25 May 2011

Queen For A Day

"Don't be shy, just say hi," was my four year old daughter's advice as I sat behind my computer this morning staring at a blank screen. I came up with the post title eight months ago when I finally felt my blog had enough substance to submit it for consideration as the featured blog over at The SITS Girls. But the rest of my introductory post has remained empty to this day.


I am truly thrilled to be the featured blogger today at The Secret to Success is Support, the wonderful circle of support made for and by bloggers. When I first moved from The Netherlands to the United States, I wanted to let the folks back home know how things were going. I started with a letter, added some photo's, played around with the lay-out and before I knew it, I had a newsletter; Olympic Adventures, since we were living in Olympia WA back then. I sent out two newsletters and then I had a child.

Fast forward two and a half years and out of my New Year's resolution of doing better at keeping in touch with people, Olympic Adventures - The Blog was born, nowadays know as Northwoods Adventures. It is a place where I record the goings on, big and small, of my family. Our good and bad fortune, the funny things my daughter does and says, the occasional crafty endeavor, and whatever else is on my mind. I enjoy blogging tremendously because it is therapy, a journal, a scrapbook, and a family history all rolled into one.

On special today are three posts I have selected for you. First - the cliff notes of my life so far, second - funny stuff my child says, and third - what an unbelievable adventure the outdoors can be. Thank you for visiting my corner of the Northwoods. I hope to pop into your neighborhood for a return visit very soon!

The Adventures of a Dutch Girl
Toddler Talk
Trespassers will be shot

24 May 2011

Life And Death

"Mama, do you remember opa J.?" Lola asked me softly last night when we were snuggling before bedtime. "Yes I do," I answered her. "He’s sick," she told me, "and he is never ever going to get better. I really miss him."

She was talking about my uncle, my dad’s younger brother who lives in south east Wisconsin. When he retired, he and my aunt bought a catamaran in the Caribbean where they spend their winters sailing from island to island. Last March, while visiting a street festival in the lovely Santa Lucia, J. ate a fishy looking fish and promptly got sick. Food poisoning was everyone’s first thought. Except the vomiting and diarrhea wouldn’t stop.

After dropping forty five pounds, several visits to local ER’s, and an overnight hospital stay, they decided to fly back a little early and see a doctor here. The doctor suggested a cat-scan to look for a possible obstruction in J.’s colon, something they did indeed find. They also found something else; advanced pancreatic cancer. There is no cure for that. And just like that, everything changed.

I took a few days off last week and drove south for a visit. My aunt, uncle, and my cousins have been my second family since I was seventeen. It was a good visit. It was a little shocking to see J. minus forty five pounds. The 4,000 calorie diet he is currently on hasn’t done him much good yet. (It worked great for us though, especially the rhubarb crumble pie and the blueberry cheesecake.) And aside from the fact that we talked a lot about cancer and death, it was very much like old times.

J. started chemotherapy last Wednesday. When I called on Friday to see how he was holding up, I was told things were going okay for the most part. But Ryan spoke to my cousin last night and found out J. had spent the weekend in the hospital, very sick from the chemo. For the next eight days, he can recover, then he goes back for round two. Every other week a round of chemo, for the next eight weeks.

I don’t know why Lola thought of J. all of a sudden. The conversation from last night was a carbon copy of the conversation she and I had a few weeks ago, when J. was first diagnosed and she wanted to know why I was crying. She has been talking a lot about death lately, brought on by a dead deer she saw alongside the road. There is a lot going on in that little blond head of hers. And it won’t be very long that I will no longer have all the answers.

23 May 2011

Religious Education

Don't laugh, but I have started to work on my big Christmas project for the year. Last year I made an advent calender in the shape of a Christmas tree. I did not want to fill it with gifts or candy, I wanted to make it about the meaning of Christmas. The plan was to make a twenty four piece nativity set. However, after submitting my plan to a reality check, I went for little ornaments instead, and store bought at that.

So this year I am making a nativity set. Little wooden figurines and needle felted animals. I have needle felted once before, many years ago, under the careful guidance of my sister, needle felter extraordinaire. This time I am on my own. I went online and found a step-by-step tutorial on how to needle felt a sheep. I started two weeks ago. Let's just say it's a good thing the first of December is still more than six months away. My sheep does not resemble a sheep in the slightest.

I mentioned my project to a co-worker in the break room the other day. I don't know if she misunderstood me or has very little faith in my needle felting skills, but she walked in last week with a gift for me. She was at a garage sale where she found a nativity set and bought it for me. I was touched by her thoughtfulness.

When I went to pick up Lola that day, she asked me if I had a surprise for her. I told her I did, as a matter of fact, and showed her the nativity set. Ryan and I are not very church going and Lola's knowledge of religion is basically non-existent. I introduced all the characters of the nativity set to her and then tried to put it away to buckle her in her car seat.

"But mama," she cried, "I want to play with Jesus!"

05 May 2011

A Long Time Coming

About two years ago, when we were still living out west, a local cable company installed underground cable all around the lake here in Crandon, a very costly endeavor. Yet not a single attempt was made to sign any of the residents up for services. No phone calls, no direct mail, nothing. Ryan did a little research and sent the General Manager of the company a friendly letter, expressing his surprise at the absence of a sales force, and enclosing his resume.

About a year and a half ago, after I had already moved to Crandon to start my job here, Ryan checked his email one last time before he disconnected his computer to pack it up in the moving truck he was about to drive to Wisconsin. In his inbox was a reply to his letter from the General Manager, stating he would like to meet with Ryan as soon as he got settled in.

About fourteen months ago, the three of us drove to the UP for Ryan’s interview. It was a most memorable trip. A somewhat nervous interview candidate dressed in his very best suit. A muffler dragging over the road announcing the candidate’s arrival from miles away. A frantic wife lying on her belly in the middle of County Road C trying to forcefully remove the muffler. The candidate and his wife arguing about whether or not the muffler could simply be yanked off (it couldn’t).

Unlike the drive up, the meeting itself was a success. Unfortunately all that was offered to Ryan at the time was to work as an independent contractor. After careful consideration, Ryan decided that this was not the right opportunity and he politely turned it down. It was met with understanding and without any hard feelings. From time to time the General Manager would even contact Ryan to see what he was up to.

About four weeks ago, the General Manager approached Ryan again and asked him if he would like to talk about the position of Business Development Manager. Of course he would.

He started on Monday.

25 April 2011

How Sweet It Is

Easter Sunday brought us eggs, treats, and sunshine. Glorious, beautiful, warm sunshine. For a moment there, it seemed spring had sprung.

In the spirit of Easter and resurrection, the flowers I have been staring out of the ground for the last few weeks have finally surfaced. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and crocuses are peaking from the dirt. Like us, they must be pleased to feel the warmth of the sun after all that snow. I haven’t had the heart to tell them more snow showers are predicted for the middle of the coming week. I too, am in denial.

After we returned from a few hours in Rhinelander to pack up more boxes, the three of us dug a few lawn chairs out of the basement and carried them around to the sunniest spot in the garden, just off the garage. Ryan and I basked in the sun, sipped from our cocktails, and watched Lola ride around on her bicycle all afternoon.

We ended the day down by the lake. Warming up by the side of the impromptu bonfire Ryan and Lola built, we watched the sun set on the lake and the stars come out. A little James Taylor in the background topped it off. Several geese joined us while dozens more flew in overhead, loudly announcing their return to Lake Lucerne.

It was an absolutely perfect day.

23 April 2011

Growing Pains

With every birthday comes a doctor's visit. Last Thursday Lola and I visited with her pediatrician for her four year old check up. She was so excited, she had been asking me all week when we were going to the doctor.

The visit went fine, for the most part. She is growing as she should and everything functions as it should. No surprise there. It ended with the final round of her vaccinations. When I told her she was going to get some shots, she enthusiastically asked if she was going to get a band aid? Why, of course!

Two nurses came in to administer the vaccinations, four in all. While I held Lola's elbows, they stereo poked her. Lola sat up when she felt the first pokes but held it together. But the last one, the MMR, was a mean one. That one really hurt. Poor girl. Not even the toy stethoscope the nurse gave her when it was over could console her. When I asked her if she was mad, she answered: "No. I am sad."

Lola and I both have a dental appointment next week. She is also very much looking forward to that visit but she did check with me first if the dentist was going to poke her too. I told her no, he will not. She sighed with relief and proceeded to tell me she never wants to go to the doctor again, she prefers the dentist. I wonder how long it will stay that way...

18 April 2011

A Gentle Reminder

When I dropped Lola off at daycare this morning, her teacher and I talked about her not quite so festive birthday party this Saturday. Miss A. told me it was the start of Spring Break and lots of people were going out of town. I did not know that. My bad for poor planning. It is still no excuse for not calling, though.

One of the no-show mothers overheard us and explained why her daughter wasn't able to make the party. "It would have been nice to know that so I could have prepared Lola for no-one showing up," I shot back and gave her a dirty look. "Oh," she replied. Filled with resentment I walked out of the daycare, got in my car and left.

A few minutes later at the traffic lights, I pulled up behind a car with LVG NRGY on her license plate. I am assuming the driver was a she, I don't think many men up here are prone to driving around with Loving Energy written on their cars. It made me smile. I took a deep breath and all my anger flowed right out of me.

The universe was talking to me again. Thanks for the reminder.

16 April 2011

A Mother's Heartbreak

Lola's birthday party was today. For the first time she invited her own friends to celebrate turning four with. I wanted to do the Waldorf thing and invite the same number of friends as her age, four. Turns out I was wrong. The total number of the party should have been four, according to Rudolf Steiner. Lola on the other hand, invited all of her friends.

In the end it didn't matter because only one friend showed up.

Lola was disappointed, of course, but I am downright heartbroken. And angry. I am very upset with the mothers of three of her friends (one mother had called and canceled because they were going out of town for a family visit). How can they do this to a little girl? Just this morning we ran into one of her friends and her mother at the Y. That mom had called to let me know both she and her daughter were coming, sending me into a frenzy to purchase some adult snacks in addition to the toddler stuff. And then she doesn't show or call.

I just don't understand. Nor do I know what to do about it. I will most likely end up ignoring it. But truth be told, I would really like to give these people a piece of my mind. Ryan is ready to take the day off and wait for them outside Lola's daycare. I'll tell you one thing. I feel a lot less sad about leaving Rhinelander and sending Lola to yet another daycare/preschool.

And if anyone wants to come over this week, we have plenty of cake, snacks, beverages, and homemade party favors left over. If you don't mind lending a hand because we are in the midst of moving...

15 April 2011

A Taste Of Summer

Ryan is visiting with his parents in Arizona at the moment, enjoying some lovely summer weather. We spoke earlier today and I told him it is cold here. The wind is blowing hard, I am waiting for the power to go out, and tomorrow we are expecting three to five inches of snow. That made him happy. I'll bet. Just last week it was the other way around. I was basking in the Arizona sunshine while he was stuck in winter.

I was in Arizona for the annual National Indian Gaming Association's Conference and Trade Show. This was my second time and it was better than last year. I met some old and new business contacts, watched my old boss win a Harley Davidson, and participated in some very interesting workshops. But most of all, I enjoyed the weather.

Walking in Phoenix in the warm evening breeze reminded me of my vacations in Spain during my high school and college years. Pasty white skin, dolled up for an evening on the town, we would wander the streets of Blanes or Malgrat de Mar and enjoy the warm weather and the local charm. The Arizona locals complained it was cold outside one morning, a lovely 70 degrees, forcing me to pipe in and tell them they don't know what cold outside is.

Downtown Phoenix is a strange mix of old and new. Of European architecture, Latino architecture, and modern office and hotel buildings, rising above everything else. The vivid pink and red flowers and fresh green trees brighten up the drab colored buildings. The strawberries taste sweeter in Arizona, I found. The cars are nicer, classier, and cleaner. Phoenix is a very clean city. Surprisingly so because I had a very hard time finding a trash can on the streets.

One afternoon I stopped in to visit St. Mary's Basilica, Phoenix' oldest Catholic church just passed the Convention Center. It was a quiet and peaceful haven. The large cross facing the modest front doors was dressed in purple for Lent. Inside it was cool but not cold. Only one other visitor was sitting in the pews, silently praying. The stained glass windows were beautiful, as was the colorful dome. When I went to light a candle, a surprise awaited me. No doubt as a result of local fire code, I could not actually light a candle but had to push a button to ignite a small flickering electric light. Ah, progress...

12 April 2011


We're back in Crandon. Again. Living with my in-laws. Again. This time it was not the lack of employment opportunities that chased us away. No, we have left our house in Rhinelander because of mold. Dangerous levels of mold.

A couple of months ago, our basement flooded as the result of a burst pipe. Our landlady V. has not exactly been on top of fixing things, to put it mildly. The waterpark was handled quickly enough, but restoring things to the way they were has taken almost two months. We would call her every now and again, to let her know the carpet was still a mess, the base boards were still missing, and mold was starting to form.

Then the family room started to stink. To the point where you would hold your breath when you walked through it. We decided to do a little mold test. And sure enough, we hit a jackpot. When we informed our landlady, she told Ryan she was sending over some friends to assess the situation. As it turned out, her friend was a former health inspector and as soon as he walked in the door, he cried out: "This place reeks of mold! You have to leave, this is dangerous."

And so we did. Well, I didn't do anything, I was living it up in Phoenix while all this went down. Ryan's parents kindly instructed their plumber to de-winterize their house and offered it to us. Ryan packed up Lola, Sandman, and a few other necessities and off to Crandon they went. In the meantime landlady V. called her contractor again and requested he finally finish up. When we returned to the house on Saturday, the guest room carpet had been cleaned and the family room smelled nice again. The base boards are still missing.

Now it could be just me, but fighting mold with a steam cleaner does not make a lot of sense to me. Moisture and warmth? Ideal growing conditions for mold. And that nice smell? Emptying a bottle of Fabreze could have accomplished that. We ran another mold test, in the family room this time, to be sure things had been handled properly. And until we were certain it was safe to live there again, we were staying put in Crandon.

When I spoke to V. to let her know of our plans she told me her friend felt he had exaggerated the smell. It wasn't really mold, it was probably just the dirty carpet in the guest room. Really? At that moment she lost all credibility with me. And when our little test kit started showing signs of life, we decided to move.

Where to? We don't know yet. What I do know is that I am really tired of moving. Really tired. I have far too much crap to be a proper nomad.

10 April 2011


Happy birthday to my beautiful, funny, charming, mischievous, smart, outgoing, cool, imaginative, creative, and loving daughter. This day is a very special day. Because this is the day you were given to me to care for. You are, and always will be, my favorite little person in the whole wide world! Even though you told me you're officially a big girl now.

I love you Lola, with all of my heart!

03 April 2011

Three For Three

When I traveled to Palm Springs two months ago, the Midwest was hit by the Storm of the Century, shutting down the region entirely. And while Lola and I were enjoying glorious spring weather in Holland recently, the Northwoods were treated to a whopping fifteen inches of snow.

In a few hours I leave for Phoenix where the temperature is a balmy 85 degrees. True to form, I leave Wisconsin looking like a winter wonderland once again. My fellow team members have requested I do not leave the state anymore.

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