Viewing: Tala

Party prep for the weekend

Tomorrow is Tala’s first birthday, and all I can say is: I’m so glad I live in a culture where the approach to birthday parties is practical and laid-back.

It’s a good way for me to ease into the world of kiddie birthday parties. I have quite a few friends with babies Tala’s age, and recently my Facebook feed has been a parade of glittery fairy costumes, elaborate theme parties and fancy home-baked birthday cakes. It’s a bit intimidating, but I have to remind myself that motherhood is not a competition, and the most important person in this equation is literally incapable of judgment.

Mama might not have a fat bank account or know how to bake, but she has pretty handwriting and is great at finding things on the Internet. That should count for something, right?

Babies and bacon!

Our plans are simple: we’ve invited friends to a “Babies & Bacon” birthday brunch for Tala at a neighborhood cafe. The cafe is very typical Dutch, so the process of “educating” them on the elements of what would be considered an American-style brunch—with bacon and Bloody Marys—has been… interesting. I’ve had to yield my ambitious plans of fluffy pancake stacks to the reality of flat, crispy Dutch pancakes; however, I’ve been assured there will be Mimosas, so I guess you win some, you lose some.

I’m off to run a few last-minute birthday errands, but I’ll be back next week with some snaps from Tala’s first birthday party. Wish me luck, and think a happy thought for Tala on her first birthday!

Tala’s first year in hairdos

My baby turns one year old this week, and there’s a storm of emotions brewing in me. I’ll write about all that later, when it’s a little quieter inside.

For now? To mark her first birthday, as my mom did with me, I’m planning to take Tala for her first haircut. And that makes me just want to write silly things about her hair.

1 Baby Mohawk by Melody Rae

Photo by Melody Rae.

At our 30-week ultrasound, the echographist made a most unusual pronouncement: “She has hair!”

“No, really?” I asked. “How can you tell?”

“See that fuzzy line on her head?” I squinted at the screen; indeed, there it was. “That’s hair.”

From the moment it popped up onscreen in that 30th week, it was clear that Tala’s hair would be a major presence in her life. Strangers, mostly mothers of bald Dutch babies, would stop in the street and exclaim over it, carpet fluff and snot would become entangled in it, and her mama—that’s me!—would spend many hours wrestling with her in many attempts to create cuteness out of the chaos. I’ve joked that Tala’s hair needs its own Instagram account, because it often seems to have a life of its own.

My daughter’s long black hair makes her unique. Someday, I’m going to have to explain why other girls are golden-haired and she isn’t, and tell her that even if she’s outnumbered by blondes, dark hair is beautiful too.

For now? I’m just going to have fun with it. As this post shows, that’s exactly what I’ve done in the first year of her life.

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Eleven months!

This is about a week late, but I can’t let it just slip by. Tala turned eleven months old!

Tala 11 Months

Not today, obviously, because she turned 11 months old while we were in Paris.

Tala yawning at the Eiffel Tower 11 months

“The Eiffel Tower? That’s for babies!” *yawn*

I thought it was super cool to celebrate that milestone there. She was… well, less than enthusiastic. I can’t wait to show her these pictures one day and watch the retroactive wave of coolness hit her.

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Black & white Christmas photo shoot

I know Tala will only be a baby for a very short time. And I know I should probably take advantage of her first Christmas to do something ridiculously cute, such dress her up as an elf or a reindeer or a Christmas cupcake, or something equally silly.

However, as you’ve seen from our minimalist/alternative Christmas tree, keeping things simple is what feels natural and right this year. Having a baby also leaves one with significantly less time to scour the Internet for the most perfectly adorable (but not tacky) Christmas baby costume.

So when Amsterdam-based lifestyle photographer Maud Fontein conceptualized a series of mini holiday photo shoots with a Scandinavian-inspired black and white theme, I couldn’t resist.

Besides, between you and me, I don’t think Tala needs to dress up like a cupcake to look adorable. But maybe I’m a little bit biased.

Baby Christmas photos black and white

Naturally, on the day of the shoot, we were running late and Tala was being… shall we say, less than delightful and charming. (That’s the way it always works. Trust me.) So there I was, literally rolling around on the floor on my belly in front of a woman I had never met before, manically trying to get my daughter to smile before our thirty-minute clock ran out.

If there’s anything I learned from doing this quick shoot with Maud, it’s that motherhood kills your ability to be embarrassed about anything. I think after you allow your breasts to be used as a food source/pacifier in public, you tend to be a little less uptight about these things.

“All it takes is one good shot,” said Maud reassuringly—and all that matters is that in the end, we got it. Look at that soon-to-be-toothy smile!

Eight months!

Guess who’s eight months old?

Tala 8 Months

My little teether, that’s who!

Teeth soon

Tala’s top two front teeth are lurking under the surface, turning a little more white and a little less pink each day, adding “fffff” and “tttthhh” to her growing repertoire of babble. Those same two teeth are waking her up at night, crying until one of us pops a cold pacifier straight from the freezer into her waiting mouth. Or she’ll wake up at 6am ready to party.

Every morning, I gently nudge the corners of her mouth into a little smile (which never stays little!), hoping that today’s the day! But so far that day hasn’t come. Until they decide to show up, we have some tough nights and early mornings ahead of us. Hang in there, little teether.

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Yay, it’s the weekend!

I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled that it’s Friday!

Yay Tala!

Yay! Yay! Yay!

It’s been a tiring week. Marlon went on a special five-day management training course that had him out the door early and home late every day. We’ve barely seen each other and, because he’s such a hands-on dad, I’ve really felt his absence. I conserved my energy at the start of the week, but mid-week the discovery of an unexpected pocket of time led to what I can only call a complete brain malfunction: I decided to start working out again.

If you know Jillian Michaels (“America’s Toughest Trainer™”) or the concept of HIIT (high intensity interval training), then you’ll know that returning to such a demanding workout after 18 months (!) reduced me to a sorry, whimpering carcass. Not the most brilliant move when I was basically a single mom for all of Tala’s waking hours this week. I had to pick Tala up from the gastouder right after my first workout,  and while heaving my concrete limbs plus 8 kilos (17.6 pounds) of wriggling baby up the stairs, I thought I would never make it.

But I did make it up the stairs, and I made it to the weekend. Go me!

I’m looking forward to much-needed rest and family time for the next two days. I’ll be back on Monday to announce the winners of my birthday giveaway and tell you a bit about the results of the first-ever Currystrumpet reader survey. I’ll also share a creative project I’ve been working on for the past few weeks and a high school hobby that I’ve reconnected with.

For everyone back home who is weathering Super Typhoon Yolanda, you are in my thoughts. Stay safe and have a good weekend!

Seven months!

My baby turns seven months old today!

Tala 7 Months

Sorry for the crappy lighting… this dismal gray fall light is not the best for photos!

This month, Tala started going to a gastouder twice a week. A gastouder (the direct translation is guest parent, but loosely it means a childminder) runs a mini-daycare in their home, with a maximum of three or four children. When I was learning about childcare options in Holland, I wasn’t ready to put Tala in daycare with its bigger groups of up to nine kids and more institutional system.

Then I discovered the gastouder option, which seemed like a good middle ground. The idea of fewer kids and a cozier setting in a home environment was really appealing to me; the Dutch ideal of coziness has really sunk in after nearly three years of living here!

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Six months!

Tala turned six months old yesterday. Half a year feels like a big deal!

Tala 6 Months

This picture doesn’t seem so different from her at four months, does it? Physically, she’s mostly the same except she’s longer now, and of course, has longer hair. I think most of the milk I produce goes directly to that hair.


Windblown in Greece

I don’t know many six month-old babies whose growth milestones involve hair. This month, Tala wore her first ponytail…

My first ponytail

…and her first pigtails. Tying baby hair is harder than you think—I clapped and hopped around like a giddy schoolgirl after successfully managing the tiniest, most adorable pair of pigtails ever.

My first pigtails

At the rate her hair is growing, I’d better start learning how to braid!

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Simple joys and something special

How was your weekend? Feeling tired and a little broke after our recent trip to Maastricht (plus we’re saving up for the Big Trip of the year in a week’s time), Marlon and I decided to stay in all weekend long. I know, married couples are boring, they never want to go out anymore, blah blah blah. Am I just getting old, or is staying at home simply more appealing now?

Whether forced by an empty wallet or by choice, staying in can be extremely recharging and satisfying. I think the key is to mix simple pleasures with a little something special. A Masterchef Australia marathon (such a good show!) on the couch with this adorable face napping on my belly (yes, a long naptime helps!)… now that’s a prime example of a simple pleasure that doesn’t cost a thing.

Tala napping

So is being treated to the sight of the funniest bedhead ever…

Tala bedhead

… and using cuddles and playtime to put the work week firmly into the past (especially for Daddy).

Daddy and Tala

The fun part is injecting a little something extraordinary into what would otherwise be an ordinary weekend. Just one well-chosen treat can make staying at home closer to being a pleasure than a belt-tightening measure. It could be a decadent hot chocolate or a new book to curl up with on the couch.

For us, of course, it’s food. On Saturday mornings, Marlon likes to take Tala for a walk to the Noordermarkt, giving me one precious baby-free morning a week. This weekend, he came home from the market with a large, very pregnant and very LIVE lobster, wild and not farmed, from the Netherlands’ own North Sea.

Marlon's lobster dinner

If you can get over the creepy factor of a plastic bag rustling in your fridge and can handle them without getting pinched, lobsters are the easiest luxurious dinner. Just drop in a pot, cover and wait a few minutes. We had ours with potato wedges and sweet potato fries, a lime, cilantro, garlic and butter sauce, and white wine from the grocery.

Lobster and wine

What simple joys do you enjoy during a weekend at home? And what’s your favorite way to inject something special into a stay-at-home weekend?

Five months!

Tala is five months old. Yay!

Tala 5 Months

Can I confess that this has seemed like the longest month so far? It’s because Tala has gotten really active (as you can tell from the pic above)! I was spoiled in her newborn days when she slept like a champion, leaving me with long, blissful stretches of time to myself—to rest and recover from the birth, but also to get a lot of things done.

Now that I’m back to my old self (plus a few kilos), Tala has decreed that there will be no more of that. Our days are filled with long stretches of awake time… and she’s decided she likes active playtime! Sometimes she will be content to play by herself on a sheepskin or in the playpen. But it’s not long until she cries and demands something more physically engaging. Even when we’re out and she’s lying in the bassinet of her stroller, she gets impatient and demands to be carried upright.


Play! Play! Play!

Notorious walk-hater that I am, I’ve started taking her on long walks at least three times a week. I’ve also come up with a few funny games to get her moving and make her laugh. She giggles like mad when I pull up her arms and sniff her armpits—it must be the strange genetic Filipino obsession with armpits kicking in. It helps that the Filipino word for armpit sounds funny too. Kili-kili!

Tala kili-kili game

The kili-kili game. Sorry for the image quality, this is a screenshot from video.

As a mom, I think I’m fairly calm and easygoing. But this month, I’ve gotten to the point where things start to get confusing, and anxiety has crept into my life. Should she be sleeping through the night and am I doing something wrong because she isn’t? Is two bottles of formula a day too many? Should I start introducing solid food or wait until six months as per official advise from the World Health Organization? Is starting solids really the best thing for her or do I only want to do it to be free from breastfeeding?

Tala banana

Executive decision: food is only for playing, not for eating. For now.

Everyone will say “trust your mother’s instincts,” but it’s easier said than done. My motherly instincts need time to be shaped, tested and trusted. I’m sure I’m not the only new mom who looks around at other mothers and babies to see how they do things… which can get even more confusing. Let’s not even get started on all the information you can drown in on the Internet.

So many decisions and questions. And I know this is only the beginning!