Sunday, September 28, 2008

butterfly pavilion

adam had a conference up in big sky, MT this summer, so gracie and i took that opportunity to have a girls-only mini-vacation up in boulder, colorado. we were lucky enough to house-sit for a friend who was also at the same conference as adam, so we had the place all to ourselves! sweet!

we didn't do too much in boulder, mostly just visit a few people, go swimming at a friend's pool, and splash in the fountain on the pearl street mall. nice and chill.

but on the way back to colorado springs (where we spent most of the summer because that's where adam's parents live), we stopped at the butterfly pavilion in westminster. i had been meaning to check that place out for YEARS -- ever since we first moved to boulder in 2002! and it took moving abroad and having a baby before i finally got around to doing it! but, better late than never!

we had a nice morning of breakfast and a nap, and while she was sleeping i packed up the car. then we headed south about 30 minutes, armed with water bottles, a camera, and extra batteries.

we saw lots of things there -- cool GIANT bugs from the jungles of south america, sea creatures like horseshoe crabs and starfishes that you could pet in their tanks, but the best part of all was the butterfly atrium, which was hot and humid like a tropical rainforest. there were lots of butterflies still in their cocoons, tucked in a corner by a shady tree, and you could see them hatch if you stood there long enough.

there was a nature guide who brought out a cage full of newly-hatched butterflies, and she'd take them out one by one and tell us what type of butterfly it was, what it liked to eat, and what area of the world it comes from. then she'd gently set it on a tree and sometimes they'd fly away much to the delight of all the children watching her presentation.

a lot of the action was happening up high, in the canopy of the atrium, so gracie didn't see most of the butterflies. she still has a tendency to only look in front of her or down, but not so much up. but occasionally there would be a butterfly resting on a leaf at her level, and when we found one we'd stay there and study it until it flew away or until she lost interest, whichever happened first.

i think we stayed for a couple of hours before we left to get some lunch at panera. it was SO FUN to have a mommy-and-me day, with butterflies, sundresses, and even a lunch date! i loooove having a little girl!


this summer was full of firsts for gracie: first tooth, first solid foods, first stamp in her passport, and perhaps best of all, her first time meeting grandma rosie and grandpa greg, and her aunts katie and kelsey.

we only had a chance for a very short visit to rhinelander, wisconsin (home of the hodag) this summer, which was unfortunate, but we did make the best of our time there. we had i think three nights and two and a half days, which wasn't much time, but we did get to see almost everyone that i wanted to see, so that was good.

we stayed with my sister, katie, and her fiance, joe, in their beautiful cabin in the woods. the house was placed on this very peaceful, very lovely little pond surrounded by tamaracs and birch trees. every morning we'd wake up, drink our tea out on their balcony, and admire the view. it was really breathtaking, and it made me grateful that scenes such as this make up a lot of my memories of my youth. the northwoods is a good place to have grown up in.

we spent some time with my very best friend from high school, jami. jami and i were on the same cheerleading squad all through high school (except for freshman year when she was awesome enough to make varsity, while i was stuck on the lowly JV team), and her mom was my first cheerleading coach, and we used to meet on the bridge by the papermill because neither of us had a car back then, so we'd meet on the bridge and then walk around downtown together all night long. cuz we couldn't cruise main street cuz we didn't have cars, so we walked which was better for the environment and better for our bodies anyway, but wasn't nearly as cool. i guess that's why we always dated boys with cars. if he didn't have a car, then we weren't interested. sad but true. anyway, i hadn't seen jami in a year, and also haven't talked with her in just about as long due to the time difference and the fact that she's a 6th-grade teacher, so it's not like she can just step out of her office for a phone call during her lunch break. so it was GOOD to see her again, to get caught up, and for her to meet my daughter! i sure missed her!

we also obviously spent time with my family, and since we were staying with katie we saw her the most. we enjoyed a nice morning in minocqua, a cool touristy town just north of where she was living, and in the afternoon we hung out at my parents' house in rhinelander. unfortunately i was REALLY sick that day, and spent most of the time sleeping on the couch, which i felt guilty about but i really couldn't help it. and later that day, katie ended up bringing me to the emergency room because i had such a high fever and felt so awful. it turns out i had mastitis, an infection in my breast from nursing gracie, and after an IV and a prescription for some antibiotics, they sent me home again (and i was already starting to feel better). thank goodness it wasn't anything serious! but for the next several days i felt under the weather with a fever. what terrible timing, too! i only had a few short days to spend with my family, and i spent most of my time there sick as a dog! how awful!

anyway, if you have to be sick, you may as well be sick at home with your parents so they can take care of you.

gracie really liked playing with her grandpa's goatee -- every time he held her, she'd reach out and tug on it, to see if it came off his face. she LOVED her grandpa greg, and she would laugh a lot at her auntie katie. grandma rosie she wasn't so sure about, though. rosie has a seizure disorder and unfortunately that means she also falls down a lot, and when we came to see her over the summer she had just fallen into katie's fiance and came out of it with two black eyes. and i think it must have scared gracie a bit because whenever rosie held her she would cry. strange, since gracie seemed to have no problem at all about kelsey's pierced-up boyfriend who had more holes in his face than harry whittington.

our last day in rhinelander, my other best friend from high school, matthew (we share the same birthday!), came over to katie's house to meet gracie. we had a beautiful and simple and very moving blessing ceremony for gracie, since matthew is one of gracie's godparents (more about that in a future blog -- i can't wait to tell you all about it!). we sat out by the pond and chanted an incantation for kwan yin, and the sun was shining and gracie was smiling and it was all so very lovely and enchanting. i am honored to have such a beautiful friend like matthew.

then we took a bunch of pictures with the family and pretty much had to take off again. so sad! but hopefully soon we'll be moving back to america, and we should be able to spend more time with my family on a more-regular basis. but i'm grateful for the time that we did have with them, and i'm so glad that they got to meet mary grace!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

underwater adventures!

my goodness, we were so busy this summer! is it any wonder, then, that i'm just now getting around to blogging about all the adventures we had? (ps sorry for the delay!)

one morning after gracie's nap, we got all packed up to go to the historic kelley farm, but after looking online for directions to the farm, we realized that they were actually closed on that particular day! suck! so we brainstormed about other activities we could do, since we had put all that effort and energy into getting gracie and ourselves ready to go out the door...

... and my mom (the fun, always-adventurous grandma that she is), said, "why don't we go to the aquarium at the mall of america?"

great idea, ma!

so off we went, to the giant mall of america, to show gracie the fishies in the aquarium!

i haven't been to the mall of america since college, when the novelty of shopping at all these specialty touristy shops wore off pretty quickly. but, if i was a mom living in the minneapolis area, i think i'd totally take my kids to the mall on a semi-regular basis. especially in the winter. i wouldn't be able to take my kids outside to play all that often, since it's BUTTCOLD outside, but i would be able to take them to the mall, where there are a million and a half activities for the little ones... there's an amusement park, this aquarium, and obviously lots of space to run around. it's amazing the things i notice now that i'm a mom. cuz before, i just thought the mall of america was kinda dumb, with too many overpriced restaurants and fancy back support stores and kitchy minnesota souvenirs all over the place. (seriously, how many loon wine openers and viking beer coozies does one person need?) but now that i'm a mom, i'm all "cool! look at that thing that gracie can climb in!" and "oh, i'd bet she'd like those flashing lights over there on that ferris wheel!" suddenly the mall of america is kinda cool again!

anyway, we first had lunch at the rainforest cafe, where it would simulate a thunderstorm right behind our table, and there were crazy flashing lights everywhere and giant fish tanks and just SO MUCH ACTIVITY OH MY GOD. it took about 10 minutes before gracie had just had enough, she was soooo overstimulated, and our food hadn't even arrived yet! but she was a super trooper, and munched on her crackers while we all ate our delicious lunches, and her mema bought her a fancy toy that she still loves all these months later, and it was fun.

after lunch we went to the aquarium, but by this time it was nearly her naptime again. no matter, that's what the sling is for! we put her in that, and off we went. the aquarium is underground, and there's this glass hallway basically at the floor of it that you walk through, so that the fish and sharks and even scuba divers are on three sides of you. too cool!

we made it through the biggest part of the aquarium with her mostly asleep in the sling. so when we were finished with the underwater hallway part, we stopped in a little movie theater there and sat down to rest while she finished her nap. about 20 or 30 minutes later she was awake and ready to go again, so we started out once more.

we stopped at some smaller tanks, that were more gracie-sized. she liked the piranhas and the "finding nemo" tank (they had the movie showing on a tv next to the tank with a clown fish in it). it was very bright and small, and easy for her to look at, so we stayed there for a long time. her favorite of all those little tanks, though, was the jellyfish tank. they were glowing! they were very ooozy and they glowed a pretty ultraviolet color, and she liked watching them pulse in the water. i tried taking pictures, but it was too dark in there, so none of them turned out. bummer!

after those little tanks, there was a section where we could pet these manta rays as they swam around in a tank. that part was really neat! they felt all tough and rubbery and cool and sleek as they glided under our fingertips.

by now the doodlebug was wide awake, and since we had all-day passes to the aquarium, we decided to do the whole thing all over again so gracie could really see it this time!

so we went through it once more, this time pointing out all the fishies and watching the sharkies swim overhead. she really liked being upside down so she could see what was going on above her. and daddy was such a good daddy, carrying her tubby butt the whole way so she could kick and wave her arms easier than she could if i had her in the sling.

it's so much fun having a kid! i totally would never have gone to the mall that day if i didn't have a baby -- but somehow having a little mind to stimulate gives me an excuse to go out and do things like this! yay for being young at heart!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

historic kelley farm

one of my favorite things that we did this summer was going to the historic kelley farm in elk river, minnesota.

when i was a little girl, maybe about ten years old, my mom brought me and my brother there. we had made the drive all the way from north dakota, where we were living at the time, to come out and see gramma and grampa who were living in nearby anoka. and my mom, a history freak and avid outdoorswoman, thought it would be fun if we went to this period farm, where all the people are dressed in costumes and are farming using the same techniques that were used in the mid-19th century.

and you know what? she was right. it WAS fun. because even 20 years later, i still remember that outing and how great it was!

(it must have inspired me to some degree, too, because shortly after college, adam and i volunteered for a year on an organic farm, and it was by far one of the best years of my life so far!)

so when my mom suggested that we take gracie there, i thought it was a fabulous idea! passing on a tradition to my daughter seemed like a good idea, and i loooove the kelley farm, so off we went!

the weather was great -- slightly hot, sunny, and still. not like when i was there twenty years ago and it rained and all i got to really see was the inside of the farm house. so even i got to see new things this time!

there were a few summer camp groups there, and it was funny to see the kids running around trying to catch the chickens or the piglets who were running around free. a lot of them emptied their water bottles to fill them up with the water that they could pump directly from the well, and then when they actually drank it they were all, "eeeew! nasty!" cuz it was well water and they were all these city slicker kids from minneapolis. ha! some of them were really into it, though, and enjoyed petting the sheep and eating the beet greens that the farm ladies were washing in the kitchen.

we saw pretty much the entire farm, but we definitely lingered a bit longer at some of the sites because gracie was having a good time. she liked watching the piggies run around, and if one ran past her and out of her line of sight, she would fuss until we moved her so that she could see where the piggy went! cute! and we saw a baby calf who loved licking gracie's foot so much that at one point he had her entire foot inside his mouth, all the way up to her shin! um... that kinda freaked me out. i know cows are vegetarians, but i kept having visions of an amputated leg on my baby girlio! aaah! so we stopped that game pretty fast, even though gracie cried when we left (cuz it tickled so much and she was having such a good time being eaten up!).

perhaps her most favorite thing ever, though, were the chickens! there was this one chicken inside a coop, and she was talk talk talk talking really loudly as she checked all of her eggs. gracie thought it was so cool, that she kept hitting the chicken wire window, trying to get inside to see that neat chicken! and LAUGHING the whole time! like, no one was making any weird sounds or goofy faces, and no one was tickling her... she just REALLY liked that chicken! then a rooster crowed and she swung her head around to see what it was, and looked at me like, "oh my goodness, isn't this just the coolest EVER?!" AH! too cute! here's a video of that experience.

as it was approaching her naptime, my mom and i walked out to the mississippi river and watched the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks. gracie was exhausted already from all the fresh air and excitement, so she slept in her stroller while we wandered along a dirt road admiring the clouds and the wildflowers.

and then we went to dairy queen! and i had a girl scout cookie blizzard! yum!

it was a great day, and i look forward to bringing gracie back to this farm again. we can make it a tradition, where every time we go back to minnesota to visit her mema, we will go to the farm and see the chickens and the piggies! doesn't that sound like fun?!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

the best day EVER!

omg, i have to tell you all about our best day ever.

gracie SLEPT THRU THE NIGHT all by her big-girl self in her big-girl bed. this is the first time she's done that since before we left for the usa in june. she made it all the way until 7:30, before adam woke up and tried sneaking downstairs to get some work done, but he heard her kicking in there and peeked in and she was just playing and looking around all by herself. what a big girl!

so i woke up to the sounds of her laughing with adam, as she was getting her very-full diaper changed. nice.

we had a good morning: adam rode his bike to work and gracie and i had a nice breakfast in the sunshine in the dining room. then it was time for a nap at 9:00 and she went to sleep right away and seriously slept until about 10:40 or so. so after she woke up from her very good nap, she got dressed in a super cute dress and tights and pink sweater, and we hit the town. first stop: the bike store.

we bought a hot-pink bicycle seat and windshield for her. in holland, many of the bike seats sit in the front of the bike, and mount on the steering column. so i got one of those, and tried setting it up right away, but i couldn't quite figure it out and the day was nice so i put it down and we did something else.

we went next to the bakery and talked in dutch to the nice lady there with the short dark hair and the cool schoolmarm glasses. we got a loaf of bread, a sandwich for my lunch, and a hard roll for her to gum on. then we walked over to the nice park by the train station, and we noticed that the flower garden was finally finished with the improvements/construction they had been doing. (when we left in june, it was all dug up with big tractors and stuff sitting in the middle of it. not nice.) there were all these beautiful rose bushes that had been planted, and soft, green grass, and lovely little benches. so we parked in the bright, hot sunshine and had some lunch there.

afterwards we took about a gazillion million trabillion pictures of gracie in the rose garden (OH!), and practiced our crawling in the grass.

this is what i've always wanted to do with my daughter, when i imagined her before she was born: to have a picnic in a rose garden and we're both wearing pretty dresses. it was soooo wonderful!

after all of that we went over to the duck pond and shared the rest of her hard roll with the duckies. she was getting pretty tired so she wasn't crazyexcited about them, but she definitely noticed them and just watched them pretty intently.

but before we went home, we decided to go over to the health food store and get some sweet potatoes. so we took the long way there, passing by an elementary school where the little kids were outside playing. and we got to the health food store (natuurwinkel), and i saw my dutch friend there who always asks me about obama. i gave him an extra obama button that i had, and he LAUGHED pretty loud. turns out he's an anarchist! ha! he thought it was HILARIOUS that he, this hard-core anarchist, was now in possession of an american political pin. he had to show it to all of his coworkers in the store, who also got a good chuckle out of it. had i known he was an anarchist, i probably would have given the button to someone who would actually wear it. but, i think it's still funny, and i'm glad i left him a little souvenir from his american friend to remember me by.

okay, so at the natuurwinkel we got some sweet potatoes, organic bananas, some rice cakes, and these dried mango slices for gracie to chew on. she can't really eat them, but she likes to suck on them and chew on them! i heard her sucking on one as i was doing the dishes and she seriously was all, 'mmmm!' ha!

then home at about 1:30 or so, and she took another great nap, this time for about an hour. when she woke up we pretty much played until daddy got home. and then when daddy got home, he took off again right away because there was this xylophone that we purchased on the dutch version of ebay ( and he rode his bike out to this person's house and picked it up and brought it home right before we all sat down to dinner.
and THEN we had dinner. we had salads, and gracie had beans and cereal and a banana. and then daddy and gracie played with the new xylophone and i went downstairs to finish setting up the bike seat (i got it figured out! woohoo!), and came back inside to put her down to bed. and she fell asleep easily, and adam and i came downstairs to watch some tv and eat some chili (our second dinner), and now it's almost time for bed.

and it was seriously the best day ever! sunshine, roses, and a little girl wearing a pretty dress! and if i wouldn't have run out of batteries on my camera, i'd totally post more pictures. but these are the three best of the gajillion that i took.

love to you all! hope your days go as beautifully as our was!

Monday, September 08, 2008

family reunion

what? where did summer go?

allll summer long i've been intending on blogging, to keep you, loyal reader, informed of the latest gracie stories and briggle adventures. but we were just having WAY too much fun in americaland, with all the burritos, breakfast buffets, and beautiful weather, that i just didn't really take much time (or, like, ANY time) to update the blog.

um, sorry about that.

so, from what i can remember, this is what i did at my family reunion in july.

my mom's side of the family is hella huge. like i have i think 19 cousins, but maybe i'm forgetting a few. we're just ginormous. a "small" gathering is "only" 30 people. and i loooove these gatherings. it breaks my heart that the last two years i've missed out on christmas at gramma's house, with the big ol' pile of shoes and kitchen full of food. so this summer, i asked if people would be interested in getting all together for a pool party at uncle steve's house, so that they could meet gracie and i could get my family fix.

and, true to form, everyone agreed it was a great idea.

so we all got together on the first saturday that i was back in the minneapolis area (where my mom's family lives), and we grilled out and drank beer and ate way too much food (my god, how many desserts does one family need?!), and had a great time. and gracie, like the good girl she is, totally didn't mind that there were a zillion people who all wanted a piece of her. she just got passed from person to person to person, watching people splash in the pool and enjoying all the activity taking place right before her eyes. a real natural when it comes to these family reunions! (just like her momma, of course!)

the pool had just been filled up that morning, so it was ICE COLD, but that didn't stop most people from doing cannonballs and having diving contests. those hearty minnesotans! a little cold water isn't going to keep them from having a good time! :-)

i think the most special thing for me, though, was that gracie got to meet my brother, her uncle sean, and aunt adrienne, sean's partner. and she of course got to spend some time with her only great-grandparent, great-gramma jo. how incredible that my daughter has a great gramma! what a blessing that *I* have a grandmother!

so yeah, that's about it. don't know why it took me three months to write about that, but there it is. i just wanted to record it for posterity, i guess. it was a wonderful time, a great way to introduce gracie to the family. i am grateful!

consultatieburo, month 7

dear grandparents, godparents, and friends of gracie :-) ,

we just got back from the consultatieburo, and i wanted to give you all the latest update.

first off, we've all adjusted pretty quickly to being back here in hengelo. gracie has slept the last two nights all by herself in her crib, but she's doing that same annoying thing she was doing all summer long in colorado: she's waking up at 4:30 and is NOT interested in going back to sleep on her own. sigh. the last two nights we've brought her to bed with us after a quick diaper change, but i really don't want to get in the habit of that. fortunately she IS able to sleep on her own, we've both witnessed it, at least from about 8:00 pm until 4:30 a.m. and this is definitely an improvement from a few months ago, where she was up at midnight, 2:30, and 4:30, needing a binky and maybe a snuggle before going back to sleep on her own. so now we're just down to one middle-of-the-night adjustment, and i think that's a pretty good deal for now. if her diaper wasn't so full at 4:30 i'd just leave her be, but i can't ask her to sit in a cold, wet diaper (sometimes with a poo in there too) until i wake up at 7:00. anyway, the last two days we've brought her to bed with us at 4:30 and then we all end up sleeping until like 8:30 or 9:00 if you can believe it! holy cow!

anyway, we're mostly adjusted. in fact, i'd say we're all the way adjusted. things here are great. the weather is warmish, but cloudy, but mostly dry, so that's good. our house is still kinda cluttered from unpacking, but our kitchen is stocked and the laundry is mostly done. i went to ikea yesterday so now gracie has a new area rug to roll around on instead of our cold hardwood floors. and she has a highchair now, too, which makes mealtimes so much easier and more fun for all of us. the last two nights we've sat down at the table as a family and eaten a meal together, saying grace beforehand, and practicing good eating habits. oh! i love our little doodlebug! i love being a momma!

okay, so today. because we all woke up so late today, she got a pretty abbreviated nap this morning, which made her pretty grumpy when i first woke her up. but when she figured out that we were going to go on a walk and then on a BUS (!), she quickly cheered up. adam helped us get out the door and walked us to the bus, and then continued on his bike to work. gracie was SUCH a good girl on the bus, looking out the window, playing with my "hot women vote obama" button on my purse, and smiling at the young women on their way to school. i was just beaming. she's soooo good!

we got to the consultatieburo a few minutes ahead of time, and i got gracie undressed to be weighed and measured. the kind lady who does the measuring/weighing/rescheduling of appointments had a nice conversation with me in dutch about what we did over the summer. and she complimented me on my dutch (which was funny, cuz when she said to me "your dutch has gotten better" i had to say, "what did you say?" ha! i got it the second time, though. and even the doctor told me i've improved with my pronunciation. strange, since i've been away for 2.5 months, so i'm happy that they noticed a difference!) anyway, she's gained over 1 kilo and grown 5 cm (2.2 lbs and 2 inches) since her last appointment, which was way back in june, when she was just over 4 months old. she is now 9660 grams (21 lbs) and 74 cm (29 inches). what a big girl she is! (in fact, she's soooo tubby, especially in her legs, that we can barely get jeans to fit on her -- her thighs are just so chubby and yummy, that we have to practically squeeze her into them! ha!) she's still at the top of the charts for growth, and is growing at the normal/average pace.

the doctor was very impressed with her developmental progress. gracie can sit straight up all by herself, she is nearly crawling, is up on her hands and knees rocking back and forth, rolling over, and has been eating solid foods with her four little teeth for over a month now. she can grab small objects and transfer them to the other hand and then back again. she notices herself in the mirror and looks at us when we call her name. she's just so big! our dr said that she was acting like a 9 or 10 month old baby, she is so advanced for her age! (as my friend's mom would say, gracie is "highly superior in e-ve-ry way!")

we also talked a lot about nutrition and which foods to avoid, and which ones were okay. i was surprised to learn that things like yogurt and kwark (kinda like ricotta, but tangier and softer) and meat were all okay for her to eat already, and that bread (especially the crust) was something that i could give her with maybe a little butter or "smeerworst" (a meat paste you can spread on bread) or some appelstroop (i think it's like apple butter). it sounds like mg can have just about anything that we eat -- pasta with sauce, chicken and rice, sandwiches, etc. how exciting! so of course, as soon as we got home, we both sat down to lunch, and i gave her a small piece of my bread and butter and she sucked on that thing for a long time. she LOVED it! hooray! i'd much rather be giving her healthy bread than those little teething biscuits i've been having her chew on, because the second ingredient in those things is "sugar". so, more bread for gracie! maybe later this week we'll go to the bakery and i'll get her one of those hard rolls to gum on for a while. she might like that.

no shots this time, and we don't have to go back until november when she is 9 months old.

anyway, we got home, and of course she was an angel on the bus again, and we ate some lunch and she was such a big, patient girl and played on the floor while i cleaned up our mess, and when i brought her upstairs for a new diaper and a nap, she fell asleep without protesting one bit! she's so wonderful!

so, that's the news of today. we miss you all already, and wish we were still home in the usa to see you. but at the same time, we're really glad to be back in holland, with all the good beer and bread and cheese, and of course our great friends here. everything is great, we're doing well, and gracie continues to impress us and makes us laugh every day!

much love to you all.

amber, adam, and mary grace