Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stuff

The farther I am getting done in the basement (130 bags and counting), the more the stuff in the rest of the house is starting to bother me. Now if only I could get the momentum to actually DO something about it, instead of mindless web surfing.

Maybe I'll first finish the basement (getting there) and then choose one room to tackle. Have to decide which room. Maybe computer room since I spend a lot of time here. Or my bed room. I don't know yet. So much to declutter, so little time!

The kids have started decluttering their rooms, which is cool. They have made before pictures, I hope they will have the momentum to make it to the after pictures. But even if they don't, every thing which gets thrown out is one less piece of clutter in the house. The girls want to move to a different room, but first will have to clean out their current room. Which is not a trivial project.

Fighting the war on clutter, one piece of crap at a time ^^

Favorite Colour

Kate: 'Sylvia, what is your favorite colour?'
Sylvia: 'My favorite colour is upstairs!'
Kate: 'I mean is it pink, red, orange, black?'
Sylvia: 'Orange black!'
Kate: 'OK, orange is her favorite colour.'

Girls

Today is go study day, so just going to post some recent pictures of the girls.









Blech

It has been one of those days. Kids never seemed to stop fighting, it was raining, nothing was right, and everything was wrong. And to add insult to injury, blogger refuses to upload my pictures.

I guess I could spent some time whining, but maybe better go to bed. Hoping tomorrow will be better.

Just pretend there are cute pictures here and ignore the whine.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Knitting in Blue

After writing my post about the baby sweater, I stumbled onto this Knitting in Blue post during my daily blog surfing. This is from Daddy, Papa and Me, A journal about two dads, their daughter, adoption, raising a family... and the politics of it all. I have read their blog before and always enjoyed it.

They are working on trying to make marriage equality a reality in California and I fullheartedly support their efforts.

To show my support, posting a picture of when my brother got married to his boy friend, soon after marriage equality finally happened in the Netherlands.



Happy memories, my father was still alive. I traveled to the Netherlands to attend their wedding. The baby in the picture is Kate.

Baby Sweater

One of the things I found in the basement was a baby sweater I was knitting. A baby sweater I started when I was pregnant with Tara. Yes, I do realize she is ten years old now, and it might not fit anymore.

I never finished this sweater before she was born, but I had high hopes I could do it afterwards. Yeah right, three kids and a full time job didn't leave much knitting time. But luckily I was pregnant again and could use it for the next baby...

My goal for this sweater kept being pushed forwards to yet another baby, but I never actually knitted anything at it after Tara was born. At some point I was joking I could use it for my grandkids.

I found this half finished sweater in the basement and held it in my hands for a while. I looked at it and envisioned all the dreams I had had for this sweater. The feeling of accomplishment I would have had when my baby would wear this awfully cute sweater. We both would be better persons if only I had finished this sweater.

Then my perception switched and I realized that love and accomplishment is not about this sweater. That this sweater actually had been sucking my energy, just by being there, unfinished, always invoking a slight feeling of guilt in me. That it had been taking up precious space in my basement, my life and my soul, without giving anything back.

And I knew it was ok to let go of this sweater. The fact that I hadn't knit one stitch on it in the last ten years, clued me in to the possibility that I wouldn't knit anything on it in the next ten years either. I sighed, and dropped it in the thrash bag, not even wanting to try to find a 'deserving owner' for it. I just let go and felt myself getting a tiny bit lighter. I did not live up to my expectations, but the world didn't explode.

This sweater seemed symbolic for a lot of things in my basement and my life. I do not have to hold on to every item, every object, every unfinished dream. I can let go and will be ok, or even enlightened. Amazing how much insight can be hidden in an old unfinished baby sweater.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Friends

Sylvia and this little girl have been friends since they were aware of each other. She used to live next to us, but had to move away a few weeks ago. Sylvia has been missing her.



Yesterday, she came to visit and they were so happy to see each other. The kids had been making a special corner for Sylvia and her friend got invited into it. They were just laying there for a long time (well, in toddler's perception anyway) and enjoying each other's company.

Today is cleanup day, for now Tara is just insulting everyone around her. Anything not to clean up, right? Wish me luck to get them to work. The boys yet again got up early and did the downstairs floors, so at least they got done. Now just need to crack the whip to get a few rooms upstairs done.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hubby Birthday

Sander had his birthday. The kids had lots of fun wrapping presents for him and giving them. Sylvia made sure to sit in the first row when opening the presents ^^



We had cake and candy and a good time was had by all.

Basement wise, we are up to 130 bags. I am now mostly working through all the boxes which are there, the ones I didn't really go through in the first sorting. Still finding lots of things which can be tossed, it's amazing.

Today taking a break from the basement, since I have to finish my go homework for tonight. Amazing how fast the time flies and next week's go lesson is upon me. This reminds me of when I was in school and always did my homework 5 minutes before the next class started. I guess I am a procrastinator at heart.

Sylvia has started telling knock knock jokes, I thought that wouldn't happen till she was older. Of course, she doesn't quite get it yet, so we get amusing exchanges like

Sylvia 'Knock, knock!'
Me 'Who's there?'
Sylvia 'Mama!'
Me 'Mama who?'
Sylvia 'Mama's chair!'

or

Sylvia 'Knock, knock!'
Me 'Who's there?'
Sylvia 'Yay! Mama's breast!'

At least she isn't asking yet why the chicken is crossing the road.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Popular with the Boys...

Even at 2yo, Sylvia is popular with the boys already. We were at Borders, waiting in line, and a little boy walks up to her and tries to kiss her. She was a bit stand-offish, not sure what to think of it. His mother came over to gently lead him away 'Sorry, he is a kisser.' Well, I guess it's better than having a biting toddler :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Don't you hate it, when...

All the logs say 'Fun cache, found it easily', and 'nice easy find'. We spent at least an hour and still didn't find it... I guess we suck at geocaching. Here is Sylvia looking for the cache.



Not that I cared, had lots of fun just being outside and watch the kids have a great time. I love covered bridges.



There was lots of jewelweed at the caching location, and I have to admit that I spent quite some time fotoghraphing it instead of looking for the cache.



The kids were way more interested in the stream than in finding the cache, so maybe I can blame them for not finding it? ^^



We decided to stop looking and went to another cache location, which my friend had done already, so it was an extremely easy find. We figured the kids would enjoy having something to fight about trade.



Fun to be out caching, I couldn't care less whether we found the cache or not.



On a different subject, a few days ago, we saw a cat who had caught a garter snake! The snake was quite big and still alive, twisting and turning. The siamese cat looked very proud to have caught it. I wish I had a camera with me, I had never before seen this.

Handsome Princess

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Unfortunate Event

Today, Barbie needed to pee desperately, so Sylvia came over to have me take off her clothes. 'Barbie be naked. Barbie need pee toilet.' Two minutes later, there was a lot of wailing from the bathroom. 'WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Barbie wet!!!!!!! Barbie water!!!' And indeed, barbie had managed to fall into the pot...

We rescued her and put a towel around her, which did a lot to console Sylvia. But I am sure it will be one of her big childhood traumas.

You Know You are the Parent of a Teenager When...

... one of his friends calls him at 11am and asks for Cees. When I tell I'll get him, I get a very surprised 'Is he awake?????'. Yeah, teenagers seem to follow their own circadian rhytms, and it sure does not match up with the rest of the world's.

Sharing a picture from when Cees was in Nederland, visiting Muiderslot, an old castle. This castle was built in 1280. This is the kind of history I sometimes miss now that we live in the States. Buildings here always are so new.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Broken Netflix Movie

Yesterday, one of our Netflix movies arrived broken in half. Not a big deal, they will replace it with a new one. My kids had fun making up stories why it was broken.
  • Maybe the mailman sat on it.
  • Maybe the last person broke it, sent it back, and they didn't notice, so they sent the broken one to us.
  • Maybe the mailman put a cake on it.
  • 'Maybe the mailman got attacked by a chicken, when he was delivering mail to our friend Karrie. The mailman escaped with his life, but the dvd was broken.'
    'Karrie doesn't have a mailbox, she has a post office box.'
    'Maybe she took one of her chickens when she went to get the mail, to give it some exercise.'
    'Do you think Karrie is stupid or so????'
  • Maybe when our mailman was driving into our neighborhood, he got attacked by our Neighborhood Monster. There was lots of fighting, and the dvd broke.
  • There was an evil person, who grabbed the disk and accidentally broke it when she ran. But the mailman caught her because she didn't have a car, but he didn't notice that the disk was broken.
  • He was drinking hot chocolate, and he accidentally poured some on it. Then it was broken in half when he crashed into the mailbox when he was driving.
My kids obviously do not suffer from lack of imagination.

Ipod

Sigh, a few months ago I got an ipod and it is giving me lots of trouble. It worked ok, for a while, but now I keep getting writing errors, more and more of them. Reinstalled software, reinstalled everything, formatted the darned thing and it's still not working. I have spent so many hours on it today and it's annoying the heck out of me.

I guess I could call technical support, but I don't really want to do that at 2am.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Surprise!!!

Finally things were set up enough to get television and get it installed. One night, when the kids were asleep, Sander got everything ready.

Note all the empty boxes and packing material. For his whole life, Sander has carefully put back the packing material in the boxes, and then stacked it somewhere. I have found innumerable instances of this when cleaning out the basement. If the item was to replace a broken thing, the broken one would be in the box.



Not this time! Not falling for that anymore. It's going to be disposed of in my dump runs.

The next morning, it took a bit of time, but finally someone discovered the new setup. Lots of excitement all around, of course, they had to try out whether it worked.



Indeed it did! The rest of the day was spent taking turns and enjoying the new xbox. I am still so happy we got the basement cleaned up enough to pull this off. Hard to imagine if you looked at it two months ago. It still isn't finished, but at least it's usable.



Sylvia watched for two minutes, and then decided to go do something else.



I skipped my dump runs yesterday and today, had lots of other stuff going on. I do feel guilty about it, the one thing I do not want to happen is to lose momentum.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Lunch

Especially for my friend mosaica, who loves food porn ^^



This was my lunch today, and it was good!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Geocaching

Somehow I hadn't been out geocaching in ages. Life just has been too crazy here. Yesterday, my friend called and asked whether I wanted to come caching, and I actually managed to get out and go!

We first did a dump run, getting our total up to 120 bags! Wow! This included an old, broken dehumidifier, which turned out to have a $20 disposal fee. Expensive. Not that I cared, I just wanted it to be GONE.



The cache was hidden on a pretty easy trail, about 700 m hike. It's amazing how long 700 meters can take if you are hiking with a toddler. Every rock has to be examined and thrown. Every stick has to be picked up and planted. Every root has to be commented on. Every boulder is an opportunity for a jump. And every mushroom had to be admired.



When we finally reached the cache location, we found the cache fairly fast, and Kate and Sylvia had fun deciding on their trade. Kate got a very fun squishy ball. Looked blue, but when you squished it, pink came out.



Life was good till disaster struck on the way back. The ball broke!!! Pink fluid oozed out and Kate totally fell apart.



'I really liked this!!! And now it broke!!!! Now I can never use it again! And I was so happy about it!' Broken dreams, always sad. She eventually calmed down when she negotiated that she could get a toy from the basement in exchange. But she was not real happy about it.



When we got back to the car, we met a cute and friendly dog, which did do a lot to help with the heart ache. But she still was a bit sad. Even with this drama, it was nice to be out caching again. I've missed it.

Cuteness

Me to Sylvia 'Have I told you lately how cute you are?'
Sylvia 'Cute I am!'

Just love to see her grow and watch her develop. Yesterday, we went hiking and she kept pretending that her foot was stuck somewhere. Making quite a show of it, until she found something else to occupy her. She has a great sense of humor.

Mystery Papers

Lately, we have been finding all kinds of secret messages in our house. I called them notes, but Erik told me that they aren't notes, they are Mystery Papers. His explanation 'They fly over our house and make us look for stuff!'

Today's puzzled me for a bit, until I pronounced it phonetically:

Hmmmm... I guess it's going to stay a mystery! It keeps them occupied for sure.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

New Hair Style

Today...

  • I got up early to present Tim with his presents;
  • Made breakfast for a few;
  • Worked in basement with friend;
  • Bake bread;
  • Made dump run;
  • Stopped at supermarket to pick up birthday cake;
  • Worked more in basement;
  • Girls came home with extra kid;
  • Did tons of small every day household tasks;
  • Weeded my veggie garden;
  • Fed the bunnies;
  • Had even more extra kids over (we had twelve kids running around for a while;
  • Had friend over;
  • Rearranged stuff in basement;
  • Got birthday cake out to start celebration;
  • Discovered we were totally out of birthday cake candles. Neighbor to the rescue!
  • Went over to friend to get some candles
  • Filled dishwasher;
  • served cake and ice cream;
  • Started blogging and go studying;
Add all the 5,000 daily interruptions to this list, and I realize that it's no wonder I am tired. I guess I'll sleep ^^

Basement Progress

In a little over a month, 111 trash bags, innumerable dump runs, lots of help from kids and friends, regular thrift store runs, about $50 in dump fees, and frequent sanity breaks, our basement went from



to





Amazing, huh?

I found myself driving around today, and considering everything I saw as things which would have to be disposed one day. This basement project has really driven home to me how much garbage we produce as a society. Scary!

I googled it and found this on the EPA website:

How much municipal solid waste is generated each year in the United States?

In 1998, approximately 220 million tons of municipal solid waste or garbage was generated in the United States. This means each person generated an average of 4.46 pounds of solid waste per day.


4.46 pounds per person. This means that our family would produce more than 40 lbs of garbage daily, 281 lbs weekly, and half a ton each month. In that case, maybe the 111 bags aren't even that much. I mean, we are talking about seven kids and eight years of basement neglect.

Still a lot of work to be done, but we are getting closer and closer!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Two Teenagers!

Today, the number of teenagers living in our house, multiplied by two! Thirteen years ago, Tim was born. It was a dark and stormy night. That afternoon, we had attended a wedding. I was almost two weeks overdue, so I enjoyed all the horrified looks I got when people realized that this baby should have come out weeks ago. The careful step backwards they took, just in case I would explode then and there.



I had some contractions during the wedding, but nothing serious. On the way back home, labor picked up. Cees's birth had been fast and furious, only 4.5 hours, and I was convinced that this one would be even faster. I mean, I had read all the books and parenting magazines, promising me so. I was good at this birthing thing. Yes, it was going to hurt, but I had survived it before.



And boy did it hurt. I felt so sorry for myself. I went to bed and lay down, moaning and groaning and whining and complaining. Hours and hours passed. No baby. I felt more and more sorry for myself. Morning broke. No baby. I was sooooooooo done with this whole birthing thing. I had a friend pick up Cees, hoping that maybe that was what I needed to get this baby out. The baby didn't agree.

Finally, after 17.5 hours of misery, Tim was born. He had the cord tight around his neck, and a fist next to his hand. I would like to say it was this which caused the labor to be so much longer, but I have to admit that the laying in bed, feeling sorry for myself must not have helped. Looking back, I should just have gone out for a walk, or walked around the house, and I suspect things would have progressed a lot faster. Oh well, hindsight.



Going from one to two kids was so hard. It was my hardest transition parenting wise. Cees and Tim both had a lot of health challenges, which didn't help. When Tim was a few weeks old, he was hospitalized for meningitis. I still remember sitting in the hospital, waiting for the spinal tap, and thinking about how to manage logistically if he did end up having meningitis. I was so sure he wouldn't have it though, so I stopped my trying to figure out logistics and switched to 'just waiting' mode. Boy, was I wrong. He didn't leave the hospital till a week later and was in isolation part of the time, so we couldn't even take Cees in the room with him.

Tim had sensory issues from the start. He SCREAMED when he got into contact with water at all and hated sand, grass, anything out of the ordinary. It was hard to take two kids to the beach, one a toddler who wanted to go in the water and do his own thing, and one who was terrified to touch anything which wasn't a towel or his mommy.



Sleeping was one of his challenges, I tend to think back to this as The Sleep Wars. It's nice that he now is old enough to set his own sleep pattern, even if it doesn't always match ours. Teenagers are supposed to be out of sync with the world anyway, right?

He always has been smart and inquisitive, and used to climb everything when he was smaller. His big passions nowadays are dungeons and dragons, World of Warcraft, and computer/nintendo games. Most of the time, he is very caring towards his younger siblings, especially Sylvia.



He had a good day today. He got up at 6am, to make sure he got as much computer time as possible. Some friends came over, he got presents (dungeon and dragon books, and xbox games) and spent more time on the computer and nintendo. Heck, he spent 95 % of his time playing computer or Nintendo ^^. His special birthday dinner was plain pasta (with parmesan cheese) so that was easy.

Still hard to imagine that I have two teenagers now. I am really enjoying this age, where you can actually discuss interesting things with them. I am looking forward to seeing them grow into young adults. This parenting things is quite cool!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Clean Up Day!

Yet another one of those, I still hate trying to get all the cleaning done, but I love the result. I was in luck, because the boys woke up early and did all the downstairs floors already, although they omitted the vacuuming. That was easy to remedy though (suckered Tara into it), and now my downstairs floors look great.

Later, they did some work upstairs too, but looks like things are not going to be finished today. Oh well. I did my clean up day work by folding and putting away seven laundry baskets full of clean laundry. It's amazing how fast it accumulates. I put on some chinese lessons while doing it, which distracted me from the boredom of the task.

We went to the game store and got an xbox! It's supposed to be installed in the basement when we have cleaned up more of it. The kids are very excited. They put their money together to pay for it. I told them I wasn't going to pay for yet another video games console. It's cool when they cooperate like that. Tim selected some games for his birthday tomorrow.

I ate the last remainders of my durian, so I am durian deprived again. I made them into a durian smoothie, it was soooooooooooooooooo good. I have been putting out the pits and the squirrels seem to really be enjoying them. Who would have thunk that squirrels love durian pits?

Sylvia is really into 'babies'. She is always carrying around one or more of them, and they have to go places with us. So cute!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Airport Fun

Today, our local airport had an open day. We made sure to get there early, so the kids could get their free airplane rides.



There were lots of airplanes to be visited, as well as some helicopters and police cars.

The free air plane rides were for kids ages 8-17, so I had four kids in that age range, but only two were interested. Quoting Cees 'I am not going to fly AGAIN!'. Kate officially was too young, but she was extremely desperate to go anyway. 'I will just tell people I am 8, they will never know!'. Until I downloaded the form last night and saw we needed to provide a date of birth. I told her I was not going to lie about her birth date, but she was welcome to convince them that she was mature enough to ride anyway.



The good news was that I met one of the pilots last night, and he promised me to take her up outside of the program even if she couldn't get the official certificate.

I just filled in the three forms for the three girls and handed them to the people at the registration table. Figuring they might not even check the birth date. They didn't for a while, until one of them suddenly noticed. 'Um... I think she is too young.' The other one reassured him 'That's ok, we sometimes fudge the ages'. I thanked them and told them that she was dying to go up and we were very grateful. Phew!



First Tara went to her air plane, soon after, Kate and Jane got to go to theirs. Those were small air planes, fitting four people. The flights were about 20 minutes, long enough to really get a taste of what it's like to fly.



They all had a good time, Tara and Jane didn't tell much about it, but Kate was full of stories. 'The cars were so small, they looked like toy cars!!! And they went really slowly! We saw clouds from up close, they were THIS big! When the plane went down a bit, I felt like I had to throw up, but I didn't really.' She just kept going on and on, it was a great experience for her.



One funny anecdote. When we were waiting in line, some volunteers came to talk to us, and one of them commented on Kate's bandaid on her head (from when she had the head wound). He asked her 'Oh, what happened, you have a boo-boo?' She looked at him disparagingly and replied 'This is not a boo-boo, it's a WOUND!'



A good day, I think it is awesome that they have this program to give free plane rides to kids. Kate is already looking forward to next year's flight.

Ping Pong!

Introducing:



Today, I almost broke my back getting the darned thing into the basement.



This is what this part of the basement looked like a few weeks ago



Today's dump run got us up to 103 trash bags! We broke the triple digits mark! The shelves in the background behind the girls here, are the same as the one in the picture above. All the mess has moved or disappeared.



Not done yet with this part of the basement, but very happy that we could put in the table already. I will have to go through all the boxes and things around the walls now, but hey, it's a start.

Tomorrow is a busy day, so no cleaning, and Sunday is cleanup day, so we will clean the other parts of the house. But on Monday, I'll be back and get stuff together for yet another dump run.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Revenge of the Jackfruit

Last time we went to chinatown, I got some canned jackfruit. Last week, we tried it out and I really enjoyed it. When I saw frozen jackfruit today, I knew I had to try it for sure.



It sure looked interesting, much more so than when it comes in cans. I liked seeing more of the fruit this time, it had about one part of the rind still on it. I tried some and enjoyed it, till I felt the effects.



My tongue started to itch really badly, and I noticed it was swelling. My lips started to swell too, and even my throat felt like it was swelling. Scary. I never had heard about anyone passing away from a jackfruit allergy though, so I decided not to panic. Instead I spent ten minutes trying to locate our benadryl, and took some. Then went and told Sander that I was having an allergic reaction, just in case. I didn't really expect anything severe to happen, but figured better notify him. He glanced up from his World of Warcraft and confirmed that yes, indeed my lips were swollen. When he ascertained I didn't plan to expire from it any time soon, he happily went back to his fantasy world.

I am feeling better already, I am just trying to figure out how the heck I can have an allergic reaction like this to a jackfruit of all things. I mean, I have eaten it once before, and did not have any reaction. That time it was canned though, which can make a difference. Also, I got stung by a bee a few days ago, which bothered me (still bothers me a bit). Just locally, but I wonder whether that maybe kicked my allergy sensitivities into higher gear? Weird!

Now what to do with the rest of the jackfruit. I might try baking / cooking it and take a small experimental bite. I don't really expect a reaction once it has been turned into jackfruit bread, but who knows.

He is HOME!!!!!

Today, of all days, I drove to Boston to retrieve my oldest son from the airport. Today, when all international travel was totally messed up. When the lines at airports were gigantic. When the Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ordered the National Guard to Boston's Logan Airport. It's amazing how little we knew about it till I came home tonight, where I found a Sander who had been worrying the whole day.

The only effect experienced by Cees, was that he couldn't take his water bottle on the flight from Newark to Boston. He told me they took it from him, he was not allowed to keep it. I was somewhat puzzled by this till I came home and heard the current news.

We never saw the National Guard either, even while we spent 1.5 hours at Logan, waiting for Cees to arrive (because we were early, not because he was late). The kids had a lot of fun at the Kidsport here, a special play area. I remember that we were there once with Cees and Tim on one of our flights to the Netherlands. Cees said he still remembered the place, it must have been quite some years ago.

He had had a good time in the Netherlands, but stated something along the lines of 'The best part of traveling is coming home'. He had lots of stories to tell me on the way home.

We used this opportunity to do some shopping in a Chinese supermarket before picking up Cees. Wow! Of course, with all the kids with me, I ended up with an enormous stack of candy to try.



Luckily, I also got in some of my own shopping.



So many new things to try. Naturally, I also got in an old favorite.



Sylvia was complaining 'The durian scares me!' I have to admit they are quite fierce looking, but I can't say they ever scared me. After the shopping, we drove over to Logan to find out whether Cees by some miracle had arrived there before his ETA.

Of course he hadn't, so we ended up spending time in the play area. Which was good anyway, now they all could run off energy before the long trip home. We had some food and lots of running around. I happily sat down and studied to while they were playing. They made new friends and were unhappy to have to leave them.

Finally it was time to get Cees. His escort was suitably impressed when she saw all the blonde siblings waiting at the bottom of the escalator. Sylvia was so happy to find her 'Sylvia's Cees!' She had been talking about him all day.