Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Midnight Wanderings

Tonight I was sitting in the living room studying for my chemistry test next week. I heard Ethan crying upstairs so I ran up. He had soaked through his jammies but that's not why he was crying. Apparently, "Daddy left his room without saying goodnight", which is to say that Adam fell asleep putting Ethan to bed and then left the room around midnight. Not exactly the same thing.

Ethan was carrying on about wanting someone to sleep with him in his bed. As much as I wanted to comfort him and as much as I would've like to snuggle up next to him all night, I also know what a slippery slope co-sleeping can become. I stood my ground, even though it hurt my heart. Instead, I spoke softly to him as I changed his jammies, I wiped his tears away with my fingertips, I cracked a few jokes in failed attempts to make him smile. Finally I led him, tearfully, back to bed.

He climbed under the covers, sniffling and sobbing. I smoothed his blankets for him, tucking his favorite froggy blanket around him. I had Ethan's favorite stuffed animals and sat on his bed and did a little show for him with the animals, pretending that they were telling me secrets. I finally saw a hint of a smile which was encouragement for me to continue with the stuffed animal show. It worked, because full on giggling ensued. My heart soared. It brought me such joy to be the one to turn his tears into laughter, to be the one to end his day on a happy note. It was a special moment for me. There was something about us being the only two people awake in the house, something cozy and sweet that seemed to strengthen our connection. As I left his room, and Ethan was snuggled and content under his covers, he said, "Can we do that stuffed animal thing again tomorrow night, Mommy?". You bet we can.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part #4

You can read the first three installments of the European Vacation series on my blog and you can also read about how the idea for the series came about. Enjoy!

If you'd like to know what I've been up to present day, read my latest post at www.deepsouthmoms.com.

Sunday, May 2nd, 1999

I wake up not nearly as hungover as I expected, but still a little dizzy. Schewart will drive us to Amsterdam today, but first we need to find a place to stay.

Anita makes an amazing breakfast which Schewart cannot eat because he's not feeling well after our evening of drinking. We eat eggs fried with tomatoes and ham. And of course tea, bread and cheese. We outside again, enjoying the warm sunlight in the cool air.

After we eat, I help Anita carry in some dishes and V. and I get online and try to find a place to stay in Amsterdam. The cheapest place that could accommodate three people is "Bob's Youth Hostel". We wait for Schewart to recover (he has some soup) and we leave in a tornado of backpacks and goodbyes. V. and I hop in the car with Schewart, S. goes separately with Dirk. We will meet up at the ferry station.

We park the car on the ferry and walk out to the outside of the boat. We pass so much green and windmills. The trip is quick and we get back in the car after saying goodbye to Dirk in the typical Dutch way. Three kisses on opposite cheeks while holding hands.

When Shewart stops to get gas, S. and I go into the store for something to drink. I purchase some "gummy autos" which I find hilarious. I chose the gummy autos over gummy pink cadillacs, gummy taxis and gummy double-decker buses. S. and I try to figure out the coffee vending machine but have trouble since it is written in Dutch. We pray after we press the button that a cup will dispense, otherwise, coffee will be all over the floor. We are joyous and relieved when a cup comes out and we let out a little cheer.

The rest of the ride is about two hours. When we get to Amsterdam, it is dirty and ugly and secretly, I am terrified and suddenly very homesick. Schewart isn't quite certain where Bob's is, but we finally find it. Schewart says it is in a pretty good neighborhood, but it looks awful to me. After saying goodbye (three kisses), S., V. and I find ourselves in Bob's "lobby", which is actually just a dirty room with old wooden tables and chairs and a few seedy young guys drinking beer and smoking pot.

The receptionist has huge bushy eyebrows, doesn't speak much English and scared me and V. Bob's doesn't accept credit cards and we don't have enough cash, so we are sent off into the night, with our packs, to find an exchange office. We stop off at a Crowne Plaza hotel to get directions and I wish were staying in that comforting, welcoming place. The bank that is open 24 hours is at the main train station a few blocks away. Sex shops and garbage line the dark, dirty streets.

We wait in line forever at the bank. We exchange American dollars for gelders and trek back to Bob's. I hate going down those stairs into that hell hole of a lobby. V. hates it too, but S. thinks its funny and wants us to hang out there. V. and I flatly refuse. We pay a deposit and one nights' stay - 200 gelders which is $100. We are given three keys and bad directions to our room. The receptionist and her friend try to tell us where to go but the only thing we hear is to go around the corner of an alley and look for the "number 1".

We duck into the first alley we come to and see a door connected to a convenience store and can't possibly imagine that's our room. But, after exploring all the possibilities and all the other trash-filled alleys, we figure it must be. It is exactly what the receptionist says: a little door with the number one on it. V. struggles with the key and hands it to me. I struggle too, but miraculously, it unlocks. I turn the square door knob and push the door with all my might. It won't budge. My first thought is that there is a dead body blocking the door, but it turns out, it was just sticking.

We fall into the narrow hallway and immediately, the smell of pot fills my nose. To the right of us is a stairway, which is more like a ladder in terms of how steep it is and the size of the stairs. We all look at each other perplexed. We were told to go up two staircases and go to the door on the left. We literally climb the stairs hand over hand. It is just wide enough for one of us to go up at a time. When we get to the top, we open the unlocked door that is facing us and see a little kitchenette to the right and a bathroom to the left. There is a door at each end of the hall. Following the directions, I open the door to the and someone is laying on a bed watching tv. I quickly close the door. We open the other door and am pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a spacious, clean and nicely decorated room. The bedspreads are blue plaid (there is one day bed and one double bed that looks more like a box. The exposed beams in the ceiling are painted a pretty pale green and red curtains with gold stars hang on the windows. The room is cute and I especially enjoy the Matisse prints hanging on the walls so we don't mind sharing the little apartment with a stranger for a couple of nights.

The three of us are starving so we explore the surrounding area and settle on a pizza place - not too imaginative but it is late and all we want to do is go to sleep. We order two pizzas and three cokes. We get no plates and instead, are handed three little napkins. We eat fast and fall asleep as soon as we climb into bed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ethan talks politics

Earlier this week I sat down with Ethan and watched the President as he addressed our nation’s students. Apparently they didn’t watch it in Ethan’s classroom – not sure if that was because his school didn’t broadcast it or if the kindergarten class was deemed too little to “get it”. Either way, I thought it was important for him to see it. After all, when else does the President speak directly to kids? I thought the idea of his address was very appropriate and I would’ve welcomed the opportunity for Ethan to see it in school. I know others don’t share this view point with me and that’s fine, except that it actually isn’t fine…and I could go into why I think that is but I don’t want this to turn political but the point of this post is to highlight some of Ethan’s hilarious commentary as we watched it together, not for me to comment on politics.

First of all, if Ethan’s school decided that the kindergarten class shouldn’t see it because they are too young, good call. Ethan had a hard time sitting and staying focused. He was bribed on several occasions with many snacks and the promise of being able to play the Wii when it was finished.

We sat down at the dining room table with my computer and as we watched the young gentleman introduce President Obama, Ethan’s eyes lit up. “Is that Barack Obama!?” he asked excitedly.

Uh, no. That’s a black kid that’s about 16 years old and a foot and a half shorter than the President.

“Oh. Well does Barack Obama like kids? Does he have kids? He does!? What are their names?”

Oh me. I see where this is going. As we settled down to watch, I asked Ethan what he would think if the President came to his school. His answer: “I would certainly love that!”.

A minute or two into the speech, Ethan says, “Barack Obama is funny. And he’s very nice, too.”

I’m sure he’d be very happy to hear that.

When the President was stressing the importance of being responsible, Ethan perked up a little.

“Am I responsible, Mommy?”

Yes, Ethan.

“Right. Because I’ve never told lies.”

I think that would mean you’re honest. But responsible works here too, I suppose.
Lots of fidgeting ensued and then he settled down again after being bribed with some cheese and crackers and listened as President Obama advised our nation’s students to find something they are good at and enjoy.

“Am I good at something? Like Tae Kwon Do! (Gets up from the table and demonstrates his Tae Kwon Do acumen) Ow! I kicked the table leg. Ow. Ow! It really hurted. Ouch.”

I sensed my efforts of trying to get him to actually sit still and listen were becoming futile, but I could see that the address was close to wrapping up, so I forged on (and also make the mistake of telling Ethan it was almost over.) He was downright gleeful.

“It’s almost over!!! YES!!!!! It’s super close!!!!! AH!!!!”

Then the President used the word “stupid” as in something like, “If you make a bad grade, you aren’t stupid.” Well, we aren’t allowed to say that in our house, no matter what the context so this pleased Ethan very much. I hear a huge GASP! from Ethan and then, “That was a bad word!!!! Why did he say “stupid”!?!? GASP!”. Minus a half point for Obama.

The President continued by telling the kids that they have to keep practicing to be really good at something.

“Like I practice at my Batman Nintendo DS game! I never gave up my Batman game! I just keep trying and trying.” Somehow, I’m not entirely sure that’s exactly what President Obama had in mind. Yes, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that he most definitely wasn’t stressing the importance of playing video games to our nation’s future leaders.

Finally, I Ethan could take no more. He was getting up, dancing around the chair, looking around the room. And then he perked up again. “Did he just say ‘Facebook’!?”

Um, yes, he did. Ethan looked ecstatic. And then his face went from ecstatic to irritated.

“He said Facebook. He’s saying a lot of words. He’s not even breathing. Just keeps talking and talking.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not a baby anymore

Not long after I wrote this post, I began to see some strange sort of phenomen exhibited by little Eli. You see, Eli is supposed to remain the baby, yet has been demonstrating certain behaviors usually reserved for big kids, certainly not babies.

For example, rather than being carried across the parking lot and into a store, restaurant, etc., he much prefers holding my hand and walking.

He also runs. Without falling. (Most of the time.) And he jumps.

He can throw things away for me.

He can respond to familiar questions by shaking his head yes or no and will say the appropriate "Mm-hm" or "Mm-mm" to go along with his response. It really is quite cute.

He even has been known to throw a tantrum or two. (His tantrums, I'll admit, are pretty mild...they usually involved stomping backwards repeatedly until falling or crashing into something.)

He can climb up the stairs, opens his mouth to let me brush his teeth, tries to brush his (red) hair and can feed himself yogurt (how much of that yogurt he actually eats has not yet been determined).

He walks up to the refrigerator and says "Guh! Guh!" when he would like a cup of milk.

He says "please". Sort of.

He likes to wear his little yellow back pack as walks (and is certainly not carried) into "sool" (Eli language for "school"). He also tries to do anything that his big brother is doing. Currently both boys appear to be attempting to master the fine art of snapping. Eli demonstrates his snapping skills by lightly - ever so lightly - tapping his thumb and forefinger together. Ethan demonstrates his ability by putting his hands right up by my ear asking if I "can hear this snap?" many, many times each day. Admittedly, Ethan is dramatically improving his snapping capabilities each day, which I attribute to marathon snapping practice sessions which take place at all hours of the day and night.

Eli dances, pulls his shirt down over his belly when it starts to ride up and kisses and snuggles his baby, aptly named "Bubba".

These things certainly do not sound like the normal behavior patterns of a baby to me but more along the lines of a dare-I-say, BIG boy.

Drat! And I really thought this one was going to stay a baby for me forever. Time is flying by me my friends. I'm used to it with Ethan, but with Eli, all I can think is, "Not you, too!".

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part 3

Read this post and this post to catch up!

And if you're interested in some of my present day musings, read a recent post posted on Deep South Moms.

Saturday, May 1st, 1999

All of us sleep past eleven. Our clothes are clean and folded at the top of the stairs this morning. Anita is having brunch at 1:00 p.m., so we shower and head downstairs. Her oldest son, Schewart, is home for the weekend, visiting from Amsterdam. Outside, the table is set and we load up on bread (Fresh! Soft inside, crispy outside), butter, jam, cheese so rich and delicious it reminds me of cream, meat salads and chocolate sprinkles. We all have tea to drink.

During lunch, another son, Dirk, arrives. We are a lively bunch, joking between bites while Anita bustles around, refusing help. When our meal is through, everyone lingers at the table enjoying the perfect weather. Later, Schewart and Dirk drive the three of us girls to Antwerpen, a city in Belgium along the water. We take pictures in fornt of an ornate church, at the Great Market, by the water and in front of a castle. We have drinks at two cafes; one on the sidewalk and then one inside because we are cold.

When the five of us get back to Terneuzen, S. teaches the two boys (Louie has gone home) to play Rummy. WE drink beer and play cards and annoy Dirk with our girlishness. Anita and Johann return. We hide the beer bottles and caps because we feel guilty. Dirk and Schewart take us to a bar called The Snuggly. Everyone's eyes are on us - it is disconcerting and uncomfortable. Schewart says its because we are wearing a lot of makeup (edit to add that each of us only had on a bit of blush and some light lipstick) which is considered a little slutty in Terneuzen, but since we are dressed conservatively, it's okay. He says we look like movie stars compared to the other women in Holland. They have been brought up watching American t.v.

After we leave The Snuggly, we head to another local bar where everyone is much more friendly and social. Someone buys us light green shots that taste like coconut milk. Everyone in the bar is watching us as we dance to Elvis music. Everyone in Holland seems to have an obsession with Elvis. Every street corner has a place to buy Elvis postcards. Odd.

Schewart and Dirk tell us we'll stay out until 4:00 a.m. but I don't know how I will make it past 2:00. But by the time it reaches 4:00, I am not at all close to being tired or ready to leave. Finally, around 6:00 a.m., it is time to go. S. is talking to some men and they don't want her to leave (story of my life!). But then it gets more serious and I begin to panic. She tries to pull away and they won't let her go. Schewart and Dirk begin to get concerned and say "it is important for us to get home immediately".

Finally, we get possession of S. and rush home with the men close behind. We eventually lose them. Daylight is quickly approaching and some houses have their lights on to start the day. V. and I collapse into bed reeking of cigarettes and beer. V. eats a granola bar in bed as the sun comes up. (Gives new meaning to the idea of "breakfast in bed", doesn't it?)