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.

27 February 2009

It Was Not A Dog

Pam and I were comparing Dutch and American sales tax systems this afternoon. The US have a horrible system where not just every state but every county within every state charges a different tax percentage. And then every city within every county within every state adds a little bit of tax of its own. An online retailer must accommodate this administrative madness. Sales tax is based on where the merchandise is shipped to, not from. The Dutch just charge the same outrageous amount everywhere. Low taxes but enormous hassle versus high taxes but easy collection. We're not sure what we prefer.

Meanwhile, Shelly was outside trying to keep the dogs from charging the biggest coyote she had EVER seen. "Seriously, it was HUGE," she said. It might have even been a wolf. (That's highly unlikely though, since there's only one known pair of gray wolves in Washington and they live on the other side of the state.) When whatever it was realized it had to take on two dogs, though, it decided to take off.

"Didn't you hear me screaming at the top of my lungs?" she asked, panting.

"No, we were engrossed in sales tax talk."

We all went looking for it, camera in hand, but of course it didn't show itself. We did find a large hole under the fence and perhaps a den just outside the property. Never before have I gone looking for wild animals while at work. How cool is that?

26 February 2009

Expat And Anthropologist

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of expatriate is: to leave one's native country to live elsewhere. That's me. I have left my native Netherlands to live in the United States of America. I am, technically, an expat.

For me however, the word is synonymous with the superficial, arrogant, British banker or stock broker in South East Asia I once saw in a documentary on expats. He lived like a pig. He asked his maid to iron his clothes naked because "that's how she likes it." She didn't look like she liked it. This inhuman being made my skin crawl. And whenever I hear the word expat, he pops into my head. I therefore always refer to myself as The Dutch Girl, never as an expat.

Besides my negative connotation with the word, I don't feel like an expat either. Most likely because I lived in the United States as a child. I went to an American elementary school, an American junior high school, and for a whole year, I was part of an American family. It may not be in my genes, but there is definitely a little bit of American blood flowing through my veins. And when Ryan and I go shopping together, HE is asked the question: "Where are you from?", not me. Okay, that happened ONCE. But it happened, much to his dismay.

Nonetheless, it's time I face the facts. I look at my surroundings through Dutch glasses. (Proving it immediately, I realized upon rereading this post. The correct English expression is through Dutch eyes. The Dutch use the term glasses.) I compare my new country with my old country all the time. Classic expat behavior. Or is it? I am, after all, an anthropologist too, albeit without degree. I guess I am both. When it directly concerns me, my expat-side surfaces. When it's an observation on American culture, the anthropologist in me sets the tone.

For a while now, I have been thinking about the direction in which to take this blog. It is, first and foremost, a way to bring my daily life back to the people that were a direct part of it, not too long ago. And to include my (new) friends and family that live in different time zones. I do not want to change that. But I do not want to turn it into Lola's blog, either. While she is an adventure of olympic proportions, that is not what I meant when I titled my web log. (It is tempting, though. She is such a funny little person at the moment. Very helpful and loving, yet independent and exploring. Learning new words everyday. "Hoppetee" is the word for today. She loves it, repeats it over and over. But I digress. Focus, Hannes!)

Yesterday, I looked into spreading the word about my blog. I submitted it to a few websites for approval. I was asked under which header to file it. So far I have filed it under Family or Life. But online magazine rack Alltop provided the category Expats (where you can now find me). That got me thinking. I have a little extra to bring to the table here and I should make use of it. And since I did not finish my anthropology thesis, Expats it is!

Hanneke N. - Expat and Anthropologist. Cool business card. It really is a shame about that thesis.

25 February 2009

The Party Sink

It's called a party tub. Ours is bright red, oval shaped, and made of plastic. Its purpose is to be filled with ice and drinks at parties. For us it is a sink. It holds our dirty dishes until we are ready to clean them. And sometimes, like yesterday, it doubles as a wash tub or a bathtub.

Lola has obviously beaten the bug.

24 February 2009

The Bed Bug Bit

Lola was felled by a stomach bug this weekend. It started with loss of appetite - not even strawberries could entice her to eat, followed by the fun diapers, and last but certainly not least, projectile vomiting.

I had heard her cry a little bit after I had put her to bed Sunday night. But while she is by no means a fussy sleeper, it is not unusual for her to protest a little. I therefore didn't think anything of it and ignored it. After a couple of minutes she was quiet and I assumed she had gone to sleep.

Around 11 o'clock she cried again. There was something about it that made me go upstairs. She was still sleeping. But when I moved a stuffed animal to the side I could feel the cold wetness. Then the stench hit me and I turned on the light. My poor shivering baby! She must have been laying in her vomit for a few hours.

Oh, the guilt.

We had been reorganizing the upstairs earlier. It was Lola's first night in her new room. While I changed the sheets on her bed, Ryan held her. He told her about his first night in the barn when he too projectile vomited. On the wall. It was a bonding moment in a smelly sort of way.

For the first time, I felt VERY frustrated by not having warm, running water.

23 February 2009


Rather than resorting to a ball and chain, we macgyvered a little something out of cardboard and coat hangers to keep Lola grounded. And then decided to go for a slightly sturdier piece of wood.

Now opa can stop threatening us.

21 February 2009

Scrumptious Crocuses

The crocuses are back! In the fall of 2007 we planted hundreds of bulbs around the evergreen in the front yard and in between the bamboo. We have daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, lilies, and crocuses. Last year I noticed the yellow crocuses seemed to die quicker than the purple ones. My dad explained to me that was because the birds ate them and they like the yellow ones better than the purple ones. I thought he was kidding.

He went on to tell me how back in the seventies, there were hundreds of crocuses in the garden surrounding the lab where he worked. My dad and his colleagues also noticed the yellow crocuses looked ragged. They realized the birds were devouring the yellow crocuses but they left the purple ones alone. Being scientists, they had to put that to the test. One of his co-workers went outside, picked one of each color and ate them. Sure enough, the yellow ones were tastier.

So, we will just enjoy the yellow crocuses until the birds are back too. They should be here any minute now.

20 February 2009

Friday Funnies

Lola whacked me on the head this morning in bed. She does this quite often. (I am surprised she hasn't broken my nose yet.) But this time she gave me a kiss on the ouch spot and said: "Sowwy." It was the first time she did that. Needless to say, the pain magically went away. Instantly.

Carla already had a house full of kids when I dropped Lola off. Dylan (4) had spent the night and was in the bathroom getting dressed. When my daughter tried to enter the bathroom, Dylan popped his head out and declared: "Lola wants me."

They grow up so fast.

18 February 2009

Yah Or Nay?

15 February 2009

Milestone Mania

Milestone One
My child made her first sentence yesterday. We were on our way home, taking the scenic route, when I heard her in the back seat: "Papa home." When I told her papa was at work, there was no-one home but Sandman, she was quiet for a little bit and then she replied: "Sandman home."

I know. It's only two words. What can I say, I am her mother. It's my maternal duty to proudly report these events.

Milestone Two
We have started to use the lock on the fridge. Lola no longer needs us to feed her. She is perfectly capable of doing it herself, thank you very much.

Milestone Three
Papa is proud, mama is in denial, opa and a whole bunch of other people are going to have a heart attack. I don't think they make gates for this sort of thing. Oh God...

13 February 2009

Moment Of Clarity

The pills are kicking in! For the first time in a week my head does not feel foggy. I should take advantage of that feeling and clear something up.

Whenever we can't find something in the barn, it is because Lola took it. This is probably true in less than half of the cases. And whenever I am having a bad day, it's because Life In The Barn is getting to me. But I have had the occasional bad day all my life. Everybody does. It is just nice to have circumstances to blame. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are.

Thank you for the virtual hugs, though! It feels good to be loved.

12 February 2009


Oddly enough, I felt much better after posting the last entry. I did not even have to resort to actual screaming. Which is a good thing because my head still pounds, though not as hard.

There wasn't really one event in particular that got to me, more a series of tiny little things: headache, sore throat, uncooperative child, bank closed even though it was past nine o'clock and they were not being robbed, too many cold medications to choose from... The usual minor irritations. Nothing to warrant a bout of screaming or running away.

Some days the weight of our situation just seems to be heavier than other days. That's all.
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