Amsterdam Part II.

Amsterdam at night is known for its seedier side. Americans immediately conjure up images of ladies of the night hawking their bodies in the windows of the red light district as tourists gape open mouthed at their gestures and nakedness. The smell of pot smoke fills the air as drunken stag parties stumble about from pub to pub. While some of this might be true, much of it is the stuff of imagination as this “darker” side of Amsterdam wasn’t really visible to us during our sojourn to the city. Yes, we toured the red light district and came upon coffeeshops from time to time, but none of it seemed illicit. All of it seemed totally normal and even “respectable” (also we attempted to get to bed by 9:30PM so we probably missed all the fun anyway). On the other hand, our nights in Amsterdam were consumed by another nefarious agent.

Did you hear that sound? Oh no? You are lucky then because each night if we attempted to put Henry to bed in his travel crib an exorcism of the most horrific order unfolded! That first night was the stuff of parenting nightmares and I was convinced that Henry’s screams could be heard back in beantown. For hours, he was completely inconsolable and wanted nothing to do with David. I was left pacing the floor of our tiny Amsterdam apartment with Henry strapped to me in the Ergobaby. If my paced changed, he shrieked. In those early morning hours, I broke down and begged David to get us back home to the States. I had had enough 24 hours in to our week long vacation. I threw in the towel. David however filled my cup with coffee and assured me that despite my zombie state and utter fear of a nightly repeat that it would get better. And it did. Well it did because we just gave in to the little tyrant. Instead of trying to get him to sleep in his crib (which he does beautifully every night at home), we let him sleep in bed with us. We also just went with his flow. Instead of bedtime at 7PM, he went to bed at 9:30PM. Instead of sleeping through the night, he woke up from 1-3AM for a play time session everyday. It was a crazy schedule, but we made it work. In the end, we all got enough sleep to make it through each day feeling rested and excited to explore. But, I will not lie, I am really happy to be back home if only for the return of our sleep schedule!

On top of our random and at times horrifying nights, we jotted down some funny or random items from our trip that either made us smile, laugh, or scratch our heads:

  • Selfie sticks: everywhere we turned photos were taken using selfie sticks. From teens to geriatrics, the selfie stick was by far the device of choice among the tourist circle. We saw them so often that we even thought to ourselves, “hmm maybe we should get one?”
  • Grandparents: when you take a bus tour you will inevitably be among the grandparent tourist circle. And there is nothing wrong with this. It is just a fact. The convenience of these types of tours make it incredibly welcoming to this demographic and it was also ideal for our little family. As such, we learned so much about all of the grandchildren of these delightful tourists. Each Oma and Opa would pet Henry’s hand or head and tell us how sweet he was and how cute he was and how much they missed their own little grand-babies.
  • Dutch Girlfriend: Everywhere Henry went, he was a flirt. He would cast his “come hither” eyes to the crowd hoping to catch a young lady. Henry melted many a hearts in Amsterdam but no one fell harder than this little girl we met while eating dinner at the Golden Temple. She could not stop coming over to our table, holding Henry’s hand, and staring at him. It was an instant connection and I cannot wait for their paths to cross again.
  • Day of Details: One morning David declared it the “day of details.” While I sort of laughed at this idea, it was actually really fun. David went about the city with a keen eye hoping to capture the smaller points of Amsterdam. He ended up taking some great shots!
  • Love Boat: When we got aboard the ferry to Marken the theme to the Love Boat played on repeat for the 30 minute trip. Ha, it was amazing!
  • Bjorns & Bikes: Did you know that you can just strap your newborn to you in a Bjorn and bike around the city? Every country is different and we should not jump to immediate judgements but this was one practice that surprised me every time I saw it. Dads glided by with their little fresh babies in Bjorns as they biked here and there. Amsterdam bike culture is VERY different from Boston. In Boston, a cyclist runs the risk of losing life or limb to a disgruntled driver which is not at all what it is like biking in the very, very cyclist friendly city of Amsterdam. Nonetheless, this practice was super curious, but I am sure those little babies napped really well while their parents biked them about strapped to their chests!
  • Robin & Heather: It is sometimes hard to realize how much you miss someone until you see them again and are directly reminded of how awesome they are! I miss Robin and Heather terribly. They are truly good friends, good people, and good souls. Their visit to Amsterdam for the weekend of our stay was by far my trip highlight.

pot sticker soup

Sometimes you just need a recipe that will take no longer than 15 minutes to throw together and will comfort your family through winter chills and colds. This recipe feels like a “kitchen sink” type of meal. Everything gets tossed in, simmers for a little bit, and serves up nice and quick. Its a win win: fast and delicious.

Ingredients:

2 cups shelled edamame

2 carrots peeled and sliced

2 handfuls of shiitake mushrooms sliced

Rice Noodles

16 frozen pork pot stickers

5 scallions diced

2 32oz chicken broth cartons

1 piece of ginger approx 2 inches in length diced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat add the chicken broth and ginger. Bring to a boil. Add in carrots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add edamame, mushrooms, rice noodles, pot stickers, scallions, soy sauce, and salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5-8 minutes or until pot stickers are cooked through. Serve in a nice big bowl and enjoy!  We definitely enjoyed this while it snowed again outside our window. This is one long winter in New England and still more snow to come!

an epic nap

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.16.13 AM

After work on Wednesday,  I brought Henry upstairs to my bedroom while I changed out of my work clothes. He was laying on the bed babbling to me while Buster and Bella were pacing around the bed. Suddenly, Henry started to get fussy. At first, my immediate response was to “change the scenery.”  Now that Henry is slightly more mobile he loves to “move” more and being stationary isn’t really an option. But, bringing him into my arms, his fussiness didn’t subside. Problem-solving Henry is usually easy. Most often, the fussiness is for: a change of activity, hunger, sleepiness, or a diaper. This time, it just so happened to be sleepiness. While I nursed him on the bed, Henry kept nodding off. It was so sweet watching him fall asleep in my arms. But, I have to confess, I have never nursed him while laying down. It just has never seemed like a natural position. With my sleepy baby in my arms, I thought I would try it. Carefully, I laid down on the bed with Henry on my side. And he napped. As I was in my pajamas, I closed my eyes and savored this super snuggly, beautiful moment with my son. My eyes opened every few minutes to take him in and I just could not get over how beautiful this was.

Of course, everything in the house was against us! As we lay there in the growing darkness, Buster was the first to try to upset the moment. He jumped on and off the bed, paced around the room, and even let out a bark as a truck drove by. Then it was Bella’s turn. She grabbed a bone and brought it to the bed and started to gnaw loudly on it. I waited with baited breath to see if the nap spell would break. Henry held on to his quiet slumber. Then from downstairs, Blaise started to howl and bang up against his crate. Hearing the pups upstairs, he eagerly sought to play with them and therefore held the nap in the balance. His enthusiasm woke up Daisy who joined in his choir of howls.  Tenuously, Henry remained asleep beside me. After the two longest minutes, the house fell silent and I confidently thought, “Ah, now we can relax into the nap for real.” No sooner was this thought made, then my parents came home from an errand opening up the garage. Again the cacophony of dog noises erupted! This time, Henry was jolted from his slumber, but he didn’t cry. He merely smiled up at me and my heart melted.

henry adam: four months

The days are long but the months are short! Is it really four months already since our little man joined our clan? I cannot believe it! When I look back at pictures of newborn Henry, I am amazed that he was ever that tiny (and, yes, I know he was never really that tiny but still you know what I mean).  Here is a picture of Henry our first night and next to it is a picture of him in the same bassinet last week. Despite a little razbliuto for my itsy bitsy newborn, I love exactly where we are right now. Another mommy blogger I follow keeps saying, “This is my favorite month” when writing about her son’s growing up, and I know exactly what she means. It is amazing to witness this little one’s constant development into a little boy. He really just melts my heart and I continue to fall deeper for this one.

This month has been full of noise. Henry is all about practicing his noises and testing out his vocal chords. After a hearty long nap, he can he heard cooing, babbling, and shrieking in delight. He loves to makes sounds like, “ah,” “agoo”, “ma,” and “ha.” He is also “laughing” a bit more too. No longer thunder without lightning there is a laugh now. He especially loves to be tickled under his arms and at his sides which often leads to little squeals. His voice just melts my heart and then when he and David are on a roll of making each other laugh, I could burst. Seriously, there is no faster way to make me swoon than watching those two together. Be still my heart!

And then there is all the singing. Henry loves to listen to music and singing. While most people would be pained to listen to me croak out a show tune, Henry is my biggest fan. He can sit in his bumbo chair or bouncing seat for up to thirty minutes or so just smiling and smiling as I sing at the top of my lungs with gusto a variety of Disney songs that I seem to know by heart. Henry’s favorite songs though are “The Ants Go Marching” and “Proud Mary.”  For the ants song, he loves to bounce side to side on your knees and he likes a deep octave, think Barry White. For “Proud Mary,” he likes being held standing and he gets a little funky with the beat. We only ever make it through this part of the song

“Left a good job in the city
Workin’ for the Man every night and day
But I never lost a minute of sleepin’
Worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been

[chorus]
Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river”

But Henry loves it and I cannot stop laughing whenever David busts it out. Then there are the evening dance parties at our humble abode. From Michael Jackson to Al Green to Journey, Henry loves to be held while we dance about the house. Even Mema gets in on the fun! Tonight for example we did an homage to motown before bedtime. It also helps that we are starting Henry early with pseudo instruments. He is all about the shaker eggs during these music sessions and can even hold one on his own and “shake” it a bit.

His hands never cease to amaze him these days. Everything he can grab goes straight into his mouth and he holds tightly to rattles, toys, clothes, necklaces, etc. etc. And when he falls asleep he holds his hands together over his little chest and slowly, slowly his hands come apart and in super slow motion find their way to the bed beside him. I love watching this little activity over the baby monitor. You know Henry is asleep once his hands make contact with the mattress.

Aside from all of these little-person growth triumphs, October has been a very busy month as we introduce him to Fall treats and savor the beautiful crisp weather. So far Henry has been pumpkin picking at Volante Farms, attended Wee Reads at the Sudbury Library, gone to a Halloween celebration, met new friends (like Erin and Bill), spent time with baby friends, attended a costume party, baby shower, and a few  tiny tot swim classes.  These swim classes have been SO fun. Each Sunday at 11:15AM we meet up with some friends in Sudbury and do the open swim time for littles. Henry is not sure how he feels about swimming. The first time in the water he was as stiff as a board as we helped him glide through the water. The second time, he was grumpy for the first ten minutes then we got some laughs and smiles out of him. One thing is for certain after each swim session, the little man crashes for an epic nap!

Ah, and that gets us to his sleep schedule these days. Finally we have hit our stride again when it comes to sleep. Henry takes a morning nap around 8AM for about an hour, then an afternoon nap for about two hours, and an early evening nap around 4PM for another hour. Then it is bedtime at 6:30, late night snack at 10PM and even later night snack at 2AM and then up for the day at 6AM. While this isn’t exactly sleeping through the night the schedule works for him and me and I love snuggling his little sweet self in the middle of the night while we rock together on the glider. Luckily once he finishes his nursing he goes straight to sleep. He is wearing 6 months clothes now. And as always, I am just so lucky to be this little one’s mom. I love him so much and miss him all day long when I am off at work.

This month Henry is

  • Starting to sleep on his side
  • Loving his Zutano Booties
  • Mad about his Jumper
  • “Talking” up a storm
  • Starting to laugh and squeal when you tickle him
  • Mesmerized by singing
  • Loves dance parties
  • Dresses up for Halloween
  • Looks at pictures of his family in a little photo album we made for him
  • Rolls around like a professional
  • Nibbles on everything
  • Enjoys sucking on apples
  • Loves to hold his hands and to hold your hands
  • Swims (sort of)
  • Shakes his musical instruments
  • Plays with puzzles
  • Loves looking at himself in the mirror

lion man

I am not sure what Henry’s first Halloween will look like exactly. Since it falls on a Friday, David and I will both have to work during the day.  Once we get home, it might be either too late or too cold to take the lion man out. Of course, if these two concerns do not present themselves, then we are aiming to taking the little lion out on the town (for at least a few minutes) to “trick or treat.” It will be funny bringing him by our neighbors homes or bringing him over to close friend’s. If nothing else, he will don his little costume and we will observe the holiday through photographs! I am sure Henry is psyched about it!

Regardless of how we celebrate on October 31, Henry was able to spend a little afternoon with his friends recently at a pumpkin festival in costume!  It was adorable seeing his little buds dressed as a strawberry, cow, and astronaut. And, of course I loved seeing their parents as well. It is nice being a part of a little group of moms to share stories, insights, goofy moments, and, most importantly, to watch our babies grow up, thrive, and begin to reach out and “play” with one another. It is such a fun part of mommy-hood. To me, this was our Halloween celebration!

dogs & babies

It has been said that a dog is man’s best friend, and “a dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” In our house, this is incredibly true. Since welcoming Henry into our lives, we have not been the best puppy parents. Henry’s needs have constantly come before our own and before our pups. He has laid a fog over our eyes in which we see only his little self and his little needs. And despite this negligence, Buster and Bella have been unflappable in their love for their less then mindful pack leaders. They continue to be love and loyalty personified.

In the middle of night when Henry chirps and squawks, the dogs cock their heads to the sound, confirm that the little man is being addressed by one of the humans, and return to slumber as best as they can. Just like the humans, they have not had one restful night since July. Yet, they remain ever present. They come to bed each night and brace for the restlessness. They warm the bed on chilly nights and occasionally lick an exposed leg or hand to remind us that they are there and there they shall remain. In the wee hours of the night, when I am awake with my little owl, I know I am not alone since their half-watchful eyes and their always ready to secure selves remain close by.

When I am frustrated that they are crowding the bed while I try to nurse Henry, a short “move, move, move” and Bella lumbers over to the end of the bed in order to make space for this unapologetic newcomer and her sometimes distraught and disheveled adult human . During the day when we aren’t always able to take them for walks, they head out back and make do with the yard. They romp about and play with each and return to the house and maintain their quiet, watchful place. When Henry is on the floor flaunting an interesting toy, they don’t rush ahead for it, they lay beside him, sometimes steal of lick of his little hand or of his toy.  But, they know these are not their toys and instead wait for this little human to grow up into the boy who will chase them about the house. As a result of their condition, the dogs play a long waiting game. They wait for David and I to pet, cuddle, and play with them, they wait outside a lot longer these days while we wrangle the little man inside, they wait and wait for Henry to grow up.  They are truly beautiful, wonderful, amazing pups. They have proven that despite their world being turned upside down by this pint size new ruler of the home, that they are calm, loving, patient little beasts.