Thursday, January 31, 2008


monday was bad. i am so anxious and impatient for this baby to be born, that i had a breakdown on monday. i was crying so hard that i actually lost a contact and peed my pants. even for a 9-months-plus pregnant woman, i have excellent control "down there", but i just lost it. literally. i lost control of my emotions and just broke down, and every time i would scream a little bit to let the tears out, i would pee a little bit too. which made me want to hold back the tears so i wouldn't pee myself. but that didn't feel good cuz i really wanted to let out the tears, so i would, but then i'd pee again. which obviously did not help the situation. AND i was wearing my last clean pair of pants that actually FIT me. so that doesn't make me feel any better either. and then at the end of it, i notice that i've lost a contact. and my mom is just sitting on the kitchen floor hugging me, and adam is running around trying to find me clean clothes and my water bottle, and i'm just a soggy mess.

so on tuesday, we decided to get my pregnant butt out of the house for a change of scenery. it totally helped. i got all dressed up (even managed to shave my legs somehow!) and we took the train to gronau, germany, shortly after lunchtime. it was a quick trip, just about 30 minutes (including our short transfer in enschede), and mom looked like she wanted to roll down the windows of the train and stick her head out like a dog -- she was so excited!

we arrived in gronau not quite sure what to do or where to go, so after asking a nice lady at the tourist bureau near the station, we were guided in the direction of downtown. a few minutes later, we were looking at some pretty tower and just thinking how cool it was that we were in germany... like driving across town, but now you're in a different country.

seriously cool.

we really didn't do much that afternoon -- just walked around mostly. we went inside this beautiful church and lit some candles and admired the gorgeous stained glass windows. we went to a bakery and sampled the different pastries and pretzel sticks and bread rolls. mom got another roll and went outside to feed the pigeons, and a couple of small children stopped by to watch the crazy lady feed the birds. mom shared a piece of her bread with a little girl so that she could feed the birds too, but the girl decided to eat the bread herself instead of sharing it with the birds. it made all of us, including the girl's mother, laugh pretty hard.

at the end of our exploring, we found a little beer pub at the end of downtown, and ordered a couple of beers. we taught mom how to say "may i have another beer please" and though she slaughtered the accent when she made it up to the bar, the bartender understood her nonetheless. ("darf ich noch ein beer haben" turned into "darf ish nagk ayn beer hayben" or something. but it worked! i was very proud of her, and the bartender seemed pleased as well!)

we left town just a few hours later and were home by about 6:00 pm. we stopped by a turkish deli on the way home and got some really spicy dip and bread, along with a few other dishes to try out. later that night i ended up having pretty regular contractions, only a few minutes apart, and both adam and i totally thought labor was beginning. we were just about to start timing them as they had been nearly steady for about 45 minutes -- i got up to use the bathroom so that i could stay in bed longer and pay attention to the contractions. and then when i got back to bed, i had one more contraction and then nothing. NOTHING. nothing again for the rest of the night! AAAAAAARGH!

and now it's thursday and i'm STILL pregnant. i've had two more cry-fests since monday... mostly what i'm upset about is the idea that we might have to deliver in a hospital instead of at home. if we were in america, we would almost certainly be planning on delivering in a hospital, as that is more common back home anyway. so whether or not i need to be induced would be irrelevant, because i'd be going to a hospital regardless. but here, we've been planning and hoping for a home birth (as is the dutch way, and more our style anyway) with our loving midwives. and every day that passes means that wish is less and less likely to come true. the good news is that the baby is still healthy and so am i (we just had another midwife appt this afternoon), and no matter where we deliver this child, he or she IS going to be born eventually (hard for me to believe that at this point, but it's true), and very, very soon we will be holding spruitje in our arms. and that's all that matters. but still... it would be so nice to be able to welcome her to the world in a loving, gentle, and familiar space.

please pray for a healthy and safe home birth of a healthy and whole child.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

more adventures with ma!

for all the family back home, i know ma has been telling you check the blog for updates on all her adventures. so here's the latest installment!

we've had a really nice week. mom continues to learn a new dutch word or phrase nearly every day. in fact, the cheese lady at the market today asked her how her dutch was coming along, and mom said "lekker!" which is her favorite word now. (lekker means tasty or delicious, but the dutch use it for everything -- to describe the weather, the food, a hottie, how you feel after you had to hold your pee for a long time and then you finally get to use the bathroom... you get the idea.) the cheese lady thought it was just fabulous that mom knew such a versatile word and complimented her on how quickly she picked that up. then we moved along to the flowers and fish stands, and enjoyed the sunshine and the busy-ness of the street. willie the egg farmer gave us a little present for spruitje, and the young man at the veggie stand told me that it was time to evict spruitje if he wasn't going to pay his rent. "he's late, so now he must be kicked out!" he said. funny.

earlier in the week we went into enschede to enjoy a sunshiney day. the market was in town that day, so we wandered through there and mom bought herself a couple of fun things. we sat in the sunshine, outside at a cafe, and drank some tea while we looked at the old church. and later we ended up at a restaurant for a snack, where she ordered something very dutch: kroketten! i almost tried talking her out of it, because i haven't really tried many kroketten that i've liked, but she wanted something authentically dutch, and that would definitely be it! she really enjoyed it, actually, and talked about it for the rest of the day. oh, another dutch treat that she tried was the cone-of-french-fries, drowning in mayonnaise. they gave us little forks to eat it with, but she couldn't handle only eating one at a time and quickly ditched her fork and dove straight in. what a mess!

we went to a movie on wednesday night and grabbed a drink in the theater cafe beforehand. she just thought it was the cutest thing to be sitting in a dutch bar, drinking coffee. there was the usual intermission in the middle of the movie (it doesn't matter how long a movie is here, there is ALWAYS an intermission in the middle so people can grab a smoke, a cup of coffee, or just stretch their looooong dutch legs), and i don't think she was expecting it, and it made for a really long evening for her. i should have told her beforehand so she could be prepared for staying out so late.

and we also went for a nice walk in hengelo. she was really impressed with how green everything was in the middle of january. quite a treat from someone born and bred in minnesota! we had to stop every 10 feet to see someone's garden (they don't have lawns here, they have beautiful gardens instead) and she admired all the pretty windows and the tidy streets and the colorful bricks on some of the older houses.

aaaand she's been a FABULOUS help! she gets roommate-of-the-week award for sure. she's mopped our floors and made us dinner nearly every night, she makes the bed for us and folds our laundry, and yesterday i woke up and found her sweeping the floor and had already put the water on for tea! adam and i are so spoiled! we're not going to remember how to do the dishes by the time she leaves!

oh yeah one more funny story from the week: since she spent the first few days a little jet-lagged, she would wake up in the middle of the night and come downstairs to check email or grab a snack or read or something. and the back neighbors just "happened to notice" that all of our lights were on in the middle of the night one night. as our back neighbors, the wakkermans, are the in-laws to our american friend, stephanie, they called her the next day to report this and hypothesized that perhaps spruitje was born that night. so stephanie calls us and congratulates us on the big news, and adam was soooo confused because he didn't know mom was up in the night, and didn't understand why the lights would be on, or how the back neighbors would even know this. anyway, mom and i thought it was HILARIOUS that our neighbors know our schedule so well, and know that we're pregnant and about to deliver at home any day now, and would get all excited about lights on in the middle of the night because just maybe it meant that the baby was finally here. oh yeah and one more thing: we've NEVER MET our neighbors (cuz i can't figure out where their door is at!), but we all seem to know what's going on in each others' lives -- they know i'm pregnant, i know that mrs. wakkerman broke her wrist in a fall recently, they know that we painted our nursery bright yellow (they've never been inside our house), and we know that mr. wakkerman is practically deaf and has his own blog page with a link to our own. things like that. it's sweet. i thought it was the funniest, and most unsurprising thing i had heard all week. it doesn't take my mom very long to create something to talk about, no matter what country she's in!

things i've learned while pregnant

1. beauty is not only a size 6.

2. i don't always have to control everything. sometimes stepping back and allowing the universe to unfold is the best (and only) thing that can be done.

3. teamwork always makes it more fun.

4. it's okay to take breaks.

5. wherever there is room for uncertainty, there is room for faith.

6. everything i've been taught about exercise, nutritious food, and drinking ample amounts of water is absolutely true.

7. it's okay to ask for help. no one will think i am being lazy.

8. shaved legs are overrated.

9. patience.

10. it's possible for my heart to contain more love and gratitude than there are stars in the universe.

Friday, January 25, 2008

still pregnant

well, today is d-day. "d" standing for "due." and in case you're still wondering, yes, i'm still pregnant.

i'm really getting impatient. it's like i keep setting these arbitrary dates for myself to have a baby... first it was christmas, because i was having all these dreams about the baby being born a month early. maybe i was just dreaming of a big and special present? or maybe i was dreaming that i wouldn't have enough time to get everything done and baby was going to be here too soon? but then christmas came and went, and there was no baby. then i thought, maybe baby would be born on my grampa's birthday. and no baby came that day. so then i thought, maybe baby will be born when my mom gets here. and that day passed by, and no baby. the full moon was on the 22nd, certainly the gravitational pull would bring us our child... nope. and then january 24 seemed like a good day too -- adam said he wouldn't mind starting a new tradition of 24 birthdays, and i was happy to help out with that wish. (everyone else in his family has a birthday on the 17th of their birth month. except for adam, who was born on a 24. so maybe we could have a baby on the 24th as well, so that they can start their own new tradition.) but still nothing.

last night, the sky was clear and the moon was just past full, and the moonshadows in the nursery were so beautiful and silvery and magical. and i stood up there, looking, just being present in the moonlight. and i started to cry. because i just MISS spruitje soooo much. does that sound crazy? i hope not! i know that this is the only time in our lives when the two of us will actually be together for every moment of every day. but at the same time i really deeply miss my baby. i miss his little fingers gripping tightly to my fingers, his tiny little toes filling up his cute little socks, his perfect little head, his cry, his scent, his soft pale skin... i feel like i can see spruitje so clearly, and imagine the weight of his body in my arms, and the length of his body in his crib, and the smell of his skin after a bath. and i can't experience any of that right now. it makes me miss him, because i want so badly to hold him and meet him. (or her... omg, what if it's a girl? how funny would that be?! my street cred as this psychic, intuitive dream interpreter would go down the toilet for sure!)

it's not that i'm tired of being pregnant. i'm really not. i have enjoyed every moment of this magical and faith-full experience. i am centered in gratitude and joy every day. i do feel more "inconvenienced" than "uncomfortable" right now -- at 40 weeks i still don't have a single stretch mark (i am VERY proud of that -- and shocked too!) and my feet aren't swollen and even though i have to pee all the time it's not like that's an impossible task. the most difficult thing is putting on shoes and socks, but that's not the end of the world. in other words, i love being pregnant, and i am so thrilled at my discovery of the strength and health of my body.

but i am ready to move on now. i'm ready to have a baby. i'm ready to be a mommy and to hold our child. when will it happen?

babies come when they are ready, i know that. and my body has been getting baby ready, and has been showing signs of preparing itself for labor: last night for example i had a particularly strong contraction that woke me out of a deep sleep, and i could feel my strong spruitje kicking and squirming in there trying to get more room out of this contracting uterus, and yet the contraction kept coming. and i thought to myself, "THERE we go! all right! keep it coming!" and then i fell asleep again and noticed another contraction, less strong, later in the night. so it's not like i'm frozen in time and my body isn't working already. it's just that i start getting these sensations and i get all excited to get my labor started, and then it just stops. grrr. when will it keep going? when will it actually be something?

okay that's enough for today. i just wanted to let you all know what was up, cuz every day it seems like i get at least one or two phone calls or emails, asking if the baby is here yet. NO. he's not. we will let you all know via email and/or phone when spruitje arrives, so please don't think that we will keep it a secret! in the meantime, please continue to pray for a healthy baby and a healthy mama and a safe delivery here at home. we'll do the rest!

Monday, January 21, 2008

hi mom!

yay! mom is here!

she got here on friday and is planning on staying for a whole five weeks! hooray! it was really important to me that she be here for the birth, and especially afterwards to help out (and i think it was important to her too). i have been fine being "alone" during this pregnancy, and haven't felt like i've been especially lonely during this time -- i've just had so much to do and plan and think about that i haven't really noticed the fact that i'm on a different continent than my sisters, girlfriends, aunts, etc. and to be fair, even if i was living in boulder, i'd still be a long ways away from a lot of the people that i know and love, since my best girls live on the west coast and my family all lives in the midwest. with the exception of bob and rae (whom i totally adore, btw), most of the people i love the most lived far, far away. so to be pregnant in boulder or to be pregnant in europe would not make much of a difference -- either way i'd be distanced from my girlfriends, my mom, my aunts, etc.

but i knew that once the baby came, i'd really want to feel that connection to my family, to the ancestors and the generations and the lineage. AND i'd want someone to talk to during the day! adam is planning on taking some time off after spruitje is born, but eventually he's going to have to go back to work. and i'll be alone with a very needy person and no one to talk to -- it's not like i can strike up a conversation with the ladies at the grocery store or anything, and i was afraid i'd go a little crazy with the lack of adult conversation. i'm afraid that i would REALLY feel the isolation of being out here, and i didn't want that. i want to feel connected and loved and supported. and so, adam and i decided to find a way to get my mom out here for a long visit.

and now she's here!

she got here on friday, and with the AWESOME help of my friend valerie who met her at the airport (THANK YOU, VALERIE! YOU'RE THE BEST EVER!!!) she was able to buy a train ticket, get on the right train, and even get a small bite to eat after her flight. she set her alarm on her cell phone to go off about 15 minutes before she was scheduled to pull into the hengelo station, and just ended up taking a long nap on the train. apparently her alarm had been going off for 20 minutes before she finally woke up, and she said that everyone on the train was just staring at her, wondering what was going on. she luckily woke up just a few minutes before the train pulled in, and people were nice enough to help her with all of her bags as she got off. adam and i met her at the station and walked her home, and none of us could believe that she was ACTUALLY HERE!

(my mom has not gotten on an airplane, or even left the united states, in 27 years. she has never flown across any ocean or gone to a country where they speak a different language. so this is a HUGE deal for her, and i know it took a lot of courage and pep-talk to get herself psyched up enough to get out here. it really means a lot to both me and adam!)

so that was friday. saturday we went to the market. (and i totally forgot my camera so i don't have any pics of that, but i'll remember this week...) she was over the moon with all the fresh fruit and all the olives and cheese and bread and fish and sausages and she met willie the guy who sells us eggs and teaches us dutch every week. (this week i learned the past-tense form of "to come." as in, "my mother came here yesterday from schiphol." i would say, "gisteren hebt mijn moeder aangekomen uit schiphol." or something like that. aangekomen. that was my new word.) she wanted to buy EVERYTHING at the market, and i had to remind her that she was going to be here for 5 weeks and that there was plenty of time to try all the different things that we had there. it was not surprising to me that she'd want to go overboard like that, because she never gets to go on vacation and has never been to a place as foreign as the netherlands, so i understand why she wanted to just do it ALL RIGHT NOW. that's very much her style anyway. but she calmed down, and i promised that we'd go to the market lots more while she's here. she seemed happy with that. it was just funny -- like a hyperactive kid at a pet store or something who wants to pet ALL the animals, because oooh they're ALL so different and cute, and what if she misses one that was especially fuzzy and sweet, so let's just go ahead and pet them ALL. she's so funny!

and the rest of the time we've just been hanging out. she made us her homemade chicken and dumpling soup, which is my FAVORITE EVER and i've been looking forward to it for at least a month now. it was like i was 8 years old all over again. and on sunday we had brunch: i woke up early and made banana bread and she made my gramma's "loaded eggs" with all these peppers and cheeses and onions (and adam actually ate them, which surprised me cuz usually he likes his eggs -- like all of his food -- plain. but he liked them! like mikey -- remember mikey from the life commercials? -- he likes it! he really likes it!). and then today we went to the grocery store and we just took our time walking up and down the aisles, inspecting all the different foods we have here, and she really enjoyed that. i'm kinda the same way, whenever i go to a foreign country i always want to see what their grocery store is like, and see what they eat and how much things cost. (like in switzerland, swear to god EVERY breakfast cereal has chocolate in it. chocolate granola, chocolate cheerios, chocolate bran flakes... it's awesome! and in france all the wine is crazycheap and delicious, and in italy they have a lot of dried and salted meats/sausages, and in ireland they have a lot of the very same things that we have in america, which kinda surprised me but not really at the same time. as examples.) so we took our time at the store and she got herself a bunch of snackies and picked up some cookies and beers to bring home to my brothers for souvenirs.

and now, after mopping my floors (!) , she is taking a nap on the couch. i'm glad she's been able to be so active -- but it's nice to know that she's comfortable enough in my home to just crash on the couch and take a nice long nap in the afternoon, just like back at her own house. it's good.

so there you have it! stay tuned for more fabulously dull stories of what we've done with mom out here! there's lots more to come!

(and no, i have not had the baby yet. i'm still pregnant. my due date is friday, but there's a full moon tomorrow -- do you think that might help jump start things? i sure hope so! fingers crossed! say prayers! light candles! let's do this thing!)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

westvleteren (and everything you ever wanted to know about trappist beer)

a few days ago, adam and i went to our new favoritest beer pub just around the corner. i had walked past this place several times in the past couple of months and was always impressed with their signage on the front, advertising the extremely diverse selection of belgian, dutch, and german beers. we finally checked it out one day and were hooked. the bartender knows just about anything a person could possibly know about beer (like a waiter at a fancy restaurant that knows the wine list like the back of his hand -- but it's beer instead) and was able to recommend several different types to us based on our mood/desire/taste/preference. this dude was incredible. and the beer menu is the most impressive i've seen anywhere outside of belgium -- there must be like 50 or 60 different types on there! amazing!

anyway, we ended up going back to this pub the other day to... er... "educate" ourselves more on this fabulous beer culture out here. (disclaimer: i don't drink an entire beer by myself. adam picks out a couple that he would like to try, and i sip off of his, but mostly drink water or soda. don't worry! i'm not going out partying or drinking strong belgian beers while 9 months pregnant! i only taste!) anyway, we got to try this beer called westvleteren , which apparently was voted best beer in the world in 2005. the bartender says it is "the most beautiful beer i ever had." so of course we had to try it!

which has since sparked this obsession we now have with trappist beers. and hence this blog entry. i want to write it all down, cuz i've been trying to learn more about it ever since i had this amazing beer. (which, like the bartender says, is the most beautiful beer i ever had. it's incredible -- slightly bitter, extremely smooth. i've never had a more smooth beer. like silk slithering down your throat. omg, it's extraordinary!)

so the deal with trappist beers is that there are only 7 of them in the whole wide world. (achel, chimay, orval, rochefort, westmalle, westvleteren, and la trappe -- the only dutch trappist. all the others are belgian.) a trappist beer is a beer that is brewed either within the walls of a monastery, or under the direct supervision of monks. specifically, cistercian (aka "trappist") monks. additionally, the trappist beer can not be sold for profit, but rather must be sold as a means to support the work/ministry of the monks. in other words, these are monks who happen to brew beer, not brewers who happen to be monks. any other beers that are in the style of a trappist beer, but are not brewed by trappists or are brewed for profit, are simply known as abbey beers. (still extremely delicious, though!)

westvleteren is one of the most difficult beers to get your hands on -- partly because of this "world's best beer" distinction that they were awarded (but to be fair the production has always been quite modest). of course the monks did not increase production of their beer once this award was given, because as they have said repeatedly: they are not brewers, they are monks. they only brew so that they can afford to live as monks. it is such a popular beer that you now have to call ahead for a reservation to pick up your order, and in addition you have to tell them the license plate number of the car which will be picking it up -- so that someone can't just drive up there and be all, "oh, i'm here for my beer" and "steal" your order. the bartender says that he drives down there a couple of times a year and stocks up on this stuff himself, and then drives it back here. he barely advertises it on his menu, but if asked by a customer if he has any in stock, he gives an honest answer. he keeps it in a special case or safe or something in his bar, and when he brings it to you, he brings it still sealed in the bottle, along with a bottle opener. this way you can keep the bottlecap, which is obviously a collector's item. (he also asked if we wanted to keep the bottle, but we passed on that...) which brings me to my next point: the people who get this beer from the monks have to promise not to sell it to anyone else -- any beer that is sold in stores or in pubs (like where we were) is kind of a "gray market" beer. we didn't know that when we were drinking it! how sinful of us! (kinda makes it taste just a little sweeter, though, huh?)

so, now you know everything about trappist beers! if you come out here to visit us, we will bring you to our pub so you can sample for yourself just how lekker it all is!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

villa maria, PA

immediately after adam and i got married, we moved to youngstown, ohio and commuted every day to a little convent on the ohio/pennsylvania border. there we worked on the 5-acre organic farm for sisters of the humility of mary , a very small order of catholic nuns who originated from a village in france and emigrated to the united states in the mid-1800's to serve the french immigrants who were living in the cleveland area. they emigrated as a whole (even bringing with them the 4 orphans in their care), and didn't leave any of the sisters behind, a fact that the sisters today are very proud of. they have always had a profound sense of community and commitment.

for a year we volunteered, full-time, on the organic farm that was located on the villa's extensive and beautiful grounds. every day we would drive the short distance, through forests and fields, to our jobs here. we learned to plant garlic during the waning moon (the waxing moon would pull the cloves/seeds right out of the ground and we'd need to plant them over again), we learned how to sort potatoes without sticking your thumb accidentally through the rotten ones, we learned how to transplant all the little pepper seedlings we worked so tirelessly on cultivating in the greenhouse over the spring, and, most importantly, we learned the best speed and angle at which to throw a rotten tomato at the beams above in the barn, so as to get the tomato to stick to the ceiling (temporarily) and only fall off later when we had left and someone else had work to do in there. haha! suckers! (just kidding -- and sorry about all those nasty tomatoes falling on your head, frank! good thing you always wore a good cap, right?)

in the winter, adam and i found other jobs to do around the villa -- i spent a lot of my time working on a "tree walk" with sister therese, speaking in detail many of the trees found on the grounds, but instead of talking about the science of the trees we talked about the spirituality of the trees, and natural remedies that could be made out of their bark, seeds, or leaves. adam worked with frank (who is about as good an example of "living history" as you can imagine -- he knows just about anything you can know about farming and the HM sisters!) on a history of the lands of villa maria, digging up old maps and tracing land acquisitions, looking at satellite photos and old deeds. frank would often take adam and myself on enjoyable hikes through the pennsylvania woods, showing us natural oil wells that had not been capped, describing different trees and rock formations, and encouraging us to discover the hidden histories of deserted homesteads. we also helped to lead the occasional workshop, which is what these two pictures are from: adam, myself, and sister barbara all led a one-day workshop on how to bake bread. we called it "kneading bread, needing bread," and we taught people the importance of bread, from both a nutrition standpoint and also a spiritual standpoint. (in what ways are we kneaded/needed? in what ways do we knead/need others? how can this dough nurture my body and my soul? how can it/i nurture others?)

our first year as wife and husband was spent in the midst of a community dedicated to humility, simplicity, and service -- not a bad way to begin a marriage. and because we were volunteers (the sisters gave us a free place to live, free health insurance, and just enough money to pay for food, gas, and a very small stipend for personal expenses -- aka, "beer money"), we didn't have any reason to fight -- no kids, no money, no problems! we initiated our "family superhappyfun nights" (which we still have even today) during this time, as a way to connect and get to know each other better. when you don't have any money to spend on going out, you find ways of having fun staying in, and these family superhappyfun nights were (and still are) our answer. turn the tv off and talk! what a concept!

we made deep and lasting friendships with the sisters there, and also deepened our own spiritualities. i discovered a very personal and profoundly intense relationship with the holy mother mary, whom i still talk to on a daily basis. (and, thanks to the magnificent church next to our house here in hengelo, i am able to escape to the little mary chapel fairly regularly to light candles and meditate.) we have friends who also volunteered with us during this time who we still keep in contact with today (hi, emily and kathleen!), and there are others who worked with us on the farm who we still consider to be good friends. (in fact, we have a friend who routinely sends us stacks and stacks of pictures from that area, to show us the changing seasons and keep us updated on all the happenings at villa maria. thanks, bob!)

i mention all of this to you because i just got this picture from sister katie, who is in charge of humility of mary service, the volunteer program through which we were able to have this life-changing and spirit-deepening experience. and i was blown away at how YOUNG adam looks in this picture! can it possibly have been 6 years ago that we were there? where did the time go? and am i that challenging to live with that he looks so much older only 6 years later? i remember this moment, of my husband so proud that he had been promoted to tractor duty, sister katie snapping a picture of the handsome young man that all the sisters were smitten over, and then later the two of us sneaking off to catch tadpoles in the streams behind one of the barns. i still talk about my year at villa maria as one of the best years of my life so far. i am so grateful for the connections i made there, with the sisters, with the land, with my new husband, with my Self, with mary. connections and friendships which will last the rest of my life. i know that no matter where we live, no matter where we go, no matter what we do, the sisters will still be praying for us every day. what joy and peace that brings to my heart!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

he's dropped!

we went to the midwives again last week (and in fact have another appointment tomorrow), and we were told by two different midwives that spruitje has dropped! we had no idea!

(what that means apparently is that his head is now engaged in the birth canal, and he's in the position he will almost certainly be in when it's time for the labor to begin. "dropping" is quite literally that: the baby drops down a little ways and prepares himself for delivery. this happens often a few days or a few weeks before labor begins for a first-time mother like myself, but i've heard that for subsequent pregnancies it might not happen until just before labor starts...)

often women will talk about how all of a sudden they can breathe again, or how their stomachs can hold a bit more food after the baby drops. i can't say i've noticed either thing happening to me, but i did notice that all of a sudden i had the sensation of needing to use the toilet a lot more often than i did before, but i just thought it was because spruitje was so big! i guess that's what happens when he drops -- the bladder gets a LOT smaller. lucky me.

we wonder when it happened: there were a few days about a week and a half ago that all kinda rolled in together, and our guess is that the dropping occurred sometime around then... one day i woke up and spruitje was on the other side of my belly. normally he/she is on the right side, but one day i woke up and he was on the left. weird. and sometime around then i must have had a crazy hormone surge because i was hot hot hot all the time (and it's winter in the netherlands!) and super moody and irritable, which normally doesn't happen to me. but i think the occasion that led him to drop all the way was this monster contraction i had sometime around all of this happening... it was seriously like two contractions stacked on top of each other that must have lasted a good 3 minutes, and when i was done i looked over at adam and his eyes were the size of saucers. i think for a while there, we both kinda thought, "it's time!"

well, whenever it happened, it's happened, and we're excited. this means that spruitje is one step closer to being here with us! hooray!

oh, and a funny story: last week at the midwifery practice (our "verloskundigenpraktijk"), there was a new midwife in training who was there with an older, more-experienced midwife. we saw them both at the same time, but the one in training took the lead during the appointment. the new midwife came over to palpate my belly to find out the size and location of the baby, and when she was doing that, spruitje turned over and nudged himself closer to her touch. well, she just thought that was the coolest thing ever! she got all excited, and shouted over to the older midwife something that sounded like "hey, check this out! come here and see this!" i'm sure the older one has seen that a million times before, but they both got into it, playing with the baby through my belly. hooray for engaged and excited health care providers!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

holiday letter 2007

due to the high cost of international stamps, we weren't able to send out holiday cards to everyone we wanted to this year! apologies! but, lucky for you, we're able to post our holiday letter and picture here on our blog for your enjoyment... happy holidays!

Dear Friends and Family,

Happy Holidays from the Netherlands! Amber and I have been blessed with an amazing year of enriching experiences. We are especially grateful for all the caring and support you have given us this past year—thanks for making 2007 one to cherish!

Our biggest news came in May in the form of a little plus-sign indicating that Amber was pregnant. We are both thrilled and naturally a bit anxious about the prospect of our growing family. Having a baby in a foreign country is slightly daunting, but we have shown perseverance and ingenuity in locating a midwife, finding baby stuff, scheduling birthing classes, renovating the nursery, and all those other things that go into preparing for little baby Briggle. Amber has loved the experience of being pregnant, and I love the experience of feeling the kicks and squirms. Both Amber and baby are healthy, and we are planning on a home-birth with our midwife, because this is the custom in the Netherlands. We are both very excited to meet the baby in late January. We do not know the gender, but either way, we will be honored to welcome him or her to our family and to center stage in our future adventures.

2007 has been a year of travel, and in fact we found out about the baby just after getting back from a trip to Bordeaux to visit new friends. Before that, we had already taken two big trips—one to Italy, including Venice, and one road trip to Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg. Amber displayed pure driving mastery in a blizzard in southern Germany on the Autobahn in rush hour, but has decided never to drive in Germany again. We also did lots of travel within the Netherlands, including to Utrecht and den Bosch to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. This summer we came home for a couple of months to visit with friends and family. And in October, my parents were kind enough to let us tag along on their vacation in the southwest of Ireland for relaxation and fun times driving rental cars along cliffs on the wrong side of the road. Additionally, we were happy to host many travelers and share our spacious home above the jewelry store in rural Holland (please come and visit us – there is lots of room).

I am still enjoying my job in the philosophy department at the University of Twente. Most days, I am fortunate enough to get paid for thinking about cool ideas and discussing them with a bunch of smart people, including students in my class on ethics and technology. I am hoping to have a couple of books published next year. Amber wins the hard-worker of the year award, though, for finding a temporary job at a call center last January. For the next six months, she answered calls from “distressed” customers fumbling with failing gadgets. She did so good that she earned awards and unprecedented high praise. On top of this, she built her massage business from scratch and did it so successfully that she was able to quit her drama-filled job at the call center. She also shared her healing touch this summer as a substitute massage therapist at a health club in Boulder. Even with the growing baby bump, she has been able to keep a busy schedule seeing clients in a home-office that she refurbished all by herself.

We are both greatly enjoying our time out here in Hengelo, which now has its Christmas lights hanging over the streets. May your holidays be just as gezellig (cozy)!

All our love,

Adam and Amber