Thursday, January 31, 2008

Love Thursday

Today is kind of a busy day, but I wanted to post a Love Thursday post for sure. I looked in my files and found many many choices.

I decided on this picture of Tara reading, while Darkness uses her as a pillow. He was purring loudly and they both enjoyed the closeness.

This picture symbolizes several things for me.

One thing it symbolizes today, is how much I miss my girls. I am very happy that they are having a great time in the Netherlands. I am grateful for my mother in law to lovingly give them this opportunity. But boy, do I miss them!

Another thing it symbolizes, is that getting the kittens has been a great decision. They are a wonderful addition to our household, adding much love and entertainment. And the best thing today: Socks caught his very first mouse! All their pouncing is paying off!

Third thing the picture symbolizes is our freedom to homeschool. It is working out very well for our kids (yes, Kathy and Epi, there still is a homeschooling post in the making, don't worry ^^) and I am happy they just can hang out like this, reading whenever they like, whatever they like and have many relaxed hours in their days.

May your lives be filled with love as ours are. Happy Love Thursday!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pumpkin Girl

Pumpkin girl in sling
Leaves dropping all around her
Growing up too fast.

Why We Are Here

Annalise asked 'What made you decide to settle in the US?' I thought this was interesting enough to dedicate a post to.

I always thought we would be here only for a few years. We knew for sure we wanted to get back to civilization. Somehow life doesn't always happen the way we envision it though. And here I find myself, not only still living in the US fourteen years after we arrived, but in the process of becoming one of them.

Biggest reasons:
  1. The freedom to homeschool our kids, which is almost impossible in the Netherlands;
  2. So much more space than we have in the Netherlands, all around us are woods and mountains, instead of other people;
  3. Lower taxes (even if I recognize that that also implies less social security);
  4. A way bigger house and property than we ever would have been able to afford in the Netherlands;
  5. The fact that the Netherlands simply has gotten too small and too full for me. Oh, did I mention it is too flat too?
When I go on vacation, even to the Netherlands, I can have a wonderful time. But there is this really good feeling when I drive back through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, and I realize that this is my home. I don't feel at home in the Netherlands anymore. I don't expect that I ever will move back to the Netherlands, even if I keep the possibility open that I might want to move to a different country some day.

Sometimes, while visiting my hometown, I meet old friends who have lived their whole life in that town. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that. I feel blessed that I have been able to see more places, and have been able to experience living in different countries.

Claire, I'll talk about your question about fluency tomorrow, I want to get some sleep now ^^

Happy Lego Day!

Today, the lego brick celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Go build some lego creations to celebrate!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Small Accomplishment

The light in the girls room has been out for the last... few weeks? few months? few years? Well, a while for sure.

Today, I finally decided to replace the bulb. Which shouldn't be a big deal, apart from having to work over your head and realizing that your arms don't like that in long stretches. While I did it, I discovered that it seemed like it was half loose from the ceiling. I figured it would be ok (if you ignore, problems will go away, right?) so replaced it and was happy.

Till I looked at it again. And discovered it was not really half loose from the ceiling, but I managed to TOTALLY disconnect it from ceiling. It was hanging from two nothings now.


Maybe not the safest thing?

I pondered ignoring, but thought better of that.
I pondered yelling for help, but thought better of that too.

So I took apart the lamp fixture, figured out how the heck it was attached to the ceiling, eventually got it all fixed and nice, and re-replaced the bulb and the rest of the fixture.


I rock ^^

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baltimore Funny

Back in December, when I made my reservations for my Baltimore hotel, I was excited to see that there was a swimming pool available. I looked forward to doing some swimming late at night, to help me recover from a day full of intense games.

Fast forward to last weekend. While we were traveling, I realized that I totally forgot to take my swim suit. We joked that I always could go skinny dipping around 3am, no one would ever know. Good plan!

That is, it was a good plan till I opened my curtains on Saturday morning. And was greeted by a nice view of the swimming pool.

I decided that maybe I didn't want to go swimming after all ^^

Friday, January 25, 2008

First Pictures from The Netherlands

Tara and Jane were really tired, slept from 4pm to 9am, and went shopping at Albert Heijn. Sounds like they were having a great time. Here are some pictures.

Arriving at Schiphol, after a long, long, long day and night. I doubt that they would have gotten much sleep in the airplane.

A real Dutch train. This reminds me of all the many hours I have spent in them when I still was in college and commuted between Dordrecht and Delft.

Dutch flower shop. One thing that shocked me when I came to the US, is how totally expensive flowers are over here. I am used to cheap flowers, and that's not what I can call flowers around here. Interesting difference.

Notice all the bikes. Another cultural difference is the prevalent use of public transportation, bicycles or walking. This was a difficult transition for me to make when I first came to the USA as it felt very wasteful for everyone to be utilizing their personal vehicles on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Love Thursday is Back!

Love Thursday has found a new home at shuttersisters.

I knew immediately which picture I wanted to share this time.

Cees and Sylvia in the new room. And even although they aren't in the picture, it also shows Tara, Jane's and my friend's love, since they were the ones doing all the work.

Happy Love Thursday! May your days be filled with love and positive energy.

Safe Arrival and Rice Pudding

The girls called. They arrived safely and early and are at their grandmom's house now. Since I didn't have Tara around to cook breakfast, I made a nice rice pudding with fresh persimmon and have been enjoying that. You might not believe this, but I had never before made rice pudding. After the weekend in baltimore, where we got excellent rice pudding twice, I decided that this was worth learning to cook. It is not something I grew up with, and I never realized how good it would be. My family was a meat and potatoes kind of family, we wouldn't eat weird things like rice pudding. Later, I heard about it, and it sounded good, but somehow never got into contact with it much. This weekend, that got rectified.

My first try came out pretty well. Could have been a tad more creamy, but it wasn't bad at all..

They Are Off!!!!

Today, we drove down to Boston, to drop off Tara and Jane at the airport. They are flying to the Netherlands, all by themselves!

We used the opportunity to get some shopping done in an Asian supermarket. There is nothing like that around where we live. Tara got some fun soda. This time it took us only fifteen minutes to figure out how to open, as opposed to the fifteen HOURS last time.

We got some goodies to eat, many to take home, and some for the girls to take on the air plane. Can't make them survive on airplane food, can we?

We took them out to dinner in an excellent Taiwanese restaurant (thank you, Adam). Not only that, a good friend came over and gave them home baked cookies and chocolate to take on the plane!

We made it over to the airport after stopping at a pastry shop for some dessert.

It didn't take long before it was time to go through security. Because they traveled by themselves, I got a pass to accompany them to the gate. I liked the reason they gave.

Did the whole security crap, while my friends were throwing sim cards into their water cups. Yes, there was water in it, why? They also parked the van in such a way that Adam only could climb out via the window. AND forgot where they parked the darned vehicle. We wandered around aimlessly for many hours before we finally found it.

But who cares, since sublime knitting was being done.

Meanwhile, I waited with the girls for boarding, which went pretty smoothly and painless. I had to stay at the gate till they were actually air borne and then we finally made our way home. That is, after paying another $18 for parking, bringing our total for the day up to $38. Parking in Boston is not cheap.

Time to sit down with my new green tea. I got a nice new collection of a variety of teas. Looking forward to trying them all over the next week.

I bought two durians too. I had hoped to find dragon fruit, but I didn't.

One of the things I will miss with the girls gone, is seeing Tara in the kitchen in the morning. She likes making pancakes or waffles.

I hope they will have a great time! They will be gone for two weeks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Naturalization Saga, Part IV

Today, I got my Fingerprint Notification. I am supposed to be in Manchester on January 30. Cool, I was ready to go out geocaching anyway ^^

- Dec 31, 2007 : Mailed naturalization papers
- Jan 9, 2008: Check was cashed.
- Jan 13, 2008: Got I-797C, Notice of Action ("We got your money and will contact you within 365 days")

Not bad at all! This is going faster than I had feared. Of course, they are not really going to start the naturalization part of the process till the fingerprints are in, but things are having a good flow to them so far.

Back Home from Baltimore

Just came home from a wonderful weekend in Baltimore.

I met good friends. Ate excellent food. Wandered around Fells Point. Oh, and played some go.

At night, I was happy to be able to decide on the pillow which was just right for me. Since selecting my pillow always has been An Important Thing in my universe. Right up there with selecting just the right colour for the hand towels in my kitchen.

I bet you will never guess what else I did at night. I went into the bath room. Turned on the tap. Filled the bath tub. Stepped in. Laid back. And NOBODY EVER knocked on the door, saying things like 'Mama? Could you please cut some bread?', 'Mama, Darkness just puked all over the couch.', 'Mama, Tara is purposely annoying me!'. It was a bit unsettling, but I wasn't going to question my luck. Such bliss.

It was fun to be away for a weekend, but it's even better to be home again!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Off for the Weekend!

Going to have fun at a go tournament, see you all later!

We'll be flying out of Manchester , send 'stop already, snow!' thoughts our way!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jane's Ears

Today, we had checkup for Jane, to follow up on her otitis media issues. Fluid still was there, nose membrames still were swollen. She did a small hearing test in the office, which she didn't pass for her left ear, and was within normal limits for right.

Since this has gone on for at least four months now, we decided to start treating. First line of attack will be a nose spray with steroids, once a day. Cees was very excited. 'Jane will be on steroids!!! Cool!!!' I explained to them the difference between 'bodybuilder steroids' and the topical ones Jane will be on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kate Discovers Poetry

Go read and listen to Kate's poem here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Naturalization Saga, Part III


Today, I got a letter, also called I-797C, Notice of Action.

It basically says 'We got your forms, took your money, assigned you a case number, and will contact you within 365 days.' A typical 'Don't call us, we'll call you.' letter.

- Dec 31, 2007 : Mailed naturalization papers
- Jan 9, 2008: Check was cashed.

When I saw the envelope, I thought it would be the letter telling me where to go for finger printing. That was too optimistic. Oh well, next letter hopefully will be the finger printing one!

The rest of the week is full anyway, so maybe it's good that I don't have to fit in any fingerprinting.

Happy Birthday, Erik!

First birthday of the year belongs to Erik!

Will write more later, now I need to run around some more.

New Room

Today is one of those crazy days in which I mostly drive people around everywhere. But before I leave, I want to show off what an awesome job Tara, Jane, and my friend have been doing on their old room.

Last night, Kate and Sylvia spent the night in this new room, for the first time ever. It looks so nice! The closet still has to be organized ((I want to buy those organizing thingies) but it is very usable already.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Work in Progress

The girls have moved on to painting and decorating the bed and the table in the new little kids room.

I love the intensity and focus they show here.

The kittens were very happy to hang out in the room while the girls were painting.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Black Out

Today, it was very windy, so I wasn't particularly surprised when we lost power. The funny thing is when it happened. I was taking a shower, singing happily about lumberjacks, when suddenly, the light went off. For a few seconds. Came on again. That wasn't too bad. Went off again. Make up your mind! On again. Good! Off again, and now it stayed dark.

I wasn't going to stop my shower just for a simple power outage, so I finished washing my hair and went to check on the kids. They had found candles and were unearthing flash lights from all around the house. I changed my plans about aikido and decided to stay home again, since we had no idea how long this would take, and I wanted to light a fire.

Got everything together, got the fire going. Flash lights had been found, marshmallows were being roasted, life was good. Great team building experience ^^

The outage lasted about an hour, enough to have some fun, not long enough to actually be annoying. We still have the fire going, but I am letting it die now, in the hope that maybe my kids will go to sleep. Yes, I know I have unrealistic expectations :p

I am happy about having rearranged the living room to be able to have fireplace access at all times. Sometimes I do have good ideas. Just ask my kids, I am sure they will confirm the brilliance of their mom.

They Took My Money! ^^

Today, the USCIS cashed my check which I sent in with my naturalization paper work. This must be a good sign, right, would assume that the whole envelope has arrived and they are processing it now.


- 2004: Printed forms, looked at them, and was going to fill them out tomorrow.
- Dec 20, 2007 : Guiltily remembered how long it had been and tried again.
- Dec 31, 2007 : Mailed naturalization papers
- Jan 9, 2008: Check was cashed.

Next step, as far as I can tell, will be fingerprinting. I have to wait for their letter to tell me where to go.

It's a Reindeer!

That's what Sylvia said when she saw this picture. 'It's a reindeer!' Hmmm, I guess reindeer do fly, don't they?

Tara and Jane came up with captions like 'Kittens aren't supposed to fly!' Any other ideas?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Today, we had our New Hampshire primaries. It was so much quieter than yesterday, I guess none of the candidates wanted to do last ditch efforts around here. There still were a lot of people out with signs though, and this was actually the very first time that I really felt my lack of voting power as an issue. I hope it won't be long before I get naturalized and be a voting DutchAmerican citizen.

So we made a quick stop at a voting place to take pics, and hide a cache. Yes, I know most people don't hide caches to celebrate the primaries, but I wanted to do SOMETHING and I hadn't been geocaching at all lately anyway, with all the snow. Figured a nice and shiny new cache would be great way to enjoy the January thaw.

We also went swimming, and I will go work out more tonight, with Tim. If things go on like this, I might end up really fit! Yesterday was my workout with Cees. Last Sunday, I went walking with a friend. It feels good to get back into shape!

I Did It , I Did It, I Did It!

Woohoo! I was interviewed for that Dutch radio program and I survived. I was a bit nervous, but also thought it was super cool.

Found their website and since this is time sensitive, copying here 'De inwoners van het Amerikaanse New Hampshire kiezen vandaag hun favoriete presidentskandidaat. Tijdens de voorverkiezingen bepalen zij mede wie er uiteindelijk mag strijden voor die felbegeerde plek in het witte huis. Karen XXX woont in New Hampshire en zij wordt deze dagen van alle kanten bestookt door campagnevoerders.'


Monday, January 07, 2008

Bald Hair

Sylvia, sitting on my lap, singing quietly 'I have no hair!'
Me 'Hmmm, when I look at you, I actually do see hair.'
Sylvia, in a decisive tone of voice 'That is BALD hair! So I have no hair.'

I couldn't argue with this impeccable line of reasoning.

Dutch Radio

This morning, someone from a Dutch Radio Station called me 'Hello! We read on line that you live in New Hampshire, and wondered whether you are going to vote in the primaries.' I explained to them that I am still Dutch, and can't vote yet (although papers to apply for naturalization have been mailed, Yay!). They seemed to be at a loss for other Dutch people in New Hampshire, since they asked whether they could talk to me anyway.

Sure, I don't mind. Tomorrow morning, I will be on the Dutch radio, talking about the primaries. Just a few questions, won't be very long.

Funny idea, just when I am about to become American, my Dutch ancestry suddenly gets me on the air in the Netherlands.

Of course, after I talked to him, I realized I never asked which radio station. I guess that doesn't really matter anyway. And who knows, it might all not work out and nothing will come from it. Not holding my breath till it actually does happen.

Grocery Shopping

After you come home from grocery shopping, it doesn't take long till you discover this in your grocery bag.

Portable kitten!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Catching Up

Showing off my total lack of organizational blog skills by posting pictures of Winter Solstice 2007.

As always, we dug out our fire place and made a nice solstice fire. I really like how intensely everyone is staring at the fire.

Of course, this means that there was the roasting of marshmallows.

And the drinking of hot cocoa.

Not to mention the plain and simple joy of having a fire in the fire place.

And the good news: notwithstanding my procrastination

the sun still sets 12 minutes later than it did during the winter solstice.

Spring is getting closer!