfectly timed with the last week’s TIME Magazine’s cover and the ensuing discussion on attachment parenting.

You have probably heard about all different parenting methods, styles and philosophies. Attachment parenting, tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, hothouse parenting, French-style parenting, to name just a few. Some parents actually take pride in following one of those philosophies and it works for them. That’s cool. Others-like me- do whatever works for them at any given moment. I don’t really have a parenting philosophy.
I read a lot about parenting techniques when I was pregnant with Klara and decided that I was going to be the best attachment parent ever. I was going to breastfeed (on demand, of course), and baby-wear, and never, ever let them cry. And, of course, I was going to cook for her, and never introduce any mash, and would do it the BWL way instead. And then Klara was born.

Breastfeeding went perfectly well. We both enjoyed it, and it was extremely convenient. I breastfed her until she weaned herself off at 14 months. It was a good moment because I was ready to stop as well. Baby-wearing? Not so much. I had bought a sling AND a baby carrier. I was really serious about baby-wearing. I stopped using the sling after a few attempts. I looked at all those other mothers with their babies cuddled to their chests with envy. They looked so happy, and peaceful. Me? I looked as if I had no idea what I was doing. The carrier proved a much better solution for me. For me, but not for Klara, who was much happier in her stroller where she could move her hands and feet. See, my little independent girl preferred to move on her own than being worn.  Instead of cuddling into my chest, she would try to jump out of the carrier. So I stopped wearing her, and my spine thanked me for that.

As far as crying goes, we usually react to her crying. We have learned that Klara usually cries when something is wrong. But sometimes there is no way to tend to her immediately, and then she has to cry a little bit. The same goes for Julia, but it’s hard when they’re both crying at the same time, and I’m at home alone with them. We have also found that usually there is a reason for Klara’s temper tantrums. Sometimes she’s tired and sometimes she’s hungry, and sometimes she just had enough. And sometimes she has a tantrum because she is not allowed to do something. Giving a hug helps, so does giving food, and getting her to sleep.

Since we’re talking about sleep, I hadn’t thought of co-sleeping even once. I love my bed, and I love my sleep, and I love my sleep in my bed during the night. But Klara stayed in our room till she was 2 years old, and Julia still sleeps next to us in her baby cot. We occasionally let Klara into our bed when there is no other way to console her when she wakes up in the night and cries. At some point she returns to her own bed in her own room. She has the choice to go back to her bed which she does at some point.

The books I read all told me how great it is to bond with your baby by breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing. Some even tell you that mothers who bottle-feed and do not babywear and do not co-sleep might have the feeling that they’re not bonding properly. They are even told that when they don’t want to do all this things, then something must be wrong with them. This is not true.

I have found that there are so many ways to bond with a baby-or a child. I think the older Klara gets, the more possibilities I have to bond with her: through reading books, and drawing, and talking about her day. I even think that I have more bonding opportunities now than when I was breastfeeding and trying to baby wear.

So, basically, this whole post is to tell you three things: first, even if you have a certain philosophy in mind for your baby, it might or it might not work. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t work? Fine as well. Secondly, different families practice different ways to parent their children. What works for me may or may not work for you. What works for you, may or may not work for me. And that’s fine. After all, no two families are alike. Also, children change overtime. Their needs change, their way of expression changes. And with that, our attitudes change as well. All this reflects back on our parenting techniques.

I actually enjoy reading about the various parenting philosophies. It’s great to have a choice. However, if you want to give my style of parenting a name, call it “whatever-works parenting”. I think most of us parents are experts in that.

Which reminds me that now, that I do have a philosophy, I should have a book to go with it. 
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Friday, 11 May 2012

When you're done, you are done

My mother is extremely involved in various projects and activities, and translating is one of them. Actually, my mother is the perfect translator because not only is she highly qualified, but she can also speak English on a native-speaker level. And I think I'll have to write a post about being a native speaker and translating.

And while my mother loves working on some text, others require more motivation. Then, my mother says: "Olga, tell me something that would motivate me". And I could tell my mother: "That's not so important. You can do that later". I could tell her: "You don't really need to do this translation." But this is not the way my mother operates. She needs something else, and I know what it is. And so I tell her: "If you finish this now, you won't have to deal with it later". 

This helps. And it seems logical: if you do something right away, you don't have to worry about it later. Sometimes, I am so exhausted and then I don't really feel like doing laundry or even cooking. With cooking, it's no problem- I can simply buy something in one of the many Indonesian restaurants close to my place.

But what about chores? Sometimes, I see no sense in doing laundry, because all those clothes will get dirty anyway. Same with cleaning.  Where is the sense in doing something if you have to do it all over again? And with two children, "again" will come sooner rather than later. 

I have started applying what I tell my mother in my own life: "If you do it now, you won't have to deal with it for a while." And so, magically, laundry practically does itself, and the beds get clean sheets regularly.

Of course, I've always been doing things this way. But my approach was a different one. I often complained about this or that taking so long. But it doesn't really take so much time! With the right mindset, it's actually quick! And then I'm free not to think of chores for a while. 

I am all for taking your time needed to accomplish a task. And I am all for not doing something if you don't feel like it. But sometimes you'll have to do this sooner or later and at that point you might be too tired or not have the time. And then, you end up with double amount of chores. 

Sometimes it pays to get things done quickly. Doesn't have to be all the time, though. 
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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ilze’s and Daniel’s wedding

Last Thursday, I sat down with Klara, 2 very special photo albums in my hands. They contained pictures from our wedding. I explained to her what a wedding means and showed her my white dress. I told her that she, too, participated in this wedding- she was in my belly. Klara seemed very interested in what I was telling her, and soon started asking questions: “Klara white dress, too?- she said. “Klara wedding too?”. It cracked me up, it really did.

I made the first album and it it were pictures of just the two of us. The other album was made by friends of my parents- in-law who took pictures of everybody in a picture frame, making for a very nice effect and some great pictures. In this album, I was looking for pictures of two wonderful friends of mine, Daniel and Ilze.

It was interesting to see what commentary they wrote to accompany the pictures. Ilze: “… thank you for a wonderful day and a very entertaining evening. It has been a time of joy for me to celebrate this special day with you.”  Daniel, on the other hand, wrote this: “This was by far the best wedding I’ve ever been to and it will always have a special place in my heart”.
Do you see where this is going? I wasn’t showing Klara the albums because I felt like it. I wanted her to know what to expect at a wedding. And I wanted her to know how the bride and groom look like. For Daniel and Ilze, our wedding was special because it was the day they met. “Special day?” “The best wedding ever?” You bet.

They got married last week, and we attended their wedding. Before I go on and tell you how absolutely awesome it was, let me clarify something. Rumour has it that it was all my fault. After all, I had set them up. But the only thing I did was to have a moment of clear logical thinking. Our wedding was close to Kiel. Ilze was going from Bremen, Daniel and 2 of my other friends were going from Hamburg and they wanted to rent a car. I figured that Ilze would be going via Hamburg anyway, and getting to the venue wouldn’t have been easy without a car. But Daniel and my two friends had a car. And so I had offered Ilze the possibility to go with them.

There was a bigger force at play here. See, when I asked Ilze if she had any plans for the date of our wedding, she said yes. And she only changed those plans to attend the wedding. Daniel, on the other hand, had planned to take his then-girlfriend who dumped him the day before the wedding.

Also, there were many single men on this wedding. And only one single woman - Ilze. And she wasn’t looking for anybody. But she was having fun, dancing, and enjoying herself. Daniel was the only one she did not dance with. And yet, somehow they ended up together. I would gladly take the responsibility for the wedding that took place last week if I could. But it wasn’t my doing.

So, the wedding. We had scheduled our flight for the day of the wedding and we arrived late. The ceremony had already begun, but when we came in, the registrar was just telling the story of how Daniel and Ilze had met. We couldn’t have planned it better! After the ceremony we had a few drinks to celebrate the great day. Ilze looked dashing in the white simple dress, and Daniel was really handsome in his dark suit. Klara and Julia behaved exceptionally well. Julia was quiet as always, and Klara was everywhere. She found a companion, a little girl her age, to run around and play in the dirt, and scream with. What fun! We also took pictures with the bride and groom. I have pictures of them with Julia (who, to honour the occasion changed her hair colour to match Ilze’s. Yes, I think she can do that on purpose!).

Then we walked to the place where the party was going to be. We could witness a few Latvian traditions, like the gates: friends and family form gates for the married couple and they can only pass if they show their love and devotion for each other by completing some tasks. In Daniel’s and Ilze’s case, they had to give each other 5 promises for their future life together, think of 15 cute names for each other, and perform a dance. But even without these things, everybody could see how ready they were for marriage.

When we arrived at the party, green asparagus soup was served (I think it was delicious but I can’t know for sure since Julia decided that green asparagus soup was the best thing on Earth). And they opened a buffet later on. There were grilled veggies, and meat, and baked potatoes. They served “rote Grütze” with vanilla sauce which I adore!

They were toasts but not too many- so there was a lot of time for dancing. Ilze’s friends and family sung a Latvian drinking song which is still stuck in my head and I think will stay there forever. At some point Ilze and Daniel told us (my husband and me) to stand up and everybody gave us a big applause- to express their gratitude for bringing them together. This was such a thoughtful gesture, but again, not my doing!

But soon, the dancing started. At some point Julia fell asleep in her stroller. Klara, on the other hand, was full of energy and she wanted to dance, too. I loved dancing with my girl, she was so happy and also wanted to dance with the other children. But soon tiredness took over and Klara fell asleep in her stroller as well. Such a miracle. I could dance, too-something I haven’t done for ages, and something I love! Even better, I could dance with my husband, and it felt so good!

We left just in time to spare the children the violence that is stealing the bride. Not sure if you’re familiar with this tradition. The bride’s family and friends hide her somewhere in the building. The groom has to perform several tasks. Each tasks he completes brings him closer to his bride until the last tasks reveals her location. See, so violent that we had to leave! I’m kidding of course. We left because our children were sleeping and we didn’t want them to wake up and crash in the middle of the wedding.

But everything was just so perfect! The wedding was beautiful, the couple looked as if they have been married forever- they just felt so right together!

Dear Ilze and Daniel, once again I wish you all the best. Thank you for inviting us to your beautiful wedding! And enjoy your honeymoon in Malaysia! I’m looking forward to hearing your stories and seeing the pictures! 
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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A very Subjective Guide to Dutch Restaurants. Part 1

Delft, Part 2
In the last post, I talked about restaurants worth visiting in Delft. But let’s say you don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant? What if you want to have your lunch in a nice spot in the city?  What if you want to go to meet some friends for a coffee? What if you want to eat something nice and hot, but do not feel like cooking? Here are some places that might be of interest to you.

-Bagels and Beans- a lovely place to have a lovely bagel. Not only do they have a huge variety of different kinds of bagels, but their products are mostly organic and/or fair trade. You can choose between white wheat bagels, whole- wheat bagels, and other types of bagels, all of them delicious. Toppings and filings include: Avocado, salmon, hummus, even sauerkraut. So, that's the "bagel" part. The "bean" part refers to coffee and cocoa beans. That means they also have coffee and hot chocolate. I love the way they serve the latter: with steamed milk and chocolate chips on the side so you can make it yourself. They have a brilliant choice of teas, smoothies and juices. All in all, a great place to meet friends for lunch.

-Leonidas- if you haven’t been to Leonidas, you have missed a lot of goodness. Leonidas is a Belgian chocolate maker, known for its perfectly delicious chocolates and pralines. However, in Delft they also have a lunchroom. They have a breakfast menu (consisting mainly of different kinds of eggs) and it’s delicious, and will keep you full the whole day. For lunch, you can order soups and sandwiches. Their bell pepper soup is really delicious. I mention it here because I’ve never had it before and was surprised at the mild taste. Another very awesome thing Leonidas offers is the so called “High Tea” and “High Wine”. The first takes place in the afternoon. Imagine you get together with a bunch of friends. You are served as much tea as you like, and little savoury and sweet snacks to go with it. High Wine is similar but you are served a whole meal (although in several courses and the portions are not so big) and dessert. You get 2 glasses of wine (or any other drink). High Wine takes place in the evening. A great idea for celebrating birthdays, pregnancies, or just a day when you feel like you have to pamper yourself a little bit. In the summer they have a little patio where you can occasionally enjoy the sunny weather.

-Hypo Kunst- this is a place that can only be described as “alternative”. Hypo Kunst is a gallery and a shop but you can also have coffee there. Their food is organic, and very delicious. You really must try one of their roast beef sandwiches. The owner assured my friend and myself that the roast beef came from his uncle’s farm. I tried the quiche which ended up being 5 little quiches served on a plate full of salad. We also had chocolate cake for dessert. It comes in what my friend described as “pregnant lady chocolate cake size”. It is as huge as it is delicious.

-The Stads-Koffyhuis- This is an old place specialising in coffee, teas, cakes and pancakes. They also serve full meals and sandwiches for lunch. Their pear tart is particularly worth mentioning. The Koffyhuis is located at a picturesque canal in the centre of Delft. Another nice place to go to have lunch. Or breakfast. Or just a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

- Daily Wok and Fu Wah- are both take-away restaurants serving Asian food. In Daily Wok you can sit down to it your meal. It’s quick, it’s not expensive and it’s delicious. They usually have a mixture of vegetables prepared and you can add whatever kind of meat you like, and pick your favourite sauce.  Also, you can have this with steamed rice, fried rice or udon noodles. Alternatively, you can choose from their combinations. We usually went for teriyaki beef, or sweet and sour chicken. I ordered an additional serving of cashew nuts. Mhmmmm… At Fu Wah it’s only possible to take away. However, I fell in love with this place after I noticed their menus. For 15 euro you can have one egg dish, one chicken tjap tjoy, and a spicy pork dish. With that you get nasi and bami. We usually only eat one of those dishes and freeze the rest. This was fantastic whenever I didn’t feel like cooking, or just after I had Julia. They also have a big choice of other dishes if you don’t feel like ordering a whole menu. Now let me take a moment to praise the lady in charge of taking orders. When I go there, there are always people waiting to place their orders. In the meantime the lady picks up the phone to take even more orders. She never seems confused. The food was always ready wherever we came to pick it up. I’m telling you, people, this place is a real life-saver!

Stay tuned for the next installment- this time, I’ll describe my favourite restaurants in Rotterdam! Do not hesitate to tell me your favourite place!
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