Monday, January 31, 2005

Snow Shoes

Last Friday, I got myself a pair of snow shoes! I spent half an hour in the store, staring at all the different options, checked out another store, came back, and stared some more. So I went and found myself the 'resident snow shoe expert', who pointed out a pair and told me how easy they were to put on. He should have stopped there, but instead went on and demonstrated it to me on his own shoes. For at least five minutes, if not longer, he was standing there, struggling to put the darned shoes on, all the while explaining how easy it was. I told him that I could just see myself doing this with my baby in the sling.

He claimed it was because he was male and those were women's snow shoes... I asked whether he really was the expert? I ended up buying a different type of snow shoe for some reason :-) Spent more money than I had planned, but now have a pair of mountaineering snow shoes, with optional 8 inch tails. And I saved more money by buying the expensive ones, since they were all 20% off. So I would have saved less with the cheap snow shoes.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to try them out, looking for an almost local cache. As in we had to drive less than an hour, which is pretty local, right?

One observation is that they are BIG! I immediately tripped over my own feet. It's not too bad to just walk, it was the manoeuvring around the car that was the pits. I had ski poles to help me stabilize, and I am so glad I used those. Otherwise I would have found myself flat on my fanny a few times I think.

It was a very beautiful pond, with people walking, sledding, cross country skiiing, and using snow mobiles on it. We would have had to walk around the pond for a bit, but now we could just walk over it. That was fun. The only thing less fun was that Sylvia insisted on no hat. And I kept dropping things. I did not enjoy picking up pole, after pole, after pole, hat, after hat, after hat, glove, after glove, after glove, and so on.

Sylvia 's hands were totally blue... That worried me for a few seconds, till I realized that she had eaten blueberries.

When I was starting to get really desperate, thinking we would NEVER find this cache, the batteries in my GPS ran out. Did I mention that I had forgotten to bring new ones? Luckily my friend had some new ones with her. Phew.

After all that, we didn't find the cache. Too much fluffy snow hiding all the hiding spots. We did enjoy seeing lots of beaver activity though. I didn't care much, it was too perfect of a day to care about not finding a cache. So much better than being stuck inside.

Cees is really pushing me to start getting ready for our caching trip to Texas. My lack of organizational skills has really held me back in planning for it. I would love to go, but I am so overwhelmed with the whole planning thing. So he is planning it now. Figuring out how much we can drive on a day. Finding fun things to do on the way. He even offered that he would help to clean out the van, since there is too much stuff in it to go on a long road trip now.

We'll camp once we are in warmer states. And on the way down, I am hoping that I can ask people for some floor space where we can camp out. But I am still so overwhelmed by the whole planning aspect of it. Strangely enough, the idea of the trip itself is not overwhelming at all, maybe because it's still so up in the air.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Caching Through The Snow

The kids were suffering from too much cabin fever, so today, I thought it would be good to take them all out geocaching. We searched for and found 14 mittens, 8 hats, 14 boots, 11 pairs of pants, 5 warm coats, and a bunch of assorted other stuff. And off we went.

Almost missed the right road, but found it after turning around. Parked the van, and found out that Kate and Erik had fallen asleep. Both were not thrilled to be woken up.

Snow mobiles had made it a nice, easy walking trail, but we still had much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the cold and the snow. Even more when we had to get into the deep snow to find the cache. It would have been an easy find if there hadn't been two feet of snow on top of everything. And I forgot my trusted ski poles. Still was pretty easy, but the screaming level was increasing. It was a book cache, so we traded some books, and then kind of covered up the cache again. It would be a lot easier if we actually had been able to find sticks / leaves / bark or whatever, as opposed to snow flakes and snow flakes.

Oh we tried a virtual after this cache, but there was a 5 feet wall of snow in front of the monument, and I decided that I would do that one another day instead. So we got some hot chocolate and went home instead. After spending all that whining and hiking energy, it's amazing how much better the atmosphere in the house is.

Sylvia is not only cruising, but I have caught her a few times, standing by herself, without holding on. Not for long yet, but I still think she is way too young to even contemplate trying it!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Clean Kitchen!

The unthinkable has happened! I cleaned my kitchen. Mostly because I was stuck inside after this snow storm, but hey, it doesn't matter why it happened, right? OK, actually I also cleaned it because it was starting to get bad, even to my admittedly loose standards. It's a joy to be in such a sparkly kitchen, maybe I'll even get around to more cooking and baking than I have been doing lately.

The snow storm did hit us, but we only got about 12 inches or so, as opposed to South of us, where they got a tad more. Yesterday, it even was sunny, although bitterly cold. We got our driveway unburied, and dug out the cars. Dh's car is leaking coolant, so it's going to the shop today. Not looking forward to hearing how much that is going to cost us.

yummy blueberriesmorning dove in the snowsquirrel in the snow

Sylvia has two more teeth! She now has the two bottom middle ones, and the two top outside incisors. She looks like a little Dracula :-)

I am still working hard on getting to 1st dan, it's going way too slowly to my taste. Maybe I am more of an instant gratification person? And yes, I am still 16k at the go server, really need to get that back to 15k soon!

Saturday, January 22, 2005


This morning, I woke up to -28 C and wind chill warnings. It was so cold! I didn't really want to get out of bed, but Sylvia kept bopping me on the head with toys and trying to take away my book, so at some point I gave in.

Finally went to my favorite grocery store and spent way too much money. That was after discovering a few green coolant puddles underneath dh's car, so I am sure we will spend even more money soon. But at least we are all set for the snow storm that is upon us now. We are supposed to get 6 to 12 inches, way too much for me! How will I be able to go caching tomorrow????

Glad that I went caching today at least, it was fun being out in the woods, even if it was a bit frigid. Chickadees were chirping, we saw lots of interesting tracks, I didn't really mind the cold. Although I do admit that just a few degrees higher would have been nice. It started snowing when we found the cache. It won't stop till tomorrow afternoon. Good that we brought hot tea to drink when we were back in the car.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Sadness and Happiness

Two years ago, I had my late miscarriage. I have been thinking about that a lot the last few days. I wish I could have met that baby. Or maybe I am meeting that baby, Sylvia would have been the kind of person who would just keep trying until I got it right. I will never know, but will always have a sad spot in my heart about all the miscarriages.

The sadness is tempered by my current happiness though. Sitting here, writing in my blog, holding the sleeping baby I love so much. Her warm and sweet body cuddled against me. She doesn't want to be put down, neither do I want to put her down. Such a wonderful treasure.

This happy baby was even happier yesterday, when we were visiting a friend, and she discovered that there was a special bowl of food for her on the floor. She immediately started eating, while the rightful owner of the bowl watched her in dismay. Yes, she got into the cat food... And she was very proud about it too. Sitting next to it, gleefully stuffing pieces of cat food in her mouth... At least it was the dry kind of cat food, but I still took her away from her find.

Life is good, the only minus I can think of right now is that my ranking at the go server dropped back to 16k. Guess I have to practice some more. Or I will never make it to first dan.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


I am planning on starting the naturalization process soon, so that I can actually drive down the I-91 and not get into trouble with the border patrol. I was talking about it today with Cees and Tim and Cees asked me whether I would need surgery to become an American citizen. I was kind of surprised and replied 'Why??? What kind of surgery? Brain surgery?'

No, that wasn't it, he just thought Americans looked different from us. Timmy piped in to tell me that I would need to wear different clothes too. Don't you love how kids sometimes see the world totally different from how we see it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Go And Geocaching

On Sunday, I went to my very first American go tournament! It was in Boston, and I tremendously enjoyed playing against real people. I even won one of the games. That means that I lost the other three, but I am focusing on the win instead :-)

Not only did I go to my very first go tournament, but in a moment of insanity, I committed myself to becoming first dan by August. The AGA (American Go Association)was looking for participants for their Shodan Challenge, and it sounded like fun. Why not go for the stars instead of focusing on just one step up. The Massachussets go tournament got me an official AGA rating of 14k. So only fourteen levels to go to first dan! Although I will not really believe the 14k rating till I have reached 14k on KGS too.

On Saturday, we went to the Montshire Museum to celebrate Erik's birthday. We had a great time, and I even managed to find a locationless cache. It's amazing how I can fit geocaching into my daily life :-)

Yesterday, we had Dungeons and Dragons club at our house. Only one of the player characters died, and he got reincarnated into a big, black bear, which led to a very interesting play. We barely saw the players, once in a while a bunch would come down to grab some food, and that was it.

Today was geocaching day, even although the windchill was like -20 F or so. We did a virtual that mostly required a lot of driving on a local road, so we could stay in the nice, toasty car. We did one traditional cache, almost freezing off our fingers trying to deal with the nice, icy ammo box. It was at a very nice location, but for some reason we found the cache and almost ran back to the car, because it was so coldy, cold, cold (as one of our local cachers tends to say in her logs).

Now I need to study more go problems! What did I do? Was I insane to sign myself up for this? Oh well, I'll just have to do it now, since I publicly committed myself :-)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Happy Birthday, Erik!

Four years ago, my youngest son was born. It is hard to imagine how fast the time has flown, I look at him, trying to remember that tiny newborn, who was born in the birthing tub upstairs. I try to remember how helpless he was, and how tiny. How many hours I spent, just holding him, falling in love with him.

Now he is four years old, and not as tiny anymore. He spends a lot of time running around, always finding something interesting to explore. He has a love / hate relationship with his sister Kate, they either play very nicely together, or fight very bitterly. This can alternate within minutes.

He had a wonderful birthday. A very much wanted gameboy, a brio train track. some dinosaurs, and more. He had a store bought cake, his request, maybe just a tiny bit influenced by me asking him when we were close to the cake display at the supermarket. I am feeling overwhelmed enough that I thought this was a perfect choice.

I asked him who he wanted to invite to his party. 'Papa. Mama. Cees. Tim. Tara. Jane... But not Kate!!!' Hmmmm, I guess he just had been in a fight with Kate. We'll go to a local museum tomorrow.

I made it to 15th kyu on the go server, one step close to first dan!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More Endocrinology And Some Geocaching

Thanks for all your feedback on the endo issue. We are hoping that the tests will point out that there is no growth hormone issue going on, we should get the results next week. Two more things I forgot to mention last time.One was that he noticed that Cees has a very high palate. He says that that sometimes correlates with pituitary gland issues. I just did some web surfing, and this seems unlikely in his case. The second thing was that Cees used to be on inhaled steroids for the first years of his life. The endocrinologist said that that might cause growth issues too. I haven't really looked into that yet, I always thought that the inhaled steroids didn't have many side effects.

Oh, he also asked me in an accusatory tone whether we used only low fat items. He told me that Cees really needs the fat. If you know me, you would know that I am not a low fat food type of person. If anything, I try to boost nutrition in everything, usually by adding protein, but I have never avoided fat in foods. I think he was sure the 'no juice' attitude had to go together with fattophobia.

And now for something completely different: geocaching! We were supposed to be caching on Saturday, but a snow storm got in the way. I know some people will comment that they are surprised that that was holding me back, so I'll admit that I did go out hiking in the woods to check on our new cache. I just didn't want to drive anywhere.

On Sunday, I couldn't stand it anymore though, so we spent a few hours digging out from the snow storm, and then we hit the road to Burlington, where we were going to do urban caches. They have so many more caches around there than we do here. Not fair! We had a wonderful day. It was our family, my friend M and my friend I who is in a wheel chair. My friend M had tried to do a Manchester urban cache, but she felt so conspicuous, standing in the middle of Manchester with a GPS, all by herself. She figured we would be a lot less conspicuous with seven blonde kids, a woman in a wheelchair, and two 'normal' people. Yes, you can stop laughing now!

Here are some logs.

We were going to do this one on our way to the Halloween Cache Bash, but it didn't work out that time. Today we did find it though! I happily and carelessly walked up the slope, and suddenly found myself flat on my face in the snow. On closer inspection, it turned out that it wasn't just snow, it was snow hiding a 2 inch layer of ice. Very slippery!

It was good that baby Sylvia wasn't in her customary position in my sling, but instead was complaining about being held by mosaica. But at least she was safely in the van. A car came up to check out our fogged up van, but when he saw Mosaica and Sylvia in the front, he decided that we weren't there for off label use. Or at least not for the off label use he was hoping for.

The GPS was very unhelpful, taking us about everywhere but where the cache turned out to be. The snow was unhelpful too, but enabled us to see cool deer tracks. Flyingfisher eventually found it by using a stick to poke in the snow at likely places. There was this typical plink! noise of a cache, as opposed to just sticks, pine needles, or fallen down leaves.

The next problem was extracting the cache from the ice it was embedded in. We managed to do it by applying our knowledge of levers. I was afraid the cache would be frozen solid, but luckily it wasn't. TNLNSL.

The way down was interesting. There still was the 2 inch layer of ice underneath the snow and it is a bit steep at places. Oggette #4 and Mosaica had placed bets on whether I would come down on my butt or my feet. They both won...

And here's a log for a cache which was located in a mall in Burlington, a very sneaky one. We had to hunt for a while before we discovered it.

When I told the Oggettes that we were going to do a bunch of urban caches, Tara was not impressed. 'I don't want to go caching!!! How the heck can we get to AIRBORNE caches????' After some explanations about the real meaning or urban, she was willing to reconsider :-)

We used to live close to here, so it was fun driving around in Burlington and recognizing everything. I even recognized the parking garage, and discovered that the OggMobile fit in it. Well, as long as we ducked at the appropriate times.

The kids were elated when we discovered the escalators. I don't think Erik had ever even been on one. We had to use them a few times, Erik kept calling them 'moving stairs'. I explained to him that they were called escalators, so later he referred to them as 'stairvators'.

Very clever hide, it took us a while to find it. Most people were too busy staring at the flock of Oggettes to pay much attention to our searching for the cache.

We came home after midnight, which meant that we had two kids asleep! And now we are in the middle of another snow / ice storm, and couldn't go geocaching today either.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Pediatric Endocrinology

Which is where we spent a whole morning, a first consult for Cees's growth issues. He always has been off the charts (at the bottom) for weight, but at least kind of following the chart. Lately, at his 13yo checkup, he has been getting farther away from the bottom line though. The gp did some blood work, which all came back normal. She referred us to the endocrinologist, to check into some things, and hopefully rule out hormonal issues.

Off we went, way too early in the morning, and made it almost in time. Before we left, I first had to find the questionnaire they sent me three months in advance. Of course, I had to wait till the last minute to extract it from our mail mountain, and then discovered that I needed data like the height of grandparents and uncles. After a bunch of emergency phone calls to the Netherlands, we had all that info, although I decided that I didn't really want to wake up all six siblings to find out their current height.

The appointment went reasonably well. We did a bone age x-ray, and drew blood for a bunch of hormone levels. He said he wasn't as much concerned with his height, but more with his weight, because even for his height he was extremely light. So now we are supposed to get more calories in him. His advice was Carnation instant breakfast and juices. I replied that I wasn't so sure about the juice, that I'd rather have him eat apples and oranges as opposed to the juice. But he told me he needed the calories, and he didn't care about empty calories. I am not so sure about that.

He also told us that the growth hormones would not have any side effects and that they wouldn't make him taller than he would be, they would just make him mature and start his growth spurt sooner. Cees and I looked at each other and silently communicated with a 'So what? Does it really matter when he hits his growth spurt, as long as he will?' The endocrinologist explained to us that Cees was too protected in our home school environment, that he would want to take growth hormones if he would be attending school.

In summary, I wasn't impressed with the dr's nutritional knowledge, but I did get the tests I wanted, so I don't care too much. I'll try to get some more calories in him, but I am not going to push unhealthy choices. Somehow that doesn't feel right.

On a more fun note, we hid a new cache, The Fairy Kingdom Tree The girls had fun drawing illustrations for the cache page, and now we are waiting to see who is going to be First To Find. When my friend M and I walked today, we decided to do a quick check on it, seeing whether there were any tracks in the snow close to the tree. Of course, we couldn't get too close, because we didn't want to give away the cache location. So we sneaked our way through the woods, hoping that our tracks would throw off any would-be First To Finders :-) It turned out that some one was trying to find the first stage while we were there, but he gave up because it was getting dark. We could have met him, if only he hadn't been so afraid of the dark!

Other exciting geocaching news is that two of our travel bugs made a big jump in their total mileage. Tim's dire frog made it from New Hampshire to Arizona. 3711 kilometers on it now. It looks very impressive on our travel bug map in the bath room. But even more impressive is Erik's helicopter named Be-ah is in Spain! Close to Gibraltar and within easy reach of Africa. Its mission was to travel around the world, well, it sure is doing that, so cool!

Erik was very excited about his travel bug. I showed him on the US map that Be-ah had flown over the water, and then we went to the world map and I showed him where Be-ah is now. I showed him how big the ocean in between was. He had to call daddy and tell him 'Papa! My travel bug is in Spain! It traveled over a river!!!' I guess he couldn't remember the correct word for that type of water. That's a pretty big river.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Caching Day?

Yes, that was the plan. Last night, I made plans to get together today to hit a bunch of caches in Vermont. I haven't cached in ages, too busy with all the holiday stress and sick people. So I was really looking forward to a day totally devoted to caching. That is, till Erik started complaining about being sick. Followed by him sitting down on a chair close to him, and falling asleep!!!! Which is totally unheard of, my kids never sleep. I just knew something was up, and when I felt his forehead... Ouch! He was burning up.

I briefly considered that this could be an illness which would only last for a few hours. But I realized that it was most likely the same virus that Sylvia had, and that that wasn't really a one day virus. So much for that caching day! Poor Erik!

It was nice and warm in the bed during the night, laying between two feverish kids. But at least Sylvia was feeling a lot better today, her fever was almost totally gone and she was active again. Yesterday, her eyes were kind of glassy, today she was her own bright eyed self again. Much better! But Erik made up for it by having a high fever and feeling very miserable. At some point he was asking 'Mama, can you help me? I need you to make me stop being sick!' Awww, if only I could.

I did some stuff around the house, but I really had rather been caching. Stupid viruses! I did go on a walk to my beaver pond though, and found a perfect cache location. So I can count it at least as a partial caching day, right? The beaver pond is always so peaceful and quiet. It was weird to see it without snow in January. The ice even wasn't completely covering the pond, makes me wonder whether it really is winter?

Lisa replied to me about the gingerbread house. The answer is yes, other kids do act that way when decorating a gingerbread house. They also tied a barbie to a nerf rocket and launched her into space. But they're not sociopaths I swear, LOL. I told the boys that some kids were even more creative than they were and they immediately started plotting how to do better than Lisa's kids. So here is my oldest boy, begging me 'Can I cut up a barbie if I have the owner's permission? Please? Can I???? Please, please, please????????????????????' Hmmmmm, reading all those parenting books had not prepared me for this question.

Yes, he ended up cutting up the barbie, with everybody eagerly watching and commenting. Cosmic karma struck though, and he cut in his own finger while cutting off her nose. Jane is now the proud owner of a handless, feetless, and noseless barbie. She taped it to our front door, and reminded me 'Don't forget to tell those people that we tied her to the door!' Thanks Lisa! Your kids have corrupted my kids...

The good news is that I finally reached 16th kyu on the go server! Now I can strive for my new goal, 15th kyu :-)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Gingerbreadhouse is DONE!!!

Only about a week late, but still... Yesterday, the kids decorated it and today it got demolished. Yes, I will post pictures some day. The boys did all kind of weird things with the gummy bears. They met gruesome deaths, being stabbed by candy canes and such. Or they took off their heads and would put the head and the body close together, with accompanying sound effects and violent stories. Do other kids do weird stuff like that when they decorate gingerbread houses????

Today we had a homeschool meeting, I wasn't sure whether many people would show up. The weather was lousy and it's still so early in January. Four families came over, so a nice turnout. The older kids played dungeons and dragons, and had a lot of fun. It's amazing how they can play together really nicely now that they have found a game that both boys and girls like. As opposed to the 'boys in one room' and 'girls in the other room' which used to be the game of choice for quite a while. And then of course, trying to break into the others room. And running downstairs, complaining about the other gender party. All that is gone since they are playing dungeons and dragons. I guess it isn't as evil as I thought :-) :-) :-)

I have been doing a lot of playing go, trying to increase my rating on the on line go server The ratings in go start at 30th kyu when you are just a beginner, going up to 1st kyu when you are pretty darned good. After that you are considered a master and start with 1st dan, 2nd dan, and so on. My ranking bounced around a bit in the beginning (computer trying to figure out what your real ranking is, based on whether you win or lose from known opponents), then it stabilized on 17th kyu. Where it has been for the last two weeks or so. I keep creeping closer and closer to the 16th kyu, but it keeps eluding me. Very frustrating!

Tim baked a cake for today's homeschool meeting, it came out very well. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and colored sprinkles. It was very popular. I just baked my famous cinnamon raisin bread.

Sylvia is still sick and miserable. She just wants to be held, doesn't play around and isn't exploring the house. Poor baby.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year!!!

We had a wonderful New Year's Eve. Kids stayed up, we did sparklers, we drank champagne and sparkling apple juice, and we made oliebollen. I had a lot of baking to do yesterday, nothing like waiting till the last moment. So no, I did not get everything done, but I just can't care too much. We'll just have a later than usual gingerbread house. I baked it yesterday, and today we assembled it. Tomorrow, it will be decorated, and then a few days later, we'll get out the hammer and destroy it! Yes, I know that's our New Year's day tradition, but life just got too much in the way, oh well.

I know a new year should come with new year's resolutions, but I can't really think of any so far. Am I really that boring of a person? I know it's not that I am perfect already, so wouldn't need resolutions. Hmmm, maybe it's just because I consider myself a hopeless case, too set in my ways :-)

Today, we tried to finish the baking that didn't get done. At least we got the new year's eve cake baked, now it still needs to be frosted. Did I mention that I have felt a bit overwhelmed lately? OK, maybe more than a bit. There just are so many things that need to happen, and only 24 hours in a day. And I'd rather be caching anyway. At least I had a few cachers over for an afternoon of gaming earlier this week. That was a lot of fun. But I really want to be out and hiding or finding caches, and that just isn't happening. At least I get my daily walk in, but it isn't the same :-)

Sylvia is pulling up to stand way too often now, she doesn't understand that she's too little. She just is so darned cute. She came down with a fever tonight, that explains why she was so fussy during the day, never sleeping more than 5 or 10 minutes. She now is asleep on my lap, but keeps startling herself awake. Poor little one.