Monday, January 28, 2013

Perfect Moment Monday: Baristas

My husband likes a good coffee. A very good coffee. He has a kick-ass espresso machine, a grinder, and even a coffee roaster (and green beans), because, of course, fresh roasted coffee is the best. He will not walk into a Starbucks for a coffee. Because ever since they changed from real espresso machines to the full-automatic ones and their personnel are no longer fully trained baristas, but just people who can push a button and burn the milk (his words). He does however miss the great coffee shop with real baristas (who would win barista championships) that we had in the US city where we used to live. He finds the coffee in most French cafés and restaurants too bitter...

At home, he used to be alone in his coffee passion. I like to drink tea...

But since about a year and a half, he has found a new partner in crime: our 3.5 year old son is being trained to be the new barista world champion (and truth be told, if hubby is not around and someone would come over and would like a coffee, I think my son would make a better cup than me!).

The coffee-making usually only happens on the weekends, and the Perfect Moment came to me on a recent Sunday. I had just put our youngest son down for his morning nap and was in the bathroom about to enjoy a long shower, when I heard my husband and son in the kitchen, preparing to make some coffee. Our son asked lots of (sometimes even technical) questions, and hubby explained everything patiently. It was such a joy to listen to these two guys, enjoying their weekend morning ritual of making a good cup of coffee together.


Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Shed: Week Three

This is the third Winter Shed week hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed and my second post on it. The full back story can be found here.

Thank you to those who commented on my first Winter Shed post and told me to take it easy! I want to clarify my goals a little bit - they are my goals for this coming year. I know I can't do them all in one week! But I'll still list them to see if I made any progress, even if it's minimal. 

Now to report on how I did during week three:

1. Read more novels.
I decided to continue reading the French novel that has been on my bedside table for months and I actually read one chapter this week.

2. Follow the news more.
It was not a good week for following the news for me. Too busy preparing and celebrating the baby's first birthday, welcoming my dad, and trying to tame the two boys who have found a new routine: party  instead of sleep (the little one wakes up - or is still awake - when I put his big brother to bed. When I'm lucky they give up after half an hour and fall (back) asleep. Last night the baby was still babbling at 11 pm...)

3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
Still going strong with blogging and I like it! The Cultural Differences series hasn't advanced though, I hope to get it started in February.

4. Get my professional website up and running.
No progress here, but good news under #5!

5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
I haven't heard back on the quote yet (but not too sad, it would bring in money but the project itself is not very appealing). The other client I contacted has no immediate projects but was happy to know I was available again and I got a call from a client I did two small projects for last year with a request for a big project for the coming six to eight weeks! Yay! So my number one priority this week was to get myself more work time, which includes asking the (pre)school to give our son at least one extra day a week at the school restaurant. I now have to pick him up twice a week for the two-hour lunch break and that means I just can't get anything serious done on those days. If I get a negative response another mother has already offered to help out by taking our son home for lunch a few times. I also have set up an appointment with a center that organizes day camps during the upcoming two-week school holidays at the end of February, which fall smack in the middle of this project. As a backup the sitter who takes care of our youngest four days a week has offered she can take the older one as well during the holidays, as one of the other kids is going on vacation. So I think I'm more or less covered and confidently told the client they don't have to look for a second person to help with the project! 

6. Start playing the cello again.
I have decided (also thanks to the comments I received last week) that I need to put this off a little longer. There's just no room in my head for this right now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The bracelet - the one she never got to meet

This is the fourth and last post about my mother's bracelet. You can find the other ones here, here and here.

Today we celebrate my youngest son's first birthday. He was born 14 months after my mother died, so she wasn't there anymore to see me pregnant for the second time, to hold her fourth grandchild in her arms, or to have his coin touch her arm on a daily basis. She did know, however, that we wanted to try for another child, and it was a thought that made her happy, even though she knew she would probably not meet that child (at least not in this life).

When gearing up for another round of IVF in our quest for baby #2, my mom's situation got a lot worse. Being in a different country and not able to see her every day, it was hard for me to know how bad it really was. So I started suppression. Just before I was to start stimulation I got a very emotional call from my parents. I knew she was doing a lot worse than before, but my dad said it was really really bad. They were still going on a river cruise organized for sick and disabled people, but, he told me, after that she wanted it to be over. I couldn't believe it, it was so hard. I didn't quite know what "she wants it to be over" would entail, but I knew it would not go hand in hand with our IVF schedule. I told my dad, I asked him if he thought she could hang in there a bit longer. He handed the phone to my mom. I explained my situation to her (it seems so selfish now), asked her if she thought she could wait. We were both crying. She answered that life had become so unbearably hard for her, she didn't think she could do it. I went into denial. Four days after starting stimming, when at my mom's side in Holland, I came to my senses and we canceled our cycle. Three days later my mom died.

We tried again a few months later. It was a BFN. I felt very down. But luckily we had one frozen embryo left from this cycle, with which we did a FET in early May 2011. And now our son is one year old.

I cannot share my son's milestones or funny things that happened with my mother anymore. But somehow I choose to believe that she knows him. As the months since her passing went by, I was looking for that bird, or ray of sunshine, or some other sign that would tell me my mom was somehow still there with me. But I had the feeling there was nothing. Until I realized that if there was somewhere I could find my mother's spirit, it was in my baby's eyes. This boy, so calm, so happy, has something of her in him (even though everyone keeps telling me he looks so much like his dad).

My dad decided to add a coin for him to the bracelet. It is complete now.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter Shed: Week One and Two

Kathy over at Bereaved and Blessed started a new blog hop called Winter Shed. Here's what she says about it: "This is a  support group/blog hop for those trying to be accountable for the positive changes we intend to make in our lives in 2013. Whether you are trying to shed weight, find more balance or let go of something else that is dragging you down in the New Year… We can do this — together! Once a week, on Fridays, from now until at least mid-March/Spring, I will check in and share how my week has gone in the key areas I am working on. My hope and intention is that knowing I have this self-imposed report card to file will motivate me to stay focused on my goals." The full back story can be found here.

I think this is a great idea, as there are many things that I'd like to improve or change, but that often don't get done because I'm not actively sharing it with anyone else. Of course as as I was behind with a number of blog posts that were either in drafts folder (whether on my blogger account or in my head), I failed to write my Winter Shed: Week One post on time, so here are week one and two combined.

As I commented on Kathy's original post, the general idea is to get out of what I call "mommy mode isolation" and try to pick up some of my former activities that have fallen by the wayside since the birth of my children (3.5 and 1 year ago).

These include:

  1. Read more novels.
  2. Follow the news more (including reading the New Yorker).
  3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
  4. Get my professional website up and running.
  5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
  6. Start playing the cello again (I forgot to mention this in my comment to Kathy's post, but it's a very important one).

Now to report on how I did during week one and two:

1. Read more novels.
I have to give myself a zero here. I haven't read one letter of literature in the past two weeks. I'm halfway through a French novel (been in that state for the past six months or so), but I got turned off when the writer introduced himself in the story, however I do find that despite that the writing is good, so I'm a bit in limbo on whether to ditch it and start a new book or continue reading until the end.

2. Follow the news more.
Well... two days ago I read the newspaper that my husband had brought back from the plane and I listened to (Dutch) news during breakfast a few times this past week. But next week I want to have read at least one New Yorker article!

3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
I think I did pretty good here! I had some serious catch-up to do and wrote/finished four blog posts, not including this one, and one already scheduled for next week. My goal is to write and publish at least one blog post a week. Regarding the Cultural Differences series, there are many empty posts (but with topic ideas) in my drafts folder that I hope to fill in the coming weeks. I also commented on a few blogs, but can do better, because I haven't commented on any of the posts of the other December Perfect Moment Monday participants...

4. Get my professional website up and running.
Another zero... Hope to have a better report next week.

5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
Today I followed up on a quote I delivered last month and I contacted a client to see if there might be any projects in the pipeline. So not much, but it's a start...

6. Start playing the cello again.
Another zero... I haven't played since our second son was born a year ago. I don't really know why, there are just always so many other things on my to-do list that I forget, or am too tired. I used to play in a piano trio with two neighbors, who are eager for me to pick that up again, but I recently got very frustrated with one of them over something else and he could drive me crazy too sometimes during rehearsals, so I'm not sure if I want to give up precious weekend time for that...

So... not such a great score. I can say I have an excuse because our youngest son was sick with the stomach flu for a few days, but I know I can do better. Tune in next Friday to see if I can stick to my goals!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The bracelet - 39

After this post and this one, another (overdue) post about my mother's bracelet. It should have been posted exactly a month ago, on December 16, 2012 - the day I turned 39! I don't really have an excuse, I wasn't too much caught up in celebrations - hubby was away on business, so I was alone with the kids. Early in the morning it seemed that the oldest was getting a stomach flu, but the idea of baking a chocolate birthday cake with mommy was apparently the best remedy, because all of his symptoms were suddenly gone!

I was born during the oil crisis and the Dutch government had decided to hold a few "car free Sundays". My mom's labor started in the early hours of such a Sunday. Before they headed to the hospital my dad called the police to ask for a 'laissez passer', which he easily got. He later told me he had hoped for a police escort, haha!

I imagine my birth being the best early Christmas present my parents got. They now had two healthy girls. They were in a new city, no longer tied to the hospital (and the nasty OB/GYN) where she delivered her first two children. Of course her new OB was aware of her history and my mom told me once that he had come to her (I think just after she'd given birth to me) to tell her they were able to deliver a live baby after a woman had come in with the same issue my mom had had with her firstborn (abruptio placenta). What she must have gone through hearing that news, I have no idea. I guess it was a good thing she had a healthy newborn in her arms herself.

My mom with me, 2 or 3 days old.
This was my third birthday without my mom. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Perfect Moment Monday - skiing with my son

Before Lori closes the list for the December 31st Perfect Moment Monday later today, here's my entry - still on a Monday, only two weeks too late...

I consulted the notes app on my phone to check which moment I'd choose to be my most perfect moment of the month (since last month I forgot what I actually wanted to write about and thus had to think of something else I decided I would make a note as soon as I'd notice a perfect moment). There were four moments I'd written down, all great, but the one I really want to write about I didn't note, but I didn't forget it either...

The first week of the Christmas break we went to the mountains for a week of skiing and other snow fun. I'd signed up our 3-year old for a 6-day initiation ski-class, every morning from 9:15 until 11:30. We had talked about it and he was excited, although he kept saying he wanted to go skiing with me. I explained that we could do that in the afternoons, but that he would have to learn how to ski from a real ski instructor. The first morning we were both nervous, the festive atmosphere of anticipation in the car and at the ski rental place quickly changed when he was signed in for class, was told to stand in line behind the other kids and realized that mommy and daddy were not going to stay. He started crying and screaming - I let the instructors deal with it first, but they quickly gave up and just left him standing, while taking the next kid in line. So I went in and tried to calm him down. Almost impossible. After about half an hour we left anyway, hoping he would calm down and join the other kids. So with heavy hearts we went for a coffee and came back about 45 minutes later, only to see that he had indeed calmed down, but had taken off his skis and was just playing by himself in the snow. The instructors only talked to him when we was throwing snow balls at them or the other kids... So cursing the instructors under my breath for not being a bit more persistent in trying to get him to join the others, plus not trying to give him some self confidence (once they'd signed him in they just told him to get in line. Not one of the instructors introduced him-/herself to the kids, nor did they explain to them what they were going to do), I stepped in again, got his skis on, and took him by the hand, up the little hill (on a sort of carpet), and then hands on the knees going down. It went OK, he smiled again, and was willing to do another round. The head instructor told me to get out. I did. Our son later started crying again because he wanted to take the little rope lift but he was not allowed. Luckily the class was over five minutes later...

I wondered if should cancel the ski class and just teach him myself, but I also remember that I never liked skiing lessons when I was a kid, but now I love skiing, so we probably just had to go through it. Luckily the rest of the week went much better (we also learned to just give him a big kiss and take off immediately, even though I would have loved to watch him in class, it was better not to stay) and he did learn the very first skiing basics. We went skiing together two afternoons - first I took him between my legs, holding him under his arms, but that was too easy for him: he would just hang in my arms and not stand on his skis at all... So we changed it to having him next to me and both holding on to one of my ski poles. This worked perfectly! Of course we only took very easy slopes, but even then we sometimes picked up a little speed. He would talk to me and it would go something like this (of course not in English, but in Dutch and/or French): "go faster mommy! Oh I'm scared! Yay that was fun! Hahaha! Again!". There are people who complain that when going on a ski vacation with young kids will not allow you to really ski yourself, so they try to get there kids in ski class + daycare at the ski resort. I don't judge that, I sneaked out one afternoon as well to go skiing with a friend while hubby watched the (napping) kids, but the giggles I heard next to me when skiing with my son were equally, if not more rewarding than a perfect adrenaline-filled downhill run. I feel blessed that I now have children I can share my love for skiing with and think back with fond memories of the times I went skiing with my dad (my mom was afraid of heights and stayed away from the slopes, she preferred cross country skiing). It was a true Perfect Moment of which I hope there will be a few more this winter and the years to come.


Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The bracelet - three firstborns

As a follow-up of this post, I had planned to post this in July, but then so many things got in the way that it was never finished and kept in my drafts folder way too long.

July used to be a sad month for my mother, as it holds the day she gave birth to her firstborn, a stillborn son.

But then, 33 years later, my sister made it a bit brighter month, by giving birth to her firstborn, a healthy boy, on July 5th. My parents had planned to arrive in time for the birth (my sister lives in California, my parents in Holland), but as the boy decided to come earlier than the due date, they were too late. At the time I was still living in the US, so I flew to California to help out the first few days, until my parents arrived. We then spent some time all together (my husband also came over in the weekend), which was pretty special (and perhaps a bit overwhelming for my sister as well). My parents were as proud and happy as grandparents can be.

My nephew turned 10 this summer. We took him rock climbing as a birthday present when the whole family came to France in August.

Another seven years later (thank you IF...) another firstborn was expected. Mine. It would be my parents' third grandchild. My mother, always anxious the last few weeks before a due date, wanted to be around again, even though I thought we had agreed they would not come before the baby's arrival as per our wishes... But her restlessness was too strong, so they came on the due date itself, only the baby decided it would stay put for another 10 days... It caused a lot of stress, even anger on DH's part, that took a long time to settle. I wrote a little bit about it here. But there was a lot of joy too. His coin on the bracelet is bigger than that of the other grandchildren, because they jeweler didn't have the smaller size in stock at the time, but my mom told me he also deserved it, the much wanted child... This miracle boy turned three on July 6th, yes just one day after his cousin (and if you would keep the Pacific time zone, they were born on the same day). We celebrated it at the beach in Holland.

Before she died, my mom told me July had now turned from a dark to a happy month for her, celebrating the birthdays of her two grandsons.

The heart on the bracelet belongs to her own firstborn, my brother, born still on July 23rd. I wrote about it here. I wish I could have talked more about it with my mom, especially after I'd become a mother myself. After she died, my dad decided he wanted their son's name engraved on her tombstone as well - he was torn that he hadn't thought of it before she died, and he hadn't been able to share it with her. I don't think it matters, I think somehow she knows it anyway, and it feels good to see those two names together, engraved in the glass, especially now that my dad has a new partner and will most likely not be buried next to my mom when his time comes. It somehow feels she's less alone.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Good intentions

I feel like this blog is getting into the same category as my New Yorker subscription. I still have it, but don't have/take time for it, so the rational thing to do would be to close it down/not renew my subscription. But doing that would mean (at least to me) to me I'm stuck in my own little mommy-world. No more connections to my bloggy friends, no more insights into the world's news. And I say to myself that not having time is actually a lame excuse. Because apparently I have a lot of time browsing aimlessly around the internet. And it seems it wouldn't be so hard to say 'I write a blog post each Tuesday, I read the New Yorker on Mondays and Fridays' or something along those lines. So maybe I should just do that. Because even when a kid is sick, and I have to cancel my shopping spree (sale has officially started yesterday - yes, here in France the government decides when the sale starts and ends, ha!) or lunch with friends (that I already had to cancel last time because of a strike at the school restaurant), these are things I can do when said kid is asleep. I just have to decide not to take a nap myself... So watch this space, something might be happening on Tuesday (or whatever day I decide to write a blog post - at least this is it for now, because said kid just woke up)!