Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Today the girls were knitting on their bed, and when they put down their knitting, they saw the very first robin!!!!!!!!!!!! Very exciting. Next milestone will be the first crocuses. They also saw a wild rabbit today, when they went out on a hike to our local beaver pond. Such fun! Winter is over!

Yes, this is me with bare feet in a nice stream, it seemed the easiest way to cross. I just didn't trust the waterproofness of my boots. Easiest solution was taking them over, throwing them to the other side, and crossing barefoot. Now I had nice dry boots to wear on the other side. Makes perfect sense right? Who cares whether there still was ice on the water edges ^^.

We hid a new foreign language cache today, this series is so much fun. It was a gorgeous day to be outside, and it was fun to find a good hiding spot. Now I need my translator and illustrator to do their part of the job. And I guess I can start thinking about the next cache we are going to hide. So much to cache, so little time.

Today, my girls are breaking the 'continuous sleepover nights' record, they are up to five days now I think. Of course, this mostly means that it will take more sleepovers to break it next time.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Happy Birthday, Kate!

Today was Kate's birthday, she turned seven. What a wonderful age! She had a fun-filled day, a party with friends and lots of presents. She has asked us whether she could get up at 6am, and I told her that yes, she was welcome to, but I wasn't going to get up that early. Luckily she didn't wake up till it was a more reasonable 7:30am.

I have to admit that I am still not back into my cake baking habit, so instead, we went to the supermarket and let her choose from the big cake book. The choice was very easy for her, it had to be a Barbie cake. I was actually organized enough to order the cake a few days ago, totally unlike me ^^

Sylvia really wanted it to be 'MY birthday!' instead. Especially in the beginning of the day, we got a lot of 'No Kate birthday. Sylvia birthday!' Next one will be Sylvia's.

Of course, this birthday made me remember her birth and the stressful green card trip we had afterwards. The thing was, we could get the green card, but needed to go to the Netherlands to get it. Wouldn't be too bad, apart from the date we had to be on the consulate being less than three weeks from my due date with Kate. I called them and asked whether we could reschedule. 'No, you can't reschedule, but you can cancel it if you want...' Yeah right, getting that far and then not getting the green card?

We hoped Kate would be born in time, but she had to be 10 days overdue, I have never been that anxious to get a baby out, even if I have gone farther overdue. Just as a trip down memory lane, I am posting the email I sent out after our green card trip (when Kate was ten days old! Talk about babymoon... )

We got it!!!!' (posted in April 1999)

First hurdle was getting Kate's passport in time. We managed to do it by using a passport expediting service. It was hard to make a picture of her with her eyes open! She was born on Thursday and we made a lot of pictures on Saturday and Sunday, hoping one of them would have the right size and her eyes open. We put her on her back on a white sheet, to get the right color background. Monday morning Sander went to get the pictures developed in one hour processing and luckily we had some good ones!

So Monday was spent getting everything together for the passport and when Sander went to the passport office in our post office, it turned out that it closed much earlier than the post office, so he needed to get back on Tuesday... So on Tuesday he got it taken care off and got all the paperwork in a sealed envelop, then Fedex-ed it to the expediting service. They were supposed to send it back on Wednesday, but instead they called and told that everything was approved, but the computer in Washington was down, so they would only get the passport back on Thursday. So we ended up having the passport just in time on Friday.

On Sunday we left the States, with Cees, Tim and Kate. My inlaws had come over from the Netherlands to take care of Tara and Jane. The trip was long, but uneventful. We first were dropped off at the parking lot of the shuttle service. Then 2.5 hours in the shuttle bus to Boston. Followed by a 6-hours plane trip. Kate did great on the plane. I carried her in the sling and she slept most of the time. She got her 'First Flight Certificate' from North West Airlines. Will look nice in her baby book, as proof that she was flying over the Atlantic at just 10 days old! The last hour of the plane trip was too much for the boys and we had some less than desirable behavior, especially from Timmy. But we survived it all and got into the bus to long term parking, where the car of my inlaws was parked. Because they were in the States, we were able to use their car and their house. It took us about 2 hours in the car to reach their house, where we finally could relax! Both us and the boys had not slept at all that night in the air plane, so we were exhausted. We went to bed pretty early and slept in very late the next day!

We had the medical examination on April 7. When I had called the consulate in advance, they had told me that this was going to be just the examination and that the real green card interview would be approx. one week later, when the results of the medical stuff would be in. We had all of the paperwork like birth certificates etc with us, but we hadn't made any copies yet (we needed the original and a copy of everything). But since we were not supposed to have the interview yet, I figured we could have the copies made in the Netherlands, during the week we had to wait anyway. Also the package that they had sent with some extra forms for the interview was at a friends house, in another part of the Netherlands. We had used her address, because we moved so many times last year, that I didn't want to use any of those addresses.

We went to a hotel in Amsterdam on Tuesday night, since we had to be at the Consulate at 8:30am. There is lots of traffic problems in the Netherlands, especially around Amsterdam, and that would have been almost impossible to make in time from where we stayed. So we drove to the hotel and I called my friend who had the paper package. We found out that there were some medical forms in the package that we would need the next day!!!! Now how to get them to us? Luckily her husband offered to drive down to Amsterdam to drop them off at our hotel. So he drove 2 hours to get the papers to us, we got them around 1am that night or something like that.... We considered using a fax, but we were afraid they would insist on originals. I slept in a room with Tim and Kate. Tim had a very hard time falling asleep, I think it was 2:15am before he finally slept.

Wednesday morning Timmy spent the first hour or so screaming. We left the car at the hotel and used public transportation to get to the consulate (it is really hard to park a car in Amsterdam and extremely expensive) We first went the wrong way, but got it sorted out finally and arrived at the consulate. Turned out that they did need all the papers today after all and we also needed the forms that my friend had brought over that night. So it was good he made that trip. But we didn't have the copies made yet, so I offered to have the copies made in Amsterdam that day and bring them over later. But she told me that I could bring them next week when we had the interview, we could just come in half an hour earlier so she would have time to put them together. That was the first time they showed any flexibility! We also needed passport photos, which we hadn't made yet, but we lucked out, since we still had some old ones with us. It was very frustrating that they had stressed that this was going to be just a medical examination and the interview would be later and now we needed all those things anyway... Also we found out that they needed the high school diploma as well, while we thought the university diploma would be enough.

Then we got a piece of paper with a small map and some numbers on it and it showed us where to go next. We had to use public transportation again. First we needed to get chest x-rays done at a clinic. Just us, not the kids. Then we could walk to the doctor's practice where we had the examination. Sander and I didn't have our immunization records anymore, so we just got all immunizations.... Cees and Tim never had the hepatitis B shot, so they got that one. The examination was not very impressive. It was just a simply physical and an HIV test. But they charged a lot of money for it! And of course extra for all the immunisations, which they had not mentioned in the information, so we ended up having to find an ATM nearby to get extra money.

It was the beginning of the afternoon when we finally had finished this step of the process. We needed to get back to the consulate at April 14, so we had a few days to do some other things. We went to see my parents (in yet another part of the Netherlands) and a friend in the same city. It was nice to see them again.

Then the next few days we spent getting the photos taken (which needed a white background and were different in a few other ways compared to Dutch passport pictures) and getting the copies made. We also visited some friends and had friends over for visits. On Tuesday the 13rd we had another set of passport pictures made, because while the backgrounds on Timmy's and Cees's were nicely white, we had found out that the background on ours was more blue than white.

We thought things would work out, but there just remained a faint feeling of 'What if there is a technicality wrong and we won't get the green card and we have been through all this for nothing'. It was rather stressful. We only needed to be at the consulate at 9:30am this time, and had figured we could take the train this time and still be in time. But that meant we would have had to leave the house of my inlaws at 6am or so that morning. The day before the interview we changed our mind and decided we would spend the night in Amsterdam again after all, since we were afraid for delays and that we might not make it in time and it was just too important. It was hard to find a hotel that was not fully booked, but we finally managed to get one. And were we glad we did! It turned out that we had a pretty bad snow storm that night (at least for Dutch standards) and it took us a long time to get to Amsterdam and I think we would definitely have had delays if we had tried to get there in the morning.

We were very nervous about the interview. It turned out to mainly consist of waiting and everything went rather smoothly. First we needed to wait to get into the consulate (first at the gate, then to get into the building). Then we had to wait for the person who needed to put together our package. She didn't even want to see our originals and she didn't want to see all the documentation that we had brought to show that we were not likely to become a public charge. She was just interested in the copies and in the letter of Sanders office as long as there was a line about the salary in it. We also had to pay her a lot of money. Then we had to wait again for the consul, who basically asked us whether our US address on the forms was right, since they were going to send the green card to that address. Apart from that she just said that everything looked OK and whether we had any questions and she canceled out all our old visas in our passports (I kind of felt they could have waited to do that until the new visa was in there :-) Then we had to pay some more money and were told to come back at 3pm that afternoon to get our visas.

So we had to wait till 3pm, we did some shopping and we did a canal trip in a sightseeing boat. Halfway the trip, Cees came over to me and told me that he was finished with the trip now and he would like to get off the boat... Kate slept through the whole experience.

At 3pm we went back to the consulate and waited some more. Finally we got 4 packages with sealed envelopes and big visas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Big sigh of relief! Although we still couldn't really believe it :-)

Next few days were spent visiting friends and dealing with our stuff that was still in storage in the Netherlands. When we left in 1994, we were very sure that we would get back within a few years, so put a lot of things in storage. We were not going to have any babies in the States either :-) Well, our plans changed, but we still had 3 containers full of stuff. We are going to ship them, after they have taken out some things like washers etc, which won't work here anyway. It all fits together in one sea container.

Trip back was long again, but at least it was all during the day. The plane was very full, so we didn't have a seat for Kate. The boys did pretty well, and Kate slept again through most of it.

It was a lot of stress and organization and we spent about $ 10,000 for all this, but we did end up with the green card! We were so afraid that something would go wrong and we would do all this and still have no green card. It was not a real vacation, we needed to do too many things around the consular stuff. But, it was still fun to see family and some friends again. I am glad to be home again though and I am sooooo exhausted that I feel I just want to go to bed and sleep for a few days! Alas, Sander immediately went back to work and my inlaws are flying back to the Netherlands today, so that is not going to happen :-)

The girls did fine with my inlaws. They wrote down a little report about every day, it is fun to read what they did while we were away. My m-i-l 'potty trained' Tara. The only things are that she doesn't tell when she has to go, but you have to put her on the potty every 45 minutes and 30 minutes after eating. Also, when she cries she will pee in her pants, and between 4pm and 6pm it is impossible for her to stay dry. And she doesn't poop in the potty yet.... Still, my m-i-l considers her potty trained now :-) The first day we were back I put her in underwear (on Tara's request) After 2 accidents, she wanted to use a diaper instead. Since then she wants to wear diapers all the time, which is fine with me. I am sure she will potty train some day, without me having to put her on the toilet every 45 minutes. Like I have nothing else to do :-)

Now we finally are able to make long term plans for our future! Until now, we never were sure how things would work out with visas etc. Also, I will be able to do some telecommuting work here in the States, so that we can recover from our current financial dip.

When we came back, we found out that Kate had an abnormal result on one of the newborn screening tests (galactosemia). So today I had to go to the midwife, to get her retested for this. It is most likely a false alarm, we had the same happen to Tara. Also she weighed Kate and she was 8lbs 14 oz, which is only 10 oz over her birth weight, so we have to monitor that and I am supposed to rest as much as I can and make sure I eat and drink enough. Kind of hard to do. Kate is looking great though, very alert (and smiling already!), pees a lot, poops a lot, so we are not too worried.

Wow, reading that again makes me so grateful that this is all behind us! Life sure was stressful back then. And it reminds me that I should start working in my naturalization. After my taxes that is ^^

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In Memoriam: Sugar

We lost one of the girls rats today :( Jane found her dead in her cage, no clear reason why she suddenly died. Everyone is sad, she was such a cutie. The girls made her a small box and buried her under a pile of sticks and rocks, since the earth still turned out to be too frozen to dig into. I asked whether they wanted to cremate her, which we did with Cees's parakeets, but they preferred a burial. I guess she is in a kind of winter crypt now.

You will be missed, little one.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Presenting our Second Foreign Language Cache

It has been listed!

This is the second one in our Foreign Language Series, what fun! Working on the third one now, I am putting it together, so that hopefully I can hide it tomorrow.

Go club today, it was slow. Four people showed up, not many. I got a Victory Garden cookbook from one of my go friends, looking forward to trying recipes in it.

Oh My...

Tara has discovered the joys of online chatting with her friends. It has been contagious and now the kids seem to be exchanging nothingness in pretty fonts all day. Yet another uncharted parenting territory for me to enter.

Today we went to our local raptor rescue center. Sylvia was very impressed about their demo program, when she got to see an owl from really up close. She said in her cute little voice 'Hi bird!' She still wasn't feeling well though, after a while, her voice changed to sad and to 'home! home!' That was after five or so pee breaks during the lecture. But with the diarrhea, I wasn't taking any chances, when she told me she had to go, I immediately took her. Better than dealing with the alternative ^^

She spent most of the day on my lap, totally unlike her. I hope she will feel better soon.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

All Those Credit Card Applications?

You know, the one you keep receiving for yet another great creditcard? Someone did an interesting experiment by tearing up one of them, taping it all together, changing the address information and sending it in. Should raise a red flag with the credit card company, right? Nope, they just saw dollar signs and sent him a shiny, new credit card... Sigh.

On another financial topic, we are down to less than 35 % of our original debt (measured from May 2002 when we started our serious 'Get Rid of Debt' plan) Only 2 or 3 more years and we will be 100 % debt free and that includes our mortgage. Woohoo!!!

Sylvia still isn't feeling well, very fussy and still diarrhea. She is spending most of the day on my lap still, and spends a lot of time throwing temper tantrums. I'll be glad when she finally is over this. Poor little one.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Forty years old now, wow, does that mean I am finally a grownup? Yeah, I thought not.

Nothing special going on, just lots of love and birthday wishes and little presents. My big present for the day was the Fedex man delivering my Dutch passport, which I have waited for for two years or so. Good timing :-) Another good timing was the delivery of a package from Upton teas, which included a display tea, a tea which turns into a peonie rosette when you make it. So cool!

Sylvia still isn't totally back to normal, but she does feel better. She is spending a lot of time on my lap though. Too bad, now I have to sit and do things at the computer instead of the 672 loads of laundry she has generated over the last few days ^^

Actually it would be nice if she was willing to leave me for a few minutes so that I could make myself some breakfast. Oh well :)

I have gotten a bunch of e-cards, nice! The kids love the ones with music and little movies. OK, I do too.

Sipping my tea and enjoying the day.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Poor Sylvia

Last night, out of the blue, Sylvia puked all over her daddy, followed by at least ten more puking episodes over herself or us. Poor little one. The night was spent by waking up every half hour or so, catching more vomit, but I had hoped she would be better in the morning. Those illnesses often are short lived.

She is still miserable though. Has a fever, still puking (but not as frequently anymore) and the only thing she wants to do is sit on my lap or lay on the couch. Very unlike her. She just fell asleep on my lap again. Hope she will feel better soon.

On the upside, now I'll be forced to sit at my computer and study go ^^. Too bad I can't do the dishes instead, or wash the floors.

Would You Like Fries with That?

Friday night, Cees decided that he wanted french fries for dinner. That is one of those things that I never think about making, but the kids really do like it. It was my aikido night, so I told him that if he wanted them, he could make them for everyone. (Those were the frozen french fries, although he has made them from scratch in the past too)

I was smart enough to tell him that dad could help him, and I escaped left the house to go to aikido. Where I could hit people with my katana. And trip over it while rolling. Yeah, still suck at that.

Cees basically did all the work himself (tiny bit of help from sander) and proudly served fries at dinner time. At least he can make a career in the fast food industry, if nothing else works out.

Today was cleanup day and I discovered that my kids are freaks of nature. At least, the two older ones. They got up at 6am, did all the pickup and cleanup and vacuuming i would have demanded, apart from our bedroom. After we got up, they finished with that and cleanup day was done for them!!!! Still have a hard time believing it. Wow!

I cleaned up a bunch of laundry baskets and got things ready for mailing. After that i went out to hide another cache in our foreign language series. Not an extremely long hike, but very very up :) I hope we can list it later this week. Fun series.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Do Not Sleep With Your Windows Open

Today in the van, on the way back from homeschool club. Erik warns us 'Do not sleep with your windows open!'
Me: 'No?'
Erik: 'Aliens will abduct you!'
Cees: 'They can build spaceships to travel between worlds, and they can't open a window???'
Erik: 'Yeah!'
Tara: 'Well, it is different technology...'
Jane: 'Couldn't they use laser guns?'
Erik: 'Most aliens don't know how to make laser guns.'
Jane: 'They can build spaceships, but not laser guns?'
Erik: 'Yeah!'
Cees, quietly to Jane: 'Just let him believe that.'
Erik: 'Calvin got abducted!'
Kate: 'That was just a BOOK!!!'

Public information statement for today, do not sleep with your windows open. They are out there to get you!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wednesday -> Large Families Day!

Joining Chris, Carmen, Kim, owlhaven, and Chuck in talking about all the rude comments we get about having more than 2.5 kids. Years ago, I compiled a bunch of them into the Large Families FAQ. It was a lot of fun putting it together, and I often do use comebacks from it.

A few days ago, I read a new one for the 'Are they all from the same father???' question I sometimes get. 'Yes, they are, but we are still waiting for the DNA results to see whether I am the mother.' Can't wait to use it ^^

The rudest I have gotten is the 'Are you insane or what???' from a stranger at the swimming pool. I sweetly smiled at him and said 'Yes.' I wish I could tell you how he carefully backed away from me, but I have to admit that he just kept standing there, with his mouth hanging open.

I have gotten the 'I hope this is a daycare', in a voice which implied that it would be horrible if it wasn't. Now my kids all look pretty much like siblings, so I think it could not have come as much of a surprise when I told them it wasn't.

And there is the inevitable 'Wow, you have your hands full' even when I have only half of the kids with me. I usually just nod and smile, I don't feel that this is meant to be rude, usually people are genuinely surprised and impressed that I go grocery shopping with four, five, or more kids.

It is fun when I am out with my own seven and one or two extras. People will ask the 'Are they all yours???' and I can sweetly point to the one dark haired one and say 'No, she isn't'. Leaving them to digest the fact that I just implied that the other '1, 2, 3, 6, SEVEN!!' must be mine. Often they are still convinced that I must be joking. I mean, seven kids, come on, that just doesn't happen anymore in this day and age.

I get some rude comments, but I get lots of nice comments too. The 'Your kids are so well behaved!'. Which makes me wonder whether they are mixing me up with someone else. Or the 'You are blessed!', often stated wishfully by older ladies. I always smile and agree. For me, the nice comments far outnumber the rude ones, but there definitely have been quite a few rude ones.

To finish this post I'll share some funny ones I have gotten.
  1. 'OMG! Do you clone your kids???'
  2. Wow!!!! An invasion of the Vikings!!!' (at the farmer's market)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Visit to the Big City

Finally made it up to Boston today, to apply for a new Dutch passport. We used to be able to do that by mail, but the Dutch government decided that that was too easy, so now have to go to embassy in person. What a pain. Had been wanting to do it for only two years or so, and now finally did it!

I went together with a geocaching friend, took us about two hours to get to Boston, and then almost another hour to find a place to park...

Found out that my pictures weren't good, my head was one degree too much turned to the left. Also, couldn't just use forms from their website, had to redo them on their forms... We got it all taken care off, and then it was time to go caching!

Did a cache at a historical cemetery. One of the signers of the declaration of independence was buried there, as was the first victim of the Boston Massacre. Very interesting. Sylvia found that one. Later we went to the Commons, where we saw a red tailed hawk bully the local squirrels. He would sit in a tree, ignoring all the humans passing by, waiting for a squirrel to be brave enough to run over the grass. He would slowly get up, make a lazy swoop over the squirrel, laughing when the squirrel ran into a tree and froze. Sat down in the next tree and waited for more brave squirrels. All around these happenings, there would be ten frozen squirrels in trees. So cool!

Highlights for Sylvia:
  • Riding in an elevator with real elevator music. She wasn't sure what to think of it
  • Seeing a statue of a 'horsey!'
  • Noticing all the geese at the commons
  • Even better: all the pigeons!
  • Enjoying someone throwing peanuts at her feet, so seeing the pigeons very up close.
  • Wondering whether she really wanted to be surrounded by 50 pigeons when he threw down even more of them
  • Seeing and experiencing LOUD firetrucks trying to get through a backed up street. Cars madly scrambling to get out of their way
  • Seeing doggies and doggies and more doggies
  • Seeing all the HUGE building
Sylvia was a bit overwhelmed by it all, so was I ^^

Now I can start working on my naturalization, will have to deal with yet another set of bureaucratic procedures.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Presenting our First Foreign Language Cache

Done! Hidden and listed. It even has been found already, by some people who drove up from Southern NH to be First To Find. So cool! I love this new caching series, we are having so much fun designing it and thinking about it.

Today is clean up day (Sunday = Clean Up Day) I instituted this about a month ago and it is working out pretty nicely. The house (well, not the whole house, but the more important parts of it ) look great now. Maybe some day I will actually be organized!

I went to a go tournament in Vermont yesterday, all by myself. Had a great time, played four serious games. I won only one of them, but I had won positions on two of my losses, but lost on time... Oh well :) So I feel that I won three, even if the records say only one. I entered as 3k and could easily pull that off. Only three stones to go to shodan!