Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Man on the Bench

I crane my head back to check the bench. It's probably nothing to be worried about. Probably. I'm sure he's fine.

It's broad daylight. Chilly weather but no snow. Moms will be picking their kids up from school soon. If there's a problem they'll call for help, of course.

Or will they be like me and just go on by?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sudden Stop

"Your body has only one agenda," a friend messages me. "Maybe you're stressed about something?"

I laugh in the middle of our conversation. "Sleep deprivation, drama at volleyball, (not yet) moving, trying to be a perfect wife and mother... there's stress in plenty!"

Which is apparently why my body - or at least my jaw - is forcing a stop to all this. Raging pain has resulted in two dentist visits in the last week and then even a trip to the ER last night. No cavities or abnormalities to see on the x-rays, so the most probable diagnosis is TMJ. And the way to treat the poor overextended, pain-radiating area is rest (along with painkillers that aren't as helpful as I'd like.)

Friends and family are praying for me. Strangers I don't know are praying. It's beautiful and humbling. My father-in-law drove me home from the dentist. My wonderful mother-in-law came over yesterday to help watch Pippin so I could rest. And my husband has done grocery shopping and rubbed stress knots out of my back (not to mention handling the 1am ER visit and taking over Pippin care for the weekend).

I remember being nervous about the kraamzorg (after-care) coming when I had just given birth to Pippin. People taking care of me, tidying my house? Surely I could handle it on my own. It went OK, but I was hesitant to accept help in my own home.

Almost two years later, I can handle the attention more gracefully. I can even enjoy the enforced rest. And I can cancel appointments and obligations without feeling overwhelming guilt, which is a big change for me. I didn't even mind that my schoonmoeder walked in yesterday to a disaster of a house with unwashed dishes, unswept floors, and toys and laundry everywhere. Instead, I slept (or tried to), read, let my jaw rest, and only came out of my room for the occasional ice pack or magazine. (Well, I did do the dishes, and put Pippin down for nap. Old habits die hard.)

It's not that my house is usually spotless, because it's definitely not. It's that I don't usually let visitors see it messy. Or ask friends to pray for me. Or wake my husband up in the middle of the night and essentially demand he take me to the ER.

This week, with the sudden stop of my normal life, was not what I had expected. I hope I never have another week like this, honestly. But maybe, just maybe, it will be memorable enough to remind me to slow down, stress less, and ask for help along the way.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ossim Day

Some days we just burble along here.

Other days are OSSIM.

Today was an ossim day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Coffee for the Scrubman?

From my kitchen I can hear his argumentative voice echoing through the stairwell. Phoning a friend? Venting to a coworker? Times are hard. People don't pay what's fair. He has to working extra to make ends meet. He scrubs and complains, tossing in a few curse words.

And his loud frustration might wake a napping Pippin. Should I interrupt his rant to ask him to quiet down a bit? Probably not.

I've been missing the other, older workmen. I'd started to think of them as 'ours' during the weeks that they were in and out, chatting with the awestruck Pippin as they painted and operated the machines outside. It felt like having uncles around when they offered to help me haul the buggy downstairs or complimented my coffee. Their singing (yodeling?) made me smile. But this new guy, with the loud angry voice. Who's to say he wouldn't pause talking on the phone long enough to cuss me out or give me the finger? I'll just ignore him and hope Pippin sleeps through the noise.

And then I have a thought.

Maybe I should offer the Scrubman coffee?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

You Know You're Ingeburgerd When... (Part 1)

Ingeburgerd can be translated as 'adjusted' or 'integrated'. Not surprisingly, the Dutch government has made inburgering mandatory for most people applying for residency or citizenship. If you intend to stay in the Netherlands long-term, the requirements include language and social tests, such as the NT2.

While legal paperwork and diplomas are important, not everything can be measured by piece of paper. You don't get a certificate for just feeling like you're well-adjusted in Dutch society. But approving nods from colleagues and friends, or sometimes even just the lack of patient corrections can show you're on the right path to blending in. Sometimes it really is the little things that matter....

You know you're ingeburgerd when....

You nonchalantly swipe your card past the reader in the tram, train, or metro station without looking.

You finish someone's sentence with an appropriate slogan. I.e. "That's the power-" "of the PostBank!" Or "Not because it's necessary-" "but because it's possible!"

You remember (almost always) to bring your own bags to the grocery store.

You know to bike on the right side of the road and bike lanes and are horrified when Dutch friends choose to 'ghost' ride on the left side (spookrijden) because "it's just a short distance".

You compliment a child on their backpack and correctly name the popular movie/tv/pop star design on it.

You give a tolerant smile if you actually see clogs for sale.

You can name the appropriate colors of the biggest football/soccer teams in your city, and maybe even the coaches and best players as well.

You get annoyed if you see newspapers, glass jars, or plastic bottles in the garbage bins instead of in the proper recycling containers.

You know to say, "Congratulations! When is the baby due?" if someone posts a photo of beschuit met muisjes (rusk with 'mice' sprinkles) on Facebook or Whatsapp.

You find yourself looking for the Dutch section of a multilingual instructions booklet before remembering to check for your home language.

You are aware that there are many, many types of licorice candy (drop), cheese, and coffee, and that all kinds are NOT created equal.

You can hum along with the advertisements on the radio from Kruidvat and can whistle to the Hema tune.

You know your Dutch clothes/shoe size when shopping.

You notice difference between regional accents, and nod knowingly when someone criticizes "Those Rotterdammers/Amsterdammers/people from Wassenaar...."

You've had at least one bike stolen.

You know where to find comfort foods from your own country, but also know what the best Dutch substitutes are.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Of Bureaucracy and Bad Smells

After stressing over paperwork for an international regulation I didn't even know existed, due to no financial advisor, and finding a container of decaying fried chicken behind the fridge in the process of scrubbing dried coconut milk inside the fridge, I'm ready for a nice scented soak in a bathtub that apparently wouldn't even be standard issue in a 4-bedroom house that could hypothetically be bought if we did find a financial advisor who knows things about mortgages and international tax regulations.

Maybe once the paperwork clears there will be a blog post (hopefully not too scathing) about the hassle of trying to find answers on buying a house, sharing a bank account, and paying taxes as an expat spouse....

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Sandman

"Can you call me instead of ringing the doorbell when you come? I just put Pippin down for a nap...." I text.

The sanding machine starts up with a roar five minutes later.

The workman warbles. The ladder creaks. I debate my choices.

It's been a good morning. My mother-in-law came by for coffee this morning, then 'parked' a bag with us to pick up later. "No problem, we'll be home all day," I had told her cheerfully, but that was before the workman arrived. A friendly bear of a man rang the doorbell holding a bucket and asked politely for some warm water. He said he'd be sanding and scraping today, and working on the old white wallpaper in the stairwell (who wallpapers a stairwell in the first place?) Since we three inside were having coffee and pastry, why not share? My parents used to make entire pots for workmen, and I feel very grownup to be able to offer some from my own kitchen.

The workman returns the coffee cup and plate at break time, and is treated to one of Pippin's wide-eyed stares. All is well with the world, and naptime is right around the corner.

And then the noise begins.

Thanks to the paper thin walls of the apartment, Pippin seems to wake and wail at every move the neighbors make. When they leave for work at 5:30 am. When they get home at 11 pm. When they make breakfast at 7 am, or turn the radio on at 1pm or 9 pm. But we've never had someone sanding our front door before on full power.

My options. I can turn on a movie and hope Pippin survives until bedtime without a nap. I can ignore him once he starts to howl and get at least 15 minutes of 'quiet' before I rescue him. Or, since it's a gorgeous sunny day outside, I can take him out in the stroller (making sure to be back before my mother in law picks up her bag.) The last option seems like the best one, if we can safely navigate the wet railings, loose wallpaper, and power cords in the stairwell.

The sanding machine keeps droning. I'm sure even neighbors across the street can hear it echoing.

I pull on my high-top sneakers, put my hair up in a messy bun, and head to our shared living room & Pippin's bedroom. I don't hear howling, so maybe the little guy is frozen in fear, or playing in his crib.


He's fast asleep.

Doesn't even stir when the door creaks open and I walk over to check.

I wonder if our neighbors would be ok with us hiring the sanding machine as white noise during bedtime and naptime. We'd never hear them again.

(Then again, depending on where we set the machine, we might never hear anything again....)