Steak & Champagne

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It is a steak and champagne night. We have reason to celebrate. I got a job! I will not go to the details, but it is exactly what I was looking for and it came along far sooner than I expected. It ticks all of the boxes. We are very excited. So my husband and I are celebrating with a nice bottle of champagne and a rare steak. Chocolate is for dessert. It is a great way to celebrate. And my husband’s toast was perfect, “Congratulations, babe! You deserve it.”

Now I am going to take a few weeks to relax and enjoy our little ones. I am charging my batteries. So what will I do to recharge my batteries? Umm, I am still thinking that over. I want to kick my butt back into shape and kick our house’s proverbial butt back into shape too. But I am going to take as many nice lunch breaks as I can along the way.

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Dropping a Ball

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Fortunately, I had a much needed day of downtime. My goal was to do as little as possible, but I just could not help myself. I still got in some shopping and sorted out some baby clothes to try to sell online.

I did treat myself to an early lunch, though. It tasted as good as it looked. This is a toasted spelt bagel with sliced banana, cinnamon and maple syrup.

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Life right now is a bit too chaotic. We have all the typical demands of a household with two working parents and two children under the age of four. I am grateful for the health and security we enjoy.

Nonetheless, I need to do a little less. I need to drop one of the many balls I am juggling. I need to create the space to give myself a little more rest. Sometimes it feels like I need more rest and downtime than others. Sometimes I feel more sensitive, more susceptible to life’s typically daily sensory onslaught.

But which thing should go undone? Which activity could go undone? Which activity can this stingy, control freak offload or at least outsource? Food? Namely, grocery shopping and dinner preparation. I am looking into hiring someone to make semi-healthy dinners for our family. Surprisingly, I have a few choices here locally.

We have a cleaner that comes once a week for three hours. Don’t judge me, but I am also considering expanding on that. Does anyone else have any other ideas?

Fried

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Fifteen minutes might be a bridge too far tonight. We will see how it goes.

I am utterly fried tonight. I don’t know how else to explain it. My nerves are shot and my muscles feel melted. Sometimes engaging with people sparks so much energy and adrenaline in me that I am left completely rung out afterwards. I am an introvert. I know this for sure.

I had an interview today. It was challenging and engaging and energizing. On top of that, our littlest one kept us both up half the night with what remains of her chicken pox. By the time I got home from the interview, I was fried. I cycled to the interview. Yes, you read that right. I live in The Netherlands, remember? The brisk January air hit me on the ride home. Like the cold shower after a hot sauna, bam!

My mind was racing and my nerves were sizzling out. I needed a nap. My body refused to move, but my mind hammered on. It was a frenetic playback of the conversation in my interview. What I said. What I should have said. I annoy myself with this incessant internal nattering.

Thank goodness for television. I would have normally gone for a brisk walk in the park while listening to an audiobook, but my legs refused. Too tired. The television was enough of a distraction. It unplugged my brain just enough. The numbing was a sort of salve to my nerves.

Fifteen Minutes of….

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Starting today, I am making a vow to write for fifteen minutes per day. There, I wrote it. It is out there for all to see. Writing is a passion of mine. I have come to hold it so dear that I put it on a pedestal. I tell myself that I need to wait to write a blog post about something more witty or deep or funny or….whatever.

It just does not work that way and I am calling “Bullshit” on myself. ‘Witty’ comes from work. ‘Profound’ is born out of practice. So, bear with me, folks, while I find my rhythm.

This blog was started to share my experiences as an American raising a multicultural family abroad in Europe. I am coming up on nine years living in The Netherlands and things still bewilder me.

So what has been filling my days lately? Well, namely, my littlest one has the chicken pox. My poor baby is seven months old and covered in disgusting spots. She has been a trooper through the past week. Look at this face.

She contracted the chicken pox at day care. The philosophy here is that chicken pox are not a medical emergency. They do not require a trip to the doctor for treatment (unless there are some extreme issues like prolonged fever). In fact, at our daycare, they do not even warn the parents of an outbreak or insist infected children stay home. They figure that there is no way to prevent an outbreak and no real threat to a typical child.

It is incredibly annoying not to be warned about an outbreak mainly because I want to be able to have anti-itch cream on-hand and so I can prepare myself for the ensuing round of long nights. But I really appreciate that my child is not made to stay home. Day care is expensive here and I would have to pay the tuition even if my child stays home ill. As long as an infected child is reasonably happy, she can stay and play with the others.

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Bankrupt Holidays

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My employer declared bankruptcy yesterday. Merry Christmas!

When a collective effort falls short it is a strange sort of failure. Everyone put in so much effort for so long. I feel both relieved and ill. My body aches as if it has finally allowed itself to feel the daily stress that has been accumulating for months. Adrenaline courses through my veins thinking of all the possibilities and interviews in the days ahead. And it is Christmas.

My cynicism has grown exponentially in the past year. So has my paranoia. When will the next proverbial shoe drop? I took my three year old to a new play group today. The chasm I feel between myself and others seems palpable. I am so lost in my loss that I find conversation difficult. I just wanted to lose myself in my daughter’s happiness and play with the abandon of a three year old. I was too exhausted for that so, thankfully, she graced me with rare cuddles and hugs. She is normally far too busy.

On the other hand, I feel so grateful. I live in The Netherlands, a land with a fifty percent tax rate. Yeah, that is high, but it means that when you really need it, the government is there. Unemployment benefits entitle me to a month of benefits for every year I have earned a wage here.

And my two little ones are healthy. This past year has also brought me the most gorgeous blue eyed girl I have ever seen. She is pure joy. I think of our three year old as ‘the light’ of our little family. The house comes alive when she wakes up. She is infectious. All of this uncertainty puts me on edge.

WWII Daydreams

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I typically am both listening to an audiobook while also reading something on my IPad. Not simultaneously, of course, but melding the two books oftentimes makes for some crazy daydreams. All set against the Peppa Pig cartoon theme song that I enjoy more than I will admit to my three year old. See if you can keep up.

I have been listening to Ken Follet’s trilogy and just finished his WWII book, “Winter of the World”. I also just finished reading Ruth Reichl’s book, “Delicious: A Novel”. Reichl’s book is about a fictitious culinary magazine in which a young employee finds wartime correspondence letters between a young girl in Ohio and the famous James Beard whom supposedly wrote for the magazine during WWII. Unconsciously, I managed to pick two great books that overlap in topics.

Like never before, I have come away with awe at how much people sacrificed in those austere, uncertain and violent times. It has also given me an appreciation for how far freedom has come in some ways. And it has made me curious about my roots. So my mother is sharing with me stories about her parents. I had always known my grandfather fought in WWII, but this puts it all in a new light. For instance, as I was standing at a tram stop in the middle of a Dutch city with my Dutch American daughter, I could not help but wonder what my grandfather would think about us going across town to visit our German Chinese friends. I choose to think he was proud to fight for a world in which I have such easy freedoms.

The austerity of those times strikes me too. I am trying, in my own weird way, to waste less these holidays. And, let’s be honest, with a three year old and with nursing a five month old, I am looking for any excuse to cut a few corners this holiday season. Case in point, my recipe of the week.

I did not want to waste two apples or the ridiculously expensive imported creamy Skippy peanut butter I just had to buy to use in recipes. Sounds weird I know, but I found a recipe for apple peanut butter muffins. My husband was horrified by the thought so I get them all to myself. Yippee!

Worn Out

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I am just worn out. I keep telling myself how good our life is and how lucky we are, but I am just pooped. So I am truly sorry that it has been so long in between posts.

Wiglet is nearly five months old and her big sister E just turned three last month. It is all I can do to keep the moving parts clean and the refrigerator stocked. I went back to work part-time. It is very stressful in general at the office, but I find it oddly relaxing. I could fall asleep sitting at my desk with a warm cup of tea and a screen glowing in front of me. I hate pumping, but find myself looking forward to my 20 minutes of solitude in a broom closet listening to an audiobook trying to drown out the sound of my electric breast pump. I am listening to Ken Follett’s “Winter of the World”. It’s depiction of life through World War II will put your life in perspective in a heartbeat. It has given me a kick in the pants during more than one marathon nursing sessions with Wiglet or solo pity party.

Theme song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want….But if you try real hard, you might just get what you need.”

Life is full.

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