Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kaarsjesavond



On Tuesday we trekked out to Gouda to witness the annual kaarjesavond (candle evening). Gouda is a beautiful city that has been around since at least 1139. In the center of the main square is a gorgeous building that has served as the city hall since it was built in 1448. For kaarjesavond, candles get lit behind every window of the building, the surrounding stores on the square turn off their lights and the houses above the stores light their own candles in the windows.

Thousands of people were gathered around the city hall in the freezing cold. There were several choirs who led the crowd in singing Christmas carols and I was surprised to discover that I still know most of the lyrics in Dutch. Then the candles in the city hall got lit, we sang some more carols and Gouda’s mayor (who, in his official get-up looked remarkably like a mafia lord) made a speech. He reminded us that we were all gathered in the square exactly like it has been happening for centuries and he called for respect and tolerance in our society. Then the mayor of Gouda’s twin city in Norway lit the giant Christmas tree they had donated and we sang some more.

If I hadn’t been able to truly get into the Christmas spirit, even after my cousin confessed how glad she was we are here this year to share it, this ceremony surely did the trick. I got almost overwhelmed with a sense of history, community and belonging there, freezing my ass off on Gouda’s main square.

As we were all singing about Jesus’ birth, knowing that the vast majority of the crowd never attends a church, the thought of the separation of church and state did cross my mind. Obviously, we don’t have that rule in Holland – which is interesting because we are not a particularly religious society, especially in this point in time. I’m usually pretty sensitive to the issue; I feel strongly that the two should indeed be separated, but that night it didn’t bother me. In fact, I thought it was pretty marvelous, standing amidst the people of Gouda who, as the mayor pointed out are representative of 130 different countries, all singing the same carols – our Kyrie Elyson’s loud and clear because for many that was the one part we remembered – not because we all believe in the story of Christ’s birth, but because we enjoyed being part of the community; to celebrate an otherwise pretty bleak season. And because any more modern songs would have seemed entirely out of place at the over half a millennium old town square.

I’m not saying that Holland should not adopt a separation of church and state law, because I think they should. It’s just that at that particular night, belting out old hymns and carols amongst thousands of other people in the freezing cold in the candlelight, it seemed fitting.





Tuesday, December 15, 2009

more adventures

Sleep is steadily improving – at least for Joris, who mostly slept through the night the last two nights. Well, he still wakes up, but isn’t awake for long stretches of time anymore. I myself, on the other hand, will still lay awake for hours when woken up, unable to shut off my brain and so I entertain myself by worrying about everything, since that is what I seem to do best.
We’ve had a nice and busy time so far. On Friday we went to Madurodam, an outdoor park that features scale models of Dutch buildings. There are replicas of parts of cities and towns, industries and entertainment facilities, including the famous Red Light district with miniature prostitutes. Joris loved watching the trains, boats and other things that moved. It was freezing cold (literally) but it was still hard to tear him away when it was time to go.

That night we all were invited over for dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house in Sassenheim. We stopped by our former neighbors, Cees en Riet first who live next door. Cees had just come home from the hospital after suffering a minor stroke. He had already gone biking again. Riet is one of those special people that everyone immediately feels at ease with. Joris usually needs a good half hour to get used to people, but after five minutes with tante Riet he was ready to practically crawl onto her lap!

Dinner was a really nice time and Joris was just mr. charming pants throughout all of the visits (although it surely helped that everyone seemed to provide him with toy cars). Oma had come to dinner as well and afterwards we all skyped with my cousin Lydia in Cyprus which was kind of surreal. She and her son, Konstantinos will come to Holland next week as well. Joris kept asking to see Konstantinos, who is eight and was floating in and out of the screen and we managed to get the two boys talking to each other with the headsets on. Too much cute!

Saturday, Sietske and Daan picked us up to go to the Christmas market in Dordrecht together. Sietske and I met our first year of high school and immediately became best friends and we have stayed in touch ever since. Daan was one of my brother’s best friends, which is how Sietske and Daan met and got together. It was so nice to spend some time with them and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night when they and another friend, Sebastiaan, will come over for dinner and play board games. The Christmas market was fun, but rather crazy since it seemed like half the Dutch population had descended onto the downtown area of this little city. Joris particularly enjoyed watching the ice skating rink and announced that “someday I want to try that”.
Sunday my parents took us to a goat farm that is open to the public year round. Since it’s the Christmas season they had lots of activities set up and the place was buzzing with parents and kids. It was totally cute, well set up and run. We got to feed the goats, saw lots of other farm animals, including a newborn calf whose mother was still licking him clean. Jacob started to somewhat frantically look around for the hand sanitizer station after feeding the goats, but either everyone carries their own or we as a people are just less germophobic (I’ll let you guess which one is true). Joris painted a Christmas ornament and insisted on putting together a birdhouse – that boy really enjoys hammering nails! There also was an awesome little restaurant where we enjoyed Dutch pancakes with bacon and cheese.

After the farm we had a family get together at my aunt Coby’s house in Leiden. I hadn’t seen her, Piet (her husband) or my cousins yet. I always love get-togethers at their house; they’re comfortable, informal and always a lot of fun. I mostly chatted with my cousins Marieke and Irene who are both closest in age to me. Marieke’s daughter Charlotte is three weeks older than Joris and Irene’s daughter Emma is a year younger. It was so cute to see the three of them together, even though they didn’t really end up playing with each other that much. Marieke en Irene organized an impromptu cousin’s night out for this coming Saturday through the miracle of iphone. Within minutes my cousin in Cyprus and my cousin Mieke, who was sick in bed at home, had been informed and agreed to come. We’ll be meeting for dinner, a movie and drinks after. It will be the first time that I’ve been out with all four of my cousins at the same time. The only one missing will be my brother, but we consoled ourselves that he probably would not be interested in the tear jerker Dutch movie we’re going to see. In any case, the good company, good food and plenty of wine made for a memorably wonderful evening.

Yesterday we went for a shopping outing to Haarlem, one of the prettiest little cities in Holland. I picked up some videos and a book for Joris and we enjoyed some excellent hot cocoa. At night my parents had been invited out to a friends house and Jacob and I enjoyed a quiet night at our little rental house where we watched most of “Hook”.

In a little bit we’ll all drive out to Gouda (yes, of cheese fame) where there is a Christmas tree lighting with real candles (the other product besides stroopwafels that Gouda is famous for), choirs and other Christmas-y activities.

Dutch Efficiency Tally: (this is for my friend Joshua, who suffered through a highly inefficient hour at the Dutch consulate in Vancouver with me)
- A major highway ends in a traffic light.
- As unimaginative as American street names are, at least you can often times figure out where in town you need to be based on the numbers and wind directions. In Holland, if you don’t happen to know that you need to get through the van Gogh street in order to get to Bloemenplein, you’re SOL. Which is why everyone now seems to own a GPS.
- When you follow the free parking signs, you will NEVER get to an actual parking lot.

(Of course, as much as I defend and praise Holland when I am in the States, I am doing the same in reverse here. Yeah, you wouldn’t have guessed that, right? I guess I don’t fully belong in either place. Or maybe, more positively, I belong to both.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Trip

On Tuesday, we took off on a plane to Holland. Our preparations had been haphazard at best. Which, for me, means that there were only two incomplete packing lists and I left most of the actual packing to the two days before departure, instead of getting a head start a week earlier. In any case, we felt a little rushed and kept feeling like we had overlooked something major. (We recently (re)watched Home Alone – so we made sure that we had actually brought Joris.)

When we arrived at SeaTac it was validated once again, that I am usually right. Really, everyone should realize that they’d all be much better off if they would just listen to me. First, my negotiations in favor of bringing the stroller proved to be absolutely worthwhile since we could stash and hang a variety of bags on it while still being able to drag the car seat around and have hands available to whip out passports and boarding passes. Secondly, when we entered the doors under the Northwest Airlines sign, there was no Northwest airlines to be found. I suggested that since it merged with Delta and – hey – Delta was right there! – we probably had to check in there. Jacob went off to track down the phantom NW Airlines desk, but, of course, I was right. And lastly, when we had checked the one bag we were going to check it turned out that, indeed, there is no $20 per bag fee on international flights and we might as well have packed more than the frugal 3 pairs of underwear per person. So there. Ha… I guess.

Anyway, we had a half hour delay but an otherwise uneventful flight. Joris demonstrated his special hero ability of being able to stay awake for much longer than any two year old should legally be able to. Between (Seattle times) 7:00am Tuesday and 2:00am Wednesday he managed to nap for a grand total of 35 minutes. But, was totally cheerful for the waking hours, turning into rather insane giddiness the hour or so before he actually made it down for a nap (it was 11am in Holland then) so it wasn’t as you might imagine it to be. In fact, there was considerable less whining and contrary-ness compared to a normal day at home, so what do you know, maybe I should pack him pack on an intercontinental flight more often…
Oh, and I watched three movies! Finally got to see “Up” which made me seriously ponder my impending old age, “500 days of Summer” which managed to both question and confirm my belief in the meant-to-be and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” of which I sincerely hope that the book more thoroughly explained the holes in the story line.

My dad picked us up at the airport and drove us over to the rental house we are staying at. It is situated in a park outside a small town called Roelofarendsveen and is quite possibly the most quintessential Dutch setting. It’s in the middle of a polder, a pumped dry piece of grassland on which either sheep or cows graze, bordered by about 2 yard wide canals, occasionally lined by a single row of perfectly spaced and lined up trees. Also, there is a windmill. It looks hauntingly beautiful in the misty air; eerie and desolate, yet comfortingly familiar and serene.

We took a 3.5 hour nap and then went to visit Oma, my grandma, in Sassenheim in the afternoon. I was surprised and relieved to see her in as good a shape she is in for her 92 years; with some physical ailments, hard of hearing, yet with most of her wits still in tact. She loved seeing Joris (she had last seen him when he was 3 months old) and Joris warmed up to her pretty quickly as well.

Yesterday, we went to the market and grocery store in Sassenheim and took Oma out for coffee and gebak (pastries – the good kind, with lots of cream!). We’d had a bit of a rough night. Joris had been up from 12:45 – 4:00am and Jacob and I both weren’t able to get back to sleep until after 6:00am.

Random bits:
* Joris “I am so lucky to see so much mud!”
* “I want to go home to our green house”.
* You have to pay one Euro to dispose of your trash bag, yet recycling is free: brilliant!
* I got a cell phone to use here. I’ll put my number on my FaceBook in case you need to get in touch with me.






Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Adorable

Honk! closed last weekend and we are now trying to get everything organized before we get on a plane to Holland on Tuesday.

I had a good time being crew for the show. It was low-stress and really basically just an excuse for me to get out of the house and hang out with some excellent people. I'm excited about the possibilities of both my involvement at the theatre and the future of the theatre.

Joris came to see Honk! two weekends ago. Although he asked for me throughout the first act, he made it through the entire show and seemed to have enjoyed it. He said the Cat was his favorite and even talked to the actor (despite the somewhat intimidating mustache he was sporting). He asks to listen to the soundtrack at least once or twice a day, which tickles me quite a bit. He has also started to sing along with some of the songs, which really is beyond adorable.

Below are some pictures from a recent photo shoot for our Christmas cards.

I'm looking forward to our trip to Holland, although, considering my digital addiction, the lack (or limited availability at least) of internet access will be quite the challenge...








Exasperation

"Mama, I want honey on my toast."

"O.K. sweetie."

"I want honey on my toast, Mama."

"Alright."

"I WANT honey ON my toast!"

"I am putting honey on your toast."

"I WANT HONEY ON MY TOAST"

"Joris. You do not yell at Mama. There is honey on your toast. I'm putting it on right now. Also, when Mama says, O.K., you can stop asking because it means you are already getting it."

"Mama? I want honey on my toast, please."

"Thank you for asking nicely. I am making your toast right now."

"With honey. I want honey on my toast."

"Yes, with honey. Here is your toast."

"Is there honey on it?"

"Yes. There is honey on your toast."

(3 minutes of solid toast munching)

"I want more toast. With honey on it. Is there more honey? I want more honey on my toast."


I don't mind the incessant chatter quite so much, but the repeated questions like this can just drive me up the wall. Especially since he seems to be doing it on purpose now, either repeatedly asking questions that he knows the answer to ("Is Poultry Tale in Honk!?") or purposely making untrue statements ("Koos is a dog!") I know it's all part of normal development, but man - does it ever make me want to reach for a bottle of liquor!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The terrible and awesome twos

I've been busy again. I'm crewing "Honk!" at SMT, the musical adaptation of the Ugly Duckling. It's a lot of fun to do - I get to hang out with a great group of people and because my responsibilities are a lot fewer than when stage managing, it isn't adding a lot of stress. We had our opening night on Friday and the show will run for just two more weekends.

It's a super cute show that both kids and adults can enjoy and a perfectly nice way to spend a couple of hours each day. Mostly I move a bridge, paint an egg, release the net that catches Ugly and throw a baseball to take the Cat out. The latter I actually rather suck at - my hand eye coordination is terrible and I don't have an excellent track record of actually hitting the damn cat. I could offer many excuses of bad angles and the actor moving, but the fact remains that I've never been good at hitting things with balls.

It's been nice to be able to get out of the house again, turn off my mom mode at the end of the day and just do some theatre. Joris has definitely arrived at the challenging part of being two. I was foolishly convinced for a while that he would just always remain the most perfectly well-behaved, awesome kid around. And really, of course he still is. Just with more whining and being remarkable contrary.

We have about 50 variations on the following conversation each day:

Joris: (Who was) that?

Me: That was (auntie Chris on the phone)

Joris: NO!

Then there is the deliberate not answering when asked a direct question. And the running away when shoes need to be put on or diapers changed. And the changes of mind every three seconds. And the general disagreeing with just about everything. There have seriously been days where we were unable to get out of the house because of the multitude of power struggles and I ended up just giving up.

I have found that my patience is far from infinite. Responses come out of my mouth that make me cringe as soon as I say them. It's hard to know what the correct way of handling this is - and even if I'd know, I might lack the patience and presence of mind not to react out of habit.

I'm pretty convinced that if it wasn't for the break that preschool is providing most days, I'd have torn my hair out by now.

But, amidst the incessant whining and insisting demands, Joris is a delightfully sweet and smart boy still, of course. He is getting so imaginative in his play - is not just reenacting situations anymore, but coming up with silly scenarios that haven't happened in real life. It's cute to see him make up these games with Avery and Isla and, even if they don't completely follow what it is he is trying to say or do, they'll follow him in his play.

He has also started to developed a real interest in music. It's his favorite part of the school week (they have a music 'class' each Wednesday) and, to the total and utter endearment of his mother, he is taking a liking to some musical theatre music. It started with Jacob singing him the Starlight Express song at bedtime - he then listened to the entire album and wanted to know what each train was singing about. His current favorite is Honk!. The first time we listened to it he sat on the couch through about half of the songs, asking questions about who was singing and what was happening in the story. Now, every chance he gets at home or in the car he will ask to listen to the Honk! cd and will actually properly identify "that's daddy duck singing" and "that's the cat's song", etc. each time. He is very concerned about Ugly's happiness since he sings a sad song and then his mother lost him and is looking for him. He is much relieved when "Ugly is happy and everyone is happy" at the end.

Love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

friends

We were at the dentist the other day, where Joris waited very patiently for the dental assistant to finish scraping the layers of plaque off my teeth before it would be his turn. He was playing with some cars on the floor, being a surprisingly cooperative, charming version of himself when the dental assistant asked him, rather out of the blue, if he has a girlfriend. With that insinuating tone of voice that is just a heartbeat away from a chuckle. Joris looked up at her and told her yes, he has a girlfriend.

"What's her name?"

"Avery"

"Avery? Oh! Is she pretty?"

"Avery is my friend."

This conversation, or really, the question and insinuation, immediately made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and when I thought about it over the following few days, I realized why.

When I was little, my mom would arrange play dates for me with a small collection of similarly aged kids. I remember playing with a little boy called Gijs. We had similar temperaments and I liked playing at his house with him, his two sisters and his toy train. And one of my earliest memories is of that same insinuating tone of voice, used by my dad, when he'd question me about playing with Gijs. We were 4 or 5 years old. The words "boyfriend" and "being in love" were being thrown around. I remember the confusion about that tone of voice, wondering why us playing together was so funny to him.

From what I can gather, my dad, like probably most people of his generation, never did get raised with the proper skill set to express emotions and his way of dealing with, well, basically everything, has been with humor - or poking fun at things (Funnily enough, the last 10 - 15 years or so he has gotten much more comfortable with expressing emotions and I wonder if that just has to do with the fact that Americans wear their emotions on their sleeves compared to their Dutch counterparts or that he just finally feels confident enough to do so). Not that he meant badly, of course, but the message that I inevitably received was that playing with a boy is somehow shameful. The expectation being that if you were playing with someone of the opposite sex, you must be in love with them.

The same was true for my brother. He was friends with a pretty little girl called Vanessa and endured our dad's relentless teasing about his "girlfriend". The only difference being that Dirk-Jan agreed to and reinforced the idea that they were in love, whereas I would rather have been swallowed whole by a giant earthworm than repeating anything like that.

So I said I did not want to play with Gijs anymore. He ended up being a classmate all through elementary school and although I admired his ability to draw the most detailed pictures of ships from afar, we never did exchange more than a handful of words through those years. And I never had boys for friends again (unless associated through my brother) until well after high school.

I know most kids go through a boys/girls are yucky phase and it would have probably been unlikely to have nurtured a friendship with someone of the opposite sex through grade school, but I do feel like with all the shame (from home and from much of society - or at least ours - at large) heaped onto the idea, I have missed out on some good conversations, other perspectives and some much needed confidence around boys. I ended up having a couple of boyfriends who I was really only interested in as friends, but because of the expectation that boys are for dating, not for just hanging out with, I mistook my interest for love.

Over the last few years, from the safety of my marriage, I have finally found the confidence to successfully developed friendships with men; some as mutual friends of Jacob and I, and a few all on my own. And I enjoy the variety it brings to my circle of friends and the conversations and discussions that I have.

Joris has formed close friendships with both Avery and Isla and I hope he will always feel confident enough to nurture those friendships (and with other girls he enjoys playing with). Neither Jacob or I have ever mentioned anything about being in love, having a girlfriend or have used that mocking, insinuating tone of voice. I'm enjoying the fact that Joris talks about the girls and his classmates at school, as his friends and treats them as such. I also enjoy the fact that he prefers to eat his cereal out of the pink bowl. That he has no qualms about wearing a pink diaper with Dora the explorer on it. (One of my pet peeves is that EVERYTHING marketed for babies and kids is completely separated by gender; diapers have either cars or princesses, cups either feature pink flowers of sports playing dinosaurs and it is nearly impossible to find gender neutral tea sets or similar pretend play toys. And don't even get me started on the low-rise fit pants for toddler girls!)

All too soon he will have to start dealing with comments, insinuations and attitudes from the 'outside' world which, being as sensitive as he is, I have no doubt he will quickly pick up on, so I'm trying to enjoy this time where I can still mostly shield him and he can go on playing oblivious to what he is 'supposed to' like for a little while longer...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Skipping off

Joris has been loving preschool. It took him a few days to get used to the routine, but he looks forward to it every day now and comes back bouncing with excitement to tell us about his day.

We feel very lucky to have found the Listen and Talk school. My friend Sue, who lives just a couple of blocks away, stumbled on it while walking her dog and forwarded me their information because she thought it might be a good fit for Joris. It's a preschool and pre-K program for kids with hearing loss. Most of the kids have either cochlear implants or hearing aids and the program is focused on helping them deal in a hearing world. So, as the name implies, the focus is on communication. The classes are blended (with a balance of hearing and hearing impaired kids) and can have a maximum of 6 kids - with two teachers in each class.

Joris' class has 5 kids and I believe a sixth one will be joining them in January. It is surprisingly diverse for a class of five kids in a North Seattle school; there are two Latino kids, an African American boy and two caucasian kids. His teachers, Betsy and Carlita, are absolutely wonderful and each day they send the kids home with a picture page which shows what they have been up to during the afternoon. We put the pages in a binder and Joris loves showing it off to anyone who comes to visit.

School is four days a week, Monday through Thursday, from 12:45 - 3:15pm, which means that on most of those days Joris doesn't nap anymore. It's been working out better than expected. He usually goes off to bed early (7:00pm) on school days and will sleep for about 12 hours. Then on the days that he doesn't have school he still takes a nap and seems to kind of tank up for the following week. Every now and then he gets too tired and will take a little nap after school, but more often than not that means that he'll wake up disoriented and cranky.

They get a weekly music class (which is Joris' favorite activity) as well as a weekly alternating art and movement class from specialized teachers. Joris seems to thrive on the routine and his favorite part of the day is circle time, in which they all participate and have specific assigned, weekly rotating jobs. They refer to the other kids as each others friends and they really seem to function as such.

I really can't say enough good things about this program. I love how Joris will come home singing parts of songs I would have never taught him and how he will offer me whatever he is playing with or eating, proudly proclaiming "I'm sharing!". I love how concerned he is when one of his friends wasn't at school that day. And I love how it has helped him gain confidence already; when it is time to say goodbye I give him a wave and a kiss and he happily goes skipping off.

For my friends who are still looking for preschool options, check it out - they have openings throughout the year, are totally affordable and don't require kids to be potty trained! www.listentalk.org

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moping about

It's hard to know where to start this update. I feel like so much has happened, so much is different and yet I'm not sure if I can put it completely into words.

I'm at the end of my first weekend without doing the show. No rehearsals, no frantic paperwork upkeep and no show to call or fret over. It's nice in that I feel like I'm finally catching up on some sleep and I have been able to take my time cooking and eating and seeing Jacob for more than, say, 15 minutes at a time...

But, I have been in a bit of a funk as well - undoubtedly partly due to the fact that I'm not checking in with the actors, trying to get my cues right and somewhat nervously anticipating the next technical melt-down. Maybe I'm missing the excitement of the unknown; will an actor pull something crazy? Will the light board spazz out again? Will the audience actually laugh in all the right places? Or maybe I'm just missing the camaraderie that the stress of pulling off a show often brings to a cast and crew.

I have really enjoyed feeling in my element throughout the rehearsals and the run of The Producers. It was great to be back doing something I love and am reasonably adept at, and the feeling of accomplishment that it brings. Not that being a mom isn't a great(er) accomplishment, but it's harder to look back at a day where all you have is a stack of dirty diapers, a sink full of dishes and the knowledge that you and the kid made it through another day to show for it. In theatre there is instant gratification; the audience's applause, the actor's excitement, the instant high when a series of cues is executed perfectly...

And yes, I'll be honest - I love the recognition I get for doing it. Hearing that I'm great to work with, being thanked for solving a conflict. And also, being listened to was a nice change of pace...

Joris is the greatest little guy in the universe, but he is going through the usual protesting-at-everything-and-doing-the-exact-opposite phase. And it's hard enough to deal with when it's just him (he actually responds remarkably well to both reasoning and threats - of the "if you don't cooperate we won't be able to go to ____" variety) but when he's with Avery or Isla and gets them on board with the mutineering I am often tempted to just sit in the middle of the room to make sure they're safe but otherwise just letting them do whatever it is they want to do do 'cause hot damn, I just don't want to argue, referee, threat, plead and cajole anymore.

It is really quite disheartening to have #1 pull off the socks and shoes you just wrestled on while you are trying to get the same accomplished for #2. All because you want to get out the door to go to the goddamn playground - as a favor to the little hobbits who are now screaming "no, no, NO! Run away!" and then promptly run into another room.

Contrast this to me telling the actors that it's time to take their places. This announcement is followed by a chorus of "thank you, places!" and then... lo and behold... they get to their places. By themselves. And put their own shoes on!

So, I guess I miss my power. And I miss working with creative, smart, egomaniac lunatics. Or, at least, the adult conversation that it brings about. 'Cause what childcare and script writing don't provide is a merry band of colleagues to share your experiences with.

Anyway. I'm thinking about the future. What I want to do. What I can do. And how to combine the wanting to with reality.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Busy times

I've been pretty busy lately. I've been at rehearsals for The Producers almost every night and full days on Saturdays and we have just switched to a 6 day a week schedule. This in addition to taking care of two kids four days a week and trying to find time to fit the occasional script writing assignment in. And trying to make sure we all eat reasonably healthy meals, have clean clothes to wear and don't have to wade through too much filth at home. Fortunately, Jacob has been a great help with pretty much everything.

Stage managing has been a lot of fun, although I realize it's a lot harder to do when it's one of several jobs. There is a lot of paperwork involved and I'm just not able to find enough time to really delve into as deeply as I want to and probably should. But, we have a great cast and the show is so damn funny that it's impossible not to laugh out loud. And it feels good to be doing something I know I can do and enjoy doing.

Last weekend, Jacob took Joris on the train for a visit to Portland. We had tried to prepare him for the fact that I would not be coming with them and apparently had done that so well that Joris barely blinked at my departure from the train station. In fact, he was so distracted by the trains and the excitement of it all that he could have really cared less. It sounds like they had a really nice visit, although sleeping was a bit a bit of an issue since Joris preferred to sleep in the big bed with Jacob instead of on a mattress on the floor, so especially the latter did not get much rest.

I enjoyed some quality alone time when they were gone - for the first time in I don't even know how long. I just know it hasn't happened since Joris was born and I know I was never really alone during our time in the Marshall Islands... In any case, it was glorious and only occasionally a little bit lonely. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see them both again when I picked them up on Saturday, but having the freedom to really decide what it was I wanted to do was a wonderful change of pace!

I had a mentoring event on Thursday night and was able to join our friend Richard and some fellow mentors for a drink afterwards without having to worry about what time to be home or being woken up at 6:30am by a chipper toddler, ready for a day of playing. We hung out at Richard's apartment for a while, too - talking and watching tv shows and I realized that was something that hasn't happened for a long time either, at least not without it involving bringing a pack and play. It was nice.

On Friday I got to sleep in and my one activity of the day was meeting up with Christine for happy hour at Stanford's. It also involved watching an embarrassing amount of West Wing episodes and going to bed early. That was all the alone time I really had since I had rehearsals all day on Saturday and picked the boys back up right after that. But, I am proud of myself for doing practically no cleaning.

Joris has hit the language development stage where he is practically spewing a continuous stream of consciousness; narrating events, making up stories, ordering me around and questioning (what's that? why you do that, mama?) all day long. It's rather exhausting, but also very cute. And it's amazing (and occasionally embarrassing) to hear the things coming out of his mouth.
A few favorites:

"Move it, lady!" (when stopped in the car)

"Oh my goodness. That too much." (when looking at tags on clothing in a store)

"Mama, that guy bloot (naked)" (when seeing someone without a shirt on. It's times like that I am so grateful for his bilingualism!)

Things that Joris enjoys doing these days:

- stamping and coloring

- stating "I do it myself" at every possible moment. Preferably in stereo with Avery or Isla.

- memorizing countries on the map. I think he knows about 20-25 now, including exciting toddler facts like "lemurs live in Madagascar" and "tigers live in India".

- pointing out letters on signs and elsewhere in everyday life. He will often make up the meaning of them "that says oatmeal squares are yummy" or "MWCF - that spells daaaaddy!". He also insists on spelling out every single stop sign we pass "that sign says stop. s.t.o.p.".

- giving Jacob a rough time at bedtime by crying, screaming, asking for water, more songs and otherwise not laying down and going to sleep.

- pointing out every Honda on the road and in the parking lot.

- not saying the "s" at the beginning of most words that need one. He usually replaces it with a "t" sound, so take=snake, towman=snowman and I teamed means "I screamed".

- trying to figure out numbers. He still gets about 70% or more wrong most of the time, but does have a good grasp on number 1, 2 and number towman (8).

- doing the exact opposite of what he's being asked to do. Yes, fun and from what I understand, unavoidable.

- still mostly operating in English, although he is slowly re-incorporating more Dutch with me again.

- reading stories to Avery from books that he knows very well. The cute thing is that Avery is totally into it to saying "read this one, Joris!" and then him reciting what fragments (or occasionally complete text) of the story he remembers.

It's been a year now that I've been keeping this blog and being able to read back about what Joris was into this time last year is enjoyable. (For example, it's so hard to imagine he had barely spoken a handful of words at this point last year and now he's all mr. chatterbox. I would have never predicted that!) I'm glad I have this to look back on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Boy Bed

Joris moved into a big boy bed last weekend. We hadn't really anticipated this to happen for a little while still, but it turned out that he was more than ready.

Joris had been starting to make attempts to climb out of his crib and although he never did see it through, I had started to troll Craigslist for a twin bed to have on hand for when that day would suddenly arrive. I was pretty particular in what I wanted for his room; something with storage underneath the bed, featuring both a head board and a foot board and no particle board, if at all possible. Turns out wood, twin captain's beds are rather expensive and contemporary or classic styles (read: not the crappy '70s rounded oak varieties) are hard to find.

One day, I had a few pictures up on the computer and Joris came over to look at them. I told him they were pictures of big boy beds and that we were looking for a new, big bed for him for when he would be too big for his crib.

Since that day, at nap time and bed time he'd ask "Where's my big bed?".

I found a listing for a bed that was just what we'd been looking for, for a reasonable price and the people selling it were willing to deliver it.

Joris was so excited and watched Jacob put it together and could hardly wait until I got home with the mattress and sheets. According to Jacob, the only moment of concern was when he asked "My animals, daddy, my animals!" and Jacob quickly reassured him that his animals would move into his big bed with him. In fact, many more animals have joined the pack since the bed is so much bigger.

It's funny to see his little body in that big bed. The transition has been a complete non-issue. He has not been scared and even still stays in his bed (although he knows how to get in and out by himself) after lights out and even waits for us to come get him after he wakes up.

He did fall out three times. We debated getting a little gate to keep him from doing so, but in the end just put a mattress on the floor with the idea that he'll eventually learn / get used to not falling out. Stellar parenting, right? It does seem to have worked though - no falling incidents in the last few days at all!



Sunday, August 9, 2009

Family fun

The biggest event of our summer was having Jacob's sister, Micol and her family come visit the family on the West Coast. They live in Virginia so we get to see them sporadically at best. The last time we'd seen them was in 2007, when Joris was three months old and we had extended our layover in Washington to be able to hang out in Richmond for a few days.

Obviously, Joris did not remember his cousins Adriana (8) and Sage (5), but did know them from pictures and he seemed excited about having them come over.

Micol and the girls came right in the week of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Seattle, so a lot of our activities were mere attempts to stay cool.





We took them to Matthews Beach the first day they were and town and had a little barbecue in the backyard. On Wednesday we all took the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston. It was the day where the temperatures hit 103 degrees and being able to be on the water, enjoying the breeze - yes, even getting just a tad bit chilly - was wonderful.









We indulged in crepes for lunch at 11:00am before heading back on the ferry.

Really, water was the only way to make it through the heat so there was a lot of kiddie pool action.



Joris, like most people in Seattle in this unusual weather, was having a really hard time getting and staying asleep and we were all stoked to make it down to Portland on Thursday where we'd stay at my folks' air-conditioned house.

We stayed through the weekend and ended up being able to do a lot of fun things. We enjoyed a nice family dinner with my parents, brother and soon to be sister in law on Thursday night. Friday, I had lunch at AngelVision (the company I do the script writing for) and was able to finally meet everyone, which was nice. When I got back to Sellwood, where Jacob and Joris were hanging out with the grandparents and Micol and the girls, I was just in time to join them for an outing to the outdoor pool.

The pool has a shallow end and lots of sprayers, bubblers and, because it was so hot, it was packed with people. Joris was hesitant of the water for about 2 minutes and then he donned a wide grin and proceeded to pretty much lose all language capacity - reverting to pre-verbal "huuuhhhh-huhhhhhh!!!" noises for the entire time we were there. I seriously have not seen him that excited about anything since the discovery that cheese tastes really great.

On Saturday, we went to the Gresham farmers market and had lunch with Dirk and Melanie before joining the Hutchison side of the family for a get together at Jacob's brother Trinh's house. I think everyone was excited to get the five cousins together for the first time and it was so fun to see how they all interacted. The cousins (all girls) are a fair bit older than Joris (10, 8, 6 and 5) but they immediately made sure he was included in the kid club and Joris loved following them around and having a picnic together. Seriously, it is just impossible to describe how cute they all were.









Ever since Adriana read one of his favorite stories to Joris, (which made him look up to her with such awe and giddy excitement) he would ask "where's Adriana?" each time he'd lose track of her. It was sad to have to say goodbye when it was time for us to go, because we all had really enjoyed seeing each other.

On Sunday, Joris enjoyed washing the car before we took off to meet up with my mom's family at a state park in Battleground, WA. There a great river to play and splash in and, as always when there is water and rocks involved, Joris had a great time. We couldn't stay too long because we still had to make our way back to Seattle, which ended up taking forever - without a nap ever happening for Joris.







Curious George on the ipod saved the day when stuck in traffic!

Playhouse pictures

Some pictures of the little playhouse my dad built for Joris.









Cousins Sage and Adriana enjoyed their dining experience.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer days

It has been too long. Life has been good, but very busy and summer seems to be sizzling along at an alarming rate.

The big news is that I got hired to stage manage "The Producers" (the Mel Brooks musical) at Seattle Musical Theatre. I have been wanting to get back to work in my field for what feels like forever now and it is very gratifying to be doing so. Rehearsals are in the evenings and on weekends so it's not affecting my daytime jobs too much, which is good. And Jacob has been very supportive with me taking this step, happily taking over care for Joris. Even though it seems slightly insane to be doing this while also dealing with my other three jobs (not counting motherhood), we all know that it will only be temporary. The show opens mid September and only runs for three weekends, so it really only affects a couple of months.

Jacob is plugging along on his dissertation and might actually have his prospectus officially approved.

The weather this summer has been just absolutely gorgeous we've been enjoying the variety of parks and beaches Seattle has to offer, bike rides, flying the kite and farmers market bliss. Joris can be entertained for hours when there is sand, water and rocks involved, so we've been frequenting Matthews Beach and Carkeek Park quite a bit.

We've also been spending a lot of time in the backyard, playing and eating, watering the plants and reading stories in the hammock, and I'm still amazed each time of how nice it now is to hang out there. My parents came over last weekend and my dad built Joris a little playhouse for in the backyard. It is the most adorable thing you have ever seen and pictures will follow soon (I hope!). It has windows with shutters, a Dutch door with his name on it and inside are astroturf carpet, curtains and pictures on the walls. Joris absolutely loves it.

Joris' language use has really accelerated again in the last few weeks. He has figured out his genders and pronouns, mostly, and will proudly say things like "That girl has bike. She has bike. That her bike". He has also started referring to himself as "I" and "me" and recently uttered "I love you" for the first time.

He can string together several thoughts and sentences now, too. This morning for example he told me "Mama, you make oatmeal for you and Coco and you make oatmeal squares for Joris. And I will give Coco a bite and he will say "mmmm, that yummy"!" and last night he told Jacob "Daddy, take my sandal of. There's something in there."

Interestingly, with all the new language developments, he has started defaulting to English even more, even with me. He still does talk to me in Dutch and he will usually repeat the Dutch version, when I confirm his English, but it looks like English is the easier (or more accessible) language to try out these new grammar rules. I'm assuming he'll get back to his regular bilingual state when he's had the chance to sufficiently practice.

The things Joris remembers and the conclusions he is drawing astound me every day. And today he walked up the stairs without holding on to anything, without ever having to catch himself. I am glad for the time I have with him, because really, it's already going by too damn fast!

We are eagerly anticipating a visit from Jacob's sister Micol and her family next week. They will be in town here for a few days and then we will join them in Portland for the weekend. I'm excited to have the cousins get to know each other and it will be nice to catch up with Micol and Richard.

My script writing job seems to be going well, although I still often have to guess at what it is they want exactly. There isn't a lot of feedback one way or another, so I'm having a bit of a tough time figuring out what I'm doing right and what I could improve on.

I've been able to go on a couple of dates; one with a friend to see another friend's band perform and the other night with Jacob to celebrate our 8th (!!) anniversary.

Like I said, life is good and I'm trying to enjoy it as much as possible.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ejelok Naps

About a week and a half ago, Joris stopped napping. At first it seemed like he was still giving it a good faith effort and then got frustrated when he wasn't falling asleep, but as of late it seems like he has stopped trying altogether.

The two times that he did indeed fall asleep, were short little 30 and 45 minute naps. And, judging by his perfectly happy and cheerful behavior throughout the afternoon, it seems that maybe the Naptime Express has reached the end of line.

There could be other causes, I keep hoping. His final molar is making its appearance, so that could be it, right? And Isla's mom told me that Isla has finally succumbed to naps again, after a month long hiatus and friend's child had done the same, right around 2 years of age.

We still do the same nap time routine and keep Joris in his crib for about an hour and a half. Sometimes he plays quietly with some cars, or looks at books, or, like today, he spends most of his resting time whining "Joris all done sleeping".

Avery's family has been on vacation and so we have not experienced the no-nap situation at her house yet. I'm curious to find out how it will go. Peer pressure is a very useful tool, but I'm trying to wrap my mind around the fact that perhaps Joris is just done with napping. I hope it's not the case, but it would certainly fit with his sleep history...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reclaiming the yard

The summer that we left for the Marshall Islands we did not do much in the way of gardening. During the year we were gone the yard got overgrown with weeds and the only plants to make it out alive were the five lavender plants that apparently thrived on neglect because they grew from modest potted-plant size into actual shrubs.

I was pregnant when we returned and we were busy dealing with reverse culture shock as well as holy-hell-we're-going-to-be-parents shock, so again, not much yard work was accomplished. The following spring Joris was a newborn and we felt pretty accomplished if we had managed to take a shower AND unload the dishwasher on any given day, so, once again, the yard remained neglected.

Last spring, Joris had just started walking and although he was still putting everything in his mouth, we had actually gotten somewhat of a grasp on this managing-the-day-with-an-infant thing and we could have actually done some gardening. And we wanted to. Very much. But the sheer size of the weeds and the seemingly unending list of what we needed to accomplish was just utterly overwhelming. We did manage to make the front yard somewhat presentable and every now and down we would fight our way through the spiderwebs to sit out in the backyard, but it was never a relaxing experience; all the weeds and the overgrown bushes just seemed to shame us for sitting down instead of grabbing the pruning sheers and gloves and getting to work.

This year, we were determined to take back the yard, especially since we will be around all summer and want to be able to enjoy our outdoor spaces.

This is what it looked like before we got to work:











One of the biggest problems was the ivy since it's a plant that just keeps crawling, taking over space and killing everything in its path. If you have never tried to pull up ivy, just take my word for it that it's really freakin' hard. We ended up hiring a guy off Craigslist to help us pull everything up - and it still took 8 hours to get it all (and we keep finding more roots each time we're out there).

We pruned the trees and bushes and removed an ugly, crowding butterfly bush (discovering a white rose still clinging to life in the middle of it).
We pulled up all the weeds from the flower beds.
We removed all the weeds from in between the patio stones.
We got a free load of arborist wood chips and although it by no means compares to beauty bark, it does a good job preventing weeds and giving the flower beds a more uniform look.
We discovered we have 13 trees on our property, not including the landscape trees on the outside of the fence, along the driveway.

The most awesome project however, was the vegetable boxes that Jacob built. He used the wood from the crawl space that we had to remove when we put the new insulation in, years ago. And then he filled it with dirt from a big compost / dirt pile from the backyard. Not only is the unsightly pile gone from the backyard now, the soil is proving to be super fertile and perfect for growing vegetables.

Joris cooperated awesomely by being able to keep himself entertained with a stick, digging in the dirt, transferring worms from the yard to the vegetable boxes and looking at roly polies.

This is what the yard looks like now:











One of Joris' favorite activities is helping me water the plants.





The first vegetable! (The starts when I bought them were labeled sugar snap peas, but I think they might actually be snow peas). Other veggies we're growing include tomatoes, bellpepper, broccoli, zucchini, yellow and acorn squash.





I'm also trying my hand at growing some perennial flowers, with varying degrees of success so far. (With three varieties I can't make out the difference between the flower starts (if there are any) and the myriad of weeds, but others are more distinct.

Jacob and Joris also built me this potting table:



We have enjoyed multiple gatherings in the backyard on the patio and the back yard is a much nicer place for Joris to play now since we don't really have to worry about him being attacked by rats in the ivy or simply disappearing in the thick curtain of weeds.

So, we are no longer ashamed of having people join us in our outdoor spaces. I'd love to have you over for a barbecue, some lounging around (we put up the hammock, too!) or a play date involving perhaps a kiddie pool... Come on over!