Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bye, bye Amsterdam

Our new weekend home
Should we stay or should we go? This was a question Baby Daddy and I have discussed since the day our first child was born.

Did we wanna raise our children in Amsterdam, in the city?  Or did we want to move out to the burbs where there was not only more space but also more nature for the kids?

Baby Daddy, being a true Amsterdammer, would have rather cut off his right arm than move out of his beloved, precious city. I think most Amsterdammers are like this, Amsterdam is a part of them and they grow some kind of magical root to the city that won't let them go.

Me, on the other hand, I could easily move out to the pastures, or polders as they have here in The Netherlands. Of course, going more green goes back to my roots. I had the most enchanted childhood full of adventures in the woods and encounters with nature.

So what were we to do? We both wanted our kids to grow up in two different environments. 

After six years of these discussions, Baby Daddy came up with a brilliant idea: we should buy a "stacaravan" somewhere out of Amsterdam. Ok, for those of you who don't know what this is, think either ancient camper now permanently placed or an old trailer laid to rest at a campground grave. 

So we did it! We bought a 40 year old hunk-of-junk trailer in a small family campground in Olst, along the Ijssel, just outside of Deventer! 

For a mere €700 we have a new weekend home. We will drive just over an hour every Friday night and holidays to our "new" home-away-from-home.

This is our second weekend here and its amazing! We wake up to birds chirping and the smell of country air. The kids get lost for hours in the campground with new friends and meanwhile we work on our fixer-upper or mow the grass! Yes we have grass people! And an electric mower! This piece-of-poo trailer came with everything except linens! Even a vacuum cleaner!

But the best thing about the camping is the people. We are in the biggest redneck, anything goes campground. You wouldn't believe the contraptions people build on their trailers. I swear I feel like I'm back in South Carolina.

And the people are so sweet even our neighbor who thinks we are Gods because we live in the land of Ajax. The self-admitted ex- Ajax hooligan has already offered to help us if we need anything. This has never happened to me in the 12 years I have lived in Amsterdam. We have real neighbors people! Finally!

And the kids are learning another culture too.  Luca is still traumatized after a little redneck kid half his size beat him with a branch. And Charly was assaulted by handfuls of sand by another kid. It's good for them. And of course, there are mostly sweet kids here that will teach our kids alot too.

It's a different life here, almost surreal. I love it! And every Sunday evening we get back in our space ship and travel back to Planet Amsterdam! Two of the most fascinating worlds and i'm so lucky my kids can experience both!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Help! I'm addicted to Facecrack

See, even Dr Oz agrees! 
Are you constantly on Facebook? Are you constantly keeping up with more than just the Kardashians? Do you creep old friends, college hook-ups or family members to see what they are up to?

And after all this, do you feel more happy and fulfilled with your own life?

I used to think I did... 

Of course I've read articles in the media and various health blogs claiming that social media makes you unhappy. And I always dismissed these ideas thinking how can something that brings my family and friends  closer  make me unhappy. It's one of the most difficult things about living abroad - being so far away from your family and friends. My life changed so much when I joined Facebook back in 2007. 

I felt like I wasn't missing out on what was going on back home and felt reconnected to my culture again.

But after being isolated last week in the German hills with no internet for one week, my eyes opened to how Facebook aka Facecrack was really making me feel. I was able to "rest" and I wasn't busy in my mind thinking about how I was going to update my status. For one week, my thoughts flowed and after a few days I stopped thinking in status updates and Tweets.

It was hard the first few days, especially because it wasn't by choice. It was like wanting a chocolate candy bar so badly but there was none to be found anywhere. I guess I could easily compare it to my sugar addiction. I wanted to be connected so badly, I was desperate. I was in Social Media Rehab.

By the third day, the desperation subsided and I had a peace in my head that I really can't explain. I think for one thing, it gave me a chance to stop subconsciously comparing myself to others. Of course, I know its silly to do such a thing, but I think as a human it is something that comes naturally. Plus with social media, you are not only keeping up with the Jones' next door, you are keeping up with 500 - 100 of your closest friends around the world.

Another thing I think that makes me unhappy, is all the scrolling and the fast information. I am getting old and I am sleep deprived, my poor shriveled brain can only take so much. Not to mention, I think I am addicted to the attention I get when I post something. I am constantly looking to see who commented or who liked or thinking why someone didn't comment or didn't like. I take Facebook personally and that makes me really unhappy.

But the biggie for me is when I am on Facebook, the good little angel on my shoulder is whispering "What are you doing? You are wasting your time to finding out what your Travolta name is or what Game of Thrones character you are? You should be doing something productive!"

And that makes me feel even worse, like I'm continuously wasting my  time. I'm a full-time working mother of two, my time is precious. My passion is writing and I could use those 30 minutes writing. But no, instead I am on Facebook scrolling through the world of others while not nurturing my own world. My creativity is drying up with each status update.

This is what I realized after one week of being disconnected. Plus, I felt great and my mind was quiet and I enjoyed every second of my day. I actually read a book people! First time in years! However, I was disillusioned that this disconnection could last.

Of course, after arriving back into civilization I was immediately on the Facecrack again trying to see what everyone had been up to all week. Did I miss anything? No, not really but the addiction is still very much alive.

So what am I gonna do about it? Why would I keep subjecting myself to something that makes me unhappy? Well for one, I am very far away from my family and friends and I do wanna feel connected. So for me, going off Facebook cold turkey is not an option.

Ironically, Dr Oz had a show a few days ago about 5 things happy people do that you should too and limiting social media was the first suggestion to be happy.  Prior to seeing this clip, I had given myself a compromise: I would only go on Facebook once a day. But Dr Oz had a more realistic plan: 1 day off of social media a week! Perfect I will start there!

I can do this, I can beat this addiction! So if you see less of me on Facebook, just know I am  no longer living my life in the land of status updates and wondering if my boobs are still the perkiest from DHS Class of 1992!






Monday, February 10, 2014

The day I became Julia Roberts

Every mama loves to get a little attention every once and a while, right?

Actually, I cant remember the last time I got so much attention as I did today when out shopping in the hood.

The kids and I set out for our usual Saturday afternoon errand run. Walking down the streets toward the shops I noticed this really Hot Guy walking towards us and he was looking at me!

I know I was shocked too! I don't remember a hot guy looking my way after 1999.

We actually made eye contact which is almost next to impossible with Dutch men. As we came closer, he was still staring and his gaze gave me a chill, thrill, both...

Wow, I thought, this was my day! 

We go into the first shop and we see my son's classmate and his mother. We chatted, made a play date for later in day and quickly went on our way.

And that's when we made it into the supermarket and my self confidence boiled over like a tea kettle.

The minute I walked in the door, people were checking me out. Holy shizzle sticks, I thought, i'm gonna wear this dress more often. And as I walked through the store people would stop and stare. Hmmm, this was too good to be true and suspicion set in.

It wasn't until I was paying for my groceries and the guy ahead of me kept turning around and staring. He even turned all the way around when I saw him just outside the supermarket door.

Ok, do I have a "kick me sign" on my back or was my hair standing straight up?

Something had to be wrong, as much as I would love to think I was getting all this attention because I was looking hot, I knew it couldn't be true.

HELLO...suddenly I remembered letting the kids put make-up on me that morning.I had forgotten to wash it off! I must have gotten busy with something else and forgot to take it off.

I grabbed the kids and we practically ran hone. I had to get to a mirror quick to see how bad the damage was...and trust me, IT WAS NOT PRETTY!

My eyelids were hot pink and my cheeks were streaked with deep blue eye-shadow. If that wasn't bad enough, the back of my hair was full of 20 or so hair-clips. I even made a bag lady look like a beauty queen. Oh and to make it worse I remembered we had bumped into Luca's friend's mother. She must have thought I had lost it!

So when she dropped her son off to play later in the day, I quickly explained what had happened. Thankfully she laughed and said she just thought I had gotten into an accident. 

An accident, ahhhh, I could only imagine what the other people must have thought! What about Hot Guy on the street? Actually, I was not gonna even try. Matter of fact, I will block it out after this blog post before Post Traumatic Stress disorder sets in. Lesson learned, always look in mirror before leaving home!

On the positive side, for those 20 minutes my self confidence hit an all-time high and for once I knew what it felt like to be Julia Roberts walking down the street in Pretty Woman!

Thanks kids!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why I love being a full-time working mother

“What you work full time? And you have two Kids? Awww, I am so sorry for you.”

“That must be so hard, poor you.”

“That’s difficult, hang in there.”

These are the responses I hear when telling people I work full-time and have kids.

However, the best responses come from my favorite group The Holier-than-thou-judgmental parents...

“What about your kids?”

“Your poor kids, they must miss you?”

Or some don’t even have to say a word; they just give me that Oh-you-are-a-shitty-mother look.

However, they shouldn't feel sorry for me, I love it. It was a choice I made for myself and my family. And guess what? My kids don’t miss me at all! And that is fantastic!

The office...
Since working full time,  I am becoming the person I once was: happy, positive and self-confident.

You see, I worked part time for 5 years. I stayed home with my babies and I spent every waking hour with them. And I wasn't happy. I know it sounds ungrateful, but trust me I enjoyed every second I could between tackling the piles of laundry, washing the floors, running errands, taking kids to appointments, grocery shopping and all the other household management tasks PLUS working two or three days a week. 

I was exhausted and the enjoyable moments with my kids came after all of these tasks were completed. And by that time, I was too tired to enjoy them.

Not to mention, my self-esteem plummeted during those 5 years. I was overwhelmed and exhausted which allowed my insecurity as a parent to grow into an uncontrollable monster. I was spread thin and expected to do more than I was capable of, not only at home but also at work. I was expected to be full time at both places, impossible for me.

Then an opportunity came up to work full-time when my youngest started school. So I took a leap! I started working full time again, and my life has changed forever, for the good.

Going back to a full-time work schedule has taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: Life is not about quantity, it’s about quality

And now I realize that every moment I have with my babies is a gift. I am able to really enjoy them, have fun with them and watch them grow into these amazing little people.

You might be thinking, yeah yeah so cliché. I can understand that, but for me it is true.

Let me give you a peek into my moments:

Every morning if my babies aren't already snuggled up beside me by 7am, I bring them into my bed. Then we snuggle while waking-up and talk about the dreams we had that night. 

We go on imaginative adventures together, if only for 10 minutes, we are swept away to whatever world they discovered in their dreams.

We cuddle until the last moment and our morning routine begins. Soon, we are on the way to school where I cuddle them even more and listen to the latest gossip about their friends. I kiss them a hundred times and smell their sweet smell only a mother can love. The last bell rings for school to begin and I stampede out with the rest of the parents. 

They begin their day at school and I am on my 45 minute commute to work, smiling the entire way, thinking about what a great day it was even if it ended at that moment.

Then after work, no matter how shitty of a day I have had, I jump into my car and rush home to see their cherub-like little faces. The entire drive home I can hardly wait to hear what they had done during the day. 

I walk in the door and for five minutes I am a rock star. They are screaming with joy, showering me with kisses and telling me about the most exciting part of their day!

After dinner, I put my daughter to bed and we tell each other "secrets" about our favorite moments of the day. I lie with her in bed until she is off to dreamland.

Then I have about 45 special Mommy-and-Luca-time with my son. We read, we talk or we watch a nature show, all the while snuggling on the couch. We go to our own world for those 45 minutes. I really can't explain it in words. It's only something we can understand.

I finally tuck him in bed and already look forward to them waking-up the next morning.

These are moments I probably had with them when I didn't work as much, but to be honest they weren't pleasant. My patience was always thin from exhaustion and frustration. Back then, my kids sucked energy from me and now they give me all the energy in the world. Back then, I would spend the weekend wishing I could escape. Now I spend my weekend soaking up every second with my kids and loving it.


Even though I am not there to pick them up from school in the afternoon or to cook them dinner, I still believe I made the best choice going back to work for myself but also for my kids.

Our family is living proof that a happy mama makes a happy child!

PS...this is just my story, I know mothers who are successful at working part-time and raising kids...I am just not one of them.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How did I become a mother?

I feel horrible for not having the time to post anything lately, even though I have lots to tell you. But hopefully soon I can recover from the holiday craziness and the war against the lice to actually post something new. Here is a guest post from last year on the Amsterdam Mamas website...

Hold On and Never Let Go

“You will never have a child of your own,” uttered my fertility doctor as he stood there like a block of ice. “There is just nothing we can do for you at this point.”

Standing up from his desk, he quickly ushered me into the hallway telling me to make an appointment for a follow-up in a few months.

I remember walking down the hall to the lobby, nurses staring at me like I was walking down death row. Sympathetic eyes, distant eyes and eyes that just seemed to pass over me. It seemed like the entire office knew my sentence, but no one said a word.

It was torture for me as I sat there in the waiting room looking out over the landscape of pregnant bellies. There were rows of bellies, in all shapes and sizes, and I seemed to be the only one without a bump. The diagnosis played in my head over and over again like a broken record: “Premature Ovarian Failure, Premature Ovarian Failure, Nothing further we can do for you.”

I was 33 years-old, and I felt like my life had ended. My lifelong dream to become a mother shattered. Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) meant that my ovaries were empty, and I was in a sort of early menopause. I had gone off the pill just nine months prior, and I was so excited to have a baby after years of focusing on my education and career. I was finally at a point in my life where it felt like the right time.

I was arrogant thinking I could easily get pregnant. Both my mother and grandmother had four kids, so of course I assumed I was fertile. But the only thing I did not factor in was that, yes they had children, but they were in their early twenties. This condition is hereditary and both were finished with menopause by age 40. I was too late, and I had an egg count and FSH hormone level at menopausal level to prove it.

Head on over to the Amsterdam Mamas website for the rest of my post...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You've come a long way baby!

A jar I made myself to put in all the positive things from 2013
The thing I love most about blogging is that I have created a historical record not only for my kids, but also for myself.

And this year I have decided to take a look back at the past, mainly because 2013 was a big year for me, not only as a mother, but also for the person under the mommy shell.

You know, ME, the woman who went back to work full-time, turned 40 and set out to follow her dreams as a writer. And I took you all along on my journey.

So, if you missed it, here are my milestones from last year!

Mama done good! - In my very first post for 2013, I set out on my journey.

Hold on and never let go - This was my very first guest post of the year on the Amsterdam Mama's website. And the most difficult story I have ever had to write.

Little girls are evil - The day my world was turned upside down and my eyes were opened!

Eat my eggs snobby mamas  - My first baby step towards gaining confidence against the fashion show Barbie moms at my kids school!

Warning: Neighbors and Nakedness -  I suspect this is where my quest to love my booty-liciousness began!

How I let go of my son's hand - Ahhhh, the first time I let go, reminds me I need to keep it up!

Will I ever be on the list? - This was the day I realized I was an outsider. A huge blow, but it really jump started my growth in confidence. I have to get out tissues for this one...

Why travelling with kids is like childbirth -  The day I had to hold my head up high and be proud, even though I wanted to vomit!

Mama, do you like your butt? - How my daughter helped me love my lady lumps! Great photo on this one! this was also posted on Amsterdam Mama's website.

Goodbye 30's, you suck! -  A new decade, a new ME! I made it people!

Are you proud of yourself? - Heck yeah! I am so proud of myself!

The Louse who stole Christmas - This was/still is as of today, the ultimate test after all the miles I gained in building my confidence as a mother and general member of the female population. There are more posts to come about this one...








Thursday, January 2, 2014

A resolution not to make a resolution

This was once a resolution...maybe one day
Don't most if us make resolutions every year only to fail by the end of January?

I know I do. Every year I have the best of intentions to either get healthy, enjoy life, become a better writer, to even become a writer, to spend more time with my kids, to kick my sugar addition or to kick my Candy Crush addition...the list could go on forever and it wouldn't matter because I always fail.

By February I am feeling like the biggest loser (not the good kind like on TV) and get a bit down on myself for not being able to keep it up. And the failure cycle begins.

Every year it's the same, life gets in the way of my goals! Damn you life! Why is it every time I try to better myself you sabotage my best intentions?

Not this year! Nope, this year I am just gonna live. Of course, I will try to eat healthier, exercise more and enjoy 2014 to the fullest, but I will do it my way, no pressure. I will do it because I truly want to do it.

However, right now, on 2 January 2014, I don't feel much like making any changes. After eating candy for breakfast and dreaming about cheesecake for lunch, I can tell you today is not the day. Nope, today I will just live. Maybe tomorrow when I wake up I will feel the need to make a change in my life.

Besides, I am too exhausted from the holidays and all the nit picking. My scalp is raw from Listerine and Prioderm and most probably full of dead bugs and hatching eggs. That's life. Bring it on 2014!!!