27 September 2010

Autumn Colors

My drive to work grows more colorful and beautiful every day. I am trying to instill an appreciation for nature's glory in Lola but haven't been very successful so far. Perhaps my readers are more receptive...

Fiery Red
Nature's Quilt

22 September 2010

Pearly Whites

Lola was introduced to the dentist and the hygienist earlier this morning. For the first time in her life, she climbed into the big dentist's chair and opened her mouth for a counting of her teeth, a check for cavities, a professional brushing, a flossing, and a fluoride treatment.

She was cool as a cucumber throughout her check up. I think she actually enjoyed it. Her teeth were all there and she has no cavities to report. Surprisingly, neither do I. Unlike Lola however, I did not get my picture taken and added to the "No Cavities!!" wall.

Afterward she received a little baggy with a toothbrush, Sponge Bob toothpaste ("The same as Elisabeth!"), children's mouthwash, dental floss, and stickers. I was given a baggy too, but no stickers for me.

In the car on the way back Lola admired every item in her baggy. At some point she asked me: "Mom, how do I put the string back?" I looked in the rear view mirror and there was Lola, completely covered in dental floss. I am going to have to show her the ropes tonight.

21 September 2010

Satellite Tunes

I once heard Sting say in an interview one's high school and college years are the formative years for musical memories. After that era, the connection between songs and life events dwindles. I find that to be true. Play me a tune from the eighties and I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was doing, and with whom. Songs from the seventies and the nineties do not have the same effect and as for present day music, I am hopelessly out of date.

Our new car, Big Blue, came with free satellite radio. Despite having been musically formed in the eighties, I prefer listening to the 70's on 7, alternated with E-Street Radio, the Bruce Springsteen channel. Lola generally approves, although on occasion she'll tell me to turn a particular song off because she doesn't like it. Her favorite song at the moment is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. She asks for it every day.

The Nissan's antenna is broken and radio reception is limited. Having satellite radio is such a treat. It makes my commute that much more enjoyable. And every now and then a Dutch song will come along. Most of the time it's a Golden Earring song, but I have also heard Mouth & McNeal and yesterday, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance. It usually takes a second or two to register but without fail, it makes my day, whether I used to like the song or not.

20 September 2010

Big Blue

Now that we're on our own again, we need a second car. We were still using my father-in-law's pick-up truck, but at some point he started hinting he wanted it back. Ryan relentlessly sought after the bargain of the year and found a brand new 2009 Chevrolet Aveo online. After a few phone calls back and forth, we drove down to Indiana (bargains are never found close to home) to pick it up.

She is called Big Blue. Lola calls her "my little blue car" and a friend of ours speaks of the "go kart." We are very pleased with our purchase. She has a puny little engine that doesn't compare to Vicky's V8 (Vicky was our previous automobile back in our Olympia days) but she comes at a fraction of the cost and is equipped with free OnStar and satellite radio. And the mileage is awesome.

Of course we both want to drive her. We have agreed that whoever makes the most miles in one week gets to drive Big Blue the following week. So far, I have been the lucky one. How I love the smell of a new car...

19 September 2010

A Magic Flute

Friday was my day off and the plan was to tackle Lola's bedroom. It was total and utter chaos in there. When we moved into this house, we just dumped all of her clothes and toys in her room. She did not have any furniture and has been sleeping on an air mattress for the past couple of weeks.

My brother and sister-in-law donated to the cause and brought up a dresser, a bookcase, a bed, a play kitchen, a kids washing machine, a table with two chairs, and an artist's easel over Labor Day weekend. Everything was shoved into Lola's room. You could barely walk in there.

Trying to sort out clothes and toys with a toddler around is no easy feat. I turned to my trusted friends at Nick Jr and turned on the TV for her. At some point we were watching Toot and Puddle, I think, and in it a friendly older gentleman carved a flute out of a bamboo shoot. Naturally Lola wanted a flute too, and I made the mistake of telling her I had one, a wooden flute, and that she could play with it.

From that moment on, all she wanted was that wooden flute which at some point turned into a magic flute. I looked for it but it wasn't where I thought it would be, meaning it could be anywhere. And there are still alot of bins and boxes to unpack. I told her she would have to be patient. Ha!

Later that afternoon, we ran a few errands and stopped in at the Goodwill. And what catches my eye when I walk in the door? A bin full of bamboo flutes for $0.99 a piece. Perfect. I casually grabbed one and tried to keep Lola from seeing it. She didn't have a clue what a flute looked like and she never caught on to what I was carrying in my hand.

When we got home, she asked me: "Now can we find my magic flute?"

"Yes," I was finally able to tell her. I grabbed the flute out of the bag, hid it behind my back and walked upstairs to my craft room. I pretended to find it in the closet and handed it to Lola. She was delighted. They're so gullible at this age. Then I made mistake number two: I showed her how to use it.

But at least I got her room done.

18 September 2010

World Wide Namesakes

Hanneke was a very popular girl's name in Holland in the sixties and seventies. In elementary school, I was one of three in my class alone. Nowadays, you don't hear it much and if you do, chances are the woman is my age. My maiden name is a lot less common. It's not so unique that every Van H. you meet is related to me, but you really don't encounter it very often. I was sure, however, that my particular combination was one of a kind. Until I learned otherwise via the Dutch version of classmates.com.

After I moved to the US, I stopped using my maiden name, except for official purposes, because my married name is so much easier to pronounce. Once again I was convinced my name was unique. With such a typical Dutch first name, how could it not be? Again, I was mistaken. This time it was Google that taught me there is another Hanneke N., a professional mediator somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

The funny thing is, I have been in contact with both namesakes this past year. The first time was accidental. I had received a strange, legal looking email at my email address designated for possible spam. At first I thought it was junk, but that didn't seem quite right. When I got to the end of the message, I noticed the sender was from Colorado and I put two and two together. I responded, letting the sender know there was more than one Hanneke N. and she had the wrong one. A couple of days later I received an email from the other Hanneke N. Like me, she is an immigrant though she moved here as a toddler, and we discovered we were both born in the same town.

My Dutch namesake contacted me directly just days later. She had found my blog online and we emailed briefly back and forth. Isn't it amazing, and amusing, how quickly the anonymous world wide web can become personal?

17 September 2010

Little Girls

There is a sweet little girl in Lola's daycare that's physically very advanced for her age. She's four but she could easily pass for a seven year old. Her mom is young, single, and very much into dancing. Consequently her daughter knows some moves that are not exactly appropriate for her age. She loves showing them off to the other little girls. When Connie catches her, she always intervenes but it appears some of it may have rubbed off.

The other day Lola and I were in the bathroom. She has asked me for a wipe to clean her bed, she's very helpful when it comes to cleaning, and I was reaching for one to give to her.

"So mom," she said in an almost seductive voice, "what do you think of me?"

I turned around. "Um..., huh?"

"What do you think of my body?", she added. One hip pushed out, hand on her other hip.

"What?!?"

Where did this come from? I am so not ready for this, and I don't want Lola to be either. She's three! I told her I thought she was beautiful and sent her on her way with a baby wipe. She wiggled her butt at me and took off.

Little girls, I tell ya, they grow up so fast. Too fast, if you ask me. I don't think this is an issue with little boys. Right?

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

Source
"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."

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