It’s not that we can’t get out of the house when it’s cold and rainy. We have all the equipment now: stroller, stroller covers, umbrellas, boots, gloves, scarves, mittens, etc. etc. But sometimes, you just do not feel like pushing a double stroller in the icy, cold rain. You just. Don’t. On the flip side, we are much more zealous than a year ago. Which is progress I am proud of – and I’m pretty sure my kids and dogs have appreciated the efforts as well.
V and I have learned to create Rainy Day Plans and Decent Weather Plans. Decent Weather is defined as: Any weekend where you wake up and it’s above 40 degrees F (3 degrees C) and NOT raining/snowing. The weather is so variable here, it almost makes it fun! Think about if it dropped to 80 degrees F in the middle of July in
Texas. People would go crazy-happy and head to The
Ballpark in Arlington just to
tailgate or actually enjoy a cocktail
sweat-free on the patios of Uptown.
So. This is the perspective we’ve
taken. Last weekend was a crap weekend
and thus resulted in uber-exciting/stressful journeys to the two super-stores
in The Netherlands: Ikea and Albert Heijn XL (basically. . . a grocery store
the size of a typical one in America WITH a parking garage - WHOA). Both visits resulted in productive shopping
experiences, Walmart-on-Christmas-Eve-type-crowds, and an almost comical
rearrangement of goods in our tiny European car. . . “If we squeeze the rug
into the space between the car seats.
But there have been a few Decent Weather weekends as well during the past few months. So we’ve been offsetting the potty-training, teething, cleaning house top-to-bottom, cleaning-out-the-fridge, organizing-the-children’s-books, painting-that-piece-of-furniture-I’ve-always-wanted-to, replacing-every-lightbulb-in-the-house-because-it’s-so-dark-all-the-time, with exploring The Netherlands and Belgium with a few day trips. It’s fun. Even if the clouds loom menacingly above us.
1. Den Haag (
V and I had visited years ago and I had loved the city. It’s only a 20-minute train ride from Leiden
and was comfortingly easy to get around with a double stroller. We found a fabulous bookstore (American Book
Center) which was like walking into a Barnes and Nobel (okay – so not really like a B&N, but after months
of searching fruitlessly in the Engels sections of even the largest bookstores
in Leiden for the next book club requirements, it was nice to find the next months’
selections. Yes, I know you can just
order them on-line an/or download them on an Ipad. I like browsing, okay? I’m a sucker to marketing like that.) We perused the shopping areas and purchased
some nice linens (which questionably fit our American sized mattress – uh,
what’s a Queen in Centimeters?) at Zara Home.
We picked up the pace to pass Iranian protesters we did not understand,
marveled at the Binnenhof, and thus satisfied with our productive and happy
day, headed back home.
Utrecht: V had read on-line “Het Spoorwegmuseum” was a
train museum in Utrecht which had
been decorated for Christmas. We headed
out to Utrecht and found a shopping
mall (OMG – an indoor shopping mall!!!! – I almost cried, because it was there.
. . because all the shops were closed. . . and because, well – ‘home’ tugs on
you in funny ways when overseas) Our dramatics shifted from excitement to
confusion after searching for an escape route from the shopping mall which
would accommodate the double stroller, but that’s just a sub-note. We explored and snapped photos at the
Domkerk (Cathedral) on the way to the train museum. We marveled at the subterranean homes and
restaurants along the Oudegracht and canal below. We were confused. . . and spent our time
hypothesizing about the purpose of the cells below – “they housed prisoners or
the poor during medieval times?” our imaginations stretched to fill in the
blanks. . . but after searching the internet –
I discovered that the very rare wharf system had been implemented in the
early 1100s in which the warehouses and cellars were built at water level, with
stairs and ladders extending up to street level. So yeah – no prisoners were stored in the
jail-like cells, just stuff; so much for our fairytale drama. . .
|Oude Gracht in Utrecht|
We toured the train museum and after perusing the antique train graveyard, snapping photos of Baby Girl riding the kiddie train all by herself, our family two-stepped to questionably authentic Dutch Country Music singers (the rotation included a shout-out to Texans – they clearly did not realize there were ACTUAL Texans in the audience – and the lyrics included something along the lines of smoking pot in the country. That’s some good ol’ fashioned family fun, for ya. . . ) All in all, it was a fantastic and fun day trip from
Antwerp: I love the fact that Belgium
is so close to us. Beer, chocolate,
waffles, and fries are all things that Belgium
is known for (I know – I told this story to my British hairdresser and he
turned his nose up at the reference to Belgian beer. . . I don’t know what the
dynamic is between the English and the Belgians, but I’m afraid Duvel has the
upper hand on Bud Light.) We decided to
drive. (I feel like Aunt Bethany from
Christmas Vacation every time we agree to drive: “I just LOVE riding in
cars!”) The kids were comfortable and
took turns sleeping in their ridiculous lazy-boy imported car seats while I
snuggled in my heated chair and flipped between radio, CD, and V’s playlists on
his phone. Riding in cars IS fun if you
don’t do it very often. We easily parked
in a garage near the Grote Markt and headed out to explore the town.
|Antwerp Grote Markt|
We passed through the Grote Markt admiring the ancient architecture. After wandering through cobblestoned lanes and storefronts, we found a bric-a-brac market and purchased 6 questionably antique wine glasses for 15 Euros. V instantly broke one while trying to stuff the bag into the double stroller basket, but I (eventually) forgave him. I don’t really need six matching wine glasses since there are only two of us, and I must admit that I have felt like Audrey Hepburn sipping from my wide-brimmed, short bowled wine glass for the past few weeks.
One of the things I was most excited about when becoming a parent was to view the world through my children’s eyes. Baby Girl does not disappoint. We walked into the train station in
Antwerp (#1 on Trip
Advisor’s list) and she was just as impressed as I was. “Oh!
Wow! Look, Mama!” she exclaimed. (Baby Girl, by the way, can identify the and country music – this makes me one proud Mama.) Together, we marveled at the beauty and
vastness of the station. “This is like
Grand Central Station,” V said outloud. I
continued to stare with awe, craning my neck to look at the architecture above
- “I’m sorry, V. But no, it’s not. . .
this is better than Grand Central,”
I had to admit. Eiffel
|Cogels-Osylei Avenue in Antwerp|
We feasted on fresh waffles with obscene amounts of chocolate and cream while the kids (conservatively?) ate their waffles soaked with raisins, apples and syrup. We read on Trip Advisor about the Cogels-
avenue outside of town and stopped by for a few
photo ops before heading back to The Netherlands.
|Little Man and Baby Girl Chasing Bunnies|
Our family has enjoyed a few great months. Winter, the time for self-reflection and internal pursuits, has delivered. Last Tuesday the thermometer rose to nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 15 C) and the kids and I celebrated by cycling up to the Merenwijk Kinderboerderij (Children’s Farm) and gleefully welcomed the arrival of cuddly baby sheep and I laughed as they chased large rabbits around an enclosure. We picnicked and smiled at the other parents, grandparents, and children dancing in the warm sunlight, but I knew the festival was temporary. Like an insincere, apologetic boyfriend who rocks up on your porch step taunting gifts of purple crocuses and proclaiming promises of change, I accept the gifts with appreciation, but apprehension. The winter and cold is far from gone. He will, without doubt, stray again and break my spirit if I do not hold it close to me. But in the meantime, I’ll accept kisses of apology and promises of better days ahead and know that it is up to me to make the most of the time I have, in this sometimes challenging, but beautiful relationship.
|Promises of Spring at Merenwijk|