16 September 2010

Snapshots Of Summer

Fall is just around the corner. I can feel it and smell it. Temperatures drop at night, close to freezing sometimes. When I step out the front door in the morning, the air is crisp. It has started to rain, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the week. I don't mind it, to be honest. In fact, I love it.

Autumn is my favorite season. The coziness of the indoors, a fire in the fireplace, putting on woolen sweaters, wearing tights and knee highs again, the smell of pumpkin spice and hot apple cider, rusty orange mums, the explosion of color from the changing leaves, my birthday, gathering chestnuts and acorns... I could go on and on.

But before we bid summer farewell, I leave you with a few memorable moments of the season.

World Cup Soccer fans at 7 AM

Kayaking on the lake

Fourth of July in Elkhart Lake

The Playground

Wabeno's Steam Up Days

Fishing on Lake Metonga

Kentuck Days in Crandon

Four wheeling in the Northwoods

Swimming in Lake Lucerne

At the Oneida County Fair in Rhinelander

Hiking the Ed's Lake Trail

Chicago IL

15 September 2010

Legally Dutch

Because Lola has an American father and a Dutch mother, she can have dual citizenship. Ryan and I would like her to have options when she grows up, and by establishing two nationalities the world, quite literally, would open up to her. I called the Dutch consulate in Seattle shortly after she was born, and a very kind gentleman explained the process to me.

The first step was getting Lola an American passport. That part was easy. We had her picture taken, went to the post office with a certified copy of her birth certificate, filled out a form, paid a fee, and she was good to go. Step two, obtaining a Dutch passport, was a hell of a lot more complicated. For this we needed another certified copy of her birth certificate, a certified copy of our marriage certificate, and her American passport. All documents, with the exception of her passport, must be less than a year old and have an apostille attached to them. An apostille is a certificate stating the certifier of the certified documents is certified to do so. Are you still with me? We Dutch don't kid around.

Just before we left Washington last November, we gathered all the necessary documents. Unfortunately there was no time for a visit to the Dutch consulate in Seattle. Instead we were forced to travel to the nearest consulate for Hollanders living in Wisconsin, Chicago, a mere seven hours away. The event took place this weekend. We combined it with a visit to my family in Kenosha and turned it into a wonderful mini-vacation.

Our appointment at the consulate was scheduled for Monday morning. Since my passport expires in January of next year, I had made an appointment for myself as well. The most stressful part of our morning was getting our pictures taken. The Dutch have insane requirements for passport photo's. Seriously, they provide an eight (!) page booklet with instructions for photographers. And there are no exceptions. My aunt was sent back three times before her pictures were accepted. That was obviously not an option for us. The Sears portrait studio staff however, knew exactly what to do.

The visit itself went flawless. A few signatures and $132.75 plus shipping later we walked out the door with the promise of two Dutch passports delivered to our door step in two to three weeks. We bummed around Chicago for a little bit and then made our way back to the Northwoods.

Now Lola can move anywhere in the EU should she wish to do so. I know, she's only three, but she'll be eightteen before we know it. And we can take the short line at customs when we fly back for a visit to Holland...

14 September 2010

With This Ring...

Photo by Jewelry by Johan
Four years ago today, I tiptoed on the arm of my uncle over the pebbles on the beach of Olympia's Priest Point Park to marry Ryan. It was my uncle's arm because our parents could not make it (international weddings are a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare), and I tiptoed because high heels and pebbles do not mix.

It was a lovely, intimate ceremony led by our friend, the Reverend Boyle, and attended by a few friends, a few strangers, and a few relatives. My cousin, my aunt, and my uncle had surprised me with their visit the night before. Just as the ceremony began, the sun came out to shine its light on our day and the start of our life together.

Ryan gave me the most beautiful wedding band, a strand of white gold that wraps around my finger five times with a green sapphire in the fourth ring. I gave him his grandfather's wedding band. Unfortunately it was lost during on one of our many backyard projects. Every once in a while I thought about replacing it, but the time was never right. Until six weeks ago. One of his customers was seriously flirting with Ryan to his discomfort and my amusement. He blamed it on not having a wedding ring. The time had come to remedy the situation. And so I did.

I wanted something out of the ordinary yet clearly a wedding ring. It also had to be something that fitted Ryan. And I preferred it to be handmade. I found Jewelry by Johan on Etsy. He makes beautiful titanium rings with a wood inlay. Plus he is a Wisconsin local and I like buying local. The wood I chose is lignum vitae, or ironwood, known for its strength, toughness, and density. Our four years together have seen some very rough times but we have proven to be strong, tough, and solid.

Happy Anniversary, Ryan. I love you with all of my heart.

09 September 2010

Truck Loses Bear

When Lola and I were driving home yesterday afternoon, we ran into a strange incident in downtown Crandon. A pick-up truck was parked in the middle of an intersection and two men dressed in camouflage were hoisting something big and dark onto the bed of the truck.

Upon closer inspection I noticed it was a dead black bear, gutted, and strapped to two large sticks that must have been used to haul it out of the woods. The bear most likely fell from the back of the truck when it pulled away at the intersection.

For some reason I have a harder time with the idea of bear hunting than deer hunting. Probably because they look so cuddly. I was simultaneously appalled and amused at the sight of the two guys and their bear. It is not something you see every day, not even up here, and definitely not if you're from Amsterdam.

Have you seen anything unusual lately?

25 August 2010

Back Seat Entertainment

"I'm a Big Bad Chicken.
I sleep down town,
and I go Boom Boom."

I have no clue as to the origins of Lola's Chicken Rap, brought to me from the back seat of the car this afternoon. It could be her vivid imagination, something seen on the television, or a combination of both. But I laughed all the way home.

19 August 2010

Home Sweet Home

After two and a half months of being strung along by various lenders and a dysfunctional mortgage broker, it was decided that an immigrant with a limited credit history is not a wise investment at this time. The house we were hoping to buy will now be home to another family. That was disappointing of course, but we quickly recovered. We're flexible nowadays.

Instead we resorted to renting. One look in a local newspaper lead us to the lovely Courthouse District in Rhinelander and the house we moved into last weekend. The move was fairly painless, except for the heat and the humidity. Most of our stuff was still in bins and boxes and it was merely a matter of loading it into the big truck. With the help of my parents-in-law that task was accomplished in half a day.

We have plenty of space in our new home, a charming split-level from the sixties. We each have our own room: a proper bedroom for Lola, a music room for Ryan, a craft room for me, and an extra bedroom and bathroom for guests. All we have to do is unpack. For the first time in a loooong time, every bin and box will be emptied. Some of the bins have been stored for almost two years. It is so much fun going through everything, it's like Christmas come early.

08 August 2010

Local News

I love watching the local news channels. Not just to find out what is going on in our neck of the Northwoods, but because there is a distinct small town feel about it which I find very charming. Channel 12 News for instance, has such horrible lighting in their news studio that all the anchors look washed out, as if they haven't seen daylight in forever. And their accents leave no doubt they were born and raised in Wisconsin.

Our local paper is the Forest Republican. It is published once a week. My favorite segments are the articles written by the correspondents of the tiny neighboring towns such as Argonne and Cavour. I love reading about Bill & Macy who came up to their cabin last weekend, or Bob who was run over by his lawn mower, or Ed & Janet who went to the movies, not to mention John whose cow sent him to the hospital with several fractured ribs.

But most of all I love that every time my family participates in a local event, we end up on the front page...

Judy and Hanneke visit Crandon's Kentuck Days

04 August 2010

Toddler Talk Continued

My child is a constant source of amusement these days. Here are a few more Lola Classics for you...

As I sit on the toilet, asking her to please close the door:
"So no-one can see your big butt?"

On her new found love for speech therapy:
"Do you want to play speech with me?"

In the water, with a big fat grin on her face:
"I don't want to drown (i.e. her head under water), I'm gonna die!"

When we talked on the phone the night before she returned from a visit to her cousins in Milwaukee:
"Mom, I told you, I always come back."

Pointing at my forehead:
"If a mosquito bites you there, you let me know. I will smack him for you." 

She made cute little cards for friends and family, so I asked her if she had any ideas for Christmas cards (wanting to stay ahead of the game):
"Yes. Let's send them to everybody..." 
Good thinking.

At randon moments:
"Man, oh man..."

When we are playing 'Hide & Seek':
"I am going to hide in the bathroom and you have to find me."

30 July 2010


Last summer Lola was very much in love with slugs. Since there not too many of those around up here in the Northwoods, she has moved her affections onto frogs. She has a big white bucket with an orange lid that she uses to house the frogs she finds. It has slits in the bottom, allowing for air to circulate through. Still, we have to remind Lola every time not to put the bucket in the full sun, and to let the frogs go home to their families after a few hours.

It always breaks her heart, having to say goodbye to her most recent capture, but she understands. She wouldn't want to be stuck in a bucket without her mommy all day either. So she picks them up gently and sets them free. "I love you," she yells after them, "now hop on home."

27 July 2010

Summer Evenings

The wonderful thing about living on a lake is being able to jump in the water whenever you feel like it, weather and time permitting. And the past two evenings after dinner, we felt like it.

The water level of Lake Lucerne has dropped approximately five feet due to the drought, and my parents-in-law haven't been able to put the dock in behind the house for two years. The water is too far out, and too shallow for the boat. Fortunately the boat landing is less than a mile up the road. It takes us about twenty minutes to hook the trailer up to the truck, drive to the water, and load the boat into the water. And then we're off.

Lola loves being in the water. She wears a bathing suit with built in flotation thingies and bobs around in an inner tube. On Sunday evening though, she told me to take off the inner tube, tie on the water ski belt, and set her back into the water. I did, a little hesitantly. But she floated, and really well too. Without the restriction of an inner tube tied to the boat, she immediately paddled off, chatting and singing all the way.

Summer evenings on the water are absolutely delightful. If it weren't for the mosquitoes, I told Ryan last night, I would sit outside all night long. Lola's bedtime has been pushed back a little but how can we not make the most of this season? We have a long cold winter ahead of us to catch up on sleep.

25 July 2010

Ahead Of The Game

Last Thursday I had the day off. That in itself is nothing new or unusual. However, on this particular Thursday I found myself without a husband or a child. I could do whatever I wanted and no-one was there to distract me. Absolute bliss!

And what did I do with all this time to myself? I got crafty. Christmas crafty, to be precise. I had been walking around with an idea for Christmas ornaments since last November, but had neither the time nor the necessary supplies before Thursday. The last component had just arrived in the mail, and taking advantage of my freedom, I decided to got for it. A tad early, but who cares? I briefly considered playing Christmas music but that would have been taking it too far. Besides, this wasn't about getting in the Christmas spirit, but about enjoying the creativity.

And enjoy it, I did. I made twenty little Christmas gifts with chandelier crystals, vintage images, a little glue, and some silver leaf. The how-to can be found at Dutch Girl Originals. They have been put away now, and won't be out for another five months. Never before have I been this organized. And I doubt I ever will be again.

13 July 2010

Lost For Words

We lost. The Dutch were unable to defeat Spain in the World Cup final. The third time was not the charm in this case. It is painful to write it, but there you have it. And that's all I am going to say on the subject because I'd rather not talk about it.

Speaking of talking, Lola has developed a stutter. It started about six months ago. When we first noticed it, we attributed it to the language explosion going on in her head. We did a little reading on the subject and found out stuttering is not that unusual at this age. It is called normal disfluency and should go away by itself after approximately six months.

But it didn't. And instead of getting better, it got worse. To a point where it would take her up to thirty seconds to get a word out, resulting in Lola saying: "I can't say that word" and moving on to something else. We felt it was time to consult a professional. We saw her pediatrician last week who agreed there was cause to see a speech therapist, which we did this morning. He sat on the floor with Lola, playing games and counting her words. He needed at least one hundred words to make a proper assessment. Miss Chatty Kathy, who never stops talking, did not take long to get there.

As it turns out, her language skills are exceptional for her age. She has an awesome vocabulary, makes fairly complicated sentences, and can pronounce sounds she should not yet be able to. The stutter, he told us, was nothing to be concerned about. She shows no signs of a genuine stutter problem, and the repetitions will go away in three to six months. G-g-good.

So we will continue to wait patiently for the words to come out, and will not interrupt or tell her to slow down, or start over. No need for speech therapy. That will surely disappoint Lola because she had a blast at the doctor's office. They have the coolest toys!

06 July 2010

Temporary Orange Insanity

Hup Holland Hup!
While I miss my family and friends, and a few things like working part time with full benefits, twenty two vacation days, sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave, high quality and affordable health insurance for all, etc., I am never homesick for Holland.

But today, I wish I was there to join in on the temporary orange insanity. Go Holland!

Update: The Boys in Orange won!!! We will be playing the final on Sunday for the first time in 32 years. I wonder if I can book a plane ticket still...

02 July 2010

Expatriates And Patriots

Source: google.com
With the Fourth of July rapidly approaching, the amount of stars and stripes I see is steadily increasing. Almost every blog and magazine I read features the American flag in some way, shape, or form. For me, this is a little foreign. The Dutch are not too big on waving the flag. Sure, during national holidays and world cups, there is quite a bit of red, white, and blue in addition to the orange, but for the most part, you'll find the Dutch flag in a piece of cheese.

Americans are very different in this respect. Displaying the flag is the most visible sign of patriotism. And of that, there is quite a bit. It starts early on in schools with the daily Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. The Dutch are not patriots, we don't display any pride in our heritage or country, a few zealots notwithstanding. We do not stand united. In fact, we are more divided than ever. It makes me very sad.

Where I come from, the saying goes "Just act normal, that's crazy enough." All this patriotism is a bit over the top for me. I have a hard time dressing Lola in an American flag dress, to be honest. Fortunately the dress we received is way too big, so this year I can get by without it. But I do like that on days like the Fourth, the whole country celebrates together, and the emphasis is on American, whether you're Native American, African American, Asian American, Italian American, Irish American, or Dutch American.

I know we are still a long way from universal peace, love, and understanding, in my new country as well as my old. But while the use of the different varieties of Americans may be considered politically correct, it also creates a sense of unity, attainable for every immigrant. The Dutch could learn a thing or two here.

Happy Fourth of July! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

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