Monday, December 31

I Got Words in My Head

Considering three things at the time of this writing.

1. It's New Year's Eve day. That means the time has arrived to consider the resolutions of 2008 in earnest.

2. It's New Year's Eve day. That means the Christmas tree at our house has got to come down. It's beginning to droop anyway, and Andrew has discovered the joy of knocking the branches to watch the needles shower down to the floor. I am over that already.

3. It's New Year's Eve day. That means--in Holland--the yearly fest of creating firework havoc has begun. Even before the alarm rang this morning, the bang-bang-bangity-bang of rockets and firecrackers awakened all of us. And that, friends, is nothing compared to what is yet to come when the clock strikes midnight here.

And yet, you wonder just what weaves these three things together? I shall tell you.
It can be summed up in a song. Not just any old song, mind you. But an anthem of my day.

Yeah, I got the music in me.

Some days you just wake up ready to tackle it all, don't you? (and conversely, some days you wake up unable to take any of it on) I am having a morning on order of the first.
I am ready to set the goals, get it all tidied up, and get set to bring it all in with a bang.

And I will be belting it out all day. Because,


"Ain't got no trouble in my life
No foolish dreams to make me cry
I'm never frightened or worried
I know I'll always get by


I heat up, I cool down
When something gets in my way I go round it
Won't let life get me down
Gonna take it the way that I found it

Some say that life is a circle
But that ain't the way that I found it
Gonna move in a straight line
Keeping my feet firmly on the ground

I heat up, I cool down
I got words in my head so I'll say them
Won't let life get me down
Catch a hold of my blues and just play them

I got the music in me
I got the music in me
I got the music in me..."


SMID's Music Monday

More music players can be found here.

Friday, December 28

Lingering

If you've ever wondered just what it might be like to celebrate Christmas with a houseful of comedians, then I am warmly extending the invitation to you to join us next season.

It's been a laugh factory around here as we planned, purchased and executed the frivolity around our house.

I will sum up.

Traditionally, we put our names into a hat, a box, or a bathrobe pocket--we're not all that particular--and exchange with one another the wish list we've created. With name and list in hand, we then plan and shop for the person we've selected. The spending limit is 25 euros. It's meant to be a way for all of us to single out one other of us and select something meaningful for that person.

I got Andrew this year.
Andrew got Emma.
Emma got me.
Don got Ian.
Ian got Don.

Don worked feverishly on his list before folding his paper and placing it into the upturned baseball cap. As he scribbled, he asked only one question: "what is the spending limit?"
His list read something like this:

The things I want for Christmas--
One 20 euro bill and one 5 euro bill, or
Two 10 euro bills and one 5 euro bill, or
Three 5 euro bills and one 10 euro bill, or
Two fifty cent coins, one 2 euro coin, two 1 euro coins, and two 10 euro bills

OR

One Folbot folding Kayak, 1500 euros plus shipping.

So we all did our shopping bit and when Christmas morning rolled around there was a grand buildup of excitement in the air in anticipation of presenting family gifts.

Andrew got police cars and firetrucks.
Emma got a discoball lamp. (Really. Andrew was certain this was THE gift for his sister.)
Ian got some cool new clothes and a game for his playstation.
I opened my gift to find this note:

Dear Mom,
First of all I want you to know, whatever I say from now on is in a Spanish accent.
What, oh, what could your gift be?
So little and small and tineee.
I know you will like it, it came from my heart, and the 25 euros dad gave me, but mostly from my heart.
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox
Emma

Don's gift was double or perhaps triple wrapped with this note taped to the outside of the second layer:

Fulbot Folding Kayak
Size: Extra extra extra extra small (xxxs)
Color: Blue
Capacity: Your big toe
Dimensions: 5" x 2"
Warning!
Not for ACTUAL use!
Precautions: Keep away from water! If kayak comes into contact with any form of water, the kayak will disintegrate immediately.


We made merry with our giggles and then merry again with our guffaws. I am beginning to think that they who coined the phrase "Happy Christmas" had premonitions of just how it would roll at our house.

Here's hoping we keep Christmas in our hearts all year.

Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas, Darlings


Hope your holidays are joy-filled and joyful. Catch you in this space post chocolate-bingeing-present-discovering-eggnog-laden debauchery.

All my love.

Saturday, December 22

Monday, December 17

Late in the Evening

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The living room floor was littered with torn wrappings. Paper bits discarded here and there, my children and our guests inspected the goods which had been delivered to them via the Sint's large sack. It had been determined just after the loud knock on the front door that as the rounds went for opening gifts, I would be the last spot.

That was okay by me.


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Andrew got his fish;
a swimming one with a tail. He watched it circle round the tiny bowl.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Ian and Emma were blown away when they opened cell phones. Ian's spontaneous happy dance made everyone in the room howl with laughter.

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Our guests each received photographs, something from my heart and personalized for each of them.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Don got his photos too, and then it was my turn.

I knew he had written his poem, just as I had begged asked him too. Early in the evening I spotted him surreptitiously stashing a set of scribbled notes on top of the bookshelf. I have to admit, I couldn't wait to find out what he'd come up with. He called attention in the room back to focus on me, and then pulled his papers from the top shelf. He appeared to study them for a minute or two, then shook his head and said aloud "No, this just won't do." I watched him then leave the circle of company and step over to collect his tall stool.


You know, the one he sits on to play his guitar.

I started to cry.

He set up the stool and grabbed his guitar from its stand. And then?

Then he sang to me.

Yup, the boy came through on this poem writing thing with a bang.

And. He. Sang. To. Me.

He apologized for being neither a songwriter nor poet, and apologized again for stealing the tune from one of
our favorite artists. I apologize now (to you, not to him--I know he's secretly pleased about this next bit) that the video which was captured on the night cannot be displayed. I have tried it every which way but Sunday and cannot get the file to upload properly. So I have nothing to show for it, really. But you can trust me when I tell you the performance was brilliant.

And now, my friends and readers, a Sinterklaas poemsong. From my house to yours.


"The night's getting long
And the Sint's come and gone
Leaving pakjes and goodies for all
The last one's for you
and it seems to be true
It really looks awfully small.

Oh, Jenn, you know me so well
You asked me 10 times
but not once did you yell
You said 'please write my poem'
Okay, what the hell!
Oh, Jenn, you know me so well.

So, your poem is a song
Let's thank God it's not long-
The misery soon will be through.
You ask, you receive
Although none would believe
That I'd sing something funny to you!

But, oh, Jenn, you know me so well.
You asked me 10 times
but not once did you yell
You said, 'please write my poem'
Okay, what the hell!
Oh, Jenn, you know me so well.

Well, the night's getting long
And the Sint's come and gone..."


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Linking to you Live from Soccer Mom in Denial




Saturday, December 15

Christmas is Coming

soon.


my own game




Singular Celebrators:

Wholly Burble (faithful contributor)

Mariposa (first time--Welcome!)

Jenn (another first timer!)

Flower Child (celebrator deluxe)

SMID (who needs sympathy)

Jan (yet another first time player! Wow!)


Thursday, December 13

Spot Check

The status report from Jenn's place:

The youngest is sick (yet again) with a barking cough. Sounds something akin to a TB patient. Might be why I get strange looks on the tram when I take him out in public.

The middle one is on emotional overload. Should she go to the Winter Ball tomorrow night for her middle school or not? Yes, no, yes, no, maybe. If only she had something to wear. Fairy Godmother? Anyone?

The oldest is copping a 'tude. His chores undone, his schoolbag tossed carelessly in the hall. Seems like it might be high time for a holiday from school.

The Dad is fine by all reports. He doesn't sleep much lately. He says it's beginning to feel normal.

The Mom is holding it together, albeit by narrow threads. Good thing Mom nerves are strong as spider silk.

And so, no good blogging to be done tonight. I shall put off the report of all things Sinterklaas and promise you that forthcoming. I will however leave you with this pre-pakjesavond conversation. It might make you giggle.

That's a good thing.

*****************************************************************
"There! I've got it done. The gifts are all wrapped and the poems are written. It's just down to you to take care of my stuff.

"Your stuff? What stuff?"

"You know, my gift and my poem which you're going to write yourself."

"Awwwww, I don't want to write a poem."

"Bummer."

"But I'm no good at writing poems, can't you write one for yourself?"

"Nope. I wrote all the others and it's kinda lame if I have to write my own. That's your job this year."

"I just don't think I can do it."

"And yet, you must."

"So this poem that I HAVE TO write for you, does it have to be long? Is it supposed to rhyme?Can I write it in any format I want or are there special rules?"

"It can be anything you want, it just has to be a poem."

"Anything I want?"

"Yup. Anything."

"Cool. So I can write a haiku?"

Wednesday, December 12

Monday, December 10

Time Passages


The night my eldest son was born the clock had only recently passed the moment which delineates one day from the next. I had begun labor earlier that evening, in fact Don and I were at the herb shop searching for a tincture which would make my contractions strong and regular when we realized the threshold of early labor had been crossed and we were now fully into the game of bringing a baby into the world. We placed the cohosh bottle back on the shelf and drove home to call the midwife, climb into the bathtub and have ourselves a baby.

It didn't all go according to plan, really. I labored at home for a couple of hours while Don poured hot water he had boiling in kettles on the stove into the tub to keep the water steamy for me. Somewhere around 9:00 p.m. we ventured out (he coaching my breathing all the way) to the birth center. A couple of hours after that, we were on the move again. This time in an ambulance for a brief ride to the hospital located nearby. It wasn't an emergency, as yet, but all involved in the process thought it might be best for us to be at the hospital as a just in case measure.

Just in case never happened, and just after midnight Ian emerged --without assistance--to the collective gasp, wonder and awe of all 7 of us--Don, me, my midwife, the on call OB, and the three nurses--in the room. It was an incredibly cool moment.

Several hours post birth of my 9 pound baby boy, Don left the two of us at the hospital and drove himself to school to take a final exam. Several hours after that, the three of us went home as a family.

And now here we are 14 years later.

The family grew a little. Ian grew a little. We changed locations a little.
We've learned a lot along the way.
None of it has ever really gone according to plan.

But I really wouldn't have it any other way. From the beginning with this boy--who now looks me square in the eye and will be looking down at the top of my head in a few month's time--life has been a series of firsts and adventures. First borns get that a lot. All the mistakes, trials, errors, and missteps of first time parents. All the responsibility of being the oldest kid in the family. All the wishing you were a sometime youngest child instead.

This one seems like he can take anything. He takes on his challenges with grace. He has a steady head. He works hard. He is a (mostly) patient big brother. He is loving, sweet, kind and careful. Hey, the boy even puts the toilet seat down. He's good, really he is.

A Mom couldn't ask for more from a kid. And a kid couldn't give more to a Mom.

Happy Birthday buddy. I love you to the moon.

Sunday, December 9

How I Feel About Missing My Own Game

sheepish.


my own game

Those who did it better than me this week:

Soccer Mom in Denial

Jen in MI

Wholly Burble

Thursday, December 6

Will Work for Food

Shhh! I can't talk now, I am in the middle of preparing a Surprise (Soo-pree-zah) for a co-worker. Standard to the Sinterklaas celebration we will have a work party tomorrow evening, complete with a visit from the Sint. We have exchanged names and will exchange gifts accordingly tomorrow--in anonymity as all gifts for this holiday come from Sint himself.

I am working diligently to finish up a hand crocheted sjaal (neck scarf) which I have stiched in all the in-between-minutes of my life, which then I will tie around a bottle of wine to present to one of my favorite people on the staff. I must also figure out how best to disguise the box I wrap to make it an appropriate surprise.

Then, there's one more thing, and this is where you, my friends and my readers, come in. Attached to each gift the Sint delivers there is a poem. This poem generally contains some information about the gift itself and about the receiver. Meaning, it is the perfect venue for Sint to talk about/tease/cajole that person. For instance, my darling husband comes to bed in the winter with his socks on which is something I tend to tease him mercilessly about. His gift last night was a framed series of photographs I took one day while he and I were out together. The poem read in part like this:

There once was a boy, name of Don
who slept with his long stockings on!
"In the winter" says he
"I'm as cold as can be--
with the temperature ten below one!"

Back when the sun shone so bright
With Jenn he saw two birds in flight.
She was quick with the lens
and with flash now and then
She captured the moment just right!

I have to admit, after the fun of last night's visit for the children and our guests, I am a little Sint-poem'ed out. So I turn to you, masters of all that rhymes, for your ideas and your assistance. In the comments section, leave me a verse or two, or hey, an entire poem and I will ... what?

Be forever grateful? Uh-huh.

Sing your praises? Absolutely.

Send you chocolate? Yup.

You heard me, assist me with this poem and I will send you a Sint treat via the post. Yes, this is me stooping to bribery to escape five minutes of work. Really, there are no depths to which I will not sink.

Info about the recipient here:

Her name is Marie
She is a teacher
At the ISH
She comes from Nova Scotia
She is new in The Netherlands
She is blonde, tiny and incredibly sweet
She tap dances
She lived in Ireland
She loves her wine
It doesn't take much of that before she is a little loopy
That's what I call her: Little Loopy
She is great with the kids
Especially mine

Go forth now: be creative, rhythmic and rhymey. This is an offer you can't I hope you won't refuse.

Wednesday, December 5

Cause for Celebration

Today is the day! And a big day it is around here too. Not only is it the day that Sinterklaas comes by with a big sack of presents; it is also the day Allison and I celebrate our first 100 photos at our joint photo site. She writes about the experience(s) of our first 100 days with oh-so-much-more eloquence than I and truly you should leap over there and read all she has to say. But I wanted to give it a nod, a shout-out, a plug. Because keeping that site, and working with that woman is a total rush.

Looking Into Photo Blog



Come. Take a look.

My wordless wednesday post is below.

Hij Komt!

Everything you need to know about the Sint can be found here.

Monday, December 3

Soaking It Up

SMID's Music Monday

Years ago in the United States, there was a television ad campaign for a bath soak called Calgon. As I remember it, the ad showed a woman harried and frazzled by the work of her day--phones ringing, children crying, dogs barking, pots overboiling--when she suddenly breaks out with the cry "Calgon, Take me Away!" The next shot on screen shows her soaking in the bathtub with a blissful, relaxed smile upon her face. As if all the world's problems could be solved with a dip in the tub.

A compelling idea, this luxurious soak in the bathwater.

As I sit here contemplating such a moment (fantastic at best) I can't help but hum the tune for the old gospel song. I love gospel. I love it in it's every interpretation and rendtion. In fact as I looked for a video clip to accompany this post I was very torn as to which I would choose. Though one of my favorite singers--of this tune in particular--Eva Cassidy has a kick-all version of this song, one which leaves me in tears nearly every time I hear it, I ultimately went with the following video. Because, really, if I am going to have a fantasy soak in the bath, with candles burning, and bubbles up to my chin, I am also going to bring along these guys to sing me into bliss and relaxation.

Wade in the water
Wade in the water children
Wade in the water
God's gonna trouble the water

Take me away boys.


Saturday, December 1

Friday, November 30

A Point, A Chat and A Vote

Point of reference: Lekkerbek (pronounced just the way it looks--lecker beck) is a white fish filet breaded and deep fried.

************************************************

"So how are things shaping up for Pakjesavond then?"

"Fine, I think. Nearly there anyway. I would still like to find a mini-trampoline for Andrew and then there is the matter of his fish."

"His fish?"

"He wants a fish from Sinterklaas"

"Oh, we're not getting him a fish, are we?"

"In his letter to the Sint he asked for a fish"

"Oh, man, can't we just get him a lekkerbek?"

************************************

I ask you.

This?

Or this?

Thursday, November 29

Curling Up

When I was in the fourth grade I had trouble in school. More to the point, I was always IN trouble at school. It wasn't because I was a chatterbox, no, that report would come later in my schooling. The trouble was I wouldn't put my book down.

Yeah, I was a rebel reader.

Propping heavy text books in front of me, pretending to read along during the social studies lesson, I would really be completely swept away by my real education: my books! Oh, I loved my books.

In those days there wasn't a once upon a time tale which didn't completely captivate me and take me away. Princesses, unicorns, space invaders, explorers; all were my friends and cohorts. I loved the very word on every page and the smell of ink and paper. Still do.

My favorites list is too numerous to print and too expansive to try and explain. I react to a book the same way I react to people: I connect quickly and deeply. And I insist on spending a lot of time with that which is precious.

My book=my friend.

Can I imagine my life without my reading time? Not at all. So when Allison--she who is actively involved in all the important issues--contacted me to see if I would like to join her in a campaign to encourage others to read, I dove right in.

The campaign is this:

January 10, 2008 has been designated as the DAY TO READ.
On that day we join the collective challenge to spend some time with our noses stuck in it. A book that is. If you are a blogger, join us by stepping away from the keyboard for all or part of the day and spend that time reading something you enjoy.

Next, report to us and others what you've read. You can do this in a dedicated post or a comment at Allison's blog--Soccer Mom in Denial--after the DAY TO READ has passed.

If you are so inclined, please post the DAY TO READ button at your blog. Pass it on! The button, the news about the day, the challenge to others to read, read, read, read, read!

Not a blogger? Then you know just what I expect from you. Leave me a comment here with the results of your DAY TO READ experience.

That's it. No challenge could be easier to meet. Please join us. We can make DAY TO READ a Happily Ever After kind of event.

DAY TO READ campaign

Wednesday, November 28

Tuesday, November 27

Saturated

One thing which can definitively be said about the Dutch: They like their deep fried food. From the kaas souffle, to the loempia, and onward to the borrowed Belgian snack--frites with mayonnaise, there is very little that the Dutch won't fry in fat. The snack shops and kiosks and train station automats are a celebration of all things hot and dripping with grease. This is serious comfort food at its finest.

Tonight after work I saddled the bike to make a quick run to the grocery store, hoping for inspiration in the what-to-make-for-dinner department. It didn't arrive timely. I walked out of the store with only apples and laundry detergent in my basket.

And then a plan presented itself.

Our Elise--nanny, savior, freedom-from-diapers-deliverer, and friend--is spending her last night on Dutch soil. Tomorrow morning she will finish packing her bags and the two of us will then schlep them together to Schipol airport. Unbelievably, the three months of her allotted tourist visa stay have flown by, and it is now time for her to return to the sunny skies of Arizona. But I realized tonight I just may have been remiss in her education and culturization of Dutch life. Yes, I had failed to feed her a frikandel.

A sausage of sorts, perhaps better described as a minced meat concoction in tube shape, this mass of mystery meat is dropped into the friteur and cooked to gross greased perfection. Personally, I like my frikandel slapped onto a bun and smothered in peanut sauce, but you can eat them plain too. And how can you leave Holland without such a treat?

Without hesitation tonight, I rode my bike down the street to the corner snack shop, stepped in and placed my order. Upon arriving home I plopped the feast upon the table for the kids and their au pair.

I have to admit, it was all pretty much finger likin' good. I only hope that given the grease consumed it will serve to stop up my tear ducts and allow me to say tot ziens to the princess in the morning, with some sort of dignity.

I am going to miss her company something fierce. We all are. And while I attempt to adjust to life without my Elise, I will most assuredly be looking for some comfort.

Hey! Will someone please pass the ketchup?

Monday, November 26

Couldn't Be Prouder

Two notes.
hahaha! Get it? It's Music Monday and I am beginning with NOTES? Oh, my I crack myself up.

1. This one is coming to you from out of the archives. And not just because I am completely a little bit lazy, but because it's perfectly fitting for the topic at hand. Well, that and I really liked this one when I wrote it, and since there were precious few of you reading me back in the day then I want to share it again.


2. The television site I reference and link to in this post is no longer in existence. Yup, someone found out about it and shut 'em down. Just didn't want you looking for it and find that my links are dead. No worries though friends, I am finding my pirated television and movies elsewhere on the net now. Shhh. Don't tell anyone!
**************************************
Original publishing date: 3 April 2007

I was standing in the kitchen finishing up a few dishes this afternoon when Emma walked into the room. Emma has been home from school for two days with a nasty head cold/cough thing. At parental insistence that she stay in bed and rest she has been willing to comply AS LONG AS she can keep company with the laptop; upon which she has been able to access this site and watch a plethora of television programming out of the UK and the USA. And when you are home sick, and eleven, what is better than a bit of Hannah Montana for your in bed entertainment? The TV links site is a new find for us and we are all just a little bit giddy about being able to watch familiar programming in English, minus under titling.

It's the little things that make us so happy.

But moving back to the topic at hand, my conversation with Emma in the kitchen began with her giving me the back story to an episode of the BBC's Robin Hood.

"Okay so there was a guy, I don't know his name but he wants to shoot the sheriff of Nottingham. At the same time he is aiming at someone he thinks is the sheriff, Marian and Robin are also aiming at him. This guy lets his arrow go and so do Marian and Robin. Then the guy rolls down a hill with two arrows in his arm!"

A pause for breath and a cough. And she launches back in.

"Then the guy starts talking to his dead wife cuz that's why he wanted to shoot the sheriff because the sheriff had something to do with her death."

Breathe.

"Anyway, then the guy says 'I shot him. I finally shot the sheriff' But then the real sheriff comes up behind the guy and says 'No. You shot the deputy' ".

Pause for effect.

"I thought that was funny. Cuz it's totally opposite of the song!"

She grinned and I giggled and then the two of us burst into a spontaneous musical duet at the kitchen sink.

"I shot the sheriff
But I didn't shoot no deputy,
oh no! Oh!
I shot the sheriff
But I didn't shoot no deputy,
ooh, ooh, oo-ooh"

There are some moments in my Motherhood that I think, maybe just maybe something I have taught them along the line has sunk in.

And if that means that my daughter is able to identify the tunes and lyrics of Bob Marley. I am okay with that.



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Music Monday, brain child of the brainiac who writes

Soccer Mom in Denial

Sunday, November 25

Brazen

Brillig's Soap Opera Sunday



"Mommmy! Mommy! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahmmmmeeeeeeeeee! Sam and Susie are stuck together in the front yard and we can't get them apart!
"

That was the announcement we made to my mother on that sunny afternoon of my childhood.

Sam was our muttish dog, a Beagle and Dachshund mix. Susie was the AKC registered Shelty of our neighbors whose pride and glory was their prize winning dogs. Susie was the youngest among them and the prettiest. Susie was, of course, also in heat. The neighbors had come specifically to ask that Sam be kept away from their yard during this time. My parents complied and when Sam was outside our home he was tied to a lead which was tethered to a stake near the porch.

On this day, Susie came to him. She had dug deeply enough under the chain link fence of her yard to wiggle through and run free. And she ran straight to Sam. And there they were, the two of them, doing IT in our front yard.

Of course, I was young enough and innocent (oh, so innocent) enough to have no clue what was happening. The action elited a lot of discussion amongst my neighborhood friends. We told them to stop! We told them to let go! We told them it wasn't right to be stuck together like that! And then we told my mom.

She of course was at a complete loss as to what to do about it all as well. I mean there it was, a full public display of affection happening in her front yard for all the world to see. And there we were, a half dozen kids with wide eyes and inquiring minds asking the hard questions to a Mama who just. didn't. know. what. to. say.

She turned to my Dad by telephone. First reaching my Uncle Steve who worked alongside my Pop, she blurted out the news: "The dogs are stuck together on the front lawn! What do I do? What do I do?" My uncle's reaction was to double up in red-faced laughter and because he was unable to speak through the roaring guffaws he held out the receiver to my Dad. Daddy picked up the phone to hear the same panic report and with a somewhat subdued giggle in his voice gave the best advice he could muster at the moment: "Honey, pull up a chair and watch!"

Not long after that day, my parents sat me down and I got to hear all about the birds and the bees.

And the dogs.

Friday, November 23

Whatever Will Be


Here lies Stuart the hamster.


Eagerly adopted.

Willingly cared for.

Lovingly played with.

Expertly cleaned up after.

Thoroughly mourned.

Deeply missed.

Thursday, November 22

Merry Me

It was a perfect--picture perfect--autumn day in Southern Utah. I was young--unbelievably young--and he was younger still. We were all dressed up and truly ready to go. It was November 21st.

Wedding Day, 1989.

I know, I know, you are going to want photographs with this post, but alas, I have none to offer you. What I mean to say is that I have loads of wedding day photos in storage in Arizona, but none in digital form, and certainly not a one over here. But you can trust me when I tell you that we were the. cutest. couple. on. the. planet.

I wore the same gown my mother wore at her own wedding. Handmade by my grandmother for that wedding 46 years ago, it was updated and redesigned by my mom's hand for my wedding 28 years later.

I love that dress.

He wore a rented tuxedo in black. He was ridiculously, deliciously handsome.

The thing I remember most about the morning we married, was the perfect day which surrounded us. As we strolled along the church grounds posing for the plentitude of photographs (Again, none of which will be posted here today) the multi-colored leaves rustled in the breeze and occasionally, as if expertly choreographed, one would release it's hold on the branch and tumble delicately downward; turning, twisting, spiraling in faultless timing, ultimately landing softly to add to the autumn confetti in the grass.

Like I said, perfect.

The remainder of that day was filled with family, friends, food and celebrations. That pretty much sums up the 18 years following as well. Pause for a few ups and downs (oh, no she did NOT just resort to the obvious metaphor!) our life together has been one terrific ride. If there is a ticket line for this attraction, I am certainly queueing up for another go round.

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Tuesday, November 20

'Cause, Baby, Look at You Now

Birthday tradition in Holland is clear. Rather than warm wishes for the birthday person alone, hearty congratulations are given to all in the family (or in the room for that matter). For example, if it is a birthday of a child, you would enter the home and wish Gefeliciteerd to the mother, the father, the grandparents, the siblings, and then to the birthday child.

Personally I think it a grand tradition, if only in this very circumstance. Being the mama of three, none of whom were all that easy to bring into this world, I relish the moment someone is saying to me: "Congratulations on the birthday of your daughter". I take that to be a full blown compliment as to a job well done.


So, I pause now to receive your congratulations for my daughter's birthday.

And now this next sentence really gives me pause:

Emma is twelve today.

How this happened in the blink of an eye I will never know. It really doesn't seem possible that the night I finally, finally, finally went into labor (after two Castor oil & orange juice cocktails) could really be a twelve-years-ago reality.


Emma zipped into existence in the wee hours of morning, long before the nurses thought she might be making an appearance. My midwife arrived just in time to catch her, rub her blueness to pink, swaddle her tightly and hand her over to me.

Bald, pug nosed, with her ears pinned flat to the sides of her head, I am certain there never was a baby girl more beautiful in all the world.

I still think that very thing. (Even though now she is no longer bald, nor pug nosed. And her ears stand out a nice distance from her head) She is beautiful from the inside out and she will always, always be my baby girl.

Happy Birthday Ems. Mama loves you crazy.

Monday, November 19

With a Song in My Heart

Today, there is a single song in the hearts, minds and voices of all Dutch children (and at least one expat family) here in Holland.

Well, not a single song exactly, but a single type of song which is being played, whistled, danced to, hummed and sung in playgrounds, stores, homes and bathtubs around the country.

They are all about this guy:


Yup, that's right.
The Sint is in town!

Zie ginds komt de stoomboot

uit Spanje weer aan.
Hij brengt ons Sint Nicolaas
ik zie hem al staan.
Hoe huppelt zijn paardje
het dek op en neer,
hoe waaien de wimpels
al heen en al weer.

Sinterklaas arrived by steamboat from Spain on Saturday along with his helpers the Zwarte Piet. All will be in town from now until the 5th of December when the season culminates with Pakjesavond or the night of gifts. Between now and then it's all about singing the songs, spotting the Pieten on the streets, visiting the Sint at parties and parades, and of course, leaving shoes out by the fireplace at night in hopes of finding a treat inside in the morning.


Sinterklaasje bonne, bonne, bonne,
gooi wat in mijn regen, regentonne,
gooi wat in mijn laarsje,
dank u, Sinterklaasje!

You can be certain I will be checking my shoes and if you're looking for me, you can find me by listening in for the song of the season. I will be belting it out with the best of them, because it's true, I am crazy about Sinterklaas.





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Sunday, November 18

Something in the Way

IN the beginning, we were childhood friends; then sweethearts who became lovers. We married in the church and began our life together as a couple. We even had children together.
ON STAGE!

Off stage, we were friends. In the groups-of-us-hanging-out-together kind of way. Never a dating relationship, rarely a moment alone in conversation, we two carroused as part of the gang of all of us. I am sure I flirted with him (who didn't I flirt with in those days?) and I am sure that filled him with amorous ideas and pushed our relationship in his mind toward something personal and permanent.

But I had no clue.


For me the first indication of his undying love for all things me was the Sunday afternoon he drove me home from church.

He told me "I just want to stop by my place really quick and tell my parents (who were in town visiting) that I will be back later"

"Sure, okay", I said.

When he pulled his truck into the parking lot of his apartment building he said, "why don't you come upstairs with me? You can meet my folks."

Again I replied with a "sure, okay."

I followed him up the stairs to his second story apartment, he unlocked the door and we entered. His parents were sitting in the living room and both rose to their feet when we walked in. He introduced me first to his father, who reached out his hand and shook mine saying "hello, nice to meet ya!". Then I turned as he introduced me to his Mom who approached me with a broad grin on her face (and possibly mist in her eyes). She reached her right hand out to take mine and then placed her left hand over the top and squeezed as she pulled me in closer.

"Oh, it's so wonderful to finally meet you. We've heard SO MUCH about you." She said.

Whaaa? I am sure I pulled some sort of this-is-an-awkward-moment-face as I pulled my fingers away from her loving grasp and muttered a 'nice to meet you too' kind of reply.

It was an utterly surreal moment for me. If they had HEARD SO MUCH about me, it could only have come from one source.

I felt my heart sink heavy to my belly. Oh, boy.

He and I left soon after that and immediately were back in his truck. As he put the key in the ignition he asked demurely "So, what do you think?"

I exploded. "What do I think? What do I think? That was a supremely awkward thing up there! I am so glad to finally meet you... we've heard so much about you... WHAT have you been telling your Mom about me?"

He was silent for a long time as he drove and then said. "Only how I feel."

Oh, no.

He pulled up in front of my shared college house and cut the engine. I looked at him with his large eyes and flushed cheeks and said, "I think we should talk."

There it was--all of it--being spilled out from his mouth to my ears as we sat on the front lawn. He had loved the name Jennifer all his life--had even named a houseplant Jennifer once, he loved me--he felt it from the moment we met, he knew beyond doubt that he would marry a Jennifer some day, he knew with certainty that I WAS THAT JENNIFER.

As I said before: Awkward.

And how does one turn down an earnest-epiphany-based-marriage-proposal? I am afraid without much grace. I stuttered. I muttered. I FREAKED OUT. And I said, NO.

I had of course, the fallback excuse that I had a boyfriend. It was the truth. The boy who held my heart was at that time 2600.81 miles away doing the very common thing in the culture I grew up in and working as a missionary in the Boston area. We had a deal that as I "waited" for his return, I could certainly "date" others. (Also a very common occurence in this situation) and I think my suitor was banking on me to exercise that option, date him, fall madly in love with him, and write that other boy a letter saying I was getting married. I didn't take that route, at least not for him.

Which, very possibly broke his heart.

We still spent time together post-proposal-disaster, but it was increasingly random and more and more strained. Ultimately, the conversations we had were focused on the work (performances) we did together and nothing more. He was stunning in his portrayal of the man-with-the-broken-heart-who-could-maintain-a-friendship-with-the-woman-who-had-shunned-him. I was simply good at ignoring the awkwardness. Eventually the two of us were married, just not to each other. In the the end, I didn't marry that boy I was waiting for, but someone else, and he did not marry a Jennifer.

Though it's possible they call their DOG Jenn.



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Thanks to Brillig and Kate for launching the soapy fun. Today's drama is hosted by Anonymous Soapiness. Pop over to read more stories of adventure, love, and tragic romance.

Saturday, November 17

Friday, November 16

Get Your Kicks

From a conversation at school between me and a young student, age 9.

"Miss Jenn, are you from America?"

"As a matter of fact I am."

"I knew it!"

"Did ya now?"

"Yes. You sound just like an American and you look just like an American. I just knew it."

"I look like an American? Hmmm... I am not really sure how to take that, but okay."

"I really love your American accent."

"Ah, that's nice."

"I really like the way Americans talk. I like Americans so much. I like everything about America."

"You do, huh? That's really awesome to hear you say. Tell me buddy, what is it about America that you like so much?"

"Oh, that's easy. Route 66!"

Thursday, November 15

Talk On!

Andrew's vocabulary is growing exponentially and with rapidly increasing speed. Having come to the talking game quite late it seems he is now making up for lost time. He makes daily long strides which nearly boggle the mind. For the most part the stimulation we offer him is our continual conversation, peppered occasionally with actual teaching moments wherein one or more of us tries to consciously open his mind to new vocabulary words. More often than not though, contributions to his speech are accidental and random (Tonight I caught him singing the full lyric to a song from the musical RENT!) as in a sentence from a book, a phrase from a game we are playing together, a movie line he hears, and/or a repeated choice word or two he gains from one of the grown ups--or nearly grown ups--around him. Words which then he is most likely to repeat. My favorite bits in this category are both the phrases 'Check this out', and 'Rock On'. These are the kinds of words I feel all four-year-olds should know. I also have a list of words four-year-olds should NOT know, but truly, I digress.

This morning Andrew and his Daddy were engaged in conversation as Don helped him dress for school. At some point in the exchange (neither adult can really remember how or why it came up in conversation) Don used the celebration phrase 'Boo-yah' and the little man found that to be an absolutely hilarious new word. Tucking it neatly into his memory as a shirttail into trousers, this suddenly became the word of the day for the boy.


"Say it again, Daddy!"


"Boo-yah!"


"Hahahahahahaha!"


"Now, you say it Buddy."


"BOOOO-YAAAAH!"


I had stepped downstairs to pack our lunches and was decently engrossed in the task when I felt Andrew's little hands on my leg.


"Hey Mom, are you ready for this?"


"BOOOOO-YAAAAAH!"


He shouted the word at the top of his lungs and then scampered down the hall laughing.


"Boo-yah"
he said as he got his shoes on (all by himself).

"Boo-yah" he cried as he pulled his coat down from the hook.
"Boo-yah" he nattered as he put his backpack into the bike basket.


Boo-yah, boo-yah, boo-yah...
The ride to school was entirely filled with a single track game. From the backseat this question:

"Mom, are you ready for this?"


I responded: "Sure".


"BOOO-YAAAAAAH!"
he crowed.


The 50th time being equally as hilarious as the first time, this was the soundtrack for our morning commute.

The morning was busy and full but before Andrew's half day dismissal time I managed to catch his teacher in the hall to chat--among other things--about him. I mentioned to her that he had learned a new word today and perhaps she ought to test him out to see if he still remembered it. I gave her the lead and sent her on her way.
When she walked into the classroom, she called out "Andrew? Are you ready for this?" He looked up in shock and amazement, caught her eye, and with a mischievous grin shouted "BOO-YAAH!"

Still tonight as we hung out together to celebrate Don's big birthday, Andrew did not disappoint and for every "are you ready for this" query he returned a hearty "BOOO-YAAAAAH!".


This is how we roll. What started the day with a giggle saw us to it's end with a guffaw. And now I ask you all:



ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?








Boo-yah!

Wednesday, November 14

Tuesday, November 13

Da Do Run Run

We met just before his 19th birthday. For those of you who are using your fingers to count up the intervening years, please remove the socks from your feet as you'll be needing all ten toes as well. And then you'll have to use a finger from someone else's hand. That's how you'll arrive at the number....

Are you there yet?

Did you guess?

Have you got it?

21 years ago.

I met him 21 years ago in college. We were both on the Speech and Debate squad. He, a debater and me a dramatic interpreter. (Did you have to reach hard to guess that?)

I remember distinctly the first time I saw him.

He. Was. Beautiful.

Long blond locks, clear blue eyes, winning smile which includes a dimple. I fell immediately in love...

with his debate partner.

While that's not totally true (I was not in love) the first time I spent much time at all with him was when his friend Steve wanted to come by my apartment. The two of them came over and spent some time with me. I don't really remember specifics about that night but I do remember thinking that this other guy with Steve was proving to be much more interesting than Steve. He made an impression. Although I ended that first meeting by kissing Steve goodnight (He likes to tell people this story of how we met) it would be the last kiss for Steve from me.

Because I was smitten.

He and I started hanging out together. Seeing movies, writing speeches, studying (ha! ha!), talking for hours. Oh, and kissing. It wasn't long at all before I was in love. Madly, deeply, wildly.

With him.

So I took him home.

I knew it was gonna stick when I introduced him to my family. My sisters adored him, my parents approved of him, and my brothers LIKED him. I shall say that last again and add the emphasis so you won't miss the subtlety. My brothers LIKED him. That's really when I knew he was a keeper.

So I married him.

And I have kept him all these years. I don't plan on releasing him anytime soon either, so you can forget about asking.

Four states, twelve houses, seven cars, four educational institutions, two continents, THREE children, and a wealth of shared experiences later, I am still madly, deeply, wildly, HELPLESSLY in love with him.

The word husband, in Dutch, is man. Spoken with the softer 'a' like in lawn, and not as round as the sound in the Jamaican mon, it is a great english-dutch transition word. I love it's sound. And I love to say it.

Mijn man.

Tomorrow is his birthday (you can do the math and arrive at the number) and in spite of his reticence about reaching this milestone, I want to use this venue to shout out from my bloggy rooftop a hearty gefeliciteerd to mijn man.

Happy Birthday, babe.

You still make my heart stand still.

Monday, November 12

Double Shot

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Today is another first for me.

Allison the great, the lovely, the wonderful woman I share the photoblog site Looking Into with, as well as the author of the incredible insights at Soccer Mom in Denial, has been working up a rhythm of late as she writes about the music in her life. She calls it Music Monday and she dedicates some time each week to sharing some grand bits of personal music memorabilia with her readers. Now, she's created a button and she is sharing the fun. I can't help but want to play.

So I am jumping in for the first time today. That's the first first.

The second first I want to share with you is posted just below. I tripped across this video completely by accident last week and I giggled until I snorted. You may know her right away by name but I did not. For me the recognition was delayed until she opened her mouth and sang.

Yes, I can name that girl in ONE NOTE.

Her name is Kristen Chenoweth and my first acquaintance with her voice was my CD recording of WICKED, the Broadway musical. She played Glinda the Good Witch for the initial run on the Great White Way. In my opinion, she is one of the premier talents of the realm. I love her. Really, I do. I have found myself in a dedicated internet search for more video clips just to watch her genius--and her cuteness. You see, not only is she brilliantly talented, she is also freakin' adorable. I freely admit I have a mild deep crush on her.

Really, it's all about the music.

I am going to stop talking typing now, so we can get on with the show.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you KRISTEN CHENOWETH!