Friday, September 21, 2007

A Retrospective: What John Samuel's been up to these last few months...

Learning how to sleep in...

Helping with the laundry...

Checking himself out in the mirror...Getting his first bite of rice cereal...

It's been four months of no posts...and four months of much growth and change...both for John and his Mamma and Daddy. He's hit so many milestones since then! Rolling over, saying "Mama", sitting by himself, eating his first foods, and now at eight months, he's pulling himself up to a stand in his crib and attempting (though not yet succeeding) to crawl... stay tuned for more pictures of John and his new skills!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

At long last

Has it really been a month and a half since we last posted? It's high time we shared our photo album from our time in the Netherlands. Click on the collage of photos and it will take you to our web album, with albums for our time in Amsterdam, plus visits to Utrecht and Arnhem to see my brother Colin, and my friend Maame.

As you can see our trip was more about seeing people--and about those people seeing John--than about sightseeing. The prettiest pictures we took were in Utrecht, a beautiful medieval university town in the heart of the Netherlands which I hadn't really seen until this trip.

Here's the text from a post I started writing while we were there, but never had a chance to finish:
I'm home...

We've been in Amsterdam two days now. Our last time here was three months before our wedding, also for two weeks. At that time I hadn't been back in 3 years, and that was four years ago. Last time I was taking leave; starting a new life, visiting a city that was a part of my past and valuable to me as nostalgia. I was surprised at how much I felt a stranger and a visitor.

Now, four years later, ten years after I originally left to go to university in Canada, I come with my husband and son for the first time, expecting an even greater distance between the world of my current life and the world of my childhood home city, and find myself completely at home, familiar, at ease.

I'm still not exactly sure why this is, but it is a tremendous thing to be together as a family all together with my brother, my husband, my parents, my son, and all in the apartment, neighbourhood, country I grew up in. It's a first for me on many levels.

We were walking together today on our way to see the old Portuguese Synagogue (founded by Jewish refugees of the Spanish Inquisition) at my brother's recommendation. We went through the hippie market alongside the building where my brother works. That market is where I bought all my clothes in high school.
We also went to the Rijksmuseum (where the Rembrandts and Vermeers are, among others) and had the chance to see a series of paintings connected by the theme of "Mother," all showing scenes of pregnancy, motherhood, domestic life, etc. An appropriate special exhibition for me at this time in my life!

Beyond that we did very little sightseeing in Amsterdam. It was so lovely just to walk around my neighbourhood, go to the market, visit the park where I played as a child , and just sit around in the shade (we took a picture of John on the slide I loved as a little girl), go grocery shopping, buy flowers for my mom on the street corner, take an evening trip to the beach.

It was fabulous.

John traveled remarkably well, although he's changed quite a bit since we came back. More about that in our next post!

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Trip to Amsterdam

As many of you know, John made his first trip to Amsterdam. There is much to tell but I'm feeling rather jet-lagged. For the time being you will have to satisfy yourselves with a few pictures from the first few days of the trip. I trust you will find them edifying and come back for more in the future.

Here is John napping with dad at Heathrow Airport.

Mom threatening to send John down the slide at Amsterdam's Sarphati Park.
"I can't even walk mom!"

Chillin' in Sarphati Park. Sometimes unflattering pictures are the most real.

The view from the Mellis' apartment in Amsterdam. A beautiful city.

John and Opa. I think they're watching Nadal beat Federer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

He done been dunked!

"As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ..."

"The servant of God John Samuel is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!"

"Grant unto me a robe of light,
O You who clothe Yourself with light as with a garment,
O Christ our God, plenteous in mercy!"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Overstimulating Baby Toys

When I was a wee tot, we had fun toys. Wooden blocks, multi-coloured plastic rings (unfortunately made of polyvinylchoride [PVC] I'm sure), animals and various other simple toys kindled our imaginations with their simplicity and unprescriptiveness (is that a word?). I should also mention that those multi-coloured rings of ascending sizes that sit around a pole are most righteously called a"Rock-a-Stack."Anyhow, my toys were relatively simple; undoubtedly more fancy that what my parents had but relatively simple compared to what exists at present. Toys are now "designed," engineered and geared toward the functional and intellectual "development" of children. They are designed to be "stimulating" and build up certain skills important to the developmental progression of an infant or child into whatever standardized developmental stage comes next. A child cannot simply be but most continually move toward what is next. Yes, that's right, even infant toys are insidiously pedagogical in a strangely overstimulating and attention grabbing way. From the moment of birth the gods of telos conspire to marshall the budding intentionality of our youth.

Let me furnish you with an example of what constitutes a modern "toy."

A dear friend of ours bought a toy for our boy John. She came across a toy of meticulous design known as a "Whoozit." As modern psychology and thousands of years of unspoken and unarticulated experience has shown us, babies are powerfully attracted to a few things: faces, dark and light colour constrasts, intricate patterns, crackly sounds and bright lights or shiny objects. The designers of the Whoozit understand this and have designed a toy in a state of constant developmental explosion. BRIGHT COLOURS! BLACK AND WHITE! FACES! CRACKLY SOUNDS! LITTLE BRIGHTLY COLOURED TABS BABIES LIKE TO PULL! COLD TEETHING RING! ALL AT ONCE!

The first time I held the Whoozit I almost had a seizure but instead felt and acted on an uncontrollable urge to put the toy in my mouth.

Maybe I'm not saying so much about the Whoozit as about my own sensitivity to stimulus. However, stimulation through arresting the senses or forcing open the gates of perception is an aggressive and perhaps counterproductive exercise in encouraging our children to develop or mature.

I think about the other kinds of common toys such as PS3, little hand-held electronic games, laptops for toddlers and the like and it all seems like too much powerful stimulation and plastic. A stimulus capable of arresting attention strikes me a bit violent and ultimately counter-productive due to the undeniable fact that humans quickly build tolerance to almost any stimulus and eventually require a more powerful stimulus to achieve the same arresting result. In short, reliance on powerful attention grabbing objects results in decreased attention spans. Why? Because true attention begins from within and radiates out into creativity where as modern toys seize the attention from without and thrust a "precreated" system onto the child, thus diffusing locus of attention into the environment. The internal state of the child is at the mercy of the environment rather than within him or herself.

I like old toys. Boxes full of old clothes and musty smelling hats, shovels, buckets, balls, sticks, trees, pieces of cloth suddenly transformed into monsters from the murky deeps, cushion fortresses and on goes the list.

Some of these new toys are good too, but not too many.

So, I'm old fashioned. A Montessori advocate without even knowing it. A children's toy Luddite.

I like it that way and I hope John does too.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I'm posting this about two days late, but I took it in honour of Queen's Day in the Netherlands, which is every year on April 30th. It is the Queen Mother Juliana's birthday and she started the national holiday on which all stores must remain closed except restaurants, and anyone and everyone can sell anything on the street. Her daughter, her Majesty Queen Beatrix (left) has carried it on and it is now called Queen's day, or Koninginnedag.

In essence it's a country- wide garage sale on the streets (except that most people don't have garages) and in Amsterdam it's a big day, with people staking out prime sidewalk spots at busy intersections overnight in their sleeping bags. Pubs and Cafe's hire bands to play on their terraces under temporary awnings, and people go up and down the canals in their boats with their friends and good beer.

The Dutch flag is flown with orange wimpels everywhere and lost of people wear orange, which is our national colour after the House of Orange, our royal family.

So here's John Samuel, dressed up in orange, in honour of his Queen, because he's soon to become a Dutch citizen--as soon as we get his Canadian papers done, we'll go to the Embassy and get his Dutch ones.

But before that happens he will have already been to visit his other country; we get on a plane to Amsterdam on June 5th, and we'll be there for two weeks visiting his Oma and Opa Mellis and his proud uncle Colin!