30 March 2009

Grandma In A Pocket

Lola was checking my pockets for grandma, yesterday. First she investigated the right pocket. When she didn't find what she was looking for, she got up, walked over to my other side and looked in the left pocket. "Grandma in pocket?" No. No grandma to be found in either pocket, but she did find a box of raisins. She settled for that.

She was looking for my digital camera. She knows it holds pictures of her grandmother. Ever since we have returned from Arizona, Lola loves to look at pictures of her grandma. She once saw a picture of Judy on Facebook, so now whenever I take out the computer, Lola comes running up to me "Grandma, grandma!", directing me to Judy's homepage.

I remember taking pictures of my nephews with an old-fashioned camera, several years ago. The youngest came up to me, wanting to look at the 'little pictures'. I tried to explain how in the old days there was such a thing as film and developing pictures. A time consuming process. And no preview. "Oh."

Growing up in the digital age will do that to you.

28 March 2009

Lola Speaks

Proud Mom Report
We were waiting in the checkout line at Jo-Ann fabric and craft store this morning, when out of the blue Lola started counting. All the way to ten! The only one she skipped was seven. Child prodigy for sure!

Not So Proud Mom Report

Lola is developing a bit of a potty-mouth. No idea where she picks up these words. Ahem. The 'mot du jour' starts with an ef and ends with uck. She likes to say it with feeling, loud and clear, for everyone to hear. When I tell her it's an ugly word she cannot use, she looks at me and says it louder. Testing boundaries is fun!

The 'do as I say, not as I do' parenting technique does not seem to be working. Mouth rinses all around, then!

Public Plea

26 March 2009

Nelsons Of All Trades

There were some problems with the plumbing up at the house. Water was backing up into the kitchen sink. All efforts to tackle the blockage with aggressive chemicals or more environmentally sound solutions had been unsuccessful. It was time to call a plumber. Unfortunately our preferred plumber, and the only one we could afford, was a) not available this week and b) does not deal with back-up. Can't say I blame him. For that kind of money I wouldn't want to deal with filthy smelly slush either.

No choice but to do it ourselves then. We are not slum lords, after all. Somewhat hesitantly we took on the project of replacing twenty feet of clogged piping from the kitchen sink to the intersection with the septic tank. To be fair; Ryan did the dirty work. By the time I got home to give him a hand, he had already cut out the old pipe and dealt with the black goo that dripped out of it. All that remained was fitting the new PVC pipe.

It went flawless. Even though we both have very little experience with plumbing, we managed to fix the problem in less than an hour. What's more, we fixed it without having a domestic. I am so very proud of us!

After a celebratory beer, we turned into lumberjacks. Again, Ryan had done the hard work. He had downed three trees that had been dead for some time earlier yesterday morning and cut them into pieces. While he chopped them to a size that fits the wood stove, I stacked them in the wheelbarrow. We are now burning homegrown wood.

All this time, I was making chicken tandoori in the crockpot. And thinking of ways to decorate a bird house. We are the most versatile couple I know. In addition to PR & communications and marketing & sales, we plumb, axe, cook, create, etc. Fine catches, both of us. Really, someone should offer us a job!

24 March 2009

Bad To The Bone

Speaking of manly men; Chewy, the company dog, is back for a few days. He went to live with his dad a couple of weeks ago. It was awfully quiet at Bello Modo without him. Yesterday morning he came tearing through the door with Shelly and her dog Maliika. A very pleasant surprise. However, he ran right past me, never acknowledging my presence.

His dad has bought him a new collar. A really tough looking collar made of black leather with metal studs. It makes him look very manly. And evidently does wonders for his self confidence. His lapdog days appear to be over. No more of that girly touchy feely stuff like saying hello and being really happy to see us. No, he completely ignored us, stole Maliika's bone AND her bed, and spent the morning chewin' and chillin'.

He is still a wuss about getting wet though.

23 March 2009

Real Men

I dropped off the chainsaw this morning on my way to work. It needs to be serviced. I took it to the store where we bought it last year, J&I Power Equipment in Lacey. A store for manly men. The burliest of chainsaws can be purchased there alongside all sorts of heavy duty power tools. Ryan loves to go there. [Insert noise Tim Allen makes on the sitcom 'Home Improvement' - I have no idea how to write that.]

After dropping off the chainsaw, I drove down Lilly Road to Pam's house. Past the John Deere tractor store - another one of my husband's favorites, and past the lumber store. Lacey would do well on the Manliest Cities List, I thought to myself. They have a Lowe's and a Home Depot too for the do-it-yourselver, not to mention Cabela's for the outdoorsman.

There really is such a list. A few weeks ago I read that Seattle ranks near the bottom of the country's fifty manliest cities. A city's ranking is based on the number of sports teams it has, the number of hardware stores, the number of tools purchased, and the frequency of monster truck rallies. Cities can lose points for high numbers of home furnishing stores, minivan sales and subscriptions to beauty magazines.

Nashville is the place to be for Real Men, according to the list. New York is the least manliest city in the United States, partly due to lack of fishing and drag racing opportunities. Seattle is #40. If only Lacey had a professional sports team.

Spring At Last

The weather gods were on my side this weekend and I spent most of it outside, gardening. After a cold and foggy start, Saturday turned into a gorgeous sunny day. Sunday's weather was a little bit of everything but still nice enough to be outdoors. It was glorious. I had so much fun working my butt off. And the post-workout beer in the sun tasted just wonderful.

Everything is coming back to life. The rhododendrons are packed with buds ready to burst into white, purple, fuchsia, and red flowers. The azalea that didn't flower at all when we moved here and only had five flowers last year, is also loaded. A little love was all it needed. The blue bells are popping up everywhere, even under the apple tree where we added two feet of dirt. The trilliums that I transplanted from the side of the house to the side of the barn have all survived. Little bits of green peeping through the soil wherever I look.

Not just plants are coming back to life. The frogs are singing their hearts out at night in the wetlands behind our woods. If we don't block off the gap underneath the front door, they hop on inside. We had three little frogs in the barn a couple of days ago. The salamanders are waking up as well.

I cleaned up wheelbarrows full of leaves, pine tree branches, and other winter debris. The flowerbeds around the house are looking spiffy again - yard maintenance was included in the rental contract. My herb garden is starting to take shape. And the bird feeders are filled with sunflower seeds and ready for guests. Just not these. I don't care how cute they look together.

This is a new barn, birds! Go poop somewhere else. Filthy creatures.

21 March 2009

I Am Lola's Mother

Yesterday, as I was leaving Ralph's, the fancy supermarket where you can also drop off your mail and pay your taxes, I saw a familiar face. It was a little boy with his mother. I realized it was Dawson, one of the other kids that Carla cares for. A very sweet and shy two year old, who just this week started talking to me. Before he merely looked at me from underneath his eyebrows. Lola loves him very much. I had never met his mother, however. She looked at me looking at her child. I doubled back.

"Are you Dawson's mother?", I asked her. She gave me a puzzled look and answered tentatively "Yes."

"I am Lola's mother," I said to her, holding out my hand. We shook hands and smiled at each other.

"Oh, Lola! Dawson loves her. He talks about her all the time. Lola. Lola."

We talked about the kids for a little bit and then we said goodbye. As I was walking to my car, I chuckled. For the first time in my life I had introduced myself by my honorary title, and not my name. But then it hit me: we had ONLY used our titles, we never exchanged names. I have no idea what to call her, other than 'Dawson's mother'. And neither does she. Obviously I must practice my introduction. I have too many names already and do not need another one.

"Hello, my name is Hanneke. I am Lola's mother." Easy enough. I should have no trouble mastering this!

17 March 2009

Kiss The Irish

Carla opened the door for us this morning, decked out in green. A green t-shirt and matching hair band with little bobbing hearts, with the words 'Kiss Me, I'm Irish' written on them. It is St. Patrick's Day today. The celebration of Ireland's Patron Saint and America's excuse for drinking green beer.

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Slainte!

16 March 2009

Rainy Monday Musings

I noticed this morning, as I was driving to work through downtown Olympia in the pouring rain, not a single person was using an umbrella. This is in stark contrast to Bilbao where positively everyone whips out an umbrella at the first drop falling from the sky. It must be a hair thing. Olympia is a hippie town, meaning beanie hats galore, year round. Basques are better groomed. They must not like hat hair. Or wet hair.

While pondering this phenomenon, I also realized I have a tendency to move to rainy parts of the world. I wonder why that is. I just really like the color green?

15 March 2009

The Tour - Part II

In every house I have ever lived - whether rented or owned, there have been projects that never got done. Boxes awaiting unpacking, French doors in need of paint, mirrors and light fixtures on the floor instead of hanging properly, etc. While at first it annoyed me that things were unfinished, after some time had gone by I stopped noticing.

The same can be said about the barn. It is not that we have become complacent, it is just that we have gotten used to our surroundings. Until we take a picture. Then it becomes painfully obvious how much still needs to be done. Pretty much everything, really. Hence my reluctance to post pictures of the inside.

But since we were on the subject of potties, I thought I'd continue the tour into the bathroom. This is it. The Luggable Loo. It really is a bucket.

I put quite a bit of research into toilet options, when the date of moving into the barn drew near. It is, after all, a necessity. The idea of frequently dropping my pants in the woods in the middle of winter did not appeal to me. I looked into renting a Honey Bucket (a port-a-potty), buying or even building a compostable toilet, and available camping gear. I loved the Bumper Dumper but it does not appear to be suitable for use indoors. Perhaps one day, when we go camping.

(picture taken from bumperdumper.com)

The advantage of a Luggable Loo is that it is luggable. When it's cold, we lug it next to the stove. When we want privacy, we lug it somewhere else. Almost as good as a bathroom with walls and a heated floor. Almost...

14 March 2009

The Young And The Cunning

Update from the potty training front. We have had one hit so far, to everyone's delight but Lola's. She was SHOCKED. There have been several misses too. You have to be quick when she yells "Poopie!"

Most of the time however, when she stands in front of me, pulling on the snap buttons of her onesie, it's a ploy to get me to take off her clothes and diaper. Once she's naked, she sits down on the potty for a few seconds pretending to strain. Then it's "All done!" and she's off. Good luck getting her dressed again. I am as much in awe of this cleverness as I am annoyed by it.

13 March 2009

Dancing Deer & Other Olympia Wildlife

I miss the deer. More precisely, I miss seeing the deer. It is entirely possible they visit us every day, waltz around the barn, and do cartwheels on the trails. With no windows we will never know. Of course once they start eating our flowers, I will a) know they are still here, and b) wish they would go away. We have plans to plant some vegetables again this year, meaning we will have to build a fence around the patch. If we don't, we will not eat anything we grow.

I miss the birds too. With spring almost here, the birds are coming back to Washington. Last year I had to refill the bird feeders almost every single day. In Holland they tell you to feed the birds only in the winter, and only when there is snow and ice. Here the birds are mostly fed in the summer. From the living room window we would watch the steller's jays argue loudly with the squirrels over who gets to hang out in the feeder the longest. These fights were usually settled by the arrival of Sandman. The squirrels would stuff their cheeks with sunflower seeds and bury them around the yard, resulting in sprouting sunflowers EVERYWHERE.

Wildlife in Olympia is very different from wildlife in Amsterdam. Not just the birds and the squirrels. We have coyotes in our backyard, raccoons, possums (I have yet to see a live one, every possum I encountered so far was roadkill), snakes, mice, and chipmunks. And of course, last year's BIG pussycat, the cougar. Also known as a mountain lion, panther or puma. A VERY BIG pussycat indeed.

She was in our backyard at least once, on a Saturday night. Ryan and a friend were sitting on the back deck when they heard her bone chilling growl. She has since moved on to the forest around the Evergreen State College a little north of us, but not before treeing two students in the woods behind our house. On of them, Paul, is now our renter. While climbing a tree to escape from a cougar isn't exactly a smart move, we thought it fitting he should live on the property he could see from way up high.

Next weekend Lola will be at a slumber/birthday party, and with Ryan at work, I will have the whole Saturday to myself. In honor of the arrival of spring, I am going to spend that day in the garden, rain or shine. No matter how high the pile of dirty laundry or how large the amount of dirty dishes. Nothing is going to deter me.

When Ryan gets home, he can break out the chainsaw and cut down fallen branches and trees. The December snow wrecked quite a bit of havoc in our yard. The plum tree broke into three pieces. It didn't like us pruning it even a little bit last year, so I am sure it will never give us fruit again after this mutilation. And I am going to clean out the lighter debris from the winter storms, tend to the flowerbeds, and lure the birds away from the house and to the barn.

I am SO ready for spring!

11 March 2009

Always Be Prepared For Tea With The Queen

I can stay! When we came home from Arizona my new permanent resident card, also known as the green card although there is nothing green about it, was waiting for me. We have convinced Immigration Services of my good intentions (or they finally realized the US is NOT the place to be at the moment if you're looking for a job) resulting in the removal of the conditions of my residency. It did not go smoothly, though.

Because we had just gotten married when Ryan filed the petition to import me, my initial green card was only valid for two years. Three months before it expired, I had to send in a new petition to have the conditions removed, along with evidence I entered my marriage in good faith. I figured having a child would be the ultimate proof, so except for the hefty check, all I sent USCIS was a copy of Lola's birth certificate.

Not good enough, as it turned out. They wanted proof of residency, too. My name on the deed to the house, the mortgage, the power bill, the phone bill, etc. All things that were already in place when I moved in with Ryan and therefore in his name only. Great. Two of our friends were kind enough to sign an affidavit, testifying Ryan and I are genuinely in love (they have been inside the barn...) and living together. And that was accepted. I am good to go until 2018. Don't know what happens then.

However. For the next nine years I am stuck with an ID that has the Worst Passport Photo Ever on it, taking over first place from my previous Worst Passport Photo Ever. The one that was on my passport AND my driver's license because I had to replace both at the same time when my purse was stolen. The one that was taken in my platinum blond phase. ("Are we talking Marilyn Monroe here?", Chris, my hairdresser, wanted to know when I asked him if he thought I could get away with that color. I miss Chris. So does my hair.) In addition to being white, my hair was very short and the roots were showing. I did not wear make-up and I was in a foul mood because of the theft and it showed.

I have never been so happy to have my passport expire. The official in charge of renewals totally understood. When the new Dutch driver's license was introduced, I jumped at the chance to replace that one too. Again, nothing but understanding at City Hall. "Is that really you? Would you like us to expedite your request?"

This picture is much, MUCH worse. It was taken mid December when we had just moved into the barn. I was still trying to find a shower routine without a shower. My hair was dirty, I was tired, and again, no make-up. I thought all they wanted was to digitally store my fingerprints. Of course they also wanted my picture. What was I thinking? I am sure in nine years time I will receive equal understanding from USCIS about my relief to be able to replace the card. But until then I am going to have to live with the fact I forgot the first rule of passport photos:

Do your make-up and your hair as if you're having tea with the Queen!

It's going to be a long nine years. And no, you cannot see it. I am NOT going to show this picture unless I absolutely have to.

05 March 2009

Desert Delight

Ryan and I are easy to please these days. Running water and a working toilet is really all it takes to make us happy. Throw in the Arizona sun, a saguaro or two, good company, and a few cocktails and we are in Heaven! And there's no blogging in Heaven; too mundane.

Note to mind: never polish your toenails in the presence of a toddler.

03 March 2009

Happy Birthday, Love

Advice from a Tree
By Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,

Stand tall and proud
Sink your roots deeply into the earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The energy and birth of spring
The growth and contentment of summer
The wisdom to let go of leaves in the fall
The rest and quiet renewal of winter

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light

Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots

Enjoy the view!

01 March 2009

Potty Training

Lola handed me a turd this evening, as she was getting ready for bed. A fresh one, still warm and slightly sticky. I didn't immediately realize what it was when she laid it in my hand. Ryan got it just before I did. We have officially begun potty training, I guess. Please join us on our exciting journey as we learn to aim for the potty, rather than mom's hand.