Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Joe the plumber

I know that I don't like it when people call our Joseph Joe. I try very hard to avoid it. But with Joseph's fascination for toilets, and his pre occupation with the plunger, this oportunity was too good to let it go by.

Monday, October 27, 2008


If anyone happens upon this blog that knows me from a messageboard, they will notice that my signature always is the same:

"Be soft of voice and gentle of bearing"

For me, this quote is what I strive for every single day in my life, and with someone who talks as much as I do, being soft of voice seems particularly important. For those who have always liked the quote, here is the complete, though short, poem from which it is lifted:

"Be soft of voice"

Be soft of voice
and gentle of bearing
be kind of heart
and gentle of hands
be bright as the morn
and still as the evening
within you they'll find
God's love reborn.

Changing seasons

I have always thought I dealt well with change. After all, I went from public school to Catholic school without a hitch. I went from a sheltered home to a university in another country and thrived. I went from living at home to living in a small studio by myself and loved it. And last not but not least in three years time I went from being a single young woman living alone in an efficiency in Antwerp Belgium to being a married mother of the cutest young boy ever in a house in the Suburbs of Columbia SC in the USA. And I never had that much trouble with the changes. Or so I thought.
Today I realised though that I have a tendency to cling to the past. This realisation came to me while I was walking the stroller down the street, with two sweaters over my summer dress with bare legs. Yes, you heard it right! Mrs. "Modesty but NO frump" was wearing two sweaters over a summer dress and freezing her calves off. I won't even try to pretend that I looked perfectly elegant.

Autumn has crept up on us and then all of a sudden jumped and shouted "Boo" from beneath the color changing bushes. Two weeks ago, I could have paraded out in a bikini during the hottest hour of the day had a I been so inclined (which of course I wasn't). Three weeks ago I hadn't even touched my vest, let alone a coat or a shawl. A blouse was more than warm enough and I still was grateful for airconditioning. But all of a sudden winter is lurking around the corner. A friend in Minnesota is speaking of snow and laughing at my descriptions of autumn chills which to her would probably still spell summer. On my drying rack, a shoulderless dress that I wore with the cutest little white bolero is still hopefully spread out. I need to accept that even in South Carolina, the weather is getting colder. I need to prepare for the extra effort that wintery elegance requires.

Throughout this post, you see some winter garments from one of my favorite stores: Petite Sophisticates. Every so often we go to the Tanger outlet malls near Hilton Head and this outlet store is always my first stop. Of course not every piece of clothing is to my liking, but in general I think the brand does a very good job in making you look feminine without sexualising your look. Their skirts generally come to either just above the knee, fall on the knee, or come right under. While I love my extra long Tznius skirts, skirts that fall to or just below the knee still fall into my acceptable category.
Winter always gives me a few challenges. It's so tempting to just burry myself into bulky knits and only think about the warmth I crave. Still, there is a happy medium, and hopefully I'm up to the challenge to find it again.

Chosing right...

I love my husband. I know that mostly this type of declaritive sentence is followed by a 'but' which then contains a complaint. And to be sure, husbands are rarely perfect beings. Then again, neither are wives.
So there is no but in this sentence. I LOVE my husband. To be perfectly honest, I quite adore him. He is smart, nerdy, cute, kind and absolutely wonderful and there has not been a day in which I didn't thank the Lord for helping me find such a wonderful, wonderful man.
After two years of marriage, one of which had quite a few challenges, I love my husband a million times more than I did when I married him. And the Lord above knows that I loved him quite a lot on that day already.

So what is the secret? It's very popular to say that 'working on' your relationship yields the most results. And certainly, no relationship, no marriage, thrives without both people valueing it and stepping out of their comfort zone now and again to talk about their relationship and what they feel or what they worry about.
I think htough, that one of the greatest 'secrets' in having a wonderful marriage is to chose right in the first place.
This doesn't seem much of a secret at first. After all... aren't there so many books geared to catching the right guy? Well... yes and no. Most books focus on the 'catching' part. How to atract a man, how to make a man want to marry you... or often in more Christian titles: what a man looks for in a good wife, or what a good wife is.

In my experience, being a woman, there is very little written about how to see if a man is truely going to make a good husband. I am no expert, but a friend and I both are the lucky wives of two exceptional husbands. I actually waited to marry until I was thirty because I wanted to find one. And I am so grateful that I waited for him. My mother had started to think there was not going to be a husband, and no grandchildren. I wish I could say I had been cheerfully trusting in the Father the entire time, but I have been impatient and frustrating throughout the wait. I knew that I had three requirements for a husband, that seemed to me simple enough to find. It really wasn't, and looking back my list was far from complete, but it's a good place to start.

I wanted a husband, first of all, who was kind. Not just kind to me, but an innately kind person. Someone who wished others well with all his heart and wanted to truely be the best person he could in other peoples lives'. A kind heart is one of the most important things a man can have, since it will temper a lot of other vices: if a man is truely kind he will not wish his own vices and sins to touch or harm other people, therefor he will strive to keep them as small as possible.
Secondly, I wanted a husband who was intelligent in a bookish way. This to me was the way to make sure my husband matched my personality. You do not need to have the same interests, but the same way of looking at life can be extremely beneficial. For example, my husband likes math type knowledge, he likes economy and our mutual interest in history is still different since I like social history, fabrics, knits, parlour games, pots and pans and household budgets, while he is interested in battlefields, treaties, strategies and laws. But we both like learning from books, our interests tend to be cerebral rather than outdoors or competition like. We have a similar way of looking at life and that helps a lot in a great marriage, much more than say... both liking the same type of movies.
Thirdly I wanted to have a husband with an inner drive. I didn't always define it as faith, but I wanted someone who looked for more in life than go to work, come home to watch tv or go out, go to sleep and repeat. I wanted someone with an inner motivation, for his work, for his hobbies and for his life.
I realise now that, what I tried to describe at a very early age was faith. Faith makes people go the extra mile and that makes even every day life part of a bigger and more glorious whole.

It was a good starting list and it certainly helped me decide that my husband was the right one for me. There were other elements though that I looked into once there actually was someone on the horizon.
(to be continued)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Salutations

Just wanted to add a short post here this morning to wish you all a wonderful weekend. I may or may not be blogging a lot in the next few days. My friends have just left for the UK and Belgium again and I am already looking forward to seeing them again at Christmas.
It felt wonderful and strange to speak my own language again throughout the day and receiving a reply in the same language. We spend our last evening playing trivial persuit. My husband won (he always does) but I felt extremely proud at knowing which paper the troops of Ulysses Grant founded when finding the abandoned offices of the Bloomfield Daily Herald in 1861. It's the Stars and Stripes.
Aparently I am finally starting to learn some American History. I've always learned history through the little social life issues more than the big wars and treaties. I think often in history lessons the wars are painted on the backdrop of the daily life, while for many people the experience was the reverse. For those on the front, the war was the reality, but in the mean time those at home still had to milk the cows and knit the socks for those that were wearing them in the famous battles from Antietam to Bastogne and Normandy... for those the day to day life of rising prices and managing with less men and waiting for news was the reality with the war always on the background of their minds.

And here I am lost in posting again. I will philosophise about history another time. It's naptime and I need to get some things done! *LOL*

Friday, October 24, 2008

Feminine Friday: After the birth

Joining in again with the barefoot mama, following my first steps to motherhood. I had wanted a natural birth. My husband insisted on everything in the hospital, and I was ok with that, but I wanted to have as little intervention as possible. You know the saying: "When you plan, God laughs?" I am sure he was having a little chuckle. I was overdue and had to be induced as there was some concern due to the pregnancy diabetes that the baby would be overly large. He wasn't. But neither was he coming out. First there was induction. And I still refused that epidural. At least until I was exhausted by nearly 20 hours of labour. I had no complaints about the epidural at first. It helped me relax, I could sleep and regain some strength. However then I had to be redosed and it didn't 'take'. My pelvis and legs were numb so I could not push effectively, but my abdomen wasn't sedated so I felt every single contraction....

I was in the pushing stage for eight hours. There were five doctors around me and three nurses. In the end we had to use forceps to free our little boy, who came out sunny side up and wailing, in the five minutes of the entire process that his father had stepped out because he had been turning green. I later heard that I had been one push away from an emergency cesarian.

I went into shock after the birth and had to wait a few minutes until he was cleaned to hold my son. Luckily though when he was brought a few hours after birth, he latched on like a champion. He never had any problems nursing. He had head control while he was still in the hospital, and he never slept more than twenty minutes.
I became a zombie, literally walking into walls (see posts in this archive with october last year next to the title).
I was luckily not having any signs of post partum depression, but sleep deprivation slowly turned me into a horrible hag... It took nine months for him to stop waking up four times a night and sleep till five am. My brain returned... my manners returned... I returned. And we still want a second one.

Next time... I'm going natural again. My husband thinks I am insane. *warm smile* He loves me.

Hospitality, the oldfashioned way

That's the reason why I have not blogged for almost a week. My best friend and her mother have travelled all the way from Europe to be here for a week and play with my cute little man. Of course I can hardly spend my time at the computer with such company. The food is simple, but the conversations are fun.

We have been playing scrable most evenings. Last night my husband wasn't feeling well and went to bed early, and Maria's mother retired early as well. There we were, just the two of us at the kitchen table, playing scrabble. I had my knitting in hand to make sure no minute of deep thinking time was wasted. I realised that if we had changed electric light for a lamp, we could have made up a scene out of the previous century. Maybe scrabble didn't exist then, but probably something similar.

Despite very good scores all previous evenings, it just didn't want to work. Last night there were three five letter words and that was it. The rest were four letters and under. When it was time to go to bed, we decided to have a little more fun and make some 'interesting' though non existing words. I remember that we decided that an 'iwry' had to be a South Australian bird with striped eggs.... I do not remember what a 'vansy' was, but I am certain it was equally ridiculous.
Maria's mother had a look at the scrabble board that we had left out this morning and wanted to know what an "iwry' was. We told her about the South Australian bird.
Sometimes having fun can be so simple

Friday, October 17, 2008

Feminine Friday

I have been wanting to participate in feminine friday for a while, but never truely made it. Today, I did. Feminine friday is an initiative of the barefoot mama. And this friday she asked for pictures of one of the most feminine experiences we can go through: pregnancy.
I realised that all through my pregnancy we took very few pictures, mostly because we just forgot to take the camera with us when we were going anywhere. It's something to remedy next time!

Here I was about three months pregnant, and you can just see my belly starting to show.

This one was taken at a wedding. Do you notice something weird in my face? I had some kind of strange allergic reaction, which I have never had before or after, and my face was red and swolen. With lots of make up, I managed to look slightly normal, but it did get a big face, mask effect.

Seven en a half months pregnant. I carried everything to the front and looked as big as a house sideways. This pictue is taken in the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Saint Louis.

Eight and a half months pregnant. I LOVE this picture. It's taken near Hilton Head in the Ocean. We were trying to make pictures for the birth anouncement by writing Joseph's name in the sand, but ended up going with something else. This picture though is a wonderful memory of that day.

About to pop... more than a week over due and ready to be induced... it would be two more nights before the little fellow finally wanted to come out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

There is a difference...

I'm a girl, grown up into a woman, and I love it. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have rarely, if ever, encountered any rampant sexism. Maybe I should say that I have only met the good side of sexism.
You see... people make sexism to be an ugly word, like racism. In my opinion, there is a difference. So I looked both words up in Websters dictionary.

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex ; especially : discrimination against women
2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

At first it seems clear cut, but look closer at the first definition of racism, it has two parts: a believe that race is that primary determinant of human traits and capacities AND that racial difference produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
I do not believe, for an instant, that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and even less that this difference produces an inherent superiority. According to the dictionary, I am not a racist. Wonderful! I agree.
And then there is the second defintion: racial prejudice or discrimination. Wonderful, I am not a racist according to this definition either.

Let's go to sexism.
The first definition of sexism is completely different. "Prejudice or discrimation based on sex; especially discrimination against women." Wait... wait... wait a minute. Why does this definition sound so different when people are often trying to put both words on the same ladder of evil attitudes?
Of course I do not want to discriminate against women, or be prejudiced about them. Prejudice is bad. But what if the definition had sounded like the first one.
"Believe that sex is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities AND that sex difference produces an inherent superiority of a particular race."
I do not believe that the male or female sex is superior, but I most definitely believe that sex is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities. A man is not able to birth a child. A woman will. A woman will enjoy verbal communication more and men will enjoy activity based fellowship. Are there exceptions? Sure there are. There are also albino squirrels, which does not mean that most squirrels are white.
People are different, women are different one from the other. But I think only someone who sticks their head in the sand is going to deny that there are inherent differences between men and women. So why do we need to treat them as if they are the same?
Do we need to treat them as equals? Absolutely. Men and women are worth just as much. Their humanity is equally precious. But they are not the same.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who is to blame? Everyone has butter on their head for the financial crisis...

I've been pondering a post about the current economic crisis for a while but never truely commited to writing it. Then today, in an empty moment or two while I was browsing through some blogs two blogposts caught my attention and spurred me on.
The first blog is pretty new to me still: Joyful journey and the second is an 'old friend', a merry rose.
With a husband who is an economist, I can not help but follow all the economical news, and the comments of the so called 'average man on the street' (I refuse to call him Joe sixpack) that news shows feel compelled to insert.
Some people have insightful things to add or interesting testimonies. And some people just complain about Wall Street being bailed out and the poor homeowner whose house is being foreclosed is left in the cold.

Allow me to explain in very simple terms how we got into this mess. It's not just evil Wall Streets fault, borrowers and politicians are equally to blame.

It's easy to blame Wall Street. If this is all the fault of the evil magnates of Wall Street, we don't need to examine our own lives and lifestyles. As my beloved husband says however, there is plenty of blame to go around. The reason we are now in a financial crisis is, in essence, pretty simple. A lot of people borrowed a lot of money and then did not pay it back.
Well, you might say, they did not expect the money they had to pay to go up and the value of their house to go down. But that is what can happen if you do not chose a fixed rate mortgage, and anyone who reads the contracts carefully knows that. Of course a lot of it is complicated jargon and difficult to understand for people not involved in contract terms day in day out. So a lot of them just didn't bother thinking deeply about it or asking the necessary questions.

Everyone wants to own a house, which is a good goal and something worth working and saving for. Then when you, as a young couple have worked and saved for a while, you can make a downpayment on a condo or a starter home. And from there on you can work your way up on the house owner ladder.

Working and saving for a while however implies both waiting and denying yourself some other things. After all, the money that you save can not be spend on something else, though sometimes people still try to spend it twice using credit cards. This never works.

So loads of people started to buy houses they could not actually afford. According to the law of supply and demand the price of real estate went up, up up... But what goes up most come down. And when enough people had bought a house, many with a non fixed rate mortgage they could not afford to go up, the prices of houses started to fall. Now if you have a mortgage, the house is your collateral so to speak. So if that house is worth less, your lender will want you to pay more quicker so he can make sure to get his investment back. After all, if you do not pay he will have to seize the house and sell it (foreclosure) which costs him money. There are complicated formula's to calculate all this.

So far everything here has been 'Main Streets' fault. But here is where we stumble over Wall Street and Washington. Banks have played fast and loose with their formulas, only counting on a future in which housing prices kept going up, up and up. So they gave people a lot of loans which those people should not have gotten. To get the cash to lend them all this money they looked at other sources. Compagnies managing money and pension funds 'bought' these loans hoping to get a safe and steady investment with a nice interest as a return. So did other banks, lending eachother money, and so on and so on. Worldwide everyone want a piece of this mortgage deal since it seemed safe and easy money. People pay off their mortgages, right? They signed a contract and made a commitment. And since more people wanted to invest by buying these loans, banks and mortgage compagnies started to give them out even more recklessly.

When the housing market collapsed and at the same time a lot of people started to feel they had overreached and could not afford to pay their mortgage anymore... all of a sudden the steady stream of nice investment money dried up. People did not want to buy these loans anymore from banks or mortgage compagnies. And a frenzy began to get all those evil non paying mortgages out of their investment portfolio's. Of course if a lot of people want to sell something and very few people want to buy it... the prices drop and drop and drop...

And since all these banks and investment compagnies and mortgage compagnies have already lost truckloads of money, first by people not paying their mortgages then by the loans they bought having lost their resale value... there is little money anymore to go around to lend money even to people who have perfect credit scores and have been paying nicely all along.
These are the only real victims in the situation, because their pension plans (managed by people who also bought this loans) have lost a lot of money and they can not afford to buy the house for which they did save up and wait because nobody wants to lend them any money. Healthy compagnies also need to be able to borrow money to invest, for example to buy new machines or maybe expand and add new locations. The economy stands still when this money to invest and grow is not available.

There is only one group I have not yet adressed and those are the politicans. It's always easy and fun to blame the politicans, especially the ones we do not agree with. In this case politicians of both parties are to blame for refusing to enact any law or regulation that curbs all this lending to people who can not afford it. Have you not seen the horrible commercials in which people get money for their cartitle, pay day advances, or 'guaranteed aproved' housing loans? This is what is called the "subprime lending market". To use a much simpeler word: BAD LOANS. If you lend money in these situations your risk of not getting back your money, with the incredibly high interest you can charge since these people can't exactly make demands, is pretty high too. So you hire people to make intimidating collection calls or demand back cars, furniture and houses.... With no government regulation and no self regulation on greed on one side and a desire for instant gratification on the other side, the whole thing spun out of control.
There were proposals against these lending practices, but they were all rebuffed, mostly under the motto of not meddling into peoples lives or the government not interfearing into the market economy.

Now they are having to interfear to the tune more than 770 billion dollars...

Blog block

Of course, here I have my shiny new blog, and I am feeling a blog block. Unbelievable. I always know what to write. I don't always have the time, but there are always about 6000 topics that I want to write about. Blogging is like talking to me, and oh heavens can I talk! You could say I am a conversational connaisseur. Or a chatterbox. I do not mean that I can not be quiet. Yesterday my husband and I spend a cosy evening together, with him reading a book and me tending to my knitting in a gentle quiet. Well.. now and again I did say something, but I wasn't chatting. It's only polite after all to inform if someone else also wants a glass of milk if you are going into the kitchen to fetch one for yourself.
But for the rest we spend the evening in quiet. I love quiet. But I also love talking. So I do not get why I do not know anything to write.


I guess I knew what to write about after all. The first sentence probably always is the hardest and while it may not be particularly inteligent what I write, a friend of mine who is a writer told me that it is better to write something particularly bad and later throw it out, than not to write at all when you are working on a book. Words lead to more words.
And that leads me (here you are getting an invaluable insight in my communication process *W*) to a little tidbit that I picked up during storytime at the library last week. I LOVE storytime and I love the library. In Columbia SC we have one of the greatest libraries ever. Since libraries contain books and books contain words and I love words, I may be a bit of a know it all when it comes to libraries. Anyhow, this is one great library and it provides a storytime for babies from 0 to 1 and then further on. Joseph (a.k.a. Mr. Cute, a.k.a. the tornado) has been going to storytime since he was about three months. You get little tips each time about reading with your baby; why it is importand and how to do it best. Last time they spoke about the vocabulary that we use and what the baby is exposed to. Aparently we have a 'common vocabulary' of about 6000 words and get up to 10 000 words of unusual vocabulary. Reading childrens books would expose the baby to a larger vocabulary and therefor give him a head start in reading, school and all things word-like.

I am all for it. I do believe though that the vocabulary he is exposed to in this strange household of two book and word lovers is much larger than 10 000 words. One of the reason I fell in love with my husband is because he routinely uses words like 'conspicuous' "unmitigated' and 'absconded' in his sentences. And it doesn't sound unnatural. Like myself, my beloved husband, has inhaled a few too many books to ever have a normal vocabulary again. And now we are preparing to pass this legacy on to our little boy, like a precious family heirloom.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Well... I was up before 7 again this morning. Unfortunately so was Joseph. It have been four blissful days in which he slept till past 8.30 am. Yesterday evening however, mommy was not at home for the bedtime routine. Joseph and daddy were having a boys only evening while I was at a boardmeeting of our womens group. Aparently Joseph thought this was a good moment to refuse to eat or follow the rest of the bedtime routine.
So when he woke up at 6.40 am this morning, he was too hungry aparently to go nicely back to sleep. I miss my quiet time with Our Lord this morning and my gradual awaking in His presence. I don't use expressions like that often. But my four days of knitting and praying in the morning gave me a great start. I hope this is just a temporary set back and that our new little routine will be back in place tomorrow. Today I will grant myself an unproductive day, wondering how they managed to convince me to run for vice president of the womens group.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The cutest boy in the world...

Good morning

Day four of 'rising early'. To my shame it was after 7 when I got out of bed today. Still before baby, and still with the nice time to pray and knit and blog a bit as well as have breakfast with my husband, but not as good as the 6.30 to 6.45 with which I originally started. Try again tomorrow!

Around the house you are starting to see small signs that getting up early is getting more work done. I am all caught up with laundry, and getting less behind on ironing and steaming. There are more empty surfaces. Ours has never been a cluttered home, but with a baby, lots of things get hastily tucked out of reach while you can't leave him unattended, and then they seem to get stuck where they are or become invisible for a while until they have bred themselves into a surface covering mess. At the moment I look to my right and here on my desk I see a headcover and it's little bag on my printer, together with four envelopes of pictures. I see my cup of tea and cereal bowl of half an hour earlier. In front of me I see a dish full of hairpins and next to the cereal bowl I see one christmas ornament, one block, one small rubber band and one baby nailclipper. A baby picture, baby picture album, our weekly bible reader, a foto cover and a broken picture frame, with a hairpin and a card of the pest control firm on top...
Of course in the time I blogged about this, I could have removed it all.
Let me go do that now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Am I an older or a younger woman?

Today I was mixing cake batter and started to ponder. I ponder many a thing when I bake or clean. It's just such a wonderful occasion to let the mind go in free flow. I started wondering about verses in Scripture. I am having a lot of Scripture on my mind lately.... This time, for some un cake related reason, I was pondering Titus 3-5.

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,
so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

While putting in the eggs a question all of a sudden struck me: am I an older woman, or a younger woman? It's a weird thing to ponder about while you are having your hands in the cake batter, but it wouldn't leave my mind... There is this big divide it seems that I have crossed over somewhere in the last five years and I can't exactly put my finger on it when it happened.

I have long thought of myself as a 'young adult', one of those fun labels that marketing people have invented to find out how to make you buy more things. First I was a teenager, when you think you are an adult. Then I was a student, when you should be getting ready to become an adult. And then I was hovering around for a while as a 'young adult' trying to find my place in life, and still young enough to get the discounts that many educational or cultural places provide for people they want to lure in before they have a decent income in the hope that they will stay when they can better affored to pay their own way.
There was this unspoken divide it seems in which I always thought of myself at the side of the young, the children, the ones that were learning to become...
The first signs that I might be on the bridge of that divide was when I became a teacher. I had thought that students might have trouble accepting my authority since I was so young. But in their eyes I had long crossed over into the adult world already.

I let the baby that was literally clinging to my skirt lick the spoon and stir the mixture, and realised that since then, in three very short years I've experienced courtship, marriage, a move far away from my mother, and now motherhood of my own.
I say baby but even that isn't right... I have a young todler on my hands.
Of course I have so much to learn still, and there are many older woman from whom I wish to glean every bit of knowledge that I can find. But at the same time there are young girls that are now looking at me for what I can offer them.
I am starting to feel older in the most wonderful sense of the word. I am slowly going from blossom to fruit in this new season. Hopefully each day will make me sweeter to others.

Elegant Halloween

I just wanted to give everyone a preview of my halloween costume. I know that celebrating Halloween can be controversial to some Christians. However, being new to this country, for me it is a chance to dress up in a wonderful costume. I don't celebrate ghosts, magic or any other things, but look forward to an oportunity to share the beauty of this gown. My mother and a friend helped me make it years ago and I embroidered the tiny little beads in a star shaped pattern on the hem myself during an 8 hour embroidery session.

Good morning

It's day three of the 'wake up in time' challenge. I did not get out of bed at 6.30 am as I hoped, but I managed to get out by 6.45. Enough time to get dressed, cleaned up and breakfast before putting in some computer time. I have guests later today and will be baking a basic vanilla cake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On the wearing of skirts...

I love wearing skirts and dresses. Recently I've bumped into some prejudices from others against people who do wear long dresses and skirts, especially when it's a young woman wearing them. While I know there probably are prejudices in the other direction as well, as an avid dress and skirt wearer... I wanted to adress some misconceptions.

My mother tried half of her life to get me into pants. Seriously. Skirts were not at all fashionable when I grew up in the seventies and eighties and she liked for me to dress a bit modern. It's been a battle of epic proportions until the time I was old enough to determine my own wardrobe.
While sometimes I was forced to wear pants because there simply were no skirts to find in stores, at least not pretty or even decent ones, I tried to find dresses and skirts whenever they were available.
My skirts never restricted my activities,I can tell you that I have climbed mountains (not true rockclimbing, but definitely more than a nice walk) while wearing skirts and no, did not get myself injured.
While camping, an open fire can be a danger, though basically, it depends on the type of skirts. No one should wear a swishy skirt near a fire, of course, and preferably not even a wide type of skirt. But you have the same danger with any type of loose hanging clothing: wide blouses or shirts, etc. Or hair! Long hair is definitely, definitely a fire hazard if it isn't properly pinned up.

Bikes and skirts work fine (again depending on what type of skirt) no flapping here either, but if you've ever seen someone with a light fabric flappy pair of pants of which the pants have been caught in the chain, it's the same risk. Only thing that I would consider dangerous in a skirt is climbing trees or rockclimbing. You could avoid the danger of something getting caught between hands or feet with a very short jeans skirt, but then.. ehm well... you'ld display EVERYTHING to the world and that really would not be the intention. Besides, very short skirts are not very modest.

For me wearing a dress and skirt has nothing to do with fundamentalism and barely with faith, though many people will argue that wearing skirts and dresses is one way to answer the call towards living a life that embraces the femininity with which you have been endowed by your creator.
I doubt though that I drew any relation between that and my skirts at the age of five. I have just always been naturally inclined to wear skirts and dresses. I feel ten times more free in them than in a pair of pants and I can do much more in them. Yes... certain skirts exclude certain activites, but so do certain pants: Sitting on the back of a motor cycle with a flappy pair of pants? Danger!!! It's how my mother broke her ankle. Very highwaisted pants are not very easy to clean or bend over in, especially if they're tight. And has anyone ever tried to wear boots with a normal piped jeans? pipes are too wide to be tucked int he boots, and not wide enough for over the boots... you need bootcut jeans....

A lot of the misconceptions about the dangers of dresses and skirts are there because people who aren't used to wearing them anymore buy one or wear one and feel a. uncomfortable in it, or b. wear it for the wrong type of activity. And then accidents happen.
Have women in skirts had accidents in the past? Certainly! But think of this: in the past nearly all women wore skirts. So... if a woman in the past had an accident: she wore a skirt. I'm quite certain that there were men as well having accidents. Men who did not wear skirts.
There are of course a few things you have to take into account. For example... if you want to climb a ladder freely, make sure that the distance between your feet and the hem of the skirt when standing up is larger than the distance between one sport of the ladder and another, else you'll trip on your hem. That's a given. Anyone should know better than to go climbing ladders (or chairs, or anything), with floor length skirts. If you do that, you're ASKING for injuries. Do not go and mow the grass either with a floor length flappy skirt that could get caught in the lawmower blades, etc.
Floor length flappy skirts are nice for walking, for the lovely feel of them around your legs, but they're definitely not ideal for doing several chores. Although.. I wore one yesterday like this but a bit wider (, for a whole day and haven't had trouble or anything that I planned to do that I couldn't do.

To have to think when you wear a skirt 'is it dangerous or uncomfortable for my activity' seems like an extra chore mainly because people aren't used to wearing skirts anymore. You don't need to think whether or not you're going to wear a highwaisted pair of spanish trousers for tree climbing, you just know better, you don't have to think about it at all. And no one is ever going to wear certain types of pants when you have to go through your knees or get under the bed to retrieve certain things while cleaning. We do all that subconsciously. If you wear skirts a lot, you get the same instinct about skirts, without the need to think. Plus you get much more apt at the way you move in skirts.
Even Jack Wolfskin (producer of outdoor gear) has a section on skirts and dresses. With the contents of my closet, there are very few activities I can't do safely in one of my skirts. And those are the activities in which I'll need to be very selective as well as to which pants I wear.

Last but certainly not least:
This post is not an attempt to get all women to wear skirts! What it is is an attempt to break through the bias that there is AGAINST skirts. Where it used to be unseemly for a woman not to wear a skirt, today... even the mention of preferring to wear a skirt seems to give you the image of a repressed and slightly backward human being who would love for women to go back to hoopskirts and corsets and is probably repressed by her husband or father.
Some girls simply LIKE to wear skirts or dresses. It makes them feel free. I can't understand how any woman feels free and comfortable in a jeans. But that's okay... I don't need to understand, because I accept that her jeans will probably give her the same feeling as my skirt does to me. What slightly annoys me is when people assume that I must be repressed or brainwashed to be liking skirts. If I was brainwashed any way, it would be against skirts. My mother has now accepted my skirt fetish and has actually started to like my wardrobe very much.

Getting up early

Yesterday I started my quest to get up early. Early being defined as an hour before baby wakes up. Yesterday that was 6.30 am and baby woke up at 8 am. It was blissful and I made the good intention of doing again today. Unfortunately there was a night of bad sleep ahead of me, but I still dragged myself out of bed at 7 am. Of course that is not really early.
I know people whose normal morning time is 5 am, and when I was just married, I got up with my husband at 6.30 am every morning. He went to the gym, and I made a nice, hot breakfast. Pregnancy took a lot of energy out of me however, and after Joseph was born he kept getting up four to six times a night for the first 8 months. I moved through the days like a zombie and it has taken this long to recover.

Sleep now being valued as the priceless treasure that it is, deciding to give some of it up for the greater good of the household is hard, very hard. When Joseph finally slept through the night (meaning until 5 am at that time) I just slept as long as I could and whenever I could, everything aside from going to bed earlier, because after my cutie was off to bed, I could finally have that ever elusive time to just sit. Between 9 pm and midnight, I had to do part of my work and all of my reading, talking with my husband, playing on the internet, creating and TV watching. We went to bed at 11 pm and then I tried to force myself to put out the light at midnight, not easy when there is so much reading to catch up on....

I have known for a while that I needed to get back into a more normal rhythm but the courage came through a little booklet which is called "shopping for time, how to do it all and not be overwhelmed" It's a nice little book by Christian authors on why it is important to use your time wisely and as a precious resource. It's short, does not really offer much new advice, but something in the tone struck me. Perhaps I like the fact that I admitted that they just didn't like getting up early but did it anyway. Or the fact that they say that they hated the "5 am club" the first hour of the day and were grateful to it throughout the rest. That sounded familiar. When I grew up there was a little sign on the wall saying: "If you lose fifteen minutes in the morning, you will be looking for it all day."

I started my day early yesterday and everything felt much better. I got so much more done, and I did manage to get to the evening without falling asleep. Hopefully with a bit more discipline and especially some consistency, this will become routine and I will have some precious time in the morning, like I had yesterday and today, to pray before I start the day. After all, to use another quote: "A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel."

Monday, October 6, 2008

No anxiety....

Phil 4:6-9

Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

This was last weeks reading in Church. In these times with the news reports of the economy in a daily crisis mode, it is no wonder that people get anxious. And even when there is no national emergency on the agenda, it is easy to get overwhelmed in your daily life: whether at your job, amidst the children, the demands of ministry of family, of friends...
Sometimes it seems as if everything threathens to fall over us like a giant cresting wave.
Be not afraid runs like a red thread through the entire bible. One of my favorite quotes is the following:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:26-28

This peace is not a denial of fear, nor a promise of a worry free existence. It doesn't mean: you don't need to do anything, God will not let anything touch you. We know of many Godly people who have known great suffering. In the bible we can immediately point to Job but just looking around you may show you several wonderful people who are living the Word and following the Holy Spirit through a very difficult path, whether it is illness, job loss, depression, family tragedies... or all of those.
Is "let not your hearts be troubled" then a command that we need to follow? Or is it more a fatherly reassurance that despite our fears, He will still be there. God does not promise us an easy path, He promises that He is there with you. In a way this is reflected in the promise we give at our wedding day. I recently saw a wedding on tv where the couple had written their own vows and the groom vowed to the bride that he would make her happy all the days of her life. It was very sincere and heartfelt, and certainly well meant, but I could not help but thinking... that is not a promise he can make. What if something horrible happens? What if they have a child that dies... what of the day when they lose another loved one... what of the day she loses a job, or they have a fight... he will not make her happy then. But what he can do is ... be there. He can promise to be there always, he can promise her that whatever she does, whatever life throws at her, he will be at her side.
Marriage here on earth is almost an analogy of the relationship between Christ and his Church. His "do not afraid" is not a false promise of an easy, happy days life. It is a promise of the simple happiness of knowing that whatever happens, in Christ, you are not forsaken. His name "Jahweh" simply means "I am".
Amidst our worries and working, it is wonderful to stop and stand still, thinking of His forever presence at our sides.

Commitment to loveliness

Emma challenges us again, and I answer the call in a commitment to loveliness. My good intentions for this new period are:

- getting up early

- doing my nails at least once

- laying out my clothes the night before

- walking as much as I can while the weather is nice

- pay particular attention to the scents in my house, by adding scented candles or air fresheners

Well... I guess I have changed...

In case you are curious about this four day old blog with 77 posts in it... it is not actually new. I started blogging at vox, and despite the fact that I like many things about the set up, there is little offered for connections with people outside of Vox. Since most of my friends blog elsewhere, I have been looking for a blog that would give me more options. I transfered most of my old posts to this new blog and here I am, ready to make a fresh new start.
I hope you will enjoy the little scribbles I will send into the world from these pages, my thoughts on womanhood, motherhood, faith, homemaking... and the little idiosyncrecies that make life a daily new discovery.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Toy storage

One of my favourite bloggers, Emma, asked about the way we store our childrens toys. So yesterday I went through the downstairs floor with the camera. Amd here are the results.

In the first picture you see Joseph's playpen in the living room. It holds a number of toys and used to be a place where he played quite frequently for ten or twenty minutes, giving me some hands free time. Unfortunately for now he goes in the playpen when he does one of the two things he is forbidden to do so I feel bad about putting him in there when he has not done something wrong.
Also in the living room, we have two reed baskets. One of them holds books, the other toys. It fits in the living room decor and is an easy solution for the toys that ride around the living room.
The sunroom is a place of priviledge. That means there are a few toys there that are not used all the time, but maybe once a day for half an hour or so. Depending on the weather, we reverse this role with the living room and try to keep one room more or less tidy during the day.
Of course in these pictures I have just put the toys back into their proper places. During the day, they unfortunately migrate everywhere in the living room and kitchen, and don't even get me started on the bathroom. Just to avoid anyone from feeling bad about the way the toys are spreading out in their house, a few pictures of Joseph's favorite ways of entertaining himself: - Getting out all the tupperware and the cooking pots and pans. And then of course leaving them all over the kitchen floor, and in the hallway, loosing interest in them, until mommy tries to put them in the cabinets again when it becomes so much fun to get them out as she is putting them in.
- And of course for minutes of concetrated fun: grabbing a tissue or a piece of paper that mommy has not put up high enough and shredding it into tiny little pieces that you leave all over the floor.
Ahhh life is good when you are a baby!

Feminine scent (September 31 2008)

My best memories are tied to scents: coming home on a cold and wet day in autumn to the scent of fresh baked waffles, the powder on my grandmothers cheeks on a cold winter day. I smelled it again last christmas when I saw my grandmother for the first time again in more than five years. It made me smile, despite the difficulties of this meeting.
Filling the house with a scent is one of the ways to add that little extra touch to your home: the scent of chilli in the crockpot is a wonderful, robust scent to come home to. The air spiced with cinamon from cookies in the oven breaths welcome, and that little wiff of perfume that you put on just before your husband came home, adds a little something, even if you have not had the time to change after the baby wiped his fingers on your skirt. Brushing your teeth and using mouth wash before you go to bed adds that wonderful tingly freshness to a goodnight kiss.... who does not love that?
Quite often, scent is one of the things we can add to our days without spending much time. Open the windows and letting the outside air in, maybe catch a whiff of camelias or confederate Jasmine if you are lucky enough to have a garden, use an airfreshener in rooms that you do not use that often, and don't forget to air now and again.
Every time I wash my hands in the bathroom it is a tiny pinprick of luxury to smell the scent of grapefruit from the inexpensive handsoap. I love the scent of figs and pears that is added to our dishwasher soap, or the raspberry scent of my shampoo. Take a moment while you read this to think of the scents in your every day life... do they make you smile?
I have several scents for myself as well: a few body spritzers for day to day use, a few cheaper day to day perfumes for day to day use, and one or two that are just a bit of a luxury. I favour lily of the valley and softer, clearer perfumes to more sweet ones, tough sometimes when I pass a woman by on the street and I just catch that hint of vanilla, it makes me smile. And it reminds me again of those waffles on a wet autumn day...

My little boy is one (September 31 2008)

Friday, October 3, 2008


A very kind lady just send me a vintage mantilla. She didn't feel it suited her, and thought I might like it. I LOVE it. While I grew up, I did not know anyone who covered their head during mass. Even my Polish grandmother didn't. It came as a surprise to me when a few years ago I just felt this... whisper inside my heart that kept talking to me about covering. I resisted for a while, but the Holy Spirit seemed to keep throwing me back to the thought by leading me to stories and sites about covering during mass.
For me, wearing the headcover in the presence of the sacrament is a private devotion. I don't think it's something that is obligated anymore. I don't come from a tradition of headcovering, I've never seen my mother wear one, and she is actually rather uncomfortable with me wearing one, which is why I 'eased into' covering, with broad hairbands and caps, and buncovers etc. I don't know how it happened but about four years ago, I just... started to feel called to cover. I hate using that expression because it sounds like a 'voice from the burning bush' experience that belongs in a dramatic movie. I just kept stumbling over the idea and it somehow took root in my heart. I often compare it to a devotion to the chaplet of Divine Mercy. I think it is a beautiful devotion, and some people feel atracted to it, called to it. Others feel more atracted to the rosary, the stations of the cross.For me it has many meanings. At the forefront, I think is the fact that what is most special and most Holy is often hidden from prying eyes. A veil is a symbolic way for me to put myself apart from the hussle and bussle of daily life and devote myself to God during the time I put it on. It's a sign for my mind and body that now I am taking on a different role. With little Joseph with us during mass, that's become even more important, because it is hard to focuss on mass while you are trying to prevent little Houdini from escaping.

Commitment to loveliness (September 14 2008)

Emma is hosting another commitment to loveliness! As woman we have a special gift of adding small touches to our life that ... embellish it, that add to it. We find some small things to tend to that would make our life and that of those around us a bit more lovely.
This is my challenge for next week:
- Drink more water- Declutter desktop- Clear floor every evening and before my beloved husband arrives- Work in the garden and bring some flowers into the house.-Try some different updo's for my hair- Find some nice spiritual music or recorded prayer during knitting

Menuplan Monday (September 8 2008)

Today was a busy day. Joseph was a happy go lucky baby, but did want lots of mommy time. Aside from that, I vacumed the floor (several times, chasing cracker crumbs), I managed to mop, I finished up our Christmas card list, and finished a newsletter for our womens group. With all that lining up, I could easily forget about dinner were it not for... my trusted menuplan. I make it either saturday or sunday and on monday, everything is ready for a brandnew week. That way, I can look at the plan the day before to see if I need to defrost something and there is not the 'It's five o clock, what's for dinner, emergency". By five o clock, my brain usually is giving up on functioning. THis is this weeks menu plan:

Monday:Chili con carne (home made last week, frozen and just heating up), with a green salad with pine nuts and parmesan/ ranch/ pepper dressing.
Tuesday: Turkey mignonette with vegetable stir fry
Wednesday: cherries with meatballs (a Flemmish favorite)
Thursday: Stuffed pasta and a salad
Friday: I eat alone, since my husband needs to go out to dinner for work, so it probably will just be left overs or some soup.
Saturday: we eat out
Sunday: pizza

Alternative: pasta carbonara

I always like to have one alternative meal on the list in case I just don't feel like eating what is on the menu. Usually it's something that's easy to make and that we both like quite a bit.

Commitment to loveliness (September 7 2008)

Emma is hosting another commitment to loveliness. In it we challenge ourselves to make our lives and that of those around us a bit more lovely by paying particular attention to a few simple things.
Changing a few simple habits can change your entire mood, outlook, or the way people perceive you. Today I put on some small, sparkly earrings for mass and they made me feel wonderful and festive. I am going to try to work on some little things to add a bit more beauty in my every day life. I hope I am succesful. If you like this challenge, go over to Emma's blog and read a bit more about it. Maybe you could join up too and all together we can make life a bit more lovely, challenge by challenge.

My list for this challenge:
- drink more water, which is good for the skin and my mood
- make sure to greet my husband with a kiss as soon as he comes home
- pray a rosary at least once next week
- put on some lipstick
- Spend more time knitting and less time on the computer.

All the duckies are swimming in the water (September 4 2008)

that's how a dutch childrens song goes: "alle eendjes zwemmen in het water." I have been singing it a lot. Joseph must have understood. While I was washing my face and putting on cream, Joseph was happily playing with the yellow rubber duckie that he loves so much on the bathroom floor. But duckies belong in the water, right? And where do you find water......? Right!So by the time mommy turns around to smile at Joseph who had been happily brabbling about "Du" "Du" ... She sees Joseph contently floating his ducky in the toilet bowl. That was today's smiling mommy moment. (though I of course rescued the poor duckie and cleaned of Joseph's hands while explaining the duckie should not swim in the toilet.)Yesterday was a PROUD mommy moment. Our laundry nook is off the hallway leading to the garage. Joseph likes to go there because he isn't suposed to (there are laundry baskets, the steamer, it's not childproofed etc.) Yesterday however, I allowed him to come with me while I was putting the laundry from the washer in the dryer. I opened the dryer and Joseph of course went to investigate this interesting hole that an opened dryer makes. I saw him standing there in front of it and thought... why not? So I handed him a small pair of baby pants and showed him with a T shirt from daddy how to put it in the dryer. Lo and Behold... mommies little helper put the pants in the dryer. All the little things that I handed him went straight into the dryer! Mommy was VERY proud of her little helper. But it becomes better! A few hours later, mommy remembers the laundry sitting in the dryer. So she takes Joseph back with her to the laundry nook and thinks.. hmm... he might help again. So she gives him a pair of baby pants, just POINTS to Joseph's clean laundry basket and says: "The pants go in THAT basket." And... unbelievable but true, Joseph seems to understand because he walks to the basket, stretches as high as he can (the basket is a bit bigger than he is) and puts the pants in the basket, repeating this performance with everything that mommy gives him to put in his basket.Proud mommy!

When you realise your baby is getting too smart for you (September 1 2008)

A few weeks ago Joseph found that he could lift the lid of the Airconditioning (AC) in the sunroom and could then turn the dials to have it go on, off, blowing harder or less. Mommy and daddy did not think that was so fun a game, so after a few trial solutions, they found out they could pull the nobs of the dials off. I put them away on a little bookshelf at the other side of the room out of Josephs reach and sight. He now and again went to the AC poked his fingers around but quickly lost interest since no interesting noises or blazes started and all was quiet and happy again during playtime in the sunroom.Our little guy however is growing like a weed and aparently he can now reach the top of that little bookshelf if he stands on tiptoes. He demonstrated that while I had turned my back for a moment and managed to get his hands on the forgotten nobs. Now here is where he gets too smart. He must have remembered where he saw them and what they were, because he proceeded to bring them over to the AC and try to prod them back in the right hole. This would have been impressive enough in my opinion. He did not think so. He left the nobs under the AC for a bit to play with other things, but when daddy arrived downstairs, he wanted to be really impressive and proceeded to make a new atempt, this time succeeding somehow in re attaching the nobs and to torn the AC on. Considering the fact that you need to line up a tiny half moon shape in the inner ring of the nob with a metal rod in the dial, I am impressed. His grandfather says he is going to be an engineer.

Menuplan (August 31 2008)

This is next weeks menu plan. I haven't posted my menu's in a while, but they keep a big part of my life. I think menu plans are the first thing that came back in my household routine after baby was born. I need to be able to look at the list at noon and see what I need to do so dinner is ready. My husband needs to work like crazy for the next few months, so I try to have dinner ready to be on the table within ten minutes after he comes home. That means that prep work and part of the cooking need to be done before. There is not much room to experiment with new dishes, so I try to keep it at some easy simple staples. So for the next week this is the menu.

pizza (for now groceries are on sunday, though we try to change this to saturday. After a day of running around, it's easy to just put a pizza in the oven.)
chili con carne in the crockpot.
tuesday (I made the mushroom sauce yesterday)
pasta with mushroom sauce and pine nuts
cherries with meatballs
stuffed pasta
fish with green beans, tartar sauce and sweet potato mash
eat out
Turkey mignonette with stir fry

Feminine Friday

Sometimes, adding a little touch of femininity here and there can add an entirely different mood to your day. On a whim, I went into the garden to see if there were some flowers that I could put in a vase. These were the last ones on the bush and just begging for one more moment of glory before autumn comes and has them fade away. I cut some of the green leaves away and put them in a simple clear green vase. Now they are standing on my desk and making me smile each single time I watch them. I should have cut much more flowers this summer, because the garden we received with the house has so much beauty to offer and with the heat we barely enjoyed it at all. Well, a lesson learned for next year, and for the flowers of autumn. It doesn't take much to add a little feminine touch on them, a little vase of flowers, especially real flowers does wonders for the atmosphere of an entire room.

Holidays (August 28 2008)

I am already thinking about our Halloween costumes. While the wheather here makes you think of barbecues and summer, my mind is in autumn and winter.
I love Christmas, and I dislike stress, together that makes for a good combination to start early. I have started on making one christmas present, I am making up lists on what else I need to make or buy. And I am trying to plan things out. Thanksgiving needs not much thought since we will go to my parents in law. I may make some cookies, but that will be all I need to do for that holiday. But Christmas is another thing. Last year, Joseph was less than three months old and not sleeping, so we were unable to do anything for the holiday aside from flying to Belgium with him and being spoiled. This year, I would like to do Christmas cards again, some little gifts, a plastic tree and some decorations. It will take some careful planning and lots of in advance work, because from september on our schedule is already filling up with Josephs first birthday, a weeklong visit of friends of mine in october, a little outing in november for my husband and me, plus Thanksgiving, my husbands birthday, and his fathers birthday, and then we are getting pretty close to Christmas already and flying to Belgium. Since all our last travel episodes have gone awry, and we will be travelling with a toddler this time... I want to be REALLY well prepared.

My little boy and his first medal

Here is my little boy, being awarded a 'reading medal' at our library for all the books mommy and he read. He got a lot of goodies. A coupon for a free frosty at Wendy's, an iron on of the library, a coupon for a free book at the Friends of the Library booksale, a rub on tattoo, and so on.. And then of course, the medal. It is actually pretty nice with an open book depicted over the shape of the state of South Carolina. They made a lovely little ceremony of giving the medal, with triumphant music of... Star Wars.

Wedding2 044b
While I am not that big a Star Wars fan (Lord of the Rings is my nerdy movie love), my husband is. He loved the movies as a child and one of our first dates was to the latest edition of a Star Wars movie. On our wedding I surprised him by having the cake being entered on music of Star Wars. I think the Emperors march or something. The cake had been made by a friend of ours and as the lights were dimmed the music started and there was firework coming out of the cake as they rolled it out. (that was a surprise for me too)
So now I have two wonderful memories associated with Star Wars. We are actually thinking about adding a third one. For Halloween this year, we are seriously considering Star Wars Costumes. There are some incredibly cute Star Wars toddler costumes. I found that out while looking for a Golum costume for Joseph. There was a LOTR marathon on TV the last few days and Joseph now and again had a peek and he became incredibly animated when he saw Golum. He went to the TV and started to interact with him. Now he is not allowed to watch TV himself and we also put the TV off when we notice he is watching along with a program that we are watching. But he was happily playing, ignoring the TV until Golum appeared. And he just LOVED that weird little creature. Too bad we could not find a todler Golum costume, but... he might make a very cute Darth Vedar.

Longing for beauty (August 24 2008)

A while ago, I stumbled over this blog: Broken Needle. And I immediately fell in love. Seeing the beautiful embroidery and knitting projects this lady does has me in awe. It makes me hopeful and envious at the same time. I have had to put embroidery to rest for a bit, my eleven month old boy does not leave me the time for it. And I miss it a lot. Embroidery was, for the longest time, my only non word related hobby and I felt like I was finally gaining some skills in it. Had I discovered this blog a bit earlier, I would have jumped in on the idea of an exchange. I had never heard of it, and I think it is great fun.

Inspirations, Issue 23 - Gorgeous Winter Embroidery
Reading this blog reminds me of my all time favourite embroidery magazine: Inspirations. Inspirations is an Australian Embroidery magazine with contributors from around the world. It truely is the "Rolls Royce of embroidery magazines" The lay out is stunning, the articles interesting, the projects to die for and the explenations very clear. Did I mention that Inspirations will be in the USA at the Embroiderers Guild of America convention in Atlanta? I so wish that I could go. It's only a four hour drive, but with a baby four hours to and from become too much. It might be the best thing for me not to be able to go. You see, I had promised myself that, as soon as I had gotten my drivers licence, my reward would be membership of the Guild. I would go to monthly meetings and hone my skills. Unfortunately in this season of my life, I just do not have the time. My sweet baby boy is more important and all demanding. It is not that I would not have the time for the once a month meeting, but I simply would not have made a stitch in between meetings. Embroidery, to me, requires relaxation, It requires spending some time to set up. It requires some space to spread out the needles, pins, and threads... without being afraid that a little hand will grab and hurt himself. After months of rebelling and trying, I have finally said goodbye to embroidery for a (hopefully short) season in my life. Reading the wonderful Broken Needle blog (and all the enticing links) is as bittersweet for me as going through my collection of Inspirations magazines. I look at all the beauty and all the wonderful projects beckoning and I feel a longing to create beauty that is hard to deny.
On the other hand, I have picked up knitting since it is easier to well... pick up here and there when you have a few minutes. My first project were baby booties that turned out much too big, but did get finished and actually had the shape of well... baby booties. Quite a triumph. By now I have one third done of my shawl and I so enjoy the feeling of soft, luxurious boucle wool. I hope Maria, for whom it is intended as a Christmas gift will enjoy it as much as I enjoy the feeling of making it. For now, it satisfies my longing to create, to feel the beauty of thread and fabric. It fills a little void in me and makes me a happier, more relaxed mommy. What is it they say? "Improvise, adapt, overcome". Strange to find the Marine Motto in a post amidst embroidery and babies. Nicholas Brown, my beloved little brother in spirit, would be proud of me.

I so enjoyed mass this morning (August 24 2008)

I was serving as an extra ordinary minister of Holy Communion, and my husband was holding Joseph, who decided to be nice during mass! Not too much wrestling to get away, not too much screaming. On top of that, the choir song Rutter. I have a great weakness for Rutter. And with no one trying to escape from the pew, I had time to pray and contemplate and actively participate in mass. It is a wonderful and refreshing feeling and gives me new courage each time. As extra ordinary minister of Holy Communion, today I was administering the cup. It always gives me such a humble and special feeling to be allowed to offer the cup as the blood of Our Lord.

Jewelry (August 21, 2008)

I love jewelry. But I rarely wear it. I don't know how this happened. I have always loved jewelry. I used to save up money to actually buy an inexpensive piece now and again even while in college. I used to give jewelry to my mom. Recently I mentioned to my husband, my wonderful, perfect husband, that he never gives me jewelry. He gives great presents (can you see that gifts however inexpensive) is one of my love languages? But he never gives me jewelry. I always thought this was because his mother doesn't like to be given jewelry, she prefers to pick things out herself. But now I realise... I rarely ever WEAR jewelry, so he must not think I like it. Well, that is going to change. Today I am wearing my engagement ring, I managed to put my wedding ring back on (finally lost enough weight after baby) and I am wearing a locket that I bought for myself upon graduating highschool. It makes me feel put together and ready for anything. A nice way to add a bit of pizzaz to a day!

Fingerprints, foodpoisoning and fussing (August 19, 2008)

Well, last week was not the greatest of my life, to put it mildly.
On tuesday, I had to go and get fingerprinted etc. to put a next step in the process of becoming a permanent resident in the US. As if they haven't fingerprinted me ten times already. I wonder what they keep doing with these fingerprints. Every time I see a CSI episode, I keep thinking that my prints are in that computer, clogging up the system ten times over. My dearest son was so fussy all week (except tuesday actually) I could have pasted him behind the wallpaper, to use a Dutch expression. I reduced his nursing to five times a day and he was aparently convinced I am just doing it to torture him, because I am such a cruel mom. He wanted to make that point very clear and believe me, even at ten and a half months, that little boy can get his opinion across.
We received some bad personal news and all through that I suffered from what, according to the doctor, probably was a case of foodpoisoning. (I THOUGHT that eggroll tasted weird. Luckily I only finished half of it). By sunday I thought I was ready for a nervous breakdown. Lucky my wonderful husband helped out as much as he did, and his parents were here on sunday and pitched in.
By monday things were getting a bit better and today life seems almost normal again. I am GLAD that week is over, and some prayers are still apreciated as we recover.

My son, the tornado (August 8 2008)

I like a tidy house. I'm not a neatfreak by far. A kitchencounter can be neat and tidy in my view without being empty. BC (before children) I loved keeping a nice, tidy house with some cheerful touches like flowers, cloth napkins and a pretty fruit centerpiece. These days, I feel like I am a broomwagon, trying to clean up after a forever hungry tornado named Joseph. I knew that cracker crumbs probably came with the mom teritory, but I guess it is not until you are sweeping the same living room floor five times a day that you realise what a mess just one tiny, active child can make. At first I had the idea of only letting him eat when strapped in his feeding chair. The reality of the situation with this botomless pit is that if I want to do that, he will be strapped to that chair seven hours a day, with me sitting next to him. And I have things that I want to do.
I keep thinking with longing towards the day when he will sit at a little table and colour a picture and with a desire, only surpassed by my desire for heaven, for the day when he will read. I think my parents didn't hear a sound out of me between the time a learned to read and the moment it became time to chose a university. I hope Joseph is the same.

On hiatus (May 21 2008)

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As you see this blog has been on hiatus for a while, and so have I. I am not sure if this post will return me to the ranks of the regular bloggers or if it is only an update. We will find that out in the next days and weeks I presume. I want to ponder for a moment on the very nature of this hiatus though, because for me it has been a hard one. As everyone who reads this blog nows, I have had a baby now eight months ago. My little Joseph is wonderful and too cute for words. He also does not sleep through the night, even at 8 months. A good night sleep is waking up twice, a bad night sleep is waking up 4 or more times. A horrible night is waking up to six or seven times.
When I was pregnant I knew my life was changing forever, I just did not know how much it was changing. Yes, I figured I had to get up at night for a few months, and yes I knew now that there would be a baby involved in everything, but the total... package of how it would affect my life just did not sink in, especially not since it seemed, and still seems, that other mothers with young babies just get much more things done. For me, a lot of things in which I took pride just had to go. I could not do it. This blog was one example, some other things on the internet another. But those things at the least were superficial, no mother how much they meant to me. But I had and have problems keeping the house tidy, getting nutritious meals on the table, and keeping up my appearance. I have blogged several times about the importance of looking tidy and even elegant as a homemaker and yet with baby, that became more and more difficult (still doable though. I have not bought that denim jumper yet! *W*) Just time to spend with my husband or just time to 'be' and chose what to do has gone, let alone time to sew or embroider. I felt a little resentful about all those blogs that describe homemaking as this wonderful time that allows you to be creative with flower arrangements, gardening, cooking, letter writing and other things while I barely managed to get dressed. The hardest thing was having to say no to many worthwhile things that I did. I had to give up a comite in our womens organisation, I had to give up tutoring, and I had to give up volunteering at the wonderful organisation that Birthright is. I have felt guilty over that for a long time. These people have welcomed me here, they have supported me, I made a commitment to them, and now I just ... had to leave. I could not do it. Even when my husband offered to watch the baby for me, I just did not have the mental energy to even think about going back to volunteer work, something I had most certainly expected to do after those first three months.
Over the last few weeks, with sleep deprivation waning just the tiniest bit, I have decided to see myself as 'on hiatus' just as my blog. That does not mean I give up everything. I still strive for that neat home, kept up appearance and those healthy meals. I still refuse to go out in the garden in my bathrobe. But I have learned that this season of my life looks different than I expected it. Since we have moved, things have gotten a bit easier as we were able to babyproof a room or two in the house. THat means that while I can not leave Joseph unsupervised, I can do things while he is around. I only need to stop him from getting in trouble every five minutes, not every five seconds. I may not have time yet to sew, but I do have time to clean up my kitchen now and again. Perhaps my own hobbies and so fort had to be put more completely on the backburner than I had originaly thought. Maybe I even have to move them to the fridge for a while, but they will keep. Once I manage to have a system again in housekeeping, I may even have some fragments of time here and there for hobbies. Till then, I don't fight the hiatus anymore, I accept it. And that saves me a whole lot of mental energy.

Hiatus on blog (Februari 18 2008)

well, that is not really news is it? This blog is on a hiatus because of a lack of time. I have this wonderful, nearly five month old boy who insists on hitting every single mileston early, except for sleeping. He is nearly crawling, he is teething, he is starting to practice his pincer grip. He is sitting up, he is doing everything, except giving mommy a good nights sleep. No sleep means little energy and that means that the usual household and other tasks take a lot of time.
For now, posting will be sporadic, but if you want to follow more closely, have a look at my sons website. I have to keep that one updated because otherwise his grandmother will be very dissapointed.

You snooze, you lose (December 30 207)

When people ask you to sum up motherhood in one word, I know I am supposed to say something like: life changing, fulfilling or "the best thing that ever happened to me" even though that is more than one word. Of course it is all these things, but if I must be honest the one word that comes to me is: exhausting, closely followed by "exasperating". I love my baby, but to my shame motherhood does not come easy to me. There are two reasons for that: the first is my problem with sleep. I love sleep, but I have great difficulty falling asleep. It takes me an hour or so of relaxing, leaving the world behind and reading a bit before I may drift off to sleep. In time of great exhaustion this can be reduced to fourty five minutes, maybe half an hour but not less. Add a baby that wakes every three hours to that mix, you never sleep more than one to two hours. After three months, that starts to weigh more than just the occasional bad night.
The second problem is noise. I remember a few years ago they were building a large apartment complex behind my mothers home. They worked all day from about 7 am to 7 pm, in constant noise and in the weekends my mom did renovation projects at home. The noise drove me utterly insane. I became cranky and short tempered, and it takes quite a bit to do that. I am convinced that the noise has been a big factor in my decision to move out, and my crankiness in my mothers enthousiasm for the plan. If you have a baby that does not sleep a lot, and that is socialised by lots of talking to him, the big problem is that that baby will babble very soon, and afterwords never stops. Of course this babbling is better than the crying that is his primary means of communication before, but it is still noise. It seems that motherhood erodes the two things from your life that are needed to make me mentally comfortable: a certain amount of quiet and sleep. (And then we do not even mention routines, some time to devote to intelectual stimulation or creativity, and time with daddy) Some of these we hopefully will get back over time, but until then, I struggle to get through the days.
Luckily there are some rewards, like the moment there is that first smile. That one night in which you got to sleep four hours, the admiration of strangers, the secret conviction that your baby is the smartest and most beautiful baby ever, and the new milestones that you get to celebrate. Nevertheless it is wonderful now and again to have a trusted person to whom you can hand baby with full confidence while you get some of that elusive sleep and quiet, Oma and grandma are two such people. But although Joseph clearly loves them both, he will take revenge on mommy for not being at his back and call. So, of course when this afternoon I sank into the blissful sensation of sleep that only a mother can appreciate my baby LAUGHED for the first time. And I was not there to hear it. He has refused to repeat the feat so far, making it very clear that if I take my eyes off from him for a moment, he will go through with this growing up thing by himself.

Merry Christmas (December 27 2007)

Well, Christmas is past us. I hope each of you enjoyed the celebration of the Word incarnate. Such an amazing thing isn't it: The Word became flesh. I experienced Christmas very differently this year than before. Each year during Christmas mass our the blessing at the meal I have this wonderful experience in which I seem to feel steeped in the meaning of Christmas. I contemplate the meaning of Christmas: God becoming man for our salvation. What is smallest is greatest in the eyes of God. The smallness of the Child, no room in the Inn. I can think about it, feel it, let it overwhelm me.
This year I did not have the oportunity for the mystery to overwhelm me. Yes, we did read our little baby, too young to understand, the story of Christmas from the bible. Yes, we did go to Midnight mass. But half exhausted by a little one that refuses to sleep before 2 am for weeks and still wakes three times during the night, what overwhelmed me was fatigue and misery instead of mystery when Joseph decided to celebrate the coming of our Lord with a screaming fit that did not end until mommy or daddy carried him into the aisle to the back and kept walking him there. After we went back sitting, the screaming fit resumed.
I will admit honestly that I felt dissapointed. Was this my Christmas this year? Where was the spiritual experience? Where was the wonderful mystery. Slowly it is dawning however that this reality is part of the mystery. God becoming man, central to our Faith is not just a cerebral exercise. It is messy, it is afterbirth, it is poverty and refugees, it is sweat and tears and dissapointment, ending on a cross, without every losing love.
This isn't a magical solution. I still feel tired and there are still days that I wonder why this baby does not seem able to give mommy just an hour of quiet to do something. But I try to remember, as my priest said, that my life now is a prayer, even when I do not find the beautiful words to express it.

Travel update (December 27 2007)

Our Joseph has done just fine during his first intercontinental travel. There was a minimal fussing, a lot of dirty diapers, but no blow outs, and there was a lot of sleeping. THank you American Airlines for letting us take our car seat on board and have that extra chair when the plane was not sold out.