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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Gratitude

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There are so many things going wrong in this world today. There are so many things that could have gone wrong in my second pregnancy. I was remined of that reading this post while searching for my next hit of baking therapy.

As i sit on the couch with Baby Wiglet propped up on my legs, i tear up in gratitude at how healthy she is. She is a healthy, beautiful baby. Seven weeks in and, touch wood, things are going relatively smoothly. Then she rips a fart. Comedy genius. Keeping it real.

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Tale of Two Births

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She is finally here! Our little I was born on Tuesday. We know have an E and I. It is a bit like Old McDonald’s farm, but no plans for an O to complete the song. E,I,E,I,O…

They were both healthy and strong and I escaped the ordeal relatively unscathed. This time around has been different in almost every other way, though.

For starters, I had an epidural this time and I was au natural last time. I recognized the building pain from a mile away this time and was so grateful for the epidural that I gladly accepted the side effects like all the wires and monitoring, body temp regulation extremes, and itchy skin. My first labor, I dilated from 1 to 10 cm in about two hours. This time, I was dilated at 1 cm for weeks then went from 3 to 10 cm in 45 minutes. Most women suffer through that pain in bite sized pieces over an 8-24 hour period. I do not know if one is better or worse than the other, but my first labor I literally thought I was going to die. The second time around, I ate lunch reclining in my hospital bed and texted friends while I dilated.

Pregnancy, labor and recovery are truly miracles, but Mother Nature is one wicked, sadistic bitch sometimes. No one really talks about the days immediately following giving birth. My uterus has already nearly contracted back to its normal size. So what took nine months to stretch from my pelvis to up by my rib cage has contracted back in 3 days. Contractions are Mother Nature’s way of doing this. And who is the driver? Your baby and her insatiable sucking urge. It felt like being in labor and nursing simultaneously. I could only take two paracetamol every seven hours. It felt like peeing on a house fire.

Yesterday marked the beginning of my hormone roller coaster ride. Let the tears flow. It must correspond to the uterus contraction completing and the filling of my milk jug sized, well, jugs. A sign should be posted on the door, “Beware of hormones.” They are so real and so controlling and overwhelming yet unrecognizable to most people.

For our recovery, last time I walked the four blocks home from the hospital just hours after giving birth. This time I am staying in the hospital’s birth hotel. Along with my mom staying with us for six weeks, staying at the birth clinic were the best decisions we could have made.

Surrendering

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E and Belly by morethanexpat

E and Belly by morethanexpat

I am five days away from Baby #2’s due date. I had an appointment with my midwife this afternoon. Sometimes, I wonder why I bother speaking at all during these appointments. Don’t they know by now that hormonal pregnant women just want encouragement, commiseration and the promise of some very good drugs?

What does the last week of pregnancy feel like for me? Swelling, sick, painful and tired in ever-increasing amounts. This is the part no one talks about and women try to forget. I am taking paracetamol, but it barely takes the edge off.

I told my midwife about the pain and her response was, “You need to surrender to the situation.” I squinted my eyes, holding back my tears and angry laugh. I thought to myself, “You have got to be f$#@ing kidding me! What kind of airy fairy garbage is that?”

Surrender myself? Do you even see this person sitting across from you whose body has given itself over to a little person for the past nine months? Whose body will continue to be in the service of this little being for the next several months. I barely recognize myself now, have lost all sight of my feet and waist and have nearly lost control of some pretty major bodily functions. I lay in bed as the baby beats me up from the inside. She twists her head in my pelvis. She kicks and swishes her back against my skin that is spread paper-thin to accommodate her aquatic paradise. Surrender myself?

She tried to dress it up by explaining how adrenaline counteracts the body’s natural hormones or whatever that trigger labor. I gritted my teeth and smiled my best American smile and got the hell out of there as fast I could. She smiled and shook my hand. I sure she felt she’d really helped me.

Just tell me it sucks, but it is worth it. Just tell me that you cannot imagine what I am going through and would not wish this discomfort on anyone, but it will be over soon. Show me cute baby pictures. Remind me that the best things in life are never easy.

Father’s Day 2014: Play Ball

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2013 Batting Cages by Morethanexpat

2013 Batting Cages by Morethanexpat

I believe in something bigger than myself, bigger than all of us, all of this. It feels like there is a fine line sometimes between a protective force and a karmic slap in the face, though.

This past weekend, my two year old daughter picked up a baseball and glove for the first time. I was dumb struck with awe watching her throw the ball to her father and trying  to figure out how to keep the oversized mit on her hand. I just stared. I could not even move to take a picture. I silently called to my father to come and watch this from wherever he was in the universe. It filled me with joy, wonder, and crushing sadness.

My father taught me to play baseball – how not to throw like a girl; how to field; swing a bat. I remember the pure delight in my father and daughter’s eyes just last summer when she tried on a baseball helmet and dragged around an aluminum bat at the batting cages. She was trying to mimic her old cousins. She sat on Dad’s knee and played peek-a-boo through the ear hole of the oversized helmet wobbling on her head.

“Baseball. It is in her genes,” I thought to myself this weekend.
I am now 38 weeks pregnant. My pregnancy began the week of my father’s 72nd birthday. He died one month later. It is possible this little girl will be born on Father’s Day. I am not sure if I believe in signs, but this one does not feel comforting.