20 February 2010

Take That, Tiger!

Tiger Woods's public apology really has people talking around these parts. Some think he's sincere, some don't. They're very passionate about the subject. Personally, I don't care. It is none of my business. It is nobody's business in fact, but Tiger's and his wife. They should be left alone to work out their issues. Or not. It's their choice, and I don't need to hear or read about it.

But this morning, when I checked my email and found the CNN AM Fix in my inbox, I noticed the Dutch have beaten out Tiger Woods for the Top Story. Ha! Just barely, though, and only because the US has an interest in the matter. Unlike Tiger, the Dutch cabinet has decided not to work out its issues. I wonder if the citizens of Holland get a public apology, too?

17 February 2010

Making Do

I had a little break down this weekend. It came over me quite unexpectedly while I was reorganizing our bedroom. The piles of clothes and miscellaneous clutter had been getting to me and I decided they needed to go. Right now. As I was putting stuff away, folding clothes, and doing laundry, I looked around and realized I wasn't happy with the result. It was nicely organized but it still looked like crap. I do not like the plastic stackable bins that hold my clothes, I do not like the shelf Ryan brought in from the garage for me, and I hate the fact that I do not have a place to store my bead and craft supplies. One where I can easily access them and Lola cannot get into them without supervision.

I laid down on our bed and took in the room. I am usually good at making the most of small spaces but this time it wasn't working for me. Because this is not my house. I can't take a hammer and nails and hang up a shelf, high enough to thwart a toddler. I cannot bring in my own furniture because there is no room for it. As I was lying there, not having a place of my own weighed heavily on me. It's not just this house, it's every house I have lived in since I moved to the US.

When we moved into Snug Harbor, our 700 square feet quaint cottage was filled to the brim. Ryan's things mostly, and what little I had brought with me from Holland. It was far too small to accommodate all our stuff. The furniture was too big. Nothing matched. It felt cramped. We fixed the house up on the outside, but the inside never received the love it needed. Before we were able to tackle that project, we were forced to move again, and found ourselves living in even smaller quarters. And surrounded by bins, dozens of bins, stacked to the ceiling.

I am so sick of not having a nice, comfortable house of my own. One that Ryan and I shape together. Where the furniture matches, where everything has its own place. Where Lola can play. Where I can craft. Where Ryan can make music. Where we can live. I want it more than anything. It breaks my heart that it seems further away than ever.

Please don't get me wrong. I truly appreciate my parents-in-law taking us in. They have a beautiful house, on the lake, surrounded by nature. I love having a fully functioning kitchen at my disposal, not one but three bathrooms, a hot tub, a fireplace operated by remote control, a dishwasher, and a washing machine. For homeless people, we are pretty well off. But it's not ours. Once again we are making do. We have been making do for so long.

It will be a while longer before we can make our dreams of having a home of our own a reality. And we'll make that work. We are fine, really. It just gets to me every now and then. So I throw myself a little pity party, my husband consoles me, and we get back on track. We make do. We're getting pretty good at it.

13 February 2010

Dutch Word Of The Day

Not many people at the casino realize I am Dutch. My colleagues all want to know how to pronounce my name, and where it comes from, but they mostly think I am an American with Dutch ancestors. Recently one my staff returned from maternity leave. During one of our meetings, my nationality came up and she was genuinely surprised to learn I am the resident alien, Dutch born and raised. I was asked to prove it on the spot by speaking to her in Dutch. She was very impressed by my skills and expressed the desire to learn Dutch. And just like that, the idea of the Dutch Word of the Day was born.

Every day when I come in, I write a Dutch word on the dry erase board with the translation and instructions on pronunciation beneath it. We have a lot of fun with it, especially when I throw in some g’s, forcing them to "hock a loogie" as someone so eloquently put it. Today’s word is gok automaat (slot machine) in honor of the big slot tournament promotion we are currently running on Saturdays. Next week, I am teaching them the days of the week.

Our little inside joke has started to take on a life of its own, however. Throughout the casino people are talking about the Dutch Word of the Day. They come to our office to see what the day's word is, they discuss it in the break rooms, and for the first time I am asked questions about windmills, tulips, and wooden shoes.

Now, if I could only get them to stop confusing Dutch with Danish. A Danish is something you eat. Easy, no?

03 February 2010

Girls Night In

Lola seems to have caught a case of the Terrible Twos lately. Trying times. Everything is a struggle; going potty, getting dressed, going to bed. Especially going to bed. The sweet little girl that climbed cheerfully up the ladder every night at bedtime, was content with reading a book and snuggling with mommy is gone. She climbs out of bed at least half a dozen times, she cries (sometimes screams) for a good thirty minutes most nights, and has become a master at stalling.

She goes exploring every day and empties out every cabinet or drawer she can get into. She refuses to sit in a shopping cart but insists on walking (read: running - toddlers don't walk), and yesterday she managed to sit down and poop on the floor. Trying times indeed. The only thing still going well is brushing her teeth. The girl loves to brush.

But tonight was different. Ryan was at school and it was just the two of us. We watched a little Scooby Doo together and chatted about her day. When it was time to start dinner, she brought a little stool into the kitchen, offering her assistance. She stirred the bacon and rolled out the dough with a rolling pin. While I finished preparing the savory leak pie that was on the menu tonight, she played with the dough scraps, baking a pie of her own and whipping up a batch of cookies as well. Good times.

At bedtime she protested only a little. Once upstairs she insisted on reading me the story of Spot. Afterwards she invited me to spend the night with her and her 30,000 stuffed animals but didn't seem to mind when I respectfully declined. She then proceeded to lovingly arrange her babies around her, laid down and went to sleep. Good times, indeed.

I love watching Lola care for her babies. She is normally your fairly clumsy toddler that likes to roughhouse. But when it comes to her babies, she is incredibly gentle. One baby in particular is treated in the most delicate way, a tiny leopard-like creature with a long tail and a human face. It is a little Anne Geddes doll and Lola adores it. She cradles it in her arms, softly petting it. I melt every time she does that. (On a side note: am I the only one who wonders what Anne Geddes was thinking that one Halloween when she was carving pumpkins? "Hmmm..., instead of the usual candle, why don't I stuff a baby in there?")

Lola will turn three in April and that will be the end of the Terrible Twos, it says in the manual. But I have already been warned by folks in the know. Apparently there is also the Terrible Threes. The good times are going to get even better...

24 January 2010

Big Girls Don't Cry

After being caught making a huge mess earlier today, Lola was put in a time out. She is usually very compliant about her punishment. But this time she took off the minute we turned our backs, inviting the following reprimand:

"Now sit down and stay there. And don't pout. Take your time out like a real woman."

And so she did.

21 January 2010

Improv Skills

What to do when you find yourself in need of a band aid and there are none to be found?

14 January 2010

Don't Panic, Ask Google

"What happened to my money?" Lola asked me as she walked into the kitchen tonight.

"I don't know," I answered her, "where did you put it?"

"In my mouth."


"Lola, please come here. Did you put money in your mouth? And did you swallow it?"


"Did you really do that, Lola? And is it now in your tummy?"

"It was in my mouth. And now it's gone." She opened her mouth as wide as she could to prove it.

Great. Now what? Should I panic? Bad idea. Then what? She seemed absolutely fine. No crying, no aches or pains. No drooling, no discoloration, nothing. No need to panic. Yet.

I told her to come with me to the living room where I grabbed my wallet and looked for a penny, a nickel, a dime, and a quarter. "Can you tell me which one you put in your mouth?"

She pointed to the quarter. Argh! "That one. No, that one," she added, pointing at the dime. Better, but I wasn't sure what to believe. And I still didn't know what to do. My CPR training did not cover this.

Being a twentyfirst century mother, I turned to Google. I typed in what to do when your child swallows a coin and hit return. It came back with 52,400 hits. I was relieved to find out I was not alone on this one. And after reading a few results I felt much better. The consensus seemed to be to wait for the coin to pass. And perhaps speed up the process with Fiber One bars. Not having any at hand, I gave her a handful of prunes.

To make sure I am not a horrible mother by not rushing her to the Emergency Room, I called her pediatrician in Washington since the doctor's office in Crandon was already closed. The nurse told me what signs to look for that warrant a trip to the hospital: high fever, vomiting, severe belly aches to name a few. So far she appears unaffected.

So now all we have to do is wait and very closely examine anything that comes out the other end. It's a good thing potty training has not yet been completed. Ryan will be thrilled. She is sleeping with me tonight, just so I can keep an eye on her.

And as if all this wasn't trying enough, while I was talking to the nurse, Lola got into the band aid supply and stuck them on her legs. All but one. I should use that remaining band aid and tape her mouth shut. Tempting, very tempting...

11 January 2010

A Public Apology

Dear Fellow Northwoods Drivers,

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all of you for my driving. Not that my driving is bad, it's just that I'm slow. Driving in the snow is not my forte. Being a Wisconsin newbie, I have little experience with it. Add to that the minimal profile on my tires, and general fear of accidents, and you end up with the driving style of a little old lady. Like the winter weather, it will not last. I promise. In the meantime, please be patient with me as I am working on my ice truckin' skills. This morning, when the road was covered in ice and snow, I was doing at least 40 mph. At times I even made it up to 45 mph! That is a definite improvement over my first week on the road when my speedometer never made it past 35 mph.

I do, however, have a favor to ask of some of you. Please, please, pretty please, stop tailgating. There is plenty of room to go around me, so go ahead and use it. Riding my butt will NOT make me go faster. It will only result in my blood pressure and yours going up, and no-one is going to benefit from that. And if you feel that you must drive as close to me as you possibly can, at least be kind enough to lower your brights. Really, blinding me will not make me speed up either. It is as ineffective as it is dangerous, not to mention extremely annoying.

Thanks so much for your consideration. Safe travels!

Hanneke N.

P.s. I realize it must be confusing for you because my husband drives our car too, and his driving style varies greatly from mine. He is convinced the emergency brake is a bona fide winter tool for one. Sorry.

09 January 2010

Blessed Or Cursed?

Ryan and I were deliberating the other day whether we were blessed or cursed. He thinks we’re cursed, I don’t. It’s not that I am in denial about our current hardships – as much as I would like to be – I just tend to look at things in a more positive way; the ol’ half full/half empty glass debate. I am convinced having a positive mindset will help me accomplish my goals. The Power of Positive Thinking works for me. At the very least, it brings me peace.

I believe we mostly brought our present trials and tribulations on ourselves by bad habits and a few questionable decisions. Add in some bad luck and a failing economy and before you know it, you’re living the American Nightmare. But I clearly see our many blessings and believe we are slowly working our way back up again. I realize it’s probably easier for me to say that; I leave the house every day to go to a fun, albeit increasingly demanding job. Ryan is stuck at home for the moment with no place to go, and no way to get there.

Our lack of transportation is what started this conversation. We are a one car family at the moment, and the Northwoods are a harsh place to be without a car. I had been using my father-in-law’s pick-up truck, leaving Ryan our car. About two weeks ago, the truck suddenly overheated. It’s been in the shop awaiting repair, but every couple of days they give us a call to tell us it’s not what they thought it was, it’s worse. First it was the water pump, and then it wasn’t. It was a broken bolt that could only be reached by removing just about everything under the hood. The latest is the engine needs rebuilding as a result of said bolt rattling around.

As if that isn’t bad enough, our own car needs new tires – suitable for Wisconsin winters – and new windshield wipers. And a new antenna, too. And the fuse for the back lights and parking lights keeps blowing for no apparent reason. An oil change probably wouldn’t hurt either. The muffler fell off a while back, making our otherwise inconspicuous Nissan sound like a rally car. Then the 'Check Engine' light came on. Finally on Thursday, the remainder of the exhaust started dragging over the pavement, forcing us to get the whole thing fixed right then and there. Bye bye to this week’s paycheck.

Yes, this is bad luck. Not to mention lousy timing. But that doesn’t mean we’re cursed. I refuse to believe the Powers That Be look down on us and say: "What? They have running water again? And plumbing? And they no longer have to run outside in the middle of the night to get wood? That’s not right. We need more suffering. Let’s take away their muffler."

It’s not bad Karma either. It’s bad maintenance. Due to lack of finances. Due to... I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with Ryan about one thing. When will this end? While I do not view this as a curse, it is a far cry from a blessing. Enough already!

And just in case I'm wrong and we are cursed, does anyone know of a tried and true method for curse reversal?

08 January 2010

Cute And Funny

"I'm cute," Lola informed me last night when we were getting ready for bed. She gave me her best fake smile; her mouth wide open, her teeth clenched, and a twinkle in her eye. Very much like this one. I couldn't help but laugh.

"I'm funny, too," she added.

How could I possibly argue with that?

02 January 2010

Heeere's Johnny!

Image credit: www.imdb.com
We're alone. My parents-in-law left early yesterday morning for Arizona. For the next four months it is just the three of us up here in the isolated and snowy Northwoods. If Ryan starts building a maze in the backyard, Lola and I are out of here. (I am starting to wonder if I should be concerned about the two sledding runs he built?) I hid the axes and chainsaws just in case.

01 January 2010

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year from the Northwoods! May 2010 be a happy, healthy, and prosperous year for all of us. I love the anticipation and excitement that comes with a new beginning.

For the second year in a row I did not have it together enough to send out Christmas cards. I had wonderful ideas for handmade cards but alas, my address book was in North Dakota when the time came.

I considered sending out New Year's cards instead, but who am I kidding? That is not going to happen either. If it did, I would imagine they'd look something like this...