Sunday, April 26, 2009


here's your latest batch of gracie videos to keep you entertained while you wait for us to move back in july...

3/27/2009: dancing with daddy in the living room. this is how we both stay so trim: we pretty much run around in circles with her all day long!

3/27/2009: whenever gracie has some new teeth coming in, she makes this motorboat sound to try to cool her gums. today she has climbed up onto a chair all by herself and is hanging out up there just making these sounds. it's endearing and pathetic all at once! poor, funny little girl with her sore gums!

3/27/2009: i don't know who has more fun at bathtime: gracie or her daddy!

3/28/2009: the first few minutes of gracie's day -- daddy is changing her diaper and i'm pretty much not doing anything helpful.

3/28/2009: it was a very rainy, dreary, dutch day, so the three of us made the most of it by going to the market and having a lekker lunch of french fries and fried fish. what a great, fun video that we'll love watching over and over when we move back to the usa and there's no more market like this!

3/28/2009: one of gracie's FAVORITE THINGS EVER is the streetsweeper! he usually comes onto our street on wednesday and saturday evenings after the market is done, but we also see him at other times during the week. here we are just done having dinner, and she heard the streetsweeper, so we had to RUN to the window to see the last minute or so of the streetsweeper doing his job. gracie also knows a bit of baby-sign-language, and so adam and i made up a "sign" for streetsweeper so she can "say" it when she sees it on the street. you'll see her waving her arm back and forth like she's waving sideways (or sweeping in front of her) and that's the sign that we taught her.

4/1/2009: as soon as april came, the weather got warm, sunny, and gorgeous. here we are after lunchtime, having a quiet water activity in the back yard. i love how messy and wet she's getting! yay, gracie!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

keukenhof, year three!

well, it's that time of year again: spring!

i've said it before, and i'll say it again -- there is nowhere more beautiful on the entire planet than holland in the springtime. i'm totally serious. this place is GORGEOUS in the spring. especially if you've lived here through the entire long, dark, wet, cold, gray, windy, long, dark, wet, long, dark winter. did i mention it's long and dark and wet? cuz it is.

but just as suddenly as the days disappeared last winter, the sun came up above the horizon for longer than a moment, and everyone noticed! the cafes spilled out onto the sidewalks once again. the terraces were full again of people drinking coffee and chatting with friends. children were playing outside. the crocuses popped. the trees budded. and the tulips were once again the brightest and prettiest and cheapest flower for sale at the market. (in fact, just yesterday i bought two bunches of hot pink tulips for only 2.40 euro! amazing!)

and to mark this rite of passage from winter to spring, we briggles made our annual trek out west to the magnificent keukenhof garden. we have gone the last two years, in fact: the first year was a blast and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. the second year was slightly better planned, but rather spontaneous given that we originally had gone west to register gracie at the american consulate in amsterdam. this year we timed it a bit better, hoping to go on a day when it wouldn't be as crowded, but still closer to the peak so as to see more of the colors (last year we went a couple weeks too early -- but it was still pretty!).

we both blocked out the entire four days of easter weekend: good friday through easter monday. neither of us made any plans for any of those days -- we were hoping that at least one of those four days would have nice (aka "not raining") weather for us to see the tulips. so we were trying to be flexible. fortunately, the weather totally cooperated and the entire weekend of easter was fantastic: temps in the 60's and 70's with lots of sunshine! so we chose to go on good friday, as we figured that would be the least busy of all the days that weekend (and it had the warmest and nicest weather too).

we got up early and caught a train by 8:00 a.m. we had packed a breakfast of croissants and fruit to eat on the train, and pretty much we just woke gracie up, changed her diaper, and threw her in the stroller (still in her pajamas!) and headed out the door. she was VERY excited to be going somewhere first thing in the morning! ooooh, boy, was she fired up! i had purchased us some special tickets that i saw advertised online, where two people could travel anywhere in the country the entire day, in first class, for a super cheap rate -- nice! so we got our very own first class cabin on the train, just the three of us, which was perfect because then gracie could run around and play and wander from seat to seat the way that she likes to, without either of us having to chase her down or apologize to our fellow passengers for the sticky fingers on their nice jackets. it was much more relaxing and fun for all of us!

we took the train directly to the airport and from there caught a bus to the keukenhof. that was the most challenging part of the day -- the crowd to get on the bus was quite thick, and even though we were one of the first people in line, we barely made it onto the bus because of our stroller and all the people jamming to get on there first while adam broke the stroller down. what a madhouse! fortunately we all made it on board, and a very kind gentleman offered me his seat. (this rarely happens in holland as the dutch are a very self-sufficient group of people, but this man was obviously not dutch, and he saw that i was travelling with a child in my arms, so he kindly offered his seat to me. and it was wonderful that he did, because not only did i have a place to rest with gracie, but the woman seated next to us -- that man's wife -- had an 8-month old baby girl with a personality a lot like gracie's! so the two little girls got to play and talk to each other the whole ride. it was very sweet.)

about 45 minutes later we arrived at the keukenhof -- we still had to buy our tickets, but as it was early in the day and still before the peak season, the line wasn't very long at all. after about 10 minutes, we were finally inside!

(cue the sound of an angelic choir singing praises in the background -- or maybe beethoven's 9th symphony -- the view walking through the gate and past the first throng of tourists is breathtaking... truly a paradise on earth!)

we had a GREAT time. we all dressed in matching pink outfits (even adam had his hot pink shirt on!) and had a picnic of (what else?) chocolate, wine, bread, cheese, and fruit. we wandered from flower to flower to flower and from fountain to fountain. gracie recently learned how to "smell" the flowers by bending over at the waist, blowing air out of her nose, and then saying "mmmm..." here she is smelling the flowers. what a doll!

gracie insisted on wearing her pretty pink butterfly wings everywhere we went that day. which was fine by us, since we both thought she looked extra adorable in them. apparently everyone else thought so as well because nearly everyone we passed would try to take a picture of our cute little girl all dressed up in her pink polka dot dress and glittery wings. at one point, when we were standing near the fun little crank organ by the entrance, i looked up from our dancing and saw four women all huddled together trying to get a picture of gracie. and we certainly didn't mind! we'd probably be doing the same thing if we saw a little girl like her! (actually, i guess that's pretty much what we did the whole day...) adam said that there were probably a hundred people who left the park that day, talking about that adorable, happy, friendly little girl in the butterfly wings. she surely sows seeds of peace and happiness everywhere she goes, that daughter of ours...

about halfway through our adventures, valerie showed up to hang with us! yay, valerie!!! we hadn't seen her in about two months -- the last time, actually, was at gracie's birthday party in early february. so it had been way too long! i told her about our pink outfits, and she played along too. only, i barely got any pictures of valerie with gracie that day cuz i was so preoccupied with getting pictures of her with me! ack! here's a couple of all of us, though, so you can see that we match.

at some point, gracie fell asleep in her stroller so adam and i took the opportunity to climb to the top of the windmill together to get a couple of pictures. this windmill has an interesting story for us: the first year, it can be seen in the background of our christmas card photo that we sent to many of you. the second year, we actually discovered it was a part of the garden, and adam climbed to the top of it to get a good look of the area. now this third year, we were able to go up together, and the view from the top was amazing -- a whole field of tulips in reds and yellows. it was just like what you imagine a tulip field in holland would look like!!!

shortly after mg woke up from her nap, we strolled over to a place where we tried getting her picture last year, of her in a wooden shoe. the situation was pretty much the same, too: last year, she had just woken up, and so i was all, "quick, throw her in the clog and get a picture!" but last year, gracie was pretty upset about the rude awakening and decided to cry and scream about it. (and everyone last year was all, "ooooh, look at the super cute baby!!!") this year, gracie was ready to get out and walk around again after her nap, so she was more than happy to play our little shoe game. (and again, everyone was all, "ooooh, look at the super cute baby!!!") here is a comparison of last year to this year. cute!

it was at this point, however, that we heard a HUGE pop. like a gunshot, it was so loud. and literally everyone stopped what they were doing and got quiet and looked around for the loud, scary sound. when no one could figure out what it was, i spotted the right wheel of our stroller: completely flat. oh, i was so embarassed! i yelled out to everyone what had happened, since everyone looked extremely concerned, and as people passed us by they kind of half jokingly, half not jokingly told us that we gave them a heartattack. sorry, dudes. not my fault! but now here we were, the furthest possible point in the park from the entrance, with a completely flat tire and a loooong ways to go home. gracie sure didn't mind, though -- it just meant that she got to either walk everywhere or be carried by someone. we piled our bags onto the stroller, and headed back slowly to the entrance since it was time to get going anyway. (and by the rate we were travelling, we really needed to start going home or we'd never make it!)

we all finally made it back to the entrance, caught the bus back (again it was standing room only but at least v, mg, and i got to sit together while poor adam struggled in the back of the bus with the stroller again!), and grabbed a little dinner at the airport for the train ride home: our usual french fries and cans of heineken! lekker! we fed mg on the train with much healthier food than what we were eating, and after a nice bottle of juice she pretty much just sat on my lap and read books with me until falling asleep. i love this picture cuz we're making exactly the same face. can you tell that we're related?

i am so proud of us for making this a regular part of our spring adventures here. i know it's a pain in the ass to get there, and it costs a lot of money, and yes i know it's extremely touristy and kitschy, but i love it and it's sooooo pretty and really, it's one of those things you have to do at least once in your lifetime, to see the tulips in holland in the springtime! so as long as we're living here, why not do it three times? i'm going to be crazysad next year when it's tulip season and we're living in hot, dry texas without a single tulip, daffodil, crocus, or hyacinth to be found. i sure hope we can come back again someday -- the keukenhof is truly one of my favorite places on earth!!!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

consultatieburo, month 14

well, it's time for another health-update from everyone's favorite doodlebug!

gracie had another consultatieburo appointment on monday. it was supposed to be her last one before we move, but since she's turning 18 months only 2 weeks after we leave, the doctor suggested that we come in for one more appointment before we move. (she's due for another check up at 18 months...) so we're going to bring her back for one final visit on the monday before we take off... she won't be getting any shots at that appointment, so we won't have to worry about her breaking out into a rash at 35,000 feet.

gracie has been rather sensitive the last several days, since she's getting 4 teeth at the same time. i think they're the bicuspids, so they're really sharp and she's none too happy about that. so bringing her to the dr's office for her shots when she's already so grumpy was going to be a real "treat" for us!

adam had to go to work on monday morning, but the weather was nice and gracie and i have been to the c.b. lots of times already, so we were fine on our own. so we took my bike there, and i got her undressed and let her play for a few minutes on the cool climber that they have, and she was pretty pleased, but then it was time to get her weighed and measured, and the lady who did it was not the regular lady, and gracie didn't know her, and gracie wanted to play, and gracie got irritated. but we got it taken care of -- she now weighs 13 kilograms (28.6 pounds) -- she has gained 1.5 kilos/3.3 pounds just since her last appointment in january. holy cow! she also measures 85 cm (33.4 inches -- nearly 3 feet tall!!!) and has grown nearly 2 inches in the last 5 months. wow! she's still at the top of the charts, and growing at the normal rate. when does it slow down? she's constantly getting bigger!!! where is my BABY?! they didn't need to measure her head this time since she is now officially a toddler. my baby is all big now! waaaah! :-(

it was then time to see the dr. it was a new doctor, someone i remember meeting ages ago when she was apprenticing under our regular pediatrician. i think this doctor was turkish because she spoke dutch with a slight accent and didn't know much english, which leads me to believe that she probabaly didn't grow up here. so we spoke dutch for most of the appointment, but if i couldn't find the dutch word i'd say it in english and she'd mostly understand me.

gracie did NOT like this dr, though. she was unfamiliar to mg, mg wanted to play play play, and the dr was very kind and patient, but didn't seem to know how to handle gracie... it seemed like she was still new to this whole thing. she'd just plop her down on the table like she was a doll and expect her to sit still, and instead of following gracie's lead she'd want gracie to do what she needed her to do. so she'd just pick up gracie and put her back down on the table, which FREAKED gracie OUT, and then she'd squirm some more, and the doctor would have to handle her more to get her to sit still, and that would upset mg even further, and you can see where we're going with this... it wasn't fun for either of them, and i felt bad for them both. the doctor really was trying so hard to be gentle with gracie, but seemed to be lacking something somehow and gracie was extremely irritated and upset. and then we have the SHOTS to look forward to! ugh!

but first the check-up: gracie stacked blocks for the doctor, gave me blocks, put blocks away in the box... all very good things indeed. gracie is obviously walking, which is good too. and i asked about her language: gracie doesn't really say WORDS yet (a few: book = buh; bread = beh; shoe = doo; what's this? = dih dih?) -- she definitely communicates. i was telling the dr about all the sign language that mg knows, including a new sign that she just made up on her own on sunday: we were reading a book together, and i said, "gracie, can you find the butterfly?" and she not only pointed to the butterfly, but then she took both of her arms and sort of flapped them back and forth. i have NEVER done this in front of her! how did she know this? and again later in the day, adam said to her, "gracie! butterfly!" and she flapped her arms again. and again she did it yesterday when reading a book. AMAZING! the dr was REALLY impressed with that (as was i!!!) and told me that it's more important now that she UNDERSTANDS, and not just speaks words. and clearly she understands.

and ANOTHER story that i have to share while i'm on the subject: adam was unloading the groceries yesterday, and gracie had the package of toilet paper. i wanted her to set it by the door to the upstairs, so we could put it in the bathroom up there. so i said to gracie, "can you please put the toilet paper by the door?" and you know what she did? she walked back over to the door -- the door to go outside -- and set the toilet paper down right on the welcome mat! can you freaking believe it? 14 months! and all i said, "put the tp by the door" and she put it by the door! it's the wrong door, but that SO doesn't matter! what a good listener she is! i am SOOOO proud of her! how did she get so smart?!

oh yeah, and ANOTHER story: last night at dinner she had some cauliflower on her plate, next to a bunch of other finger foods... she was pointing to things, and would say her little "dih dih?" ("what's this?") and we'd tell her... gracie, that is your hot dog. that is your sippy cup. that is the table. that is your cauliflower. and she stopped when i said cauliflower, then she leaned really close to it and started sniffing it LIKE A FLOWER. she heard FLOWER and smelled her cauliflower! where does she learn this stuff? amazing!

okay, back to the c.b. after the dr. manhandled gracie, it was time for her shots. hooray. she had to leave to get the supplies, so i took the opportunity to calm gracie down again by looking out the window at the trains going by, and helping her stack rings on the ring stacker, and kissing the baby dolls in the corner. finally the dr came back in the room, and told me what was happening next. gracie was getting two shots: one for measles, mumps, and rubella (in her left arm) and one for meningococcus (in her left leg). the poor thing! that one in the arm looked like it REALLY hurt, and she jumped and screamed and yelled and i wanted to cry just as hard as she did. poor doodlebug! then the left leg, which was faster and probably not as painful, but poor gracie had just about had all she could handle at that point.

now it was past her lunchtime, she was in pain, and this doctor kept touching her which she really did not like. after waiting a few minutes to make sure she wasn't going to have a negative reaction (or at least, no more negative than the reaction she already had), i brought her back out to the main room to get her dressed. the doctor helped me reschedule another appointment for july, for right before we leave, and as she was going back into her office, she looked adoringly at gracie, touched gracie's cheek, and said, "bye bye, gracie!" now, gracie had JUST calmed down, and then the doctor comes by and touches her again! poor gracie SCREAMED in fear and about jumped off the table! oh, poor doctor! oh, poor gracie! the dr. and i laughed about it a little, and she went further into her office. then, just as i had calmed gracie down AGAIN, she peeked her head out of the office and apologized to gracie for scaring her. but just LOOKING at the dr's face made gracie scream and cry again! oh, my poor baby! it's funny and heartbreaking all at once. poor doodle!!!

by the time we were back on the bike to go home, gracie was in a fine mood again. i found a slightly different way back which took us through the woods and past a ducky pond, and that made mg pretty happy. we got home around 12:20, and i made her her favorite lunch of hot dogs, green beans, toast with spreadable cheese, and apple juice. she didn't eat much of her dinner that night (i made this lekker spinach pesto pasta, but mg refused to eat it no matter what), but i didn't force her to eat something she didn't like after such a traumatic day. so her dinner was applesauce, yogurt, and cereal, and she ate that all gone!

during her bath last night adam noticed some spots on her back, tiny little red marks that looked like she was pricked with a little stick pin. and they were slightly raised. we both figured it was from the shot (it was for MMR, after all), and now today it's all gone. she slept just fine last night, and has been in a good mood all day today. didn't eat much of her lunch, but adam and gracie went to the bakery this morning for a treat so i think she just spoiled her appetite... she DEFINITELY eats when she's hungry, so i'm not worried.

now she's taking a nap and i'm looking at houses online (we've decided to buy one after all -- want to take advantage of that $8,000 tax credit!) and cleaning up for my massage client tonight. we're hoping on friday or saturday to get out to the west to see the tulips... you can be sure we'll send pictures of that when it happens! for now, here are a few pictures from our time at paleis het loo (pron: pal-ICE het low) last friday -- it's the royal vacation palace, only about an hour from here, and the place was virtually abandoned that day so we pretty much had it all to ourselves. too fun!

love you all! let's talk soon! love,amber, adam, and gracie