A scientist friend of mine told us, when we first told him we were expecting, that he had attended a lecture by another scientist recently, who elaborated about the shrinking of brain matter of pregnant women, and it being transferred to the baby in the form of 'brown fat'. Like some sort of start-up capital for the baby's brains. We joked for the rest of the evening, about me being able to say: "It's not me, the baby ate my brain!"
These days, it's a little less funny, as I frequently catch myself thinking: "What the........?" With massive question marks in my eyes and my brain. I am so demented, it's just not funny anymore. I can forget something I did five minutes ago. It's not like I put the sugar in the fridge, or try to keep the milk in the shoe cabinet. It's more like I am extremely absentminded.
I haven't told you yet that we got a car (WE GOT A CAR! YAY!), or that I got two keys with it. And that I put the spare key away, in a logical place, so as not to lose it. A few days later, Levi asked me, seeing only one key, if we hadn't gotten a spare key? And I said: "Yes, we did." He said: "So where is it?" And I drew a complete blank. I started to doubt if there had been a spare key after all. He got mad at me, for forgetting whether there was, or wasn't a spare key, and how could I forget where I put it?! Of course he found it, in the drawer with all the other spare keys..... (See? It wasn't in the fridge or anything!)
Yesterday I did something I still can't believe I did. I went to work, no big deal. I am still, every day, thankful for the car and happy that I am spared the daily 2,5 - 3 hour travel time by public transport. When the workday was over and I approached the car to leave for home, something odd happened. I was unable to find the car key. I was sure I remembered putting it in my bag. But for the life of me, I could not locate it in there. I looked, and looked. I put my other bags down next to the car, and as I bent over, my eyes strayed inside the car... where the key was still dangling from the ignition.
You know that sinking feeling when you know you've done something unbelievably stupid and there's no denying it? I was sinking, fast. Worst thing: I knew I would have to call Levi, at the very least to tell him I would not be making it home in time for dinner. In the end, a really nice colleague, who also lives in Amsterdam, offered to give me a ride home. Meanwhile, Levi took the spare key to the car (thank god he knew where it was, and that we have one!) and made his way to my office via public transport, driving the car back home. I said I'd do it, as it was my fault, but he just said: "You're nearly seven months pregnant, and have trouble making it through the day in one piece, I am not letting you make the hours' worth extra journey."
So yay for lovely colleagues who help you out when you're demented. Yay for lovely husbands, who blow gaskets, but then save your ass (and the car). Not so yay for me, because I have a little over two more months of this insanity to go. I know it's really hard for Levi to understand too. He doesn't recognize the sieve he lives with, that is not the woman he married!
I try, I really do. I try to be careful, and not do stupid things. It's incredibly frustrating, as my memory and my brain were always the things I could count on. I make notes, and lists, and try to leave things in as logical places as I can. And I suppose I'm lucky, this is supposed to all go back to normal once the baby is born. But for once I get an insight into what dementia might remotely be like, and honestly, it's a bewildering experience. I can't imagine what it's like to really lose your marbles to dementia.
After a long period of research and deliberation, we have finally decided on a pram. I swear, the road to hell is paved with marketing people and salesmen trying to convince you to buy the most expensive of everything when it comes to babystuff. But, in the end, we did decide on what I believe to be the most expensive brand around. A Bugaboo. I'll tell you why.
First of all, we live in a tiny appartment. For the life of me, I have no idea where to leave the carriage, or the basket, or the seat, carseat, or all the other whatchamacallits and doodads that come with a pram. So it needs to be as small as possible. Also, we live on the second floor, and there's no elevator. So if I've been out and about and come home, I have to carry: pram, basket with child, my bag and possible (inevitable) groceries up by myself. I refuse to walk more than once. I live on the second floor, not the fourth, dammit. So it also needs to be as light as possible.
With these criteria in mind... I guess practicality took precedence over monetary worries (something had to give). After internet research, asking friends with babies, and a look around in a baby-store, we decided on the Bugaboo Bee. It's just the smallest, and the lightest. It folds with only one action. But it is certainly not the cheapest, coming in at around 1000 euros for a set of carriage, basket, seat, sunscreen, rainscreen and a maxicosi carseat (one of the cheapest).
Other options we considered: a buggy, and carseat plus adapters (light, and cheap). But it turns out you're not supposed to leave the baby in the car seat for more than two hours a day. We considered an Easywalker Mini, but in real life it turned out to fold less easily, and to still weigh considerably more than the Bugaboo Bee. We also considered a Stokke pram, with a cocoon, instead of a basket, but since we could not get it folded or unfolded, and it didn't carry as easily (I can just hang the Bee over my shoulder, like a large, inflexible bag), we decided against that.
It's just our two cents, but if you are living in a small space in Amsterdam, on any floor other than groundfloor, then I figured it might be worth knowing.
So, as I was saying, during my first trimester of pregnancy (and a little after), I was a little annoyed with my body, it suddenly not being able to do all the things I had gotten used to it being able to do over the last 38 years. Like making it to the top of two flights of stairs without having to pause. Like going without a peebreak for more than two hours. Like getting through the day without feeling the overpowering need to nap at odd times. Like being able to go out drinking with my friends...
Of course my annoyance was not helping, needless to say. These days, a little over half of this whacky trip behind me, and having just found out we're having a girl, I have changed my mind. I realize that if my body could speak for itself, it would have punched me and said: "HEY! I'm building a friggin'' person here, cut me some slack!" And it would have been right.
Last week's ultrasound taught me that 1. We're having a girl (yay!) (although honestly, I would have said "yay!" to a boy too) 2. She seems to be healthy and doing well. And 3. I did that. Or rather, my body did, with some unhelpful mental resistance from me. I'm starting to feel rather proud of it.
When we found out I was pregnant, we pretty much had no idea what to do next. Then I noticed that on the pregnancy test (2 for 5 Euro, Kruidvat!) it said: if you are pregnant, make an appointment with your GP. So I did.
While in the waiting room, the assistant told me that something had gone wrong with my appointment, and instead of the female doctor, I would get the male doctor, if that was ok? I said: "That depends, what kinds of tests are you going to do?" And she said: "Did you do one yourself?" I said: "Yes, I did two." (Why waste the extra one, eh?) And she said: "Oh, no, then we're not going to test anything. You can just ask the doctor any questions you might have."
After a few more minutes of sitting dumbfounded in the waiting room (what? No bloodwork? Bloodpressure test? Iron, nothing?), I realized I had no idea what questions I might ask the doctor, so I decided to leave. The assistant said: "You can make an appointment with an obstetrician." And I thought: "Oh, ok."
It turns out that during pregnancy, the obstetrician is your doctor. The GP has nothing to do with it. The first appointment is after around 9-10 weeks, then about once every month, gearing up to once a week close to delivery. In the Netherlands, coverage depends on whether or not your insurance has a contract with a practice, so check with them first, before deciding on one.
I picked an OB close to home. We waited a few weeks for the appointed day and time. The first meeting was... ok. Nothing more than that. It wasn't that she was unfriendly, it wasn't anything I could put my finger on. But it was very businesslike, and she was more focused on the medical questions than anything else.
The second meeting was with a different person, at the same practice. It seemed standard, the handful of practices I'd investigated were all group practices: you get whomever you happen to get. This woman dove right in, again, very businesslike. Again, not unfriendly as such, but also not very interested.
We almost got into an argument, over something my mother had warned me about (she did not go into labour, even when the baby was ready to come out). She said: "We don't do anything with that information." After a brief discussion, she explained that every birth is different and that these kinds of things are not hereditary. That's all well and good, but I would prefer it if you would simply make a note of it somewhere, and kept it in the back of your mind, instead of dismissing me out of hand, thank you. I just... Didn't have any feeling of connection with these women.
My ultrasounds were done at another practice, as the one I was going to didn't offer that. What a world of difference. I think I met about six different obstetricians there (some in training), they were without fail very kind and went out of their way to help me. One of them asked me what I weighed, and I had no idea. She said: "Didn't your obstetrician weigh you?" and I looked at her blankly: "...No....?"
I talked to a friend of mine (also pregnant, suddenly everyone is pregnant, I swear), and she said: "If there's no 'click', then you should switch! Try mine!" I thought about it, and realized: would I want one of these women to stand at my bedside during the most terrifying and least-looked-forward-to experience of my life? The answer was no. So yes, a break-up was in the future.
A week or so later, it was a done deal. I broke up with the old practice over the phone, and picked up my (thin) file.
The first appointment with the new obstetrician (the one recommended by my friend) was lovely. She explained a lot about what was happening to me, and what was normal to feel and experience during this time. She measured my blood pressure, weight, felt up my womb, and listened to the baby's heartbeat.
At this practice, you get a regular obstetrician during your whole pregnancy. At GO time, there's a chance you get one of her colleagues, but she said: "I know how all of my colleagues work, and can vouch for them as I would for myself." Even after having just met her, that was already good enough for me. It feels right.
All in all, it was surprisingly easy to switch, and I am much much happier for it. So that's my advice: not happy with your obstetrician? SWITCH!
I know, I know, it's been really quiet here of late. The long and the short of it is: life got in the way. We got married (yay!), we went honeymooning in Sicily (yum!), and immediately after the honeymoon I started a new job, that required me to travel 1:45 hours every day, one way (so 3,5 hours per day)(urgh!). It all left me with very little time to undertake much of anything, or have the time to write anything about it, let alone work up pretty pictures to show you.
And then.... I got pregnant (yay! I think). Let me tell you: being pregnant, no matter how wanted, is no picnic. Somewhere near the end of the first trimester an acquaintance said to me: "Enjoy this time!" And I just looked at her blankly thinking: "Enjoy what exactly? The nausea? The fatigue? The constipation? The painful breasts? The crazy sense of smell? The raging, out of control hormones? The constant hunger, and the idiotic need to pee every few hours (yes, also at night)? Enjoy??? ARE YOU INSANE, WOMAN?" Wisely though, I kept my mouth shut.
It took me 37 years to get used to this body. And now I no longer recognise it. Everything is beyond my control. Thankfully, it got a little better after the first trimester ended (only a few weeks ago now). I'll not bore you with more details (ligament pain? Anyone heard of that? I hadn't, but I have it now!), but suffice it to say that of late, my world has been revolving more around obstetricians, strollers, cots, and the like, than around exploring Amsterdam and blogging about it.
I was actually working on this epic post about the organisation of our wedding, and all the lovely addresses I found in Amsterdam. Seriously, everything from flowers to custommade rings, shoes, underwear and tailored dresses. But it's still photoless, and I'm working up the courage to get to it.
The thing is, as far as hip and happening places are concerned, there are other blogs much more up-to-date and active than mine (like: yourlittleblackbook or Story 154). I think I've landed in another phase altogether. It'll be different kinds of finds, it will be different musings, tips and realizations. But as long as you don't mind, and are willing to grow with me, I'll try to keep this up!
Drop me a line!
My mum was visiting me in De Baarsjes. We went grocery shopping (Levi and I are doing rehearsal Christmas dinner today) and our last stop was the Turkish corner market. I walked around, gathering things and putting them on the counter, to be paid in one go when I was ready. My mum got a bunch of spring onions and put them in a separate place on the counter.
I said: "Mum, don't be ridiculous, just put it with mine!" And she said: "No no, you don't have to pay for me, I'll get it myself." Incredulous, I looked at Yusuf, the proprietor, who had been following this exchange with interest. I walked back to the counter, put her onions with my fruit and veg and moved her away from the counter. She struggled, making to move to pay for her onions herself. I looked at Yusuf and said: "Yusuf! Say something!"
And Yusuf, my trusty friend, friendly but firmly told my mother: "I'm sorry madam, but your money is not valid here."
Living in De Baarsjes in Amsterdam has its perks. Like our Turkish corner market. We had one near our old place, and we have one right opposite our flat now.
Where it took me four years to coax even the slightest smile from the proprietor of our old Turkish store, the man from our new store I are on a first name basis already. We wave, we smile, we talk about the weather, he sells me fruit and veg. And he gives me tips.
"You should try the water melon, it's delicious." Me: "Neh... I don't really like water melon..." But I did get a piece for Levi, because Yusuf said it was good. And man, am I convinced! Juicy, sweet, refreshing, amazing!
I buy a new piece every few days now. Yusuf cuts me an eighth if I ask, and at around 1 euro a kilo, it's really cheap.
So it's chilled watermelon after dinner, and my best discovery of the Summer: watermelon smoothie. Works well with a banana and anything that has a little tartness to it, like peaches, strawberries or (gold) kiwis. When I told Yusuf about my newfound love for watermelon, thanks to him, he put me onto passion fruit for my smoothie. Summer in a glass, I tell you.
So if the weather is dreary, like it is today, and you need a shot of Summer, make a smoothie!
- 2 slices of watermelon, deseeded
- 1 banana
- 1 peach, gold kiwi, green kiwi or handfull of strawberries
- A big dollop of good Greek yogurt
Blend well. Drink with straw and umbrella!
On my way to Utrecht this morning, I decided to up my intake of vitamins with one of those freshly pressed orange juices at De Broodzaak.
The girl right in front of me thought the same, but upon seeing that there were no small bottles left to fill up, she changed her mind. "Hm," I thought. I know the bigger bottle is more (400mls vs 350 mls) for only slightly less (2,50 euro vs 2), but when your income is coming in in a slow trickle, euro by euro, every 50 cents counts.
I asked the guy making sandwiches if there were any smaller bottles left. "No," he said, decisively. "Can I put less in a bigger bottle then?" I asked. He looked slightly annoyed, mumbled something and disappeared in the back.
He came back with -surprise!- a whole box full of 250ml bottles. I filled one up, payed at the cash register and went to catch my train.
Now what was that? Was it just this guy being too lazy to go get a box? Or is this some weird (slightly dirty) sales ploy? Did he think I wouldn't blog about it?
Ok readers, here's your challenge: try to buy a small freshly pressed OJ at De Broodzaak when you are at Amsterdam Central Station, leave me a reply as to whether there were any small bottles, and if there weren't, if a little pressure makes them magically appear. I'm curious now!
After the rain stops at around three, people of all kinds flock to Edelwise Festival in Rembrandtpark on Saturday the 26th for a dose of music and fun. The average age of Edelwise visitors is a little higher than at the usual dance festivals. But then, it is decidedly not like other festivals any way. It's not huge, with one main stage, one smaller stage and a secret stage. But there are a lot of extras, that twinkle like little gems, waiting to be discovered.
Dotan is starting to play at the main stage when we arrive. I don't think I've ever been to a festival that had an actual band on main stage. Eventhough the music is good, and the vibe is mellow and lightly festive, it's all a little too laidback for me. Also, the sound leaves a little to be desired. Everyone's just standing around, talking, and it's a bad sign that we can actually hear eachother. Music from the other stages can be heard over Dotan's Stolen Dance.
There's big tents with living rooms set up inside, they're a hoot. Little shops with lovely festival trinkets and tote bags. Face painting, hula hoops, silent disco, a photo booth, there's loads to do! There's a puzzle shack, where you get locked in and can only unlock the door if you figure out the solution to the puzzles. There's table tennis, and at a small white tent with a big rainbow arch in front there is a wedding going on.
We decide to take a seat in the living room where there's silent comedy, everyone sitting around with headphones on, listening to Stefan Pop, who tells us absurd, funny stories with a big, infectuous smile (he's a regular at Toomler, I gather. It's in dutch, but if you can handle that, go! He's good!).
Food and surprises
When we go for food, pizzas are 4 coins, burgers 3, and organic fries are 1,5 coins (one coin costs 2,70, you do the math). And even in the food area there's entertainment. Pretty girls in tiroler-like outfits hand out bingo cards and there's prizes to win (a mad suit, sunglasses and more).
It's the kind of festival where you are surprised on a regular basis. A remote control airplane does stunts over our heads. A lilliputter on a mini motorbike zooms through the crowd at high speed. Someone with a soap bubble gun shoots random people.
Back at the main stage, Kraak & Smaak have started their set. It's lukewarm at best, there are a couple of bodies moving here and there, but the crowd remains uninspired to dance. Still, with smiling faces all around, it's a happy scene. We're starting to think that this is it. A lovely day, calm and fun.
But then the lively guys of La Pegatina storm the stage and man, those Spaniards know how to party! All seven of them play and sing like their lives depend on it. People flock to the main stage and the crowd goes wild. The band gets them to dance along, sing along, take their shirts off: this is interactive music making.
The guys even do a rendition of "Er staat een paard in de gang" (there's a horse in the hallway), a Dutch carnaval classic, but then La Pegatina-style. Hundreds of people are singing along. Epic! They play with infectuous enthusiasm and humour. I'm dancing my ass off. This is the most fun I've ever had at a festival or concert. And all of their music is downloadable on their website (www.lapegatina.com)
Fun and wonder
Afterwards, there's a DJ with a live singer. There's an interlude with happy hardcore from the nineties, also with two live singers and a group of enthusiastic dancers doing the classic "hakken" dance. And veteran Joost van Bellen is the closing act on the main stage. But honestly, nothing is as much fun after La Pegatina.
Edelwise is not a festival that you have to go to, for this DJ or that band. It's not about the headliners. Instead, it brings you a day of fun and childlike wonder, in the gorgeous setting of Rembrandtpark.
Last Saturday, the 21st of June, marked the beginning of Summer. During yoga class, a few days before, our instructor asked us to go back to the intention that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year. Eventhough I don't usually 'do' intentions for the new year, this year mine was to have fun.
Having finished my studies, having gone on holiday and, upon returning immediately having found a job, I was elated. Convinced that this would be my year. Safe to say though, that life is what happens while you're making other plans. Fun is not exactly what the job turned out to be. Thirty lawyers coming, but most of all going, in a period of ten years is a lot for a small law firm. It should have been a heads up to me that something was amiss. But, not knowing what you do not know, how can you... well, know?
In the first three months that I was there, four people stopped working there (only two of them lawyers, the other two supporting staff, albeit the same role). Being owned and run by one person, that one person has immense influence over the atmosphere in the office. This one person is very self-centered, spoiled (does not deal well with no for an answer) and at times just plain hysterical. Screaming matches over nothing. Screaming matches because she did not get her way. Or just screaming. I'm not saying she's a bad person. Just impossible to work with. Oh excuse me, work for.
She would manage to hand you a task that would last at least an hour a few minutes before you were due off, and insist it had to be done the same day. She would do this nearly every day the first few months, until it started to dawn on me that she wasn't doing it by accident. She would also call each morning at 8.31 to check if you were actually there.
The tall one
We would have conversations like this:
Boss: "Give me the number of that man."
Employee: "Which man?"
Boss: "He was at that meeting. The tall one."
Employee: "I wasn't at that meeting, I have no idea who 'the tall one' was!"
Boss: "Well, find out."
The question of who could get blamed for anything constantly hung in the air. Everyone was always trying to cover their asses, hoping not to get screamed at. I'm not saying she screamed all the time. Just enough of the time.
Figuring maybe I just needed time to find a way to deal with the situation, that maybe I could adjust to, or get used to the way things went, I tried to stick it out. But day after day I got more stressed. I would have a knot in my stomach each evening because I knew I'd have to get up and go to work the next day. Sundays were the worst. I started to cry for very little reason in the weekends. I was sick to my stomach, got headaches, lost sleep.
And so I quit. I chose sanity and happiness over money and I quit.
Ballsy or stupid?
The question is: do we call that ballsy or stupid? I haven't found another job yet. I've been on a few interviews, but for one reason or the other, it hasn't worked out. So: hello insecurity, short time no see.
I really need a break. Is there anyone out there looking for a good writer? I am excellent in both dutch and english, written and verbal. Also good with content management (WordPress, even a little Joomla), Photoshop, newsletters (HTML, Constant Contact, MailChimp), social media, the works. I would love to hear from you.