Saturday, June 30

An Acquired Taste

Zout of Zoete?
(salty or sweet?)
*Update Information: This is a Dutch treat called drop (sounds like rope) which is black licorice!

find more players

join the fun

Friday, June 29

15 Reasons I Like My Bike

Bike travel was new to me upon my arrival in The Netherlands. Sure, I could ride a bike. Learned how when I was six, thank you very much. But never in my life had I used a bike as means of getting somewhere. A bicycle was used for play when I was young and when I was older, for exercise. It never occured to me to view it as anything other than the thing I used to get my heart rate up a couple of times per week. In fact, if I were telling the whole truth--and I am--I would have to state that the bike I owned in Arizona gathered more dust than it did miles.

But that's not my story anymore.

In my archives you will find some of my early impressions of the native Dutch and their prowess on the bicycle. Also stored there are confessions of my own you-couldn't-call-it-prowess-you-might-not-even-call-it-skill experiences on a bike. But I am proud to say, I have learned a little something along the way. Though still not as skillful or as artful as a Nederlander, I can ride well.

I like to ride.

And I like my bike.

I'll give you 15 reasons why.

1. It's old,
2. a little rusty,
3. and has been painted by hand to cover the rough spots.

4. The frame is a little bent,
5. a couple of spokes are missing from the wheels,
6. and only half of the chain cover exists.

7. It is sturdy and sure.

8. Painted the same blue as the night sky after sunset, but before real darkness falls, I purchased it for less than 150 euros.

9. I bought it the same day my husband graduated from Leiden University with his LLM in Public International Law (with a specialization in International Criminal Law).
10. That was last August. We had just moved to The Hague after a year of study and frugal student living in Leiden.
11. It felt extravagant to spend 150 euros on anything, let alone a bike.

12. Andrew's seat is strapped to the back.

13. I have a basket in the front.

14. You wouldn't believe the quantities I can carry inside that basket.

15. On the seat of my bike I am free to come and go as pleases me. I never have to wait in traffic and when I am tired of pedaling, I can lift my feet, swing my legs wide, and coast along, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my face.

I ask you, what's not to like about that?

Thursday, June 28

Peeking Through

I had intentions to post about something else entirely today.

But I am annoyed.

And frustrated.

The noise started early this morning, maybe 7:00 a.m., with an incessant whine of machinery. Large saws revving and humming; shouts of workers barking orders to one another; scraping noises--akin to fingernails on chalkboard--as equipment was dragged from spot to spot emanating from the space behind my house.
That was the annoying part.

The frustration began when I looked out my back window and saw what all the noise was about.
Ack! They were cutting down trees!

Our row of houses sits parallel to a long row of flats, 5 stories high. Between the cinder block wall of our back garden and the apartment building there is some garden space. Perhaps 50' of area separates us, which until today was planted in towering trees. Beautiful tall trunks, with massively large branches full of brilliant green foliage spilling out in multiple directions. Trees that shaded my yard and granted us a little bit of privacy

Living here, I have grown accustomed to the idea that the residents of floor 5 in that adjacent building have a bird's eye view into our garden. Not that there is much to see. Okay, yes, on occasion there is a diaper-less preschooler strutting his stuff in the yard, digging in the dirt and splashing in his water box. More often though, it is my daughter or I snuggled into the plastic chaise, soaking up sunrays and ingesting a book. As a family, we love to have dinner in the back if the sun is shining. I like to sit at the teak wood table with a morning cup of coffee; an afternoon glass of wine, even. I like believing I am alone out there. It has been a cozy haven and having those trees in the background was a crucial bit of that gezellig feeling.

Now they are gone.

Relentlessly felled and cut into manageable pieces, then dragged away.

I am frustrated. In my gut is stewing a deep disconcertion over the idea that residents of floors 2, 3, and 4 have joined the ranks of those who can see into my yard.

Frustrated. Annoyed. More than a little sad to see the trees go.

One of the crowning points of life in The Hague is the wooded areas and the tree lined streets. It is a gorgeous sea of green in this city when the spring sun sends its warmth to the branches and coaxes new leaves from winter gray branches.

In our front garden is a young oak tree. I have enjoyed every stage from bud to leaf throughout the spring. Watching that new life blossom is inspiration beyond words for me. With each unfolding leaf, I felt that I was unfolding too. Shedding the bark-like protection of winter and opening my whole soul to the sun and the possibilities of summer.

I welcome summer in ways that are difficult for me to divulge fully. I love the summer. I want the summer. I need the summer. Every moment I can get. Every drop of sunshine it brings.
I wanted to do all that needing and wanting and loving, privately in my back yard.

However, that is not my lot.

A gaping hole in the green with a view of brick building and rows of windows will be my companion this summer.

Undaunted, I will still be there, sopping up each and every moment of sunshine that comes our way this season.

Moreover, I will raise my glass--Cola Light with ice--to peering eyes and drink to the memory of my trees.

Where the trees used to be.

Wednesday, June 27

Tuesday, June 26

Stupendously Silly in Any Language

I really cannot account for the why.
I hardly will take blame for the lack of judgment.
I feel compelled to clarify that I understand it to be frivolity of the highest order.
But I must confess plainly that I get a huge kick out of Spongebob speaking Dutch.

And the theme song? To die for. Or at least to fall over laughing about. Especially that part about him looking like a cheese souffle. That gets me everytime.

This post is for my nephew Mitch. And for any of you other silly underwater cartoon fanatics out there. Go on, you can admit it here, you're among friends.
(Please forgive mistakes in translation.)

The theme song from Spongebob Squarepants:

Kunnen we, kinderen? (coonen vee kint-er-en)
Can we, kids?

Ai ai, kapitein! (eye eye cop-ee-tine)
Aye! Aye! Captain!

Ik hoor het niet! (ick hoar het neet)
I don't hear that!

Ai ai, kapitein! (eye eye capp-ee-tine)
Aye! Aye! Captain!

Oooooooow! (oooooooooh)

Hij woont in een ananas diep in de zee (Hi vont in ayn ah-nah-nahs deep in dah zay)
He lives in a pineapple deep in the sea

Spongebob Squarepants (no translation necessary, yes?)

Hij ziet zo geel als een kaassouflée
(Hi zeet zo khayl alls ayn kahs sooflay)
He looks so yellow as a cheese souffle

Spongebob Squarepants

Ja, iedereen weet wat voor mafkees het is (yah, eet-er-ayn vayt vaht for mahf-kays het is)
Yes, everyone knows what a weirdo he is

Spongebob Squarepants

Die vierkante friet is zo gek als een vis
(dee fear-kahn-tah freet is zo kheck alls ayn fiss)
This square fry is crazy as a fish

Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob Squarepants
Spongie-bob Square-pants

And just to prove I am not exaggerating the silliness point. The theme song lyrics now in English:
Are ya ready kids?
Aye Aye Captain!
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Absorbant and yellow and poreous is he
If nautical nonsense be somethin' you wish
Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish!

For your multi-sensory pleasure, the theme song:

And to make this post tolerable for my daughter, I give you the theme song once again, ala Avril Lavigne:

Now, that's something that ought to stick with you all day. Happy Humming!

Monday, June 25

For Those About To Rock

If I talk about the rush you get when you are handed an unexpected gift will you understand what I am trying to say? You know:

  • The warm sensation you get in your head while reading those just right words on a Hallmark that someone in your life chose for you?

  • The giggle that rises up in your chest when a child hands you a flower plucked from the garden because he wanted to give you something?

  • The inner joy that settles into your heart when arms are thrown around you and a big hug with a best friend happens?
This rush.

The rush of opening the front page of one of your favorite bloggers, to find out she's given you something.

A little something, sure.

But big too.

Paige thinks I rock.

It's the Rockin' Girl Blogger award that is winging through the blog world. I was so excited to see my name on her nominee list, but even more astounded by the words she wrote behind it. Meaningful on many levels, but most of all because I think she rocks!

And anyway, I get this cool button.

And I get to pass it on.

Pass the envelope please.

My nominations (listed in no particular order) for the Rockin' Girl Blogger award are:

1. Teri.
Initially, when I typed in the #1 character, I left my finger on the shift key and got '!' instead. I should have left it as it is totally indicative of Teri's blog and personality. She is a firecracker if ever there was one, and she is darn proud of it. On the front page of her blog she proudly displays the warning signs for the content within. She's proud of that too. I am proud to call her my friend.

2. Leslie
I found her blog originally on a Wordless Wednesday and immediately fell in love with her darling daughter. Then, as I lingered there I knew this was a place I would be returning often. In fact, I bookmarked her place immediately upon reading this post which sent me into fits of laughter. I get that giggle every time I visit now, which as it turns out is every day. Leslie is one of those really real people. I am so impressed with her candor and wit but most of all by her genuineness.

3. Allison.
If you've read me for long, you know my feelings for this blogger run deep. She has been my teacher and guide as I have gotten my feet wet in the blogging world. In addition she has been a loyal friend via the email route too. She is wicked smart and a lovely human being who chases the big causes with a passion. She is most passionate about her marriage and her children. I admire her deeply and look forward to the day our paths will cross in the offline world.

4. Kiki.
I met Kiki through the Friday Fifteen and we have a weekly date at one another's blogs. I love to read her thoughts and insights about her life as an army wife (currently) and her personal experiences in the army (recent past). This is another "girl" who is refreshingly honest and openly candid, who fills me with inspiration every time I read.

5. Shelby.
This was one of the first blogs I tripped across after my foray into the universe, I don't even remember how I found her. But I do remember that she already had me linked on her sidebar and that totally blew me away. I thought it was just so nice. Of course, I lingered there enjoying her words, her photographs and her insights immensely. I admire her deeply and I am happy as can be to spend time with her.

Now, Rockin' Girls, it's time for you to pass the torch. Pick five and pass the award along.

And, by the way, I salute you!

Sunday, June 24

Because I Can

Welcome once again to a page full of Jenn-links.

In my travels 'round the blogosphere I have tripped upon some delightful finds, and exceptionally good ideas. So impressed am I that I feel compelled to share.

Therefore, I will.

This first was a discovery at This Eclectic Life. Shelley has brainstormed and is heading up a project for kids at
Camp Sanguinity in Fort Worth, Texas.

"For nearly 25 years, Camp Sanguinity has allowed children being treated for cancer and blood disorders to have a summer camp experience. The camp allows children receiving treatment at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth to spend a week gaining confidence and determination by challenging themselves, trying new activities, learning new skills and making new friends."

The project she has designed is monumental, but achievable with some help. Shelley is coordinating efforts to make a granny square afghan for each of the children who will attend the camp next summer; that will likely be around 150 kids! You can read all of the details about the project here.
If you can crochet, or if you know someone who can crochet, won't you please pass this information along? For my part, I have a box full of yarns upstairs in my closet which are just aching to be formed into squares and joined with others to create an afghan of love. Can you imagine being involved in anything more precious?

Now, because we have yet again been the recipients of somebody's kindness, goodness and generosity. I would like to use my blog as a platform for saying something. Really, what I want to do is give a giant shout of thanks to blog reader Katrina. Katrina is an American expat living in Germany who apparently has some access to American products. Responding to this whine of mine, Katrina sent us a little something. This week in the post we received a giant box of goodies, including the largest box of goldfish crackers ever seen by human eyes. And it was not just that my children's eyes swelled to saucer size when they gazed upon it, the thing really is THAT big. I am proud embarrassed to say they are making short work of devouring its contents along with the other items in the shipment. In honesty, I have had more than one conversation this week addressing the topic that "canned frosting is not breakfast food!"

But really, what do I know?

Thank you kindly Katrina!

There are not words enough to say thanks enough for what you've done for us!

So, want to see something cool? Click over to The Green Fingered Photographer and enjoy some of his incredible photography. Mark and I "met" via the Photo Hunt fun on Saturdays. (If you haven't scoped that out yet, click here to get all the details on joining the fun of Photo Hunters.) Mark's blog is full of fabulous macro shots and also some really practical living advice. In addition to all of that, Mark is a really fun guy and he and I have had several giggle worthy email interchanges over postings like this. Peruse. I promise you'll be pleased.

And onward we push through this growing list of links. Kilt-wearing, gun-toting, thought-provoking Gunfighter who writes The View From Here, has opened a new blog which he is hoping will be a great forum for the Dads out there. I suppose those of us who are not dads are invited to come along for the read too, and I intend to do just that. However, I want to plug this site simply for the fact that Gunfighter is a really nice guy along with being a really great Dad. Other dads so hands-on and involved should have a place to talk about it. Visit Real Dads soon and just see what he has to say.

Can you bear with me for one more? You will thank me for this one for sure. If you are not already a regular reader of 'Twas Brillig, then Hie thee yonder to her site and dig in. Brillig is a newbie to the blog world like me, but she is indeed a rising star. Her writing is candid, intelligent and sweet. And her stories are in a word, hilarious. As an example, I give you her Soap Opera Sunday series. Personally, I am chomping at the bit for the next installment of her story about a former boyfriend. You can read the first two parts here and here, and join me today when she posts the third, but not yet final, bit. I dare say, you'll be hooked.

On top of Brillig being a delightful read, she is also a delightful person. Though, like most of my blogging friends I have never met her in person, I can confidently say that she is one of the good guys on this planet. She is a wise, caring person, beautiful inside and out and a very good friend.

Last. Seriously, this is the last one today. Ready for your reading pleasure is my interview at the Expat Interviews site. Here is the link.

Enjoy your Sunday. Cuddle up with your computer and get some reading done.

Saturday, June 23

All That Glitters Isn't Gold

Atomium Brussels, Belgium 4/07


Friday, June 22

15 Summer Fun Moments

Apparently, yesterday was the FIRST DAY OF SUMMER. Also quite apparent is the fact that the weather gods of The Netherlands didn't get the memo. Our area of the country ushered in summer with an all day rainstorm, complete with thunder bursts, which followed nearly a week of rain. And before that, there was a little rain. And cooler temps than what my brain equates with the advent of summer.

To be fair, if there is balance to these kinds of things, we were due for a little cool down and some rain. We've had a gloriously, untypically warm spring in Holland. I have many days of sun kissed skin as proof, and the camera is full of photos of the kids on the beach. That it all happened BEFORE summer's official start is a bonus I suppose. And you won't hear me complaining about those shots of sun we've had already, and are sure to come again.

However, the gods of the Friday Fifteen have suggested a themed entry this week and because summer is on the minds of all y'all whose summers have already begun, I will do my best to comply.

With the rain falling in earnest outside I will share some of my favorite summer sun moments, past and present. Further, because I am an optimist, I will share what the summer fun just may bring us in future!

(my past)

1. A single quarter in my pocket and a walk to Winder Dairy just a few blocks from our home. My eight-year-old self giddy with excitement as I stepped into the small air-conditioned store ready to spend my money. What would I choose? Popsicle Bullet with its 3 flavors of ice? Creamsicle with orange outside and creamy vanilla tucked in? Or a chocolaty-yummy Fudgesicle?
Mmmm.... Summer delicious on a stick!

2. Slip and Slide in the backyard. After two trips down the plastic stretched out on the lawn, my belly is sore from launching full force down the slide, and my legs covered in grassy bits picked up from the yard. And the air is filled with laughter!

3. Our Ambassador station wagon stuffed to its limits with neighborhood kids, on our way to Fairmount Pool, where the admission was free if you were with an adult. It didn't seem odd that my parents had 12 kids? Oh, no. This was Utah!

4. Early morning rise to fill the canteens, the knapsacks, and slather the sunscreen. Our family hike to the tip of Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City, will take us all day and will be a family victory at the top, each of us signing our name on the postcards, inserting them into the mailbox on the uppermost peak. Jennie was here!

5. A single rope swing, attached to a giant tree of unknown variety. Wrapping legs and arms around the rope, while cousins and brothers launch me outward over the swimmin' hole. And at the count of three, release and crash-splash into the wet for a taste of ice cold pond water. Whee!

(recent past with kids)

6. Finishing up an afternoon splash in the pool with Ian and Emma. Stepping out of the water and toweling down, changing clothes to return to our apartment for afternoon napping. Two-year-old Emma says "Just a minute, I want to do something" then strips the water wings from her arms, jumps from the side back into the water, and.... SWIMS! Emma swims? My baby swims! Who needs those silly things on your arms anyway?

7. Sweating on the sidelines as Ian runs the field, chasing a soccer ball. His Great-Grandpa cheering as loudly as any other at the game. impressed by the stamina of the kids on the pitch. He will forever ask Ian after this game, "How's it going with your soccer, son?"

8. Introducing 2-month old baby Andrew to the backyard pool at our Arizona home. Clad in the tiniest set of swim shorts seen on the planet, I carry this wide-eyed boy into the water first letting it tickle his toes and then seep upwards on his legs until he is immersed in the warmth to his belly button. Snuggling tightly in my arms, he looks up at me and grins.

9. Preparing for what will be my final concert with my students before we move to Holland, I host a backyard tie-dye and swim party. The shirts these kids make will be part of their costumes at the dance performance. And the swimming seems the best way to wash off after coloring our skin with the vibrant dyes. Oh, and the laughter and memories? Yeah, that's good too.

10. Packing the towels, the snacks, the sunscreen, and the juice boxes into the beach bag and schlepping all of that and three kids to Sun Splash water park. There we meet my cousin with 3 of her 6 kids for an unforgettable afternoon of water, sun and fun.

(what the summer is sure to bring us this year)

11. Bike rides to Kijkduin beach. Sand sculptures, buried toes, shell-finding treasure searches.

12. Summer sunsets over the ocean. Toasting the end of the day at a boardwalk restaurant.

13. Exploring the air conditioned insides of The Hague's art museums, for when the summer heat does arrive.

14. A road trip when my parents come, through Luxembourg, toward the Alps. A stay in Praz sur Arly for holiday fun.

15. Photographs. Lots of them. And memories.

Thursday, June 21

Armed and Dangerous

From a phone call with my husband:

"Have you called the doctor yet, to talk about the headaches?"

"Uh, not yet. I will do right now."

"Will you?"

"Yeah, okay. Yes, I will do it."



"Jenn, put down the keyboard and step away from the blog."


"Hey! I am not even on the blog!"

"Make the call."

"Right. Okay. Making the call."

Notes of explanation:

1. I am notoriously bad at taking care of myself. Details like calling the doctor for my own pain tend to escape me.

2. Before you jump on the scolding wagon you should know that I have indeed called the doctor. I have an appointment today for an acupuncture session. Perhaps I should have titled this post "On Pins and Needles".

3. I believe my husband is a funny, funny man. I really wasn't on the blog when we had this conversation, but what he said was so hilarious I immediately had to blog about it! Thus confirming my status as a blog junkie...

Tuesday, June 19

Sharing Something Deeper

Just a few months ago, I had a birthday. I threw myself a party, using the "another-year-older" excuse to have friends gather for coffee and conversation. So much of our life here is involved in an international crowd and it was a pleasure, a true treasure, to have a house full of folks from all over the world. Really, like my own little United Nations here at my house. People from a diversity of places and backgrounds laughing together, nibbling snacks, drinking coffee; every one of them here because of a connection or a friendship with little 'ol me. What's not to love about that?

Oh, and I have yet to mention that there were gifts too. So you can see why it was just as lovely a day as could be constructed for a girl who had now firmly entered her FORTIES. Among other things that day, I opened a lovely set of bath salts, which I have yet to use as my privacy comes at a premium with a four-year-old in the house; lots of flowers, including an entire basket of hyacinth bulbs which then brought me weeks of pleasure as they bloomed and scented the air with the amazing smell of spring; a hilarious over-the-top sequined cell phone holder, which sadly didn't last long against the whims of curious four-year-old fingertips; and then late in the day I opened this:

I know what you are thinking.

Actually I don't, but I will tell you what I thought when I saw it. Inside my head, there was a resounding 'HUH?' Which was quickly followed by 'what is that? What is it for? What am I supposed to do with it?' I am sure my face registered my confusion--lips pursed, eyes a little squinched--as my brain worked overtime to come up with an appropriate response to this odd gift. Thankfully, the gift givers rescued me before I had a chance to put my foot in my mouth making guesses as to why they gave me doll clothes, and shared with me what it is for. Maybe you already guessed that it is used to cover something like this:

And stands proudly looking like this:

But wait, there's more.

My friends shared with me that the Chinese characters you see embroidered onto the cloth are actually a poem. A famous poem about being far away from home, about homesickness, and about sharing the same moon no matter where we are on the planet, or how far away from our loved ones we are.

It was easily the most meaningful gift I received that day. And as I lovingly dressed the bottle I was once again struck by just how very much the same we all are. At least at our deepest parts. No matter where we come from or what brought us here, we all share the commonality that we are from SOMEWHERE ELSE. And that alone makes us a community.

So I have this perfect conversation piece reminder that as an outsider here, I belong. And besides, this piece makes for an ideal companion to the puppet Andrew made at playgroup. And when I can convince him that neither are playthings, they are displayed on the side bar, reminding me that this life is a good one. Something I surely should never forget.

Monday, June 18

Full Plate

In a past life, there was just Don and I. No kids. Not an Ian, nor an Emma, and not yet a bonus-package Andrew.

Just the two of us, young and unencumbered and full of hopes and plans and dreams. Our path was clearly marked and in those early years of our marriage we moved several times. Each of those moves was an education related journey leading us from Utah, for a short stop in Nevada to finish undergraduate work, then ultimately to Arizona where we would settle and make our home for many years.

Until we started all over again, but that is another story.

Our first home in Tucson was a studio apartment for married students at The University of Arizona. The sprawling apartment community was a series of dilapidated single story structures painted an odd trendy southwest-seafoam-green. House sizes ranged from the single room studio apartment like we rented, to dwellings in the 1, 2 or 3 bedroom range. For the larger families there was the genius arrangement of two larger apartments, adjacent either side by side, or front to back. A shared wall removed made it a comfortable home for the whole clan.

The people of this apartment community--Christopher City--were as varied as you can imagine. There were many like us, transplants to Arizona from various places in the USA, studying for advanced degrees under the hot desert sky. Also, returning students (imagine such a thing!) who were finishing degrees long ago begun, or embarking on new studies leading to new careers. Students of all ages, all walks of life, all stages of maturity and from all over the globe. It was my first experience living in a fully integrated international community. That in itself was a fascinating experience for me, a young girl born and raised in Utah, to share in and learn about the cultural diversity which surrounded us there. Living there in that community was a valuable education for me. I witnessed much, gathered important information and opened my heart and mind to the new and unknown. It was grand.

In Christopher City I learned about the Muslim custom of never returning an empty plate. My friend, Cynthia, a tall, fair, blue-eyed blond American woman taught me about the custom by sharing with me her mistakes after meeting and marrying Shudri, a tall, brown-eyed, ebony topped, handsome Jordanian man. It was kind of her to share her knowledge. I immediately employed the information with my neighbors and friends. Though I could never match the exquisite tastes presented to us by our devoted and loving Libyan neighbors, I knew that my effort of "filling the plate" would be recognized and appreciated. I did my best to return plate for plate, and when the Cuscus bil-Bosla arrived I returned potato salad. Fragrant Sharba Libiya? A pot of homemade Chicken Soup. Then tit for tat, a mouthwatering plate of Basboosa was answered with a mountain of Chocolate Chip cookies.
That habit quickly became ingrained in me, and even after moving away from Christopher City and its strong international influence, I continued the practice. Now it is actually difficult for me to return an empty dish to someone who has generously shared time and treats with me.

Which brings me to this.
Last week we were again the recipients of kindness and goodness and generosity. As the postal carrier buzzed the front bell last Saturday morning, I got a little giddy as I spotted through the front window that in his hands he held a box. I knew that in that box were books. Sent from Anno who lives in the states. Anno came by to read my whining blog one day and between her comments on the page and the ensuing email exchange afterward we discovered a kinship. Or at least I feel that with her. I have been a devoted reader of her blog ever since, and I believe she frequents this little spot on the web as well. If you are not yet a reader of Anno's Place, I highly recommend you step over and get acquainted. I could wax poetic for ages on all that Anno is, but I will sum it up with this, she is an inspiration. Go read, you will see I mean.
So, if you don't mind, I am going to use this venue here to give my heartfelt thanks to this generous blogging friend.

Dear Anno,
I am grateful beyond words for your kindness and generosity. It has been a real treat to sit and read your delicious picks for me. I don't know how to say just how grateful I am. And I thought you should simply see what it means to my daughter that you took the time to correspond with me, package the books and ship these choices to us:
You could say she is eating it up. I am eating it up. We appreciate you and we thank you heartily and profusely.

And, because I can't return an empty plate. A trip down memory lane for Anno. These are shots I took of her childhood home here in my neck of the woods.
Hey! Anno, if you lived here, you'd be home now!

It may seem obvious, but I will say it anyway. Once again, my plate heart is full. My belly mind content. My soul is fed.

Sunday, June 17

You've Gotta Have Heart

Recently written and published as part of The Blog Exchange, this month. I post this piece again in honor of my Father on Father's Day, and for his ease in finding it, right here on the front page of my blog!

"My Pa can light my room at night
With just his being near
And make a fearful dream all right
By grinning ear to ear...

When I was a little girl, and would wake with a nightmare start, tears streaming and little shoulders shaking, my dad would walk me through a middle-of-the-night ritual. It always began with a story about the "little man" who lived inside my head, in a neighborhood called The Saab Konchus. While I slumbered the night away, this little man, who was inconceivably, unbelievably bored, would wander through the corridors of my brain kicking open doors as he passed them. Behind the doors is where my thoughts and ideas were stored. Most of the time, when the doors were opened, lovely thoughts fluttered out; flowers and butterflies and dancing faerie kind of ideas. However, sometimes, when little kicking man popped a door open, behind it would be scary things. Ugly things. Bad things. Things from which NIGHTMARES are made. The doors would fly open and the stuff would fly out. That is when I would wake up crying. And my dad would be there, always, ready to sprinkle "magic whiffle dust" into my ears. Whiffle dust had the power to make the door close on the bad things, and I could sleep again without fear. I loved whiffle dust being sprinkled in my ears. I still believe I could actually feel its enchantment working as it settled inside my brain. I remember its very real effects even though whiffle dust itself is an unseen substance without texture, weight or smell. Magic is what it was, pure and simple daddy magic.

My Pa can do most anything
He sets his mind to do
He'd even move a mountain
If he really wanted to...

When I was 20 years old, residing and adventuring a long way from home, I got a post-card from my parents who were traveling in Texas at the time. It was a short announcement that they were considering leaving Utah and moving to that "whole 'nother country" down south. I could not have been more shocked than if they had told me the planet Mars had just started a subdivision and they had decided to purchase a spec house. Texas? But we were lifetime UTAHNS! What in the world was my pop thinking?

He swears by the fact, that it was not thought at all which led them to Texas. Rather it was feeling. Logically, it made no sense, since they didn't have a job, a home, or even prospects in Texas. However, as he tells it, he could not have felt more called to make the move. Therefore, they did. After a near lifetime in the Beehive State, where they had practically completed raising six kids, they sold the businesses, packed their possessions and relocated in the Lone Star State.
It was not a seamless transition but certainly, it was a worthwhile change, and my dad is the perfect model for being willing to toss it all in and voyage into something new. Yet, you may wonder where I got the gumption to move across the ocean with my husband and our kids.

My Pa can sweeten up a day
That clouds and rain make gray...

Winter in The Netherlands is one of the hardest things I have ever had to face. The heavy skies, the relentless rain and the lack of sunshine really take a toll on my psyche. In the midst of the long season this year, I confided to my dad that I was really struggling with it all. I just could not feel happy. And I was frightened. This time around, he did not produce whiffle dust to sprinkle in my ears, but something nearly as magical. In short order after our initial conversation a package arrived at my house. A light therapy box designed and marketed to help folks like me who suffer from
SAD, or the winter blues if you will. It is a daily dose of sunshine in a convenient portable box. Truly, it is brilliant— all puns intended— and once again, I can credit my dad with giving me light.

And tell me funny stories
That will chase the clouds away...

The six of us grew up on my dad's stories. Imaginative adventures, starring us, the Mighty Six who, as ordinary children most of the time had the power to slip into our superhero selves at a moment's notice, just so we could save the world. Yes indeed, Rocket Man, Jet Mouse, Flash Girl, Mighty Min, Runnin' Red, and Jumpin' John could handle any situation no matter the circumstance and notwithstanding the danger. If anyone needed help, why, we were ready. We six were champions of humanity in extraordinary form!

A repeated favorite is the story he tells, complete with an affected speech pattern--his tongue stuck inside his lower lip as he speaks--about his "pet" tiger named Herbert. Oh, how I wish I could videoblog it at this very moment. I promise you would not be able to stop chortling.
This legendary tale has now reached the next generation of listeners and at every family gathering there are repeated requests for Grandpa to “puh-leeeeeaaaaze tell the Herbert story?”. It doesn't matter that we all know the punch line. The entire clan will sit stock still in rapt attention at his feet as he conveys the naughtiness of his (imaginary) pet tiger.

My Pa's the only one on Earth I can tell my troubles to
His arms are house and home to me
His face a pretty poem to me...

Pardon the repeat of a story told once already on my blog. However, no tribute to my dad would be complete without this one.
We were living in Salt Lake City, Utah and it was a summer storm. I remember grand flashes of light and tremendous rolls of thunder shocking and blasting through the sky. I was terrified. I remember trembling and howling. Big shoulder heaving sobs escaped me as I searched to find a spot where I could hide away from the chaos of the storm. My best option for refuge was to wrap myself into the full-length drapes hanging at the windows in the living room. Possibly, if I couldn’t see the lightning, I wouldn’t hear the thunder. Perhaps then, I might feel safe. That is where I was when my daddy found me; curled up and shaking, tear streaks running across my cheeks. He pulled me from my hiding place and asked me about my troubles. I am sure that what poured forth from my five-year-old self was succinct and poetic as I explained the sheer terror I was feeling on account of Mother Nature’s outdoor demonstration. I cannot recount the actual conversation we shared but I can vividly recall the feelings of the day. My dad and I sat together there in the living room; my arms wrapped around his neck, and watched the storm. I learned that day about measuring the distance of lightning by counting the seconds between the strike and the thunderclap. Counting with him was a good distraction from the tears, still perched at the corners of my eyes, threatening to fall. I am sure we sat there counting for a good long time, or at least 15 minutes. Then, when the lighting and thunder show had ceased, and the rain was falling in earnest, my dad and I took a walk. A long walk in the rain together, hands joined. We walked in the rain, and we talked in the rain. Timid at first and then braver as the journey continued, I remember being amazed by just almost everything I saw. I remember getting wet—very wet—as in drenched and dripping with rainwater. It was marvelous. I do wish I could call up any actual words he said to me, as I have no doubts that they were perfect and profound as he talked to me about rain and life, teaching me things it would take me decades to fully understand. All I know is I felt strong and brave walking with my dad that day and I was no longer afraid. Not of the rain. Not of anything.

My Pa's the finest friend I ever knew
I only wish that you could know him too."*

Happy Father's Day Daddy. My heart still belongs to you.

Barbra Streisand - My Pa
Lyrics by M. Leonard & H. Martin

Saturday, June 16

Standin' On End


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Friday, June 15

15 Minutes

It's Friday.
At this blog that means it's time for a Friday Fifteen of a sort. A list of 15 somethings, which will enlighten, teach or entertain; take your pick.

I had intentions for this list to be done early in the week so that I would only have to wake and publish this morning. But life, nature and the betrayal of my own body got in the way of my well organized plans. Instead of spending time at the computer writing and readying posts for the coming days, I have been relegated to my bed. In the first place put there by a migraine attack that I can only define as a BAD ONE, and in the second place stuck there in trying to sleep off the side effects of a migraine medication, also to be defined as a BAD ONE. I shan't bore you with the details but trust me when I tell you, I won't be trying this drug again anytime soon. NOT A GOOD TIME.

I woke this morning thinking about this Friday Fifteen and my first thought was "My, how I would like to have 15 minutes without a headache" That was shortly followed up by "My, how I would love to have 15 minutes ALONE" as I was shadowed from toilet to shower by a certain pre-schooler, whom I should add had also been in my bed all night. (It rained last night you know.)

Now I am curious as to whether I can keep up this current rate of whining for 15 minutes. Would you like to see me try?

No? All right then. Putting a sock in it now.

And where do we go from here then? Well, to the Friday Fifteen of course. I figure since I am currently obsessed with getting 15 minutes of something done, I will share this list with you.


1. Pee, flush, wash and dry my hands.

2. Brush my teeth. (I know it's not long enough, but in a pinch it can be done!)

3. Fall asleep.

4. Change a diaper.

5. Apply my make-up. (Sometimes, I don't wear much)

6. Tie up the trash bag and take it to the back.

7. Lose focus.

...what were we talking about?

8. Suck down a 12 oz. Diet Coke.

9. Swallow my daily meds/vitamins.

10. Shower. (If I can skip a hair wash).

11. Determine if a book is a worthy read.

12. Trim my toenails.

13. Decide that it's a "pancakes for dinner" night. Again.

14. Doodle an entire rose vine onto the edge of a paper.

15. Add an HTML text link for the Friday Fifteen.

All in less than a minute, guaranteed.

Thursday, June 14

Wat Zeg Je, Kikkertje?

My son is the Singing Frog.

You remember right? The Looney Tunes cartoon where the guy discovers a frog at a construction site. A frog who sings? Yeah, yeah, you remember, a frog who sings and dances? And the bloke who finds this frog has visions of making bank off this singing dancing wonder and immediately takes him into the talent agent to broker the deal. At which point, the frog neither sings nor dances, but merely sits on the desk looking very much like a regular, boring 'ol frog, and 'ribbits'?

If this isn't ringing any bells for you, I link you here for the full entertainment.

And I say again, my son is the Singing Frog.

Recently I posted about Andrew and his propensity to speak backwards nonsense when he was first acquiring speech. In truth, his speaking skills have grown exponentially in the last several months and the boy has turned into a chatterbox. We couldn't be more pleased, as we waited so long for the advent of this skill. Indeed and indubitably, he has made great strides in his language development. He sings, he asks questions, he answers our queries, he speaks. He speaks! He speaks! He speaks!

But only at home.

Something happens at the threshold of our front door, or possibly it's when we step to the other side of the garden gate. Somehow and suddenly, if it's not us, as in a brother, a sister, a mommy or a daddy involved in the conversation, Andrew's skills disappear. When he does attempt a hello to the neighbor, or a teacher at playgroup, only after a prompt from me, he sounds more like a baby Mr. Bean. He pulls his chin into his neck and grunts a barely audible, certainly not decipherable, reply.

I am telling you, the Singing Frog.

No where is the phenomenon more pronounced than when we visit the speech therapist. The place where he should be talking because, well, that is what he is there for. To speak. To the therapist. Who by rights and definition should be hearing him so she can help him. But he doesn't speak to her.

Likely that is because he is well aware that he is there for therapy. He knows that he is supposed to talk there. He understands that he should talk there. He certainly discerns that he can talk there. He just doesn't.

I don't yet know if that is part of the underlying difference in the way his brain works or if I can simply chalk this up to well defined 4-year-old beat-the-system-manipulation. But the reality is that he jabbers all the way to the hospital's therapy center, a 15-minute bike ride from our house. He chats to me about all the things he sees along the way. "Did you see that duck, Mom? I heard a motorcycle. Look at that car!" And occasionally the conversation is peppered with a line from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or more often, a Wiggles tune.

He talks constantly as we park the bike and enter the building. "Let's see the fish after Ineke, okay Mom? I can do the stairs myself! Hey, look at that baby!".

He prattles incessantly as we climb the stairs and walk down the corridor. "I see that balloon! I go see Ineke, right Mom? Open the doors, okay?"

He natters on and on as we wait our turn to enter the therapist's office. "I can go up the slide! You take my jacket off Mom? This is your purse, right?"

However, as soon as the door opens and he steps into therapy, he says nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Sometimes he grunts. Occasionally he squeaks. Every once in a while he mutters something under his breath. He sporadically repeats in whispers.
Every week I wonder, who is this kid and why won't he speak?

It likely goes without saying that as soon as the session is complete and the time with the therapist is over, he steps into the hall and into my arms and the chinwagging begins anew.

I have explained this to our therapist before and she assures me that it's normal for a child to do something like this. To talk more at home than s/he does at the therapist's place. But never before had she heard the level his skill has reached; the speech that he shares with us at home. Until our session this week, I believe she believed he was only at the two--or possibly three word--phrases level of language development. But as the two of them met me in the Ouderskamer (parent lounge) after the 30-minute therapy, Andrew immediately began chatting away to me about the things he saw in the room. Our beautiful therapist, Ineke, stood and stared at him, gazing down from her 6-foot tall, long legged, leather boot clad frame. Her jaw went slack and her sheer blue eyes grew to saucer size as she listened, for the first time hearing the length of the sentences flowing from his mouth. And the clarity of the words off his lips.

She heard the frog SING.

We sat down to discuss the conundrum we face with him; this not speaking outside of our house thing. Within that discussion she suggested that I video him at home and get some of his language documented on DVD. This might allow the line of doctors, assessors and therapists a more comprehensive picture of his capabilities. A brilliant idea, except for the fact that I don't own a video camera.

Which actually brings me to the point of this post. As my friend Allison, who writes Soccer Mom in Denial, said in her comment in response to this post, I need a video camera. And while I am not asking for donations toward "The Buy Jenn a Video Camera Fund" she teasingly suggested, I am asking for recommendations. Educate me please. Be my consumer guides. Which camera brand/style/model do you use to document the happenings in your lives? Would you buy that camera again? What do you suggest for me?

I look forward to your responses, your guidance, your counsel.

I am determined to catch this frog on tape.

Wednesday, June 13

Tuesday, June 12

Stupidity in Two Parts

"Babe, I need you to help me sort something out with the new dryer."
"What's going on with the dryer?"
"It's not working."
"It's not working?"
"No. Can you check the fuses for me?"

*check fuses*

"Is that better?"
"I still don't see any lights on it. Maybe we should switch out the extension cord. There is another extension cord downstairs."
"Okay, let's try."

*switch out power cord*

"Still nothing."
"Have you tried plugging it straight into the wall?"
"I did earlier and I got nothing."
"Arrrgh! *bad word*"

*heavy sighs*

"Well, is the washer working?"
"Yes, I think so. It appears to be."
"Let me check the fuse box again."

*check fuses again*

"Okay, that should be it. Try it now."
"Still nothing. There should be lights on. There are always lights on."
"I know."
"When did it stop?"
"Working you mean? Just this afternoon. It was fine and then it wasn't. I don't know what happened."

*clean filters--empty water condenser--rinse all removable parts--shake dryer for good measure*

"I just don't get it."

"Me either"

*additional heavy sighs, with brow wiping*

"Wait a second. Oh, hell, you are KIDDING ME?!"
"What ?"
"I saw lights! Do that again. Move the dial. There! There are the lights. It's on! It's working!"

*snorts of disbelief*

"Okay, see this. The dial is set to "0". Off perhaps? Holy crap--It's not broken, it just got turned off.! I am such a dork. I didn't even consider this! Oh, my dorkiness has reached epic proportions with this one. Sheesh! That's never happened before. What happened here?

Oh, wait. I know.

*cue laugh track*

The above vignette comes complete with stage directions for your reenactment pleasure. Just grab a partner and enjoy a read through. It has also been edited for content and time because if I told the full truth about just how long it took for us me to notice that the switch was in the OFF position, well, you just wouldn't buy it. You could not willingly suspend the disbelief to get your mind around that kind of stupidity. Truly, you would say "Surely that couldn't happen. Dorkiness at this level just doesn't exist".

You would of course be dead wrong.

Welcome to my world.