25 August 2009

Romancing The Slugs

Lola's latest animal infatuation is slugs. Every morning and every evening she goes on a slug hunt around the barn. She is totally and utterly fascinated by them. She coos over them, tickles them with feathers, and is delighted and disgusted at the same time when she touches them with her finger.

Her new found love was set off by a pair of mating slugs. When we said they were making babies, all she heard was 'babies' and since everything baby is cute, slugs are cute too.

It is a little strange perhaps, but I understand. I once hand fed a slug a piece of bread (the large opening on a slug's side is its mouth) on a hiking trip in Wales. I even gave my temporary friend a name: Charlie. Lola likes to feed the slugs pieces of apple.

As long as it keeps them out of my garden...

21 August 2009

No Guilt, No Glory

Yesterday I went to pick up Lola from daycare after work, as I do every day. The front door was locked and no-one answered when I knocked. I walked around back to find Lola, Dylan, Franklin, Carla, and the dogs playing in the backyard. They were having a blast together.

Lola was very happy to see me but when it was time to go home, she told me "No." She wanted to stay. After going back and forth on the subject for a little bit, I did what I usually do in these circumstances; I gave her a hug and a kiss, said good bye and walked away, fully expecting her to come running after me, as she always does.

It backfired. She was absolutely fine with me leaving. That was NOT supposed to happen. I walked back up to her but no, she really was intent on staying. Carla told me it was fine with her and that I should enjoy the unexpected night alone with my husband. And so I did.

I love having the occasional night off, but this time it didn't sit well with me at all. I felt a little heartbroken. (Of course the melancholic classic rock song playing on the radio the entire way home didn't do much to lighten the mood.) I thought of all the things I do not do with my daughter. We have never been to the zoo together. We do not do crafts together. We hardly ever go to the park together, or go swimming. Lola does all these things, but with Carla. Not with me.

I know this sense of failure I have is self imposed. Not working, or working less, is not an option at the moment. And I am extremely fortunate and blessed in having found Carla. I leave my daughter in very capable and loving hands every day. I do for my family what needs to be done in the best way possible. But that doesn't lessen the feelings of guilt. And that makes me sad. And not just for Lola but mostly for myself, truth be told. Which adds on even more guilt.

Motherhood, it truly is a source of joy. And of guilt, just as much.

Moving House - US Style

10 August 2009

Bye Bye Barbie

On my seventh birthday I became the proud guardian of Barbie. My Barbie had long, dark brown hair, and when you moved her legs, her arms moved as well. I LOVED her. With the help of my crafty grandparents and parents, I created and collected boxes full of accessories for her. Clothes, furniture, and linens mostly. And of course Ken, the overly tan male barbie with plastic hair, followed by Skipper, the teenager, were later added to the family.

My sister had a collection of barbies as well. Her accessories were even cooler. She had the RV, the horse, and the bicycle, if I remember correctly. Together we played and played, inventing elaborate story lines and turning all sorts of household supplies into useful items. Dish pans were transformed into swimming pools, plant stands turned into stairs.

When I outgrew Barbie, she disappeared into the trunk in my room, along with all of her clothes and furniture. The trunk that held all of my childhood memorabilia. It has accompanied me to every home I have ever had, including the barn. Over the years I have sorted through it and thrown stuff away, but never Barbie or her luggage. I have always held on to her, secretly hoping I would one day have a daughter to pass her on to.

And that's what I did this weekend. Lola loves to play with the barbies at Carla's house but I hadn't given her mine yet. On Saturday, however, the two of us were upstairs reorganizing my clothes when I pulled out Barbie and everything that comes with her.

Lola was delighted! She has played with nothing else since. The glue on the furniture is old and not holding up anymore, and the pile of 'to be fixed' furniture is rapidly growing. But Barbie is still her fabulous self. She hasn't changed a bit!

It was so much fun watching Lola play with my barbies. We emptied the boxes onto the floor and she sat amidst it all, picking everything up and examining it carefully. She even took the barbies to bed with her.

I caught myself being very protective of Barbie though. I spoke of "my barbies" to Lola and watched her like a hawk. Thirty six years of guardianship is not easily surrendered. But the time has come to let go. I am not lending Barbie to Lola after all, I am passing her on, as I had always dreamed of. She is Lola's now, and she can do with her as she pleases.

Except cut her hair. Or polish her nails. Or use make-up on her. Or markers. Or crayons...

04 August 2009

Back To The Bucket

There was a little incident awhile back involving the renters, medicinal plants, and the Sheriff's Department. It resulted in one renter being arrested and the other two moving out in a more voluntary manner. When Ryan and I walked into the house after they left, our courage sank into our shoes, to use a Dutch expression. The gentlemen had managed to totally and utterly trash the place in the few months they had lived there.

After a short bout of "Why us? Why does everything have to be so hard?", we once again pulled ourselves out of the depths of our misery by our hair, in true Baron Von Munchenhausen fashion, and went to work. We cleaned the place up, fixed the plumbing and the bathroom, painted the kitchen, and replaced the appliances. And then we put our 'Quaint Fifties Cottage' (we know a thing or two about marketing ourselves) back on the market.

We truthfully stated in the ad that the house looked nicer on the outside than the inside. That was also true last year but at that time the house was still furnished, covering up the fact that it is a tired, old house. This time the house was 'naked'. It took us about two weeks to find new renters. Three college girls would love to live in Snug Harbor. They moved in this weekend. They are very excited about being able to paint the interior. So are we.

It was nice to have the place all to ourselves, though, if only for a little while. To be able to use the entire backyard, to have cookouts, to run around naked, to swing in the apple tree. Not to mention having a washer and dryer, hot running water, and a bathroom! But all good things must come to an end. We cannot afford not to rent out the house just yet. So back to the bucket it is.

02 August 2009

Homeward Bound

Our bags are packed and we're about to go home. Tomorrow morning we fly back to the North West where the temperatures have dropped to a nice and comfortable mid seventies. I am happy to be going home, to be honest. Pam and I both are. Not that we didn't have fun. On the contrary. We had a blast! The show was a great success - we even made a profit - and we definitely found a new group of customers.

We earned our money, though. I have not worked this hard in a looooong time. As soon as the doors opened, thousands of women and a handful of men swarmed inside. And each and everyone of them stopped by our booth, it felt like. Pam did Make & Takes non-stop, and I rang up the customers all day long. No time to eat, to drink, to pee, let alone walk around the show and do a little shopping ourselves.

Today was our day off and we were going to be tourists. We had big plans to go to the Epcot Center, or do something else touristy. But our legs did not feel up to it. Instead we slept in, had breakfast in bed, and lounged by the pool. A lovely end to a lovely trip.

And now I want to go home! I miss my loves.

Crazy Crafters

Marketing Skills

Taking Bello Modo on the road is fun, inspiring, and exhausting. It is a great way to meet customers and suppliers, to discover cool new products to add to our already extensive selection, and to find inspiring examples of presenting products and samples. Some displays are eye candy in the truest sense of the word.

We have several different inks, stamps, and paper crafting tools in our online catalog. Ranger, one of our suppliers, was present at the wholesale show. We stopped by to say hello and take a look at their displays. Their Star is Tim Holtz, designer and marketeer extraordinaire. He has given his name to a line of tools and accessories. High quality and fun stuff. He was at the show, too. Standing room only at his demonstrations and long lines for his Make & Takes.

Ranger has beautiful displays of their inks, powders, and paints. Every color is presented in a uniform way, literally painting an attractive picture for their customers.

While taking a few shots of Ranger's displays for reference, I noticed one of the products in particular. Take a closer look with me:

It's sanding paper. Tim Holtz Sanding Paper to be precise. Three tiny strips of two by seven inches. Retails for $2.00. For an extra dollar you can buy a five pack of nine by eleven inch sheets at your local hardware store.

Designer Sanding Paper. Now that is an example of genius marketing. My hat off to you, Mister Holtz!

29 July 2009

Disney World For Crafters

Greetings from Florida, everyone! Pam and I have escaped from the full blown heatwave - triple digits! - in the North West to the much cooler South East. The humidity here is something else though. We are in Orlando, home of Mickey Mouse, alligators, flamingos, and for a few days, the Craft and Hobby Association's Summer Show.

The CHA 2009 show lasts five days, three days for the wholesale show (we shop) and two days for the retail show (we sell). We flew in on the Red Eye early this morning, and immediately went shopping. Bello Modo is expanding a little bit in the direction of scrap booking. Scrap booking, for the non-Americans, is the art of making a photo album. But it's not about the photos, it's all about the album. There is an overlap, however, with jewelry design and embellishing and we hope to establish a customer base there.

It's not all work and no play though. Most vendors have a Make & Take where you can play with the merchandise and make a pendant, or a t-shirt. Or an ornament. It's almost Christmas, people! And of course there is the lovely pool at the hotel, the cabanas have wireless internet, and every night at 10 PM we watch the Disney World fireworks from our window!

26 July 2009

One Potty Forward, Two Diapers Back

We had a potty training break through at the barn, yesterday. Miss Lola peed on the potty twice! There was high fiving all around, cheering, singing, dancing and a twizzler for the big girl. Yes, it would appear I am one of those moms that does a potty dance. It came as a surprise to me, too. We immediately got out the big girl panties and miracle of miracles, Lola kept it dry all day.

Unfortunately it was short lived. Not only did Lola refuse to sit on the potty today for more than three seconds and consequently wet her pants several times, when I went upstairs to get her out of bed after her nap, I found her naked in a soaking wet bed sitting next to a nice brown turd on top of her diaper. "Look!", she said, pointing at it. When I expressed my disappointment, she replied: "It happens." (Sh)it happens, indeed.

I took the sheets off the bed and checked every stuffed animal for wet and/or brown spots. Only one bear seems to be in need of a bath. "He's fine", Lola said casually, covering the spot with her hand. We'll not get rid of the diapers just yet, evidently. Which is just as well, since we still don't have plumbing.

23 July 2009

Heat Advisory

It is supposed to be a scorcher today. Temperatures nearing triple digits, high risk of forest fires, and heat advisories in effect for various regions in the North West. They talked about nothing else, yesterday on the news.

I woke up this morning and it was raining. It is dreary and gray, and it is cold. Heat advisory, my foot!

22 July 2009

Monkey See...

Whenever I find myself without a knife and wish to feed my child, I take little bites of the food item at hand and give them to her. Yesterday Lola helped herself to an apricot and then decided she didn't want it. "It wasn't good", she said. I asked her to give the apricot to me, tasted it - nothing wrong with it - and told her I would finish it if she didn't want it.

She walked up to me, took the apricot from my hand and proceeded to bite off pieces and feed them to me, muttering she was "cutting it up." She 'cut up' the entire apricot for me, the pieces slowly getting smaller and smaller. Of course when I bite off pieces, I try not to slobber all over them, pre-chew them, or grab them from the back of my throat. I very much appreciated the gesture though.

21 July 2009

Comb The Beach & Jul

This morning I watched Ryan and Royce pack up for a camping trip. They are going up to the Olympic Peninsula for a three day fishing trip in one of Washington's many national parks. It is about a three hour drive to their destination followed by a two mile hike into the rain forest to the river where they plan to set up camp.

Watching them getting ready was hilarious. They have known each other for many years; they were roommates, neighbors, and Royce was the best man at our wedding. They're like an old married couple, like Oscar and Felix, or Chip 'n' Dale. The Dutch would refer to them as Jut and Jul. (When I searched online for a translation, it rendered Comb the beach and Jul because jut is a conjugated form of the verb jutten which means beach combing. I love Double Dutch.)

Ryan finished packing last night so they could get an early start. When Royce arrived this morning around 8 AM ("He's always late, every time!", Ryan complained. He should know better then...), they compared outfits and backpacks, and divided the gear between the two of them. After making sure all the essentials were packed, including moist butt wipes - crucial, they both agreed, they were off. They'll be back Thursday night. If not, I'm sending in Search and Rescue.

20 July 2009

Summer Romance

The third weekend in July is traditionally Lake Fair Weekend in Olympia. And keeping up with our  family tradition, we did not go. It is the time of year when the days are sweltering and the nights are sultry. Rather than melting in a crowd of people we decided to go swimming in Summit Lake, and hang out in the backyard with friends. It was the perfect summer weekend.

It was three years ago this weekend that I came out to Washington for the very first time. A single girl, smitten, flying out for a summer romance with a dashing young man I met at a Wisconsin wedding. Four days later I flew back again, engaged and pregnant. If it weren't for that last bit, Jane Austen would be proud. How quickly and thoroughly life can change...

Raising A Bilingual Baby

The trick to raising a bilingual baby is consistency. Or so I have been told. While I try very hard to be, consistent I am not. Partly because speaking with Lola in Dutch means excluding Ryan, or Carla, or whoever is with us at the time. And partly because it feels as if I am constantly correcting her when I repeat Lola's every English word in Dutch.

I really do try, though. I have a CD with Dutch nursery rhymes in the car that we play on the way to Carla's house. But there are a few songs that have both a Dutch and an English version. I'll be singing along in Dutch while Lola pipes in from the backseat in English. I read her Dutch stories and when we are alone I usually speak Dutch. I know she understands me. And there are a few words she always says in Dutch. Auto instead of car, Papa rather than Daddy, Nijntje instead of Miffy, to name a few.

The other day, however, she told me in a very stern voice that it was NOT an auto, it was a CAR. And then she gave me one of her looks. The 'Djeez Mom, don't you know this?' look.

Yes dear, I do. It's not easy as it seems, being bilingual.