Tip #8 My newborn has a yellowish tint to her. Is this OK?

November 28th, 2011 → 11:59 am @

This is what I experienced:

Two of my kids had jaundice. My first was born 18 days late (yes, they let it go that far in NL). We were still in the hospital when he turned a yellowish shade so he was given light therapy but was allowed to stay with me. They put what looked like a heating pad on his skin, underneath his pyjama. It was bright light. Couple of days and we were good to go…  My third child Olivia, was however was a different story.  We were sent home a couple of hours after she was born (another typical Dutch thing) – I hadn’t had any complications so off we went. The next day she was very yellow… I had a nurse come over and check on her and we were immediately sent to the hospital.  Olivia had to go into intensive care, naked, with eye patches on and some seriously intense light. That was hard, going back to the hospital and having to let her go.  I remember looking around and seeing the other kids in intensive care and thinking – phew… we are the lucky ones.  They let me spend the night at the hospital but we didn’t sleep together. Took her almost 3 days to return to a normal color and we’ve never looked back.

The other 2 remained pink, except for the occasional yellow face paint that’s impossible to get off. It leaves exactly the yellowish tint that the other 2 had as newborns.

Here’s the answer in my book:

This yellowing of the skin is called jaundice and it affects more than 50% of newborns. Jaundice appears in the first couple of days on the face then on the body and usually disappears on its own during the first weeks.  It can be worse in breastfed newborns in the first days so be sure to feed very often to maintain hydration. Depending on the severity, it may be necessary to stay in (or go back to) the hospital so that your newborn can be given a type of light therapy (phototherapy) treatment.

Jaundice is caused by an excess of Bilirubin which is normally taken out of the body by the liver. In utero, the mother’s liver did the job but after birth it can take the baby’s liver a little time to catch up and take over the process during which time jaundice can occur. This type of jaundice is called “physiologic”.  It can also develop in the second and third week in breastfed newborns via a different mechanism. See a doctor but keep breastfeeding. If you are at home and concerned, see a doctor immediately as untreated jaundice can be dangerous.


Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

The Piets

November 27th, 2011 → 12:01 pm @

I want to talk a bit about The Piets (English would be Pete’s I guess…). These are part of The Sint ritual that I recently wrote about.  There are Crazy Piets, Messy Piets, Hungry Piets, Funny Piets, Sneaky Piet, Grouchy Piets, Sad Piets, Forgetful Piets, Tired Piet (me), Piet’ettes, Music Piets, School Piets, Dancing Piets, Present Piets, Singing Piets, Marching band Piets – but I’ve never seen a swimming Piet. That might ruin the make-up effect…

I was thinking the other day that they are just like the Smurfs. Except for the “controversial color” thing.

The great thing about the Piets is that there is always an excuse if you “accidentally” leave the letter the kids wrote to The Sint on the counter (Forgetful Piet), or if you go completely nuts and throw everything around the living room before filling the shoes (Messy Piet and super fun!), Late Piet is used when you’ve just plain old forgotten (friend of mine this morning after a night out…).  So I am actually starting to love The Piets. We even had a “Before Piet” come and leave a message that they weren’t ready for our house yet. (Read, I didn’t have my act together). Worked like a charm and gave us 3 more days grace!

We were watching the Smurfs on TV the other day and the legend says that they have existed “as mythical creatures” for a long long time.

So I wonder who came first – The Smurf or The Piet?

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Think you have present problems?

November 22nd, 2011 → 12:03 pm @

There are some great things about living abroad, sharing cultural differences, learning lots of new things but the yearly traditions can get complicated.

In Holland we have someone called “The Sint” who looks an awful like Santa but totally isn’t. He arrives by boat from Spain with his “Piets”, the Sint version of elves but they are black (from the soot from the chimneys???) – Anyways, that’s not important.


The important thing is that the guy comes 3 weeks before his birthday and hangs out around the country, sending the kids into a frenzy. Imagine that Santa filled the stockings not once but 8 times. I mean, seriously. Jeez Louise (as a friend of mine once said). It’s huge, a mega country-wide production.  There is the Sint news channel at 17:40 every night on national tv. They come up with a different story each year that freaks the kids out that there will be no presents. This year the story is about his lost book (i think…) – so he doesn’t know who’s been good.  A lot of Santa stuff going on. But apparently the Sint was here first.

Anyways – the coming in on the boat is really great. The cities and villages go all out, there is energy in the air, the Piets give out small cookies and candies and often know the name of the kids (we live in a small village!).


There is dancing and singing, tension and excitement. I can almost get into it. THEN…

The kids put out there (stinky) shoes at night. They fill them with fresh apples (hence the reason I used the word stinky) and carrots, leave notes about what they want and sing songs (all day long).


They wake up very early to check if the Piets have left a little gift in their shoe. No = major crying. Yes = well that’s obvious.  There is a calendar available on-line of “when” they come. Very handy. 2x a week is more than enough. Then on December 5th, his birthday (i think), he leaves a big bag of gifts at the door. A big knock, the kids freak out, and there it is – the Bag. The bag is full of gifts for the kids. Some kids get 10 gifts each, some get “only” 3. We favor the 3…  The kids open the gifts like it’s Christmas, we eat some traditional sweet stuff and that’s a wrap. Well not quite. You see he also leaves the country, the next day.  We’ve managed to skip that event so far but I suspect it might be on the radar this year. There are also some other nice things that the big kids and adults do. They write poems for each other and make “surprises” but we haven’t gotten there yet so I can’t say much about it…

THEN we have Christmas. Man. I mean, I love Santa, so I need to do the Christmas thing but even I have to admit, it’s a little much. But Santa doesn’t exist here. He’s the Sint. So we’ve done the “well if you don’t believe then”… story and my kids believe in Santa and on the 24th of December we start all over again. Less fanfare, no tv news about him, it’s all me. And I love it! But, as i said, it’s a bit much.

So. To sum up. 4 kids x 8x shoes x 3-4 in the bag gifts + 4x socks and Santa. Pffff… Yes, I have an excel sheet. And also not to overlook, 2 birthdays in that same period.

So you think you have present problems??? Welcome to my life.


Blog &Daily Life

Living in a cloud – literally

November 21st, 2011 → 12:08 pm @

Did you ever dream of jumping into a cloud, sitting in a cloud, walking through a cloud? They look so soft and welcoming…

Let me tell you what it’s like.

I never consciously decided to live in a cloud – but I have been for the last 4 days. I mean living in Holland has it’s pro’s but the weather is not one of them.

For some reason a cloud has settled over the country. It’s so thick that you get wet having a walk and that you can’t see more than 50 meters ahead of you (in fact I read that an important soccer game was cancelled because they couldn’t see the ball…). Never mind about catching a glimpse of the sun…

And did you know – it’s cold in the cloud. My very good,super warm enough for Canadian winters, winter coat just doesn’t cut it. Add a hat and mittens and I’m still cold. It’s called dampness – and I tell you – it doesn’t get much better than it does here.  It has no respect for coats, layers, more layers, more coats. It just plows right through until it hits your bones. So I spend my days attached to a hot water bottle. I have a sheepskin seat cover for my bike that keeps my bum warm, a hat that covers my ears, the thickest mittens and the tightest coat (so that it can’t seep inside). If I bike fast enough, I can generate enough counter heat production to keep the dampness at bay (temporarily).

And the Dutch. They don’t even feel it.  They always say – aren’t you the Canadian with the -25 degree weather? How can this be cold…

I’ll take dry cold and dry heat over this any day.

Blog &Daily Life

Tip #7 Why on earth is my baby crying???

November 20th, 2011 → 12:10 pm @

Boy did I ask myself this question many times, especially when my son Adam was born. He cried every night around 11pm for about an hour. No idea. My husband would take over and walk around with him, I couldn’t handle it – wanted to cry myself as I was unable to make him stop.

There are so many reasons why babies cry. It’s the only way they can communicate when they are born.


Now my kids communicate like this…

Here is what I wrote in my book about it…

A question you will ask yourself more than once in the next years.  Babies cry when they are hungry,  need a diaper change, are tired, are too hot or too cold etc. It’s the only way they know how to tell you that something needs to happen.  There are other reasons for babies to cry of course including various forms of discomfort such as cramping, colic or being sick.  If your baby has cramps she will usually stretch out or close her fists. As time passes you will learn to hear the difference in types of cries. Most important is to stay calm. Your baby can feel your stress…

Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Tip #6 What kind of routine should we create for our baby?

November 17th, 2011 → 12:11 pm @

When my first child was born, I had no idea that we needed a routine. My only focus was feeding him, feeding him and feeding him. He ate all the time and of course, always wanted to be held, which meant that I literally didn’t even have time to make myself a sandwich.  I’ve learned a thing or two since then…

Here’s the answer that is written in my book:

Routine and rest are very important things to give your newborn. Routine doesn’t mean that at a particular time of day something has to happen, more that you keep a rhythm in your patterns. For example: Baby wakes up, change diaper, drinks, is awake, tummy time, sleeps.  Repeat.


In Holland we get what is called “kramzorg” which translates to “someone that comes to your house to take care of you and your baby for the first 7 days after birth”. They help with breastfeeding, take temperatures, teach you the basics, tidy up and make you a sandwich. They come for about 4 hours a day.  I think this was put into place because many Dutch women give birth at home, so they never enter a hospital and often don’t have any contact with an actual doctor – it all goes through the midwives unless there are complications or indications that things might not go well.  I think it also has to do with keeping new moms out of the doctors office as they are being taught by someone less expensive. I’m sure there is a financial reason why they come to your house for 7 days – there usually is in NL.

Still, regardless of the reasons, with the right person (we had 2 wrongs and 2 rights), it can be really helpful.  I’m the oldest of 6 and brought some of that experience with me when I had my first born so didn’t need help with some of the basics (like dressing, diapers, bathing).


When I had my 4th child (above), with 2 others at home and 1 who just started school, my “kraamzorg” stepped up and did things that weren’t “required” such as sorting closets, helping with the other kids so I could get some sleep, cleaning, pick ups etc. I loved her.  It was the first time that I accepted that I needed to recover with bed rest and sleep.

But this whole post is about Routine. It’s the most important thing I learned. Keep a flow, keep it restful, let your baby know what to expect…

And don’t worry if you’re out and can’t keep the Routine. It’s about most of the time.

Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Tip #5 Did you think your newborn was the most beautiful in the world?

November 14th, 2011 → 12:15 pm @

“My newborn doesn’t look like I expected”, a friend of mine said to right after the birth of her son. I decided to add this to my Questions in my newborn book because not every newborn looks like the baby on the pampers package when they are born…

Here’s what I wrote about that:

Your newborn’s head may be a bit pointed from coming through the birthing canal, his arms and legs may be a bit crooked having grown in a very tight spot for so many months and some babies are born with a layer of fat like white coating called vernix caseosa which protects their skin from the amniotic fluid. You’ll also notice that your baby’s head is much bigger proportionately than the rest of his body.  The coating gets washed off, the head will return to being round in a couple of days, the legs and arms will straighten out over time and the head/body ratio will balance out as your baby grows.

Babies 0-6 months &Blog

Tip #4 I have a baby – now what???

November 10th, 2011 → 12:16 pm @

This question was asked to me by my sister who was expecting. Actually, she asked me “What do I do with my baby in the first couple of weeks?” – And it’s a good question. I mean, what do you do with your newborn? All of a sudden you are a mom, just like that. Here’s your baby – figure it out…

For some, it’s a natural flow. For others, a step by step guide could be useful (though we all know there is no step to step guide for kids).


This is the answer I wrote in my book Babies 0-6 months. It’s the first question of the book and links to a number of other Q&A’s that are related – so what you are about to read is only part of the story…


During the first weeks, your baby will be adapting to her new environment and will be sleeping most of the day and night. If she’s not sleeping she’ll be drinking and if she’s not drinking or sleeping then she’ll be looking around, usually quietly before falling asleep again. You’ll be changing her diaper regularly, bathing her and putting her clothes on (which can be time consuming while you get used to her little parts). You will also need a lot of rest -  so take advantage of her sleeping time to sleep yourself. Your baby will slowly have more “awake” time and will start to engage with you and be more interested in looking around and exploring with her eyes.


Of course this answer is for an average baby. It doesn’t mention that some babies cry a lot, have heavy cramping etc.  I’ll be posting more about that in the next tips…

Babies 0-6 months &Blog

Tip #3 What is Tummy Time and why is it necessary?

November 7th, 2011 → 12:19 pm @

I hated tummy time. Well actually, my babies didn’t seem to like tummy time. I tried everything to make it entertaining: got down on my tummy myself, put the super BabyEinstein baby mozart video on, made noise – you name it – well almost…

Often they cried while on their tummy in the first month but then the got the hang of it, got stronger and spent more time on their tummies…

Here’s the answer from my book:

Since babies sleep on their backs (which can lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)) and spend more time in their car seats, buggies etc. on their backs (than before), tummy time is very important from day 1.  During the day, while you are in the room, place your baby on her stomach (in a crib, or on a soft blanket somewhere safe) and let her spend time on her tummy.  This helps your baby’s neck muscles develop as she tries to turn or lift her head up. It can be difficult and uncomfortable in the beginning for your baby to do but you can encourage this by lying in front of her and showing her toys or making a noise to get her to turn her head.  Start with 3-5 minutes, 2-3 times a day and build up from there. A good time to do this is after she’s had a nap or after changing a diaper but not on a full stomach. This is also the foundation for many developmental milestones such as sitting up, crawling, walking.

Babies 0-6 months &Blog


November 3rd, 2011 → 12:22 pm @

Some time ago, I decided that I would do the laundry every 10 days (or 7 if really necessary). I didn’t feel like washing and folding every day – the idea doesn’t make me feel good.   I once mentioned to a friend in an email that I did the laundry once a week and she thought that I meant that I literally did one load once a week and couldn’t figure out how that was possible with 4 kids. I explained that I did laundry all day one day a week… Then she said, I thought that you fit a lot of clothes into your machine like you do with content in your book :-) – I thought – what a great thing to say about my book…

So how does one only wash every 10 days…

- Have enough underpants and socks for everyone.

- Spend the whole day doing loads of laundry but really it just means that every 2-3 hours (washers and dryers are not very fast here in NL) that I load and re-load.

- Don’t bother with separating colors and whites. We have no whites and I wash everything cold.

- I pick a day that I’m likely to be around every 2-3 hours – though sometimes that’s decided by the spilling out of clothes from the laundry hampers… hmmm maybe I should get more hampers…

- The dry clothes get tossed onto the couch.

- Once the kids are in bed, the clothes await folding.

- I put on a pre-recorded favorite tv show, pour myself a glass of wine, and fold. Sometimes I call my mom while I fold.

The only thing I’m not so good at, is putting the folded clothes back into the closets… This can take up to 3 days. As I write, there are a bunch of folded clothes calling out to me but I’m ignoring them. I will however try and put them away tonight while the kids are getting ready for bed!

And this is what happens when you do laundry every 10 days and your dryer breaks down… 

And the socks… Let’s talk about that another time… (and before you say anything.. this picture was taken some time ago… I now have same colored socks for everyone!)

Blog &Daily Life