What “Pimp My Ride” Means in The Hague

Bike

You know those sleek car ads that feature stubbly men in leather jackets gliding into minivans named otherwise (crossover, utility vehicles, tanks etc..) in the quest to fool you that notwithstanding leaking diapers and sniveling noses, you will never lose your cool?

I’ve always fancied those kinds of self-denial mantras – that if we accessorize well enough, and surround ourselves with enough cute gear, said cool will never be lost. But now, I’ve discovered an entirely new level of cool. Cool is not the overtanned, anorexic lady of the manor shrieking at her imported nanny over creases in her daughter’s fuschia tutu, while running late for her overpriced salad lunch at The Club.

Cool is the mother of three hauling a double buggy solo up the tram, rushing to multiple doctor’s appointments and playdates, feeding offspring en route, without breaking a sweat. Supercool is not ever arriving late, and having showered.

So, we adapt to our environment. Given that our gas guzzling SUV is not the fastest means of maneuvering in The Hague (tight streets, merciless one way system), I got me a new set of wheels.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be torching the asphalt in a 7-speed Gazelle with bright yellow kid seat in tow to the soundtrack of Petit-Homme shouting “More! More!”, but what the heck, I still got my leather jacket… (just no stubble yet).

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Toddler Seduction Tactics

I feel I kinda have a lot on my plate at the moment. But it’s pretty lame to complain when all sorts of mothers around the world experience the same type of grind. In fact, whether working/studying/full-time mommying, I reckon kids just somehow amp up the busy-ness factor amongst parents. It’s not the same type of “busy” that gives you cold solace in the [shallow] knowledge that you are advancing your career, developing your mind, gilding the piggybank, or bragging-under-the-guise-of-venting about all those “3 a.m. teleconferences with Tokyo”. Its a universal equalizer kinda busy, a glow-in-the-heart kinda busy, one that can never be postponed.

It’s sometimes a resentful sort of busy. I’m the sort who loves to plan pretty much everything out. And of course, timing is key. A dinner party the next day sans caterers means that the tables have to be set the night before and the family must nosh out of greasy cardboard boxes prior to the event. Timing is the most important thing in any endeavour involving food. This is why it is doubly challenging when you throw a young toddler’s precarious appetite and propensity for glazing the walls with meatball mash into the equation. Meaning, you whirl around like a dervish to make it for the set dinner schedule that all experts tell you is essential, only to find him gnawing on a box of raisins, and your hard work disintegrates in a black (plastic-bag lined) hole.

Drumsticks

Honey-soy drumsticks… Less for Petit-Homme, More for Mommy

This Queen of the CrockPot recently realized that Petit-Homme intends to set the bar much higher. My one-dish “miracle stews” are too wet, unidentifiable, offensive when teething, and too hot when hungry. I thought I made some ingenious breakthroughs with Ikea meatballs and fish fingers, but apparently, that is so yesterday.

I discovered recently that the Dutch are the third largest consumers of sugar, per capita, behind only Germany and the US. However, kids here are also considered the “happiest” in the world. Never mind that this ranking says nothing about sugar. The fact that some mommies here reckon they’re all so happy because Dutch kids eat chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, is enough to make you pause and wonder.

Anyway, my latest offerings have been so dismal that I tried tonight to make a kid-friendly meal – an  offering for a deity. Honey-soy chicken drumsticks with baked sweet potatoes. My seduction attempts failed miserably. It seems raisins are more of a temptress than I am. (Looking forward to my octogenarian years then.)

Surrender to the Sugar Gods or strive on with home-made?

Vaccinating Against Chicken Pox

I hope I never have to know what chicken pox feels like. At any rate, I’m doing my best to save Petit-Homme from having to experience this unnecessary malady. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never had chicken pox despite my mother’s numerous attempts to expose me to the virus by hauling me to diseased relatives’ houses (she was a pioneer of the “pox party” before it became trendy.)

Today Petit-Homme watched the nurse stab him with the chicken pox vaccine with much curiosity but did not emit a single sound! He was rewarded with a Donald Duck plaster. Just FYI, the vaccination is not compulsory in the Netherlands (costs €55 if you insist on it). As the prescribing doctor explained it, the government conducted their cost-benefit analysis and figured that the “cost of vaccination would outweigh that of hospitalization”. Here, even measles vaccination is not mandatory and I have heard of some pitifully sick babies who went on to spread the love far and wide.

For myself, I had two options: (1) Undergo blood tests to see if I had already developed immunity to it – then return for a jab if the result was negative ; (2) Just get the vaccination. Since (1) would involve quite a few treks back and forth the clinic, only to possibly end up in the same boat, I opted for (2).

The Reams of Paper Needed to Process our Meds ...

The Reams of Paper Needed to Process our Meds …

Unfortunately, the provarivax gods were not cooperating and I was somehow unsurprised to learn that there was only one vaccine left in the entire international health clinic. (Sidebar – someone needs to do something about just-in-time delivery in NL: shops, grocery stores and pharmacies are always “out” of what you need! I’m not even kidding. Three days before our trip to Canada, Albert Heijn’s bakery was out of stroopwafel! That’s like Chinatown being out of soy sauce). I digress. I decided that Petit-Homme would get his today and I’d return later.

So, up to the second floor for the doctor’s prescription. Back down to the ground floor and a 20 minute wait for the vaccine to be dispensed. (see here for pharmacy grumbles). Then back up to the first floor for a nurse to stick it in.

Hopefully it will all go well. I’ll need to get mine ASAP as if PH does develop a mild case in 7-10 days (happens in 1-10% of people, how’s that for a vague statistic), he will be contagious and it would be unhumorously ironic if his immunization were to cause his mother to break out in spots. At any rate, I would thereafter be able to more graciously allow infested humans into my house – after having to deal with one awkward incident where a guest announced that she would be attending a party chez moi with her highly contagious baby ….

Healthy Eating Habits at Crèche

Partyat

Good thing I got my cake at home!

I’m happy to report that after two weeks at crèche, Petit-Homme seems to be settling in well. Morning goodbyes typically see 20 seconds of crying, and then he’s happy to play with his carers. I think what they say about not backtracking to comfort your child is true. I’m able to peek at him through glass panes after I exit the room, so I can assure myself that he has stopped crying. Going back in probably only reinforces the stress of separation.

Miraculously, Petit-Homme has been insisting on soothing himself to sleep now in his bed, instead of in our arms. Looks like he’s getting used to that independence at crèche – a really good thing as I was starting to wonder how to implement self-dozing!

He had a little birthday party the other day. The crèche has a low-sugar policy (really surprising given that many Dutch love their chocolate sprinkles on bread), so we were discouraged from bringing sweet treats. Health is a big deal at this place. For their meals, the kids get organic produce; quinoa, risotto, bulghur, free range chicken, salmon, fresh fruit and vegetable snacks.  The menus are posted weekly and there is an entire kitchen team dedicated to this endeavour. At Petit-Homme’s party, we were allowed to bring the teachers chocolate mousse cake, while kids tucked into yummy raisins. Petit-Homme even got a present from his teachers! As for his parents, we were forced to gobble down the two boxes of profiteroles we initially bought for the event. The sacrifices we make …

Entering the Era of the Professional Daycare

All parents want the best for their children. No exception here. However, I am dubious about bombarding little babies with all types of stimulation and remortgaging the farm to fund exclusive ‘education’ in the hopes they will end up with a scholarship to Harvard. Babies born in the slums of Calcutta can grow up to be tycoons while sons of senators may well languish in rehab. All this to say that when it comes to parenting, I reckon fear of not giving your best is a great motivator.

As a baby, my father was bound in cloth to the backs of his aunts while they went about their daily grind of harvesting rice from the paddy fields in the scorching tropics of South East Asia. I’m not sure if this impeded any sort of mental development but he did go on to gain an engineering degree from Cardiff University. My husband and I were babies before the advent of fancy infant schooling but somehow between the both of us, we’ve managed to scrape together a number of acronyms in law and physics. What gives?

A new pal at crèche

Today, our Petit-Homme started his first day at crèche in The Hague. Admittedly, we were influenced by this institution’s beautiful English brochures and intensive educational pedigrees of the ‘caretakers’. Although sparkling chandeliers are not quite necessary, they did top off a well-packaged theme of learning, caring and Michelin-munching at this childcare centre.

The Better to See You With

The Better to See You With

Lest it be thought our motivations were superficial, we toured another promising crèche with far fewer bells and whistles. Alas, too many safety hazards (lots of steep stairs, strollers helter-skelter and electrical  work buzzing in the open) and carers AWOL from their kids for several minutes in the search of fresh nappies, scared the living daylights out of us.

Petit-Homme hollered for 5 minutes this morning after I said goodbye (sneaking out is not recommended), but a peek in later showed him to be bouncing happily on the lap of his caretaker. According to their latest updates online, he’s been sleeping and eating well – fingers crossed!