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

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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Alicante: At the beach with baby

Our weekend escape to Alicante marked Tala’s first swim in a real ocean. Marlon and I truly love the beach, so this is one pleasure we were thrilled to introduce to our baby girl. At four months, babies don’t need much for a day at the beach—just a swim nappy, swimsuit (lots of moms swear by SPF suits, but all I had was an ordinary one), sun protection (SPF 50 and a hat), a towel, and a shaded place to rest. So it was really easy.

At first, Tala was wary and had her mehhh face on, probably because we were cautious and tentative going into the water.

Tala and Daddy swim
We waded out until the water was chest-deep. Waves pick up speed closer to shore, so further out there’s less of the rocking and splashing that could upset a baby. We made sure to watch her closely for signs of distress, and when she started going a little blank we knew it was time to cuddle her all the way back to shore. Still, no tears, so yay.

Alicante beach with baby

The next time we went back in, Marlon and I decided to act super perky and excited going into the water. Our strategy worked! She definitely took to the water much better, and we were rewarded for our efforts with adorable baby laughs.

Happy baby in the ocean

In the beginning, Marlon and I really missed being able to swim and cool off in the ocean together, since one of us always had to stay and watch Tala. But when the three of us headed into the water together, things just clicked. Being with Tala in the ocean was one of those perfect moments when life exactly matches the picture you’ve always had in your head. And, baby or no baby, you know that doesn’t happen often.

Baby feet in the sand

Back on land, we burrito-wrapped Tala in her fluffy white towel (which she loves) and dressed her in her little Vespa-printed jumpsuit. We stood her up and let her dig her little toes into the sand, and watched as she charmed a herd of bikini-wearing, leathery-skinned Spanish grandmothers into ecstatic bursts of “Que bonita! Que guapa!

Tala and Mommy in Alicante

Then we just spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, napping and letting her people-watch from the safety of Mommy and Daddy’s embrace.

All together, not bad for a first dip in the ocean! I would love to bring her to the beach again. But closer to home, and the frigid North Sea? Hmmm, let me think about that.

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Alicante: Playa Postiguet

“Didn’t you know you’re not allowed to act spontaneously anymore?”

This is an actual, um, thing we were told when Marlon and I let it drop that we had booked, on impulse, a flight to Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Apparently, new parents of nearly four-month-old babies don’t just book flights three days before departure and run away to the beach for the weekend. It’s simply not done.

Well, we did it. It was the cheapest flight we could get to somewhere with a beach, hot weather, real sunshine (not the wishy-washy, nambly-pambly thing that passes for sun here in Holland) and great food. It was just for three nights (“seems like a lot of trouble with the baby for just three days,” Marlon was told at the office). But it was fantastic!

I’ve been spoiled by the horrific building codes of the Philippines, where accommodations are built right on the beach—you can practically tumble out of your door half-asleep in the morning and land on the sand. So we chose our hotel, the Hospes Amerigo, because of its proximity to Alicante’s biggest sandy beach, Playa Postiguet.

Alicante Playa Postiguet

Every morning for three days, we joined the exodus of beachlovers down the tiled promenade of Explanada de Espana, toward the beach. I loved (and envied) the casual ease of it, locals walking around town with folding beach chairs tucked nonchalantly under their arms like purses.

Alicante heading to the beach

Arriving early is key to getting a good spot. Since this is Spain, early is relative: at 9 or 10am, there’s nobody at the beach but pensionados and families with little kids, and most of the beach chairs are still empty.

Alicante Playa Postiguet beach umbrellas

Where is everyone else? All the singles and young people are still asleep after crawling home at 6am. Like I said, this is Spain.

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Four months!

Tala is four months old today, and it’s been a big month.

Tala 4 Months

She outgrew her bassinet, so after returning from Berlin we had to assemble the next stage of the Stokke Sleepi crib. Since there isn’t any space in our bedroom for the crib, we had to move her into the nursery.

Confession: every time we discussed moving her out of our bedroom, I cried. I don’t know why! Tears would just well up and I couldn’t stop them. “She’ll just be in the next room,” Marlon said, trying to reassure me. “I know, but… but…” I blubbered irrationally. It was the kind of moment that makes you wonder “What has happened to me? Why am I like this?” Oh yeah, I became a mother.

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