Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chocolate Meltdown

Joris had his first taste of candy today; grandpa offered him some M&M's as part of a trail mix and as soon as he had popped the first one in his mouth (after eyeballing it suspiciously for a little while) his eyes lit up and he kept asking for more. The peanuts, raisins and almonds that he usually enjoys, just were not good enough anymore.

Now, I have nothing against candy and have, in fact, encouraged Joris to eat chocolate and other goodies on occasion as part of my well-a-calorie-is-a-calorie approach, so I had no problem with him eating some as a snack (and grandpa did ask if it was O.K.). In fact, I was kind of pleased that he found something else that he liked. Earlier today, we had been trying to get Joris to eat some apple pie, which I'm pretty sure he would gobble up, if only he would actually ever take a bite. Which he did not despite our "You like apples, Joris - these are apples only better, with sugar! Mmmm, apples! Do you want to try a bite? See, mama eats apple pie, daddy eats apple pie,.. Joris eat some apple pie, too?" encouragement.

In the afternoon he accepted my "that's enough M&M's, you can have some raisins now" strategy, but as I was fixing his dinner tonight, he spotted the bag of trail mix and demanded them for dinner. I told him that trail mix was not an acceptable dinner, but if he ate either his sandwich or his pasta, he could have some for desert. This however would not do. He started screaming, pointing a quivering finger to the trail mix, getting redder and redder and actually producing tears in his eyes. He worked himself up into such a frenzy that the only thing to do was remove him as far as possible from the evil that is trail mix in order to calm him down. He was so tense and intent and pissed off at our refusal of immediately fixing him what he wanted - it was a beautiful meltdown.

Of course there were people over for Don and Claudia's ceremony (which at that point, thank God, had already happened) so they got to hear the entire tirade. For which I'm actually a little glad, because everyone always comments on how nice, how well-behaved, mellow and easy Joris is, which he is, especially around company. But, man, can he be a regular pain in the butt toddler sometimes!

Tico Tales

Our time in Costa Rica is steadily moving along and we will have to face our journey home in less than four days. Everybody, including Jacob, has been very generous with spending time with Joris, which has enabled me to often just watch him play with others and getting some much needed rest. Strangely though, the more I rest, the more sleep and rest I seem to need. I have no idea how I am going to face full days of child wrangling, let alone be able to get groceries or - horrors! - prepare dinner when we get home. I imagine myself collapsing into a puddle of exhaustion at the end of the day, which is what I also do here, after a day of absolutely accomplishing nothing at all...

We have made several short visits to the beach here in Playa Hermosa. As the name implies, it is a beautiful beach, with dark gray sand and little boats anchored out in the bay. Joris has been very cautious around the water. The first time we went to the beach, he was rushed into the surf a little bit by a well-intentioned oma at which point he wigged out a little. After subsequent visits we did manage to get him to enjoy getting his feet wet and splashing in the surf while holding on to both of our hands, but most of the time he wants to be held when we are anywhere near the water.

Similarly, he has enjoyed going into the big pool at the house a couple of times, but only while being held by daddy or grandma. He seems convinced that all the fancy floaty toys are pure evil and refuses to go near them. (Actually, I do have a picture of him in one of the floats in which he actually smiles. I was lucky to have the camera handy because it lasted all of 10 seconds before he demanded to be taken out.)

On Wednesday, we went on a tour with my parents and Don and Linda, friends of Jacob's folks who are also visiting, to Palo Verde, a national park not too far from here. Joris got to come along this time because we were going to do a very nice boat tour on a river to see animals. I'm happy we brought him along because he was so interested in looking at the birds, crocodiles and lizards we were lucky enough to see. Just the last 10 minutes of the two hour ride it became clear that he needed to go do something else. We saw a few huge iguanas - nothing like any of the lizards I have ever seen in captivity. They were easily 30 pounds or more and many of them were getting ready for mating season so they were all pretty and rusty orange colored. The variety of birds was wonderful, too. We saw many egrets, herons, and even a spoonbill as well as a ton of smaller birds.

We had lunch at a great Costa Rican restaurant that served the best food we've had here. After which we went for a short visit to Guatil, a small inland town that makes really nice pottery in the tradition of the Chorotega Indians that most people who live there are descendants of. Jacob and Joris played soccer on the field in the middle of the town with a couple of Guatil girls, which convinced me that soccer is indeed an international language. The rest of us watched a pottery making demonstration which was very interesting.

Prices in Costa Rica, or at least in this part of Costa Rica, have increased enormously since we were here five years ago. I think the prices of the pottery in Guatil were twice, possibly three times, as much as when we first visited. Tourist prices are high now for everything, which really only seems fair for the way that westerners have kind of adopted this country for both vacation and retirement.

My parents left on Thursday and Joris now says "Moma, Boepa - home", which makes me think that he has some sort of concept of places now and does not merely think that since the last time he saw them they got in a car they are driving around for the entire time until he sees them again.

Joris' vocabulary has greatly increased as well. I'm keeping a list that I'll publish at the end of our stay. I can't decide if this language explosion is due to a language development spurt or the fact that he is actually getting more interaction here than when he's stuck with just me at home. Possibly both.

On Friday we went to visit an animal rescue center close to Tamarindo. We got a tour from a slightly peculiar, but very nice man named Gary, who Jacob very accurately described as an escaped character from a Carl Hiaasen book. Hearing stories of animal abuse, negligence or people's stupidity regarding animals always makes me feel sad, although fortunately most of the animals there had a somewhat happy ending.

I have always felt bad for birds in cages, but especially after seeing so many birds fly around here, it is nearly impossible for me to not to wish that those birds could experience flying around in the beautiful forests here. We often see and hear small flocks of parrots and parakeets fly by from the house, which is just enforces that feeling.

Last night, Don and Claudia's friends, George and Jodi, who have built a house right next door, offered to babysit Joris so that the four of us could go out for dinner together without having to worry about entertaining him. It was the first time that we left him with people he has not known for a considerate amount of time. Thanks to especially Jodi's magic ways with him, he did great. No crying or tantrums at all! When we came back from a superb dinner (tapas at Ginger) we found Joris cuddling with Jodi in the rocking chair, watching cartoons (which he seemed to enjoy very much).

Today, we will be celebrating Don and Claudia's re-commitment ceremony (is that the right word? It kind of implies that they were not committed for a while, which, as far as I know, is not the case) here at the house. I'm going to try to rest for a few minutes before I'll be expected to stage manage and photograph the event. :o)

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Sunday morning we (my parents, Jacob and I) left on an overnight trip to Arenal, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Ever since its 1968 eruption it has been spewing smaller amounts of lava on a daily basis with every now and then a bigger eruption thrown in. When the weather is good, you can see the lava flows glow orange at night. If you are very lucky, you can actually see the eruptions.

Unfortunately, we experienced neither good weather, nor luck and the most we got to see of the volcano was about 1/3 of the way up by day. We did see the gray lava flows, but by the time the sun set, clouds had come down further down the volcano and we could not even see one single meter up the mountain.

But, it did not matter much, because we had a wonderful time anyway. On the drive over, it was really interesting to see the ecosystem change from the tropical dry forest of Guanacaste to the lush rain forest at Arenal. On the drive either to or from the canopy tour we encountered a flock (!) of toucans, a family of coati (the southern, long nosed, totally adorable cousin of the raccoon) and a howler monkey.

In the afternoon when we arrived we decided to do a canopy tour. Canopy tours in Costa Rica are like riding a bicycle in Holland, eating goulash in Hungary or climbing the Eiffel tower in Paris - only way more fun. Basically, you fly on zip lines tied between platforms in the tree tops trying really hard to keep your mind from visualizing, in great detail, what would happen if the harness you are in would disintegrate, the zip line broke or the carabiner was attached wrong.

We did a canopy tour when we were here five years ago with Jacob's parents and Christine. I remember having several small panic attacks (the most severe when the tour guide suggested flying across with just being attached to his harness, not holding onto anything - arms out like a bird) but also loving the thrill of it. The zip lines went only as high as the trees and we could always see the ground.

At Arenal, according to our guide and driver, Bernal, the zip lines were the mother of all canopy tours. These ones went over great distances (one line was 2300 feet long) and at great heights (300 or so meters (900 feet!), overlooking the beautiful rain forest and Lake Arenal.

After gearing up, we got to ride in a ski-lift gondola type thing all the way to the top of the hill. It was pouring rain, but it fortunately cleared up considerably once we reached the platform. The first two lines were short and low - for practice - but right after those there were two long and high ones. I was happy to discover that the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, the kind you get on carnival rides, was not present. I started screaming from the excitement and joy of actually being able to enjoy the ride, but then noticed that the grease that was flying off the pulley and the line because of the rain, was now spraying right in my open mouth. After the first long zip line we all looked like coal miners - our faces entirely blackened by the streams of grease. This should have been a put-down, but I think we all experienced it as a badge of courage.

I'm very proud of both my parents, but especially my mom, for being up for the activity and not peeing in their pants or breaking down and crying. Because at 60 and 65 years old, I'm not so sure if I would be up for the adventure, let alone be able to complete it without a major melt-down.

After the canopy tour we found a hotel, enjoyed the volcanic hot springs pool, which was surprisingly luke-warm, ate at the over-priced but enjoyable restaurant and went to bed under our musty-smelling sheets.

We got up early the next morning and enjoyed a nice breakfast before taking off for a walk through the rain forest. It had been raining non-stop pretty much all night. But thinking that rain just puts the rain in rain forest, we decided to go ahead with the hike anyway and I'm really glad we did. I think the rain even added a special dimension to it. We saw lots of pretty birds and some small tropical squirrels, but the best part was looking at all the lush vegetation and beautiful view points. Although, as enjoyable as it was, I think we all were quite done with hanging out in the rain.

We had lunch in la Fortuna town, then started the 4 hour drive back to Playa Hermosa.

We stopped at the animal refuge center that Jacob and I visited 5 years ago. It was nice to see that it had changed quite a bit. More animals had bigger cages and along with charging an entry fee now, they provided the visitors with stories of some of the animals; how they ended up at the shelter, what challenges their species are facing, etc. It was very nicely done.

The biggest and most impressive animals at the refuge are a pair of jaguars in separate cages. They were pacing up and down and somehow seemed really interested in our presence (we were the only visitors there at the time). One of the jaguars, Tiggy, kept following us along the fence, purring, growling and drooling. First we thought he was starved for some company, but then it became clear that he was just awaiting his dinner. We had come right at feeding time and were able to witness the jaguars munch down some big chunks of meat. The crunching of the bones was an eerie reminder that we were thankful we did not encounter any hungry jaguars along our hikes.

We've been back here for a few days and my parents left this morning. There is more to write about, but it is Thanksgiving today and I promised to whip up an order of butter rum sweet potatoes, so the writing will have to wait for a bit again. Also, the little guy just woke up..

Monday, November 24, 2008


This afternoon we returned from a very nice overnight trip to Arenal, a volcano in the rain forest part of Costa Rica. More about that at some later time. We were on the way back from dinner (my parents treated everyone to dinner out, which was nice) in the car when Claudia mentioned that Joris had been saying Obama. To illustrate she said:

"Joris, who is the president?"


Everyone in the car applauded and praised him excitedly to which he responded, of course, by continually saying "Obaba" all the way home.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Costa Rica

We are here in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica and it is beautiful and nice and warm without being too hot. When we were here last, we went during the dry season when all the grasses were yellow and ground seemed parched. Now, it is the tail end of wet season and everything still is a luscious green, so it almost looks like a different country to us.

Travel is exhausting and traveling with a toddler doesn't help. Joris ended up sleeping in chunks: 1.5 hours at the Seattle airport, 2 hours on the first flight and four hours on the second flight. He was awake in the Atlanta airport for the full 3 hours we were there. I slept for a little over two hours, combined and Jacob a little longer. Needless to say, we were all very tired.

Joris has been having a hard time falling asleep at night here and has developed at least four new stalling techniques. The first night, he did not fall asleep until 10:30pm, then was up again at 5:00am. Going to sleep now is a jolly mixture of screaming, jumping in the pack 'n play and asking for food, water and milk.

"Muh, muh!"

"You want milk?"


"Here it is."

Wa-wa, wa-wa"

"You want to drink some water?"


"Here is your cup with water."


On the plus side, Joris is really enjoying spending time with all of his grandparents. He asks for each one at different times and does not seem to have a particular preference for any of them. They all adore him and obey his every demand, so who can argue with that? It is really nice to see him interact with them.

Yesterday, Joris stayed home with grandma and grandpa while the rest of us went for a hike at a national park. We did not walk for a great many miles, but it was 2.5 hours of climbing up and down rock paths, over tree roots and crossing rivers. We saw some beautiful butterflies, leaf cutter ants and once a coati (raccoon like creature) crossed the path. We had a late lunch in Liberia and watched some folk dances in the town square (it was festival celebrating volunteers who help other people, according to Bernal, our driver). When we came home, we found a happy little boy, who had been a delight all day and apparently went down for his nap without any trouble.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go on an overnight trip to Arenal, an active volcano in the rain forest, a four hour drive from here. We are planning on leaving Joris with the grandparents again.

Getting a break from being with Joris all day, every day has been really nice. I did miss him yesterday when we were gone and worried, of course. (The big pool is always looming, although Joris has been really cautious around it.) When we are all hanging out at the house, I find myself having very little desire to get up and entertain the lad or deal with feeding or changing him. I am perfectly content to sit and watch him have a good time with everybody else. Over which, of course, I feel completely guilty. What mom doesn't want to play with her little guy in such a nice place?

Maybe it will return. Maybe I still need some time to recover from my two nights of practically no sleep. But, it seems like Joris, too, is happy to have someone other than myself to interact with. When I ask him if he wants to swing with me, or sit with me or do something else with me, he usually responds with "baba", "boopa" or "moma" (strangely enough, grandma no longer is "emma" - he is back to pointing and grunting at her although Jacob says he is trying to make the "gra" sound now).

Right now, Joris is playing with opa (boopa). Jacob and his dad are golfing and the grandmothers are walking on the beach. I'm trying to feel better and am functioning as the backup for when opa needs help. Last night I came down with a fever. All evening I thought I had gotten sunburned, but it turned out it was the chills. I had Jacob pile on sheets and sweaters on top of me, I was so cold! The fever broke after a few hours and it has not come back. My first thought was the flu, since Joris and I have still not been able to go get our shots (Joris has been having the never ending cold for 4 weeks and you're not supposed to get the vaccination if you're under the weather). With it being 3 days since we flew, I was afraid that I might have gotten it on the plane. But, although I don't feel a hundred percent yet, I'm pretty sure it's not the flu.

I should probably go check in on the boys now. There is wi-fi internet here, so I will probably be able to update some more. I'll use this as my travel journal of sorts, so feel free to skip reading since other people's vacations are not that interesting to hear about!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Travel Jitters

We are leaving for Costa Rica tonight. We've been talking to Joris about it and he knows we are going to see opa, oma, grandma and grandpa and that an airplane and monkeys are involved.

My inlaws live in Playa Hermosa, on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast for big chunks out of the year and after visiting them four (five?) years ago, we have always meant to go again. They now have their own house down there. My parents will be there as well. In fact, they are arriving right about now. My brother and I got them tickets to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, my mom's 65th and dad's 60th birthday. Jacob's dad will be turning 60 as well when we are there, so there is a lot of celebrating to do.

I'm nervous about our travel times. Since our tickets are booked on airmiles there weren't many times available to chose from and, in fact, we should count our lucky stars that we were able to get tickets in the first place. Anyway, we leave at 9:55pm tonight. Then we will spent 4.5 glorious hours in the Atlanta airport before taking the second flight to Liberia and arriving there at 1:00pm. On the way back, all I know is that we are arriving back in Seattle at midnight. Fun!

So, of course, it was of vital importance that we got a good night sleep last night. Which, naturally did not happen. Jacob had a hard time falling asleep and was turning around for a while. I fell asleep 3 times before waking up just before midnight with the most excruciating heart burn I have ever experienced. It was most unpleasant. I think I wolfed down half a container of anti-acids to make it stop. (It surely was caused by a combination of having eaten greasy birthday food and cake and being anxious about traveling.) Then Joris woke up around 2:00, right after we had finally fallen asleep. He woke up for the day at 5:30.

So - I'd better get back to packing and getting as much done while Joris is taking his nap.

I am convinced that we will have a great time once we are there, but I wish that more advancements had been made on the teleporting front...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Word List

I've been feeling pretty pleased with the increase of Joris' spoken words. And because I like making lists, I started one that list all of his words.

As it turns out, most of his words are either proper nouns or sounds. There are very few actual, well... words. And most of the words and names are not their proper pronunciations or a are missing the ending letters.

But, it doesn't matter. Progress is progress, right? And Joris is very good at communicating what he wants, sees or is thinking about - words or no words.

He has been very into recounting what just happened, or what happened earlier in the day. This morning he kept saying "Emmy [sticks out tongue and tips his head forward] bah", meaning, very clearly, that Avery just threw up. Which she did.

Here's the list. Dutch is ahead for the time being! Hurray!

Aap (monkey)
Pauw (peacock)
Mooi (pretty)
Ja (yes)
Ei (egg)
Daar (there)
Bal (ball)
Bah (yucky)

Bye-bye (well, ba-ba still)

Daddy (upgraded from Dada)
Boopa (opa)
Moma (oma)
Ngkh Ngkh (auntie Chris)
Emma (grandma)
Baba (grandpa)
Emmy (Avery / Madeline)
Ngkh (Koos)

Baa (sheep)
Boo (cow)
Puf Puf (train)
Poof (see previous post)
Mauw (cat)
Bwa Bwa (dog)
Essss (snake / the letter S)
Hap! (bite)
A-voom! (motorcycle)
oo-oo (monkey)
pooo (fart)
a-hoo (wolf howling)
hoo-hoo (owl hooting)

There might be more. I'll add them if I think of them.

Friday, November 7, 2008


On the plane ride back to Seattle last month, we played a little game with Joris to keep him occupied during his waking hours. Jacob (with Joris on his lap) would say "one, two three...poof!" and point his finger at me, as if he were using a wand. I would then close my eyes, slump my head and make snoring noises. When Joris would say the magic word, "ja" I'd wake up. It entertained him for quite a while.

The other day, Jacob and Joris were playing in the front yard and Joris found a stick. He started waving it around and saying "poof!". Our cat Oskar was in the yard as well and Jacob waisted no time to encourage Joris to poof Oskar. He did, and with each of Joris' poofs, Jacob would say something like "Now Oskar is a rat!"


"Now he's a crocodile!"


"Oh no, Oskar is a hippopotamus! Run!"

Joris thought it was hilarious.

Lately, he has been poofing pretty much everybody. It's been a favorite dinner table activity. Last night we were having dinner at Chris and Jack's apartment and Joris would poof all of us in a row, so he'd wave and point his right hand to poof auntie Chris, immediately followed by his left hand to poof uncle Jack and so forth. It was pretty cute and a great way to make dinner last a while.

Then there was the incident of the screaming monkey. Monkey's are Joris's favorite stuffed animals and when he spotted the small monkey that you can catapult with its long, elastic arms and that screams when it hits the floor, he had to examine it. We have an identical monkey at home and since the one time we made it scream when Joris was less than a year old, Joris was inconsolable for about half an hour and the monkey has been residing on the top shelf of the linen closet.

So we told him that this is a screaming monkey who makes very loud noises.

"Would you like to hear the monkey scream?"


Auntie Chris told him to cover his ears and did an excellent job making it into a fun game. The monkey landed a little ways from Joris and he gave an uncertain little smile when it was done screaming.
Then, of course, it had to be flung another time. This time it landed closer to Joris and he started crying, although he was consoled very quickly.

"Where is the monkey?"


"That's right. Do you want to play with it?"

"No no. No no" (shakes head)

"Do you want to pet the monkey?"

"No. No."

"Shall we make the monkey fly again?"

"NO-NO. no."

We kept asking him periodically throughout dinner and he steadfastly maintained that he wanted nothing to do with the monkey anymore.

So far, this has not translated into a dislike of George and Oo-Oo yet.

A few days ago I found a really nice, wool fall coat for Joris on super sale at a store where I had to return something. It is a dark brown, long, wool coat with a hood and it has those cool toggle buttons. Of course I spent my store credit to get it. It still is a little big on him, but adorable. On the front there is a little fake coat of arms sort of decoration, which totally makes it seem like something worn at Hogwarts. So now we have a Harry Potter coat wearing little man who poofs everything and everyone in sight.

It must really suck to have such dorky parents.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Every time I hear or read the words "president-elect Barack Obama" I smile.

I missed the networks call the election last night because I was taking Joris to bed, but it had been clear before that anyway. Obama was up with 202 electoral college votes and knowing that California, Oregon and Washington would surely deliver over 70 more, it really didn't matter if we got Florida, too.

Besides the joy, pride, and hope I felt when I walked into the living room in the middle of McCain's concession speech, I was also a bit taken aback at the speed with which it seemed to be settled. With the uncertainty during the previous two elections, I had sort of come to expect a long, drawn out process.

I feel happy that Obama got elected for many reasons, the most important of which is knowing that Joris will grow up during the Obama presidency. And, of course, that he isn't stuck with a useless sign language sign.

This one is for auntie Chris

Just after dinner tonight, Joris was standing over by the toy chest.

He farts loudly.

He looks at us, grins and then says "poooo".

We laugh. (This obviously was not the correct reaction and I'm afraid we'll have to pay for it with many years of fart jokes to come.)

Joris then points to his butt.

We laugh harder.


For Halloween, Joris dressed up in his cowboy outfit, given to him by his Ome Dirk. We added a hat and a horse and I have to say that it turned out quite adorable. Joris had practiced riding the hobby horse and galloped around saying "hiiiii".

In the afternoon we went to a nice little halloween party at Colleen and Pedro's house. In addition to Joris the cowboy, there was Pedro the lion, Luna the butterfly and Adam the triceratops.

We all went trick or treating at the University Village, which is a collection of stores close to the U. There were hundreds of kids and their parents there. Joris really enjoyed getting candy in his pumpkin bucket and each time he would locate the new candy, take it out and examine it. When he was offered to pick from a bucket of candy he alternately would try to take the whole bowl, sit down, or really intently stare at the different goodies offered, as if he was weighing the importance of his choice between a tootsie roll or a lollipop.

Portland trip

Two weekends ago we took Joris on the Amtrak train for a visit with his grandparents, aunt Melina, cousins Delia and Livia, uncle Dirk and Melanie and opa and oma.

It is hard to describe the excitement on Joris' face when he saw the train tracks at King Street Station when we walked over the overpass. He kept pointing, signing for train and shrieking. He fell asleep mere seconds before arriving at the Tukwila station (the first stop after leaving Seattle) and as the train stopped, his eyes popped open and he signed "more". It then took two hours before he fell asleep again.

On the way back, he fell asleep the moment the train pulled out of the station.

Overall, it went very well and we'd definitely consider taking him on the train again.

We had a lovely visit with our families. It was nice to see everyone and we were lucky to have the most beautiful fall weather you could imagine.

Here is a video of Joris showing off his kicking skills:

Here are some pictures: