Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lazy Sunday

Just another hang-around-in-your-pajamas-kind-of-Sunday.

We finished initial construction on the doll house...
(Bob Vila, eat your heart out.)

Skyped/iChatted with a few folks...
(you'll notice I am in the lower right corner)

but basically just hung around and did a lot of nothing.

We have polished off the first of three jars of peanut butter- I may have to start rationing it so that we can make it until we have visitors from the States in November.
One Down, Two To Go

Mostly we just lazed around, enjoying this warm, sunny day.

Oh, and we had a hartstikke lekker dinner: (that basically means super-awesomely good)
Coca-Cola, American Style


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ahhh, The Weekend.

Friday went pretty smoothly- Meg only had a half day of school (for real, not due to my inability to read the information packet) and after we had lunch we ran a few errands in town. Thanks to coffee, my mid-day slump is growing easier, but poor Megan is still suffering with it- I try to keep her moving so she doesn't fall asleep in the afternoons.
After a run to the Hema, the grocery and a strange almost-Walgreens kind of store, we stopped to feed the ducks that live near the shopping area, then came home to cook dinner. We ate pretty well- I made rough hamburgers with the ground beef I got a few days back, and made a little salad and some carrots to go with them. Megan ate her entire burger (no bun) and ate about 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts, too! I'm happy to see her eating anything, of course.

Kip came home about the time Meg finished her movie, so he got to tuck her in- with the hedge roll at the end of the month, he expected to be in the office until midnight, so we were happily surprised to have him home at bedtime. Progress on Meg's doll house is slow, but since I'm no professional, I'm not too concerned about it. She, however, is confused as to why it isn't complete, along with central air and heat, and a pool in the back yard to boot. I told her she could build the next doll house.
Doll House - Under Construction

Chicks and Ducks and Goats
Saturday we headed out to a sweet little farm on the outskirts of Leiden with our friends Elaine, Craig and Daniel (he's the little cutie who's first birthday we attended on our homefinding trip).
The farm was a great success- Megan got to feed baby goats with a bottle, and big goats with a paper cup.
There were little pigs, loads of ducks, and a few other misc. animals (horse, storks, etc) but the goats were the most accessible. We had goat's milk ice cream
(oh, so good) and bought some cheese and honey while we were there. And chocolate covered pindas. (You know, peanuts. Your Dutch word of the day.)
No, I couldn't talk Megan into a pair of klompen. I think the world would have tilted due to the gravity of her cuteness had I managed.

After our fill of farm smells, we walked a short way to the town of Aa. Said "Aaah." Like they were awe-filled when they named it. Or lacking in inspiration. Or possibly trying to be the first town listed on any map of the Netherlands. Maybe it used to be down a tall hill. Or there were lots of Ear/Nose/Throat doctors living there. Or visiting there explained everything you wondered about. I could go on like this for hours, but I'm afraid it would be no more hilarious than it has been, which is not very.

We had a nice lunch in Aa, in a cafe near the lake. Megan and Daniel took several trips down to the shore to play in the water- it was downright HOT today! Not a cloud in the sky, it got up towards 90 degrees F! There were tons of natives swimming (the water was a bit too icy for us) and gobs of sun-worshipers out on the sandy shore of the lake. I'm sure the beaches are jam-packed today!

After lunch we headed back to Elaine and Craig's place for coffee and a visit, then had to literally drag Megan (who's favorite thing to say to Elaine all day was "I'm hungry. Do you have anything to snack on?") kicking and screaming out of the house- her witching hour is later and later as the week progresses, so 5pm was about right for a bad jetlag meltdown. She snoozed a little on the drive home, and is upstairs now with Kip playing an exciting game of Moose in the House.
Moose In The House

The First Week Wrapping Up
With the first full week over, I am feeling exhausted, but not that gross stressed-out exhausted from the move, more like a getting adapted to our new surroundings, true mental exhaustion type of thing. Folks here speak enough English for me to get by, I think, and the more time we're here the more I'll pick up, I believe. Will this place ever feel like home? Time will tell on that, I suppose.

Typing that sentence did cause me to take a long pause to think- I don't know if living someplace where your language is not the primary means of communication could ever feel totally like home. It does make me stop and think about the scores of international residents in Houston, and I now feel an appreciation for the way they must navigate life in an English-speaking city. I'm not sure if I've mentioned here the reality check I had in the grocery store back home, watching a Spanish-speaker and her bilingual child, realizing that could be Megan and me in the near future... Honestly though, life here so far is comfortable. With a roof over our heads, great food everywhere, friendly neighbors, an outlet to contact friends and family, there is hardly anything to truly complain about.

20 Questions
Top Questions Asked By Friends and Family This Week:

1) Is it really cold there?
- Nah, not that cold. I think my first reaction to the weather is not too unlike the reaction you have when you step out of the hot shower and into the rest of your house- it feels far colder because you were so warm and toasty to begin with. Coming from highs in the 90s to 100 in Houston with 3000% humidity, 65 degrees with low humidity feels downright frigid.

2) What is the food like?
- So far it has been one of two things- surprisingly good for it's either a) looks/smell/description, or b) possibly based on a drunken dare by a fellow Dutchman and we are frightened to try it. Example of a: cheese. Example of b: pickled herring.

3) How are you getting around?
- Walking. Megan's school is just a 4-5 minute walk away, the shopping street is about 15 minutes, and I haven't had occasion to walk anyplace else yet. Driving isn't too scary, but I've only done that one day- parking is the true nightmare.

4) Are there a lot of bicycles?
- Approximately 2 per person. I believe they multiply when parked in dark places. And there are scores of brand new ones in shops in every town. Or, to put it in an American comparison, there are about as many bikes as there are cars per person in the US.

5) Do Europeans really smell bad?
- Not that I have experienced. Unless they work in a cheese shop, I suppose.

6) I've heard Dutch is really similar to English. It shouldn't be a big deal to learn it, right?
- Sure. There are similarities, but Kip and I have found that assuming it is so similar only leads to confusion. Fortunately, there are a few common roots shared with French, so all those years of Francais I took are paying off a little here and there. Reading it is a little easier than hearing it spoken, but when you read something you have to give it an "auditory squint" to figure out what on earth it could translate to mean (thank you Jesse for that excellent imagery). Good Example: Dat is goed nieuws! Bad Example: (sticker on food) REKLAME (means "as advertized")

7) Europe is RIGHT THERE! Are you going to go visit wonderful places?
- Yes. Last Sunday when we were trying to decide what to do, Megan said, "I have a GREAT idea! Let's go to Paris!" Even she is clued in to what a great opportunity we have here to see the world. Unfortunately, until we get the whole SoFi number thing straightened out and can get a paycheck from BMC, funds are very tight.

Thank You. Yes, You!
Thank you to everyone reading for your comments, emails, video chats, etc- the more we hear from y'all, the closer we feel to home. As more folks get set-up for Skype and other video messengers I'll start keeping a schedule so we won't forget and go to, say, Paris on the Saturday afternoon we're supposed to be visiting with you.

For those of you reading but not commenting, emailing or anything, just click on the thing below that most likely says "0 Comments" and let us know you're here.
(PS- this goat kinda freaks me out.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

You Know, One Day I May Just Figure This Out. Not Today, Though.

I think it's part of normal human psychology to think, "Hey! I think I'm getting the hang of this!" just to keep you from spiraling into a pit of despair, even though you really have no clue as to what you are doing. Not that a little positive thinking doesn't hurt, but it can sometimes cause to feel a bigger disappointment at your shortfalls, if and when they rear their faces. Thursday wasn't a total disappointment of a day, but I did make an unintelligent assumption about Meg's school and got a little bitter taste of how lost I really am because of the language barrier.

The paperwork that was given to us when we enrolled Megan at school was all in Dutch- no surprise there, it's a Dutch public school. They had given us a few basic pieces of information (school starts at 8:30, lunch is at 12 noon, Wednesday school is out at 12:15, Friday at 12 noon, etc) and we told them that if we had other questions along the way that we would ask. Tuesday I picked Megan up at noon, as she had no lunch packed, Wednesday at 12:15 and yesterday I showed up at 1:15- the only other time printed in the school documentation about school times.

Megan's teacher and class looked totally surprised to see me, and Megan ran to me and said, "Mama! You're late." I told her I was right on time, as I had waited around outside for her for about 5 minutes and finally went into the school building to get her at 1:15 right on the dot. I told her to go shake her teacher's hand, and then we would leave. Megan lept at Luz and hugged her (which I thought was so dear, and so did Luz it appears) and Luz said, "Going already?" I must have looked totally lost, and she continued, "Lunch was at 12 o'clock. Are you running late?" I replied that I was picking her up at 1:15 like the paperwork told me to, and then looked at all the other children - they were sitting in their circle, it looked like they were getting ready to do some more learning. Luz gently informed me that school is not out until 3:15 normally, but since Megan saw me already that she could go. Ugh, I felt like a total buffoon- I assumed that school was part-time for some reason. I had even spent part of the morning online, translating the text from some of the paperwork they gave us to better understand it. I know it's only been a week, but I wish speaking Dutch was as communicable as the common cold.

Not All Bad, Though...
Meg and I returned home, and while we were fixing a snack (she loves the young Edam cheese I got at the market! yahoo!) we got a video call from our friend Jesse- it was 2pm our time, which was 7am Houston; watching him yawn and wake up was more evidence why the 1-3pm time frame is so difficult for Megan and I, we're not morning people. After a good 10-15 minute talk with Jess, Megan and I had a snack, tinkered around on the computer, then went outside to practice riding the bicycle the neighbor loaned to us. No training wheels. She'll get it, I think, but training wheels will help- one more thing to look for at next Wednesday's market.

We spent a good portion of the afternoon working around the house, cleaning (she calls this "playing orphan" thanks to the movie Annie, and twice I had to stop her from wringing out a soaking wet rag on the wood floor), and then inspiration struck me on a project we could work on together that would help her bide the time until all her toys arrived in October. We are taking the giant box (200cm X 80cm) that's in the extra room and turning it into a doll house. I got a few rough plans drawn, with some input on what sorts of rooms and things she would want, and have an exoskeleton sitting upright now, waiting for tape or glue or something to hold it together so I can continue construction. With the camera being powerless, it was nice to have an outlet for some creativity!

Almost Like Home
We had hot dogs (well, the closest I could find to hot dogs) for dinner last night, and Meg did pretty well. They were butcher-produced, not machine produced, so the casing was a little thicker than she's used to (it crunched a little when bitten) but she ate the entire thing and reaped her reward- a big glass of Chocomel. I had one, too, along with a few mini-stropwaffel. Let me describe Chocomel: take a pint of Dutch Chocolate ice cream and let it melt. Yep, that about does it. It will be going in my coffee most mornings from now on.

Kip worked late last night, we're coming up on the end of the month hedge roll which is his busiest time (he expects to be at work until midnight or later on Friday). We had to busy our evening without him, which is not totally unfamiliar, what with being without him all of last week in the US. Meg took a hot bath and when she was putting on her pajamas, the computer rang again- this time it was Aunt Kristi and Jack! We had a few technical difficulties, but we got to see them and they could see and hear us- it was great to do a little catch up and have the kids shout greetings to one another.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day, I made sure to double-check, and Fridays are 12 noon school endings- I think Meg and I will run into town to get some supplies for doll-house construction and maybe cook some burgers for dinner. Cooking makes such a difference- food has less of a foreign feel when you make it yourself, even if the ingredients are not what you're used to.

PS- Kip got an electrical converter at the airport tonight, now I can charge my camera battery and upload! This blog will start to take on some character soon!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

To Market, To Market and Start of Civilization

Wednesday is market day here in Heemstede- actually, in most towns Wednesday is market day, come to think of it. Now, my preconcieved idea about market day was 100% based on my experiences with "Farmer's Markets" in the US- great produce, random home-made junk, tree-hugging organic everything, and WAY SUPER HIGH PRICES. Oh, how totally wrong I was, and how very delighted and surprised I became as we walked around the market yesterday morning!

Let me set the scene: imagine one block of a main street closed to traffic all day. It is about the width of an American residential street, maybe a little more narrow, lined entirely with vendor booths. Now, "booth" is super vague- the vendors have spaces as simple as fold-out tables with pop-up tent-like covers over them, a few bars to hang consumer goods from, and a mid-sized vehicle parked behind so they can get out of the weather if it gets uncomfortable. The most extravagant vendor set-ups were similar to what you would see at an American Fair serving food, up off the ground with full electrical power for lights, ovens and refrigeration compartments. There was a huge fish vendor set-up, and it looked as if they had moved a huge fish store, complete with iced-down refrigeration cases with glass window fronts, right there to the street. There was a nut vendor with giant bins of fresh roasted cashews, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts... it smelled like HEAVEN, and they had 3 ovens in the back making fresh batches to sell! There was a chicken vendor, two chese vendors, two produce stands, pet supplies, several clothes vendors (one vendor who's specialty was underwear- that was interesting to see out on the street!), and 3-4 flower and botanical vendors. Candy, bicycle supplies, fabric, beads, sewing supplies, books, hats and scarves, stockings and hosiery, shoes, hand bags, the list goes on. I was floored at the variety, and how very permanent these one-day vendor slots looked. I can't believe that much effort is put in for the market- it seemed inefficient, but knowing the Dutch, the cost-effectiveness is there, I just haven't figured it out yet.

I made three trips to the market yesterday- mostly due to disorganization, but also it helped to go home and put things in the house, I have no bike or wheeled cart, so things became heavy after awhile. I bought a good amount of produce, a roasted chicken, some flowers (less than 10 Euros for 20 Gerber Daisies and 5 Sunflowers), a nice wedge of young cheese, and Megan picked out peanuts- in and out of the shell. I ate a "Kabab" which seemed very close to a gyro- deliciously seasoned lamb sliced paper thin, fragrant onions, bright red tomato- it was HEAVEN. I even found an ivory pair of leggings for Meg for 4 Euro, better quality than what I had paid just about the same for the day prior at Hema.

Jet Lagging Behind, Still
When Megan and I made it back from the Market for lunch, she scarfed down her PB and J and I fell asleep sitting up at the table. I still haven't managed to get my clock turned around- 1-2pm is the hardest time of the day for me! Megan seems to be really spacey and a bit ratty during that time of day, as well- it's like her ears turn all the way off, and sometimes like the word "NO" or "DO NOT" mean the exact opposite. I keep having to remind myself that she doesn't experience jetlag, stress, or anything else the same way Kip and I do. I have made many mental notes (hopefully they will begin to stick) that when she's acting "ratty" I should not gripe at her for it, but try and figure out if it's hunger, jet lag or stress at the root of things. Poor kid. I'm trying.

So, once I finally collected myself from the weirdo little table nap I took (Megan shook me awake saying "MOMMA! WAKE UP! LET'S GET CRACKIN'!"), Meg and I headed back into town for a much-needed supply- a coffee press. We nabbed a few more staples from the grocery store, and saline for Kip at the I-don't-know-what-to-call-it-but-it's-like-Walgreens-but-minus-the-pharmacy store, and headed home. I made a pot of coffee- words cannot describe how wonderful it was. The entire house filled with the aroma, and I was awake for the first time in days. We washed a carton of raspberries as a snack, and couldn't eat them fast enough- next week I'm buying at least 4 cartons instead of 2.

I <3 Our Neighbors
Let me take a minute to gush unabashedly about our neighbors. When I started reading about the Dutch, in preparation for our move, the books I read made it sound like we were going to be pretty much on our own here, with the Dutch being pretty reserved and kept-to-themselves. So far my experience is 100% the opposite- even strangers on the street give a friendly "Goededag" in passing on the street. Heck, I got help from a total stranger in the Hema on Tuesday- I flagged down a woman who had 2 daughters that looked to be around Megan's age, and she helped me figure out what size clothes to buy for Megan. Total stranger. Helped me like she worked there. I thanked her 47 times, too. But this isn't about strangers, it's about neighbors.

The house to our left (when facing the front of our house from the street) is a young family about our age with 2 boys, 6 and 3. The husband, Marcel, speaks excellent English, as does his wife, Suzanne. The boys aren't bilingual, and the youngest is very shy at first around Kip and me, but warms up after awhile. They have been such a gift- Suzanne loaned us the Littlest Pet Shop toys, which haven't had a day's rest since Megan borrowed them. She and Marcel loaned us their patio table, a tablecloth and chairs so we wouldn't have to sit on the floor to eat. Marcel not only helped Kip move our bed up the narrow and steep stairs to the second floor (1st floor in NL), but he loaned Kip his tools, offered us gardening equipment, and has been a resource for neighborhood information (like trash days, where to take recycling, etc.).

To the other side, we have an older couple, Hans and Marijka(?). I don't see them quite as often (I bump into Marcel everywhere- the market, school, the front yard), but they have been very kind. Marijka brought the blocks and puzzle over for Megan to borrow, and shared some insight about how the market works yesterday. They speak a good amount of English, and have offered to help us practice our Dutch in exchange for practice with their English. They are a sweet couple- Hans volunteers during the week to drive the elderly to medical appointments and to run errands- he has been retired for 6-7 years, he says it "keeps him young." I feel so fortunate to have such giving and kind people living around us!

I did run into Marcel everywhere yesterday- at the Market, where he told me the best vendors to visit, then at school when I was picking up Megan (he told me the short-cut to get to the school, which saves us 5 minutes!) and again later when Megan and I were coming back from our trip to the market. He let us borrow his older son's old bike, which is still a bit too big for their younger son- Megan and I plan on working on her bicycling skills after school on Thursday, she hasn't ridden a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels before, but I think she'll get it pretty quickly.

Could It Be? Normalcy?
We ate like kings last night for dinner- roast chicken, spinach salad (the spinach was so gentle in flavor!), fresh roasted peanuts, and chocolate-chip bread for dessert. We sat at the table as a family, with napkins and plates and everything- a nice taste of civilization to go with the great food. No meltdowns today- I think adding a touch of a normal routine with school, dinner together, and familiar foods helped a great deal. Megan did try to tell me that she wanted to take tomorrow off from school, but I told her that we didn't really have that option. She seemed to understand- I suspect it's just boundary checks for now.

Reach Out and Touch Us. Uh, You Know, Virtually.

Just a quick blurb about getting in touch with us- we have Skype and iChat here at the house, and would LOVE to hear from you! (Send me an email if you need our ID, of course.)

Here's a rough idea of our schedule right now, in case you are one of the folks that has already added us on iChat or Skype:

7:30-8am NL - Waking up, getting Megan ready for school, walking to school (12:30pm-1am US CST)
8:45am NL - Kari gets back home, except Wednesday which is market day (1:45am US CST)
12:00 noon NL - Megan gets out of school Fridays (5am US CST)
12:15 am NL - Megan gets out of school Wednesdays (5:15am US CST)
1:15pm NL - Megan gets out of school every other day (6:15am US CST)
2pm NL - Megan and Kari are home from walking back from school, GREAT time to call during the week(7am US CST)
6-7pm NL - Kip home from work most days, theoretically dinner time (11am-12am US CST)
8:30pm NL - Theoretically Megan's bedtime Sun - Thurs (1:30pm US CST)
11pm NL - Theoretically Kari's bedtime (4pm US CST)

The weekends are the best time to contact us for those who don't have the flexibility to call during the mid-day in the US. I will keep a calendar of video chat appointments so we don't forget and run to ee-KAY-uh when you're trying to get ahold of us- we can't wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Megan's First Day of Dutch School

Yep, that's right- DUTCH school. For those of you who read this but don't speak with us on a daily basis, we decided months ago to put Megan in Dutch public school instead of an American or International school. Mostly because it is butt-expensive ($15K-21K per year), but also because we were going to be here for a long enough time that we thought it wise for her to have friends in the neighborhood and pick up Dutch along the way.

On her first day, Meg and I walked the 3-4 minute walk to her new school and sat in the classroom together. (On her first day the director told me I could come and stay with her as long as she needed me.) Several other parents (most, actually) came in with their children, sat a minute and visited with their child or read a book with them, and then left instead of dropping them at the door. Meg's classmates range in age from 4-6, so there were a few hesitant students- I think the parents that stayed belonged to 4-5 year olds.

Class started at 8:30, and Megan's teacher, Luz, called roll while the students sat on benches in a circle centered around a small desk. When she said each student's name they had a chance to share a little something with the entire class, or could say they had nothing to say. There were a few kids that had new items (backpack, shoes, jackets) and when they shared this news with the class they went and retrieved the item (if it wasn't already there in the class) and marched around inside the circle of students while they all sang a song. Meg and I were totally clueless, of course- it's all in Dutch. EVERYTHING was in Dutch. I was totally overwhelmed, but Megan seemed just fine.

After roll call, Luz read a chapter from a book to the students and took pause every page or so to clue Megan in on what was happening in the story. Not an in-depth bit, just a "they are painting a picture" or "that's the teacher's name" kind of thing. Again, I was lost, but could pick out little words ("blau" blue, "rood" red, "meische" girl, "jouen" boy, etc.). Then after story time they separated into groups to do activities. Luz put Megan with a group who were coloring pictures, and told her a few color names and said to color whatever and however she wanted.

I have to take a second to try and describe Megan's teacher with any matter of justice. Luz is probably late 40's to 50's, and not typically Dutch in her appearance- she has brown eyes and hair, and is not super tall like a lot of the women here. She is by no means short, but she is about my height (5'7"-ish) and medium build. Her physical description by no means describes her character- she is delightfully warm, nurturing to the children in her class, and yet at the same time is no-nonsense about running her classroom. She is a Dutch version of your favorite grandmother, with a little less of the stuff that makes them spoil their grandkids. In short, Megan instantly was at ease with her, and the more I watched her interact with the class the more I admired her. She has the patience of a Saint with those kids- not that they were bad, mind you, just that they were kids 4-6 years old.

Oh, and the kids- they were so CALM and well behaved! I don't know what it is, but there was only one kid that seemed distracted while Luz was talking or reading, and even the boys were able to sit still during the circle time. When they split into groups, the boys played calmly and quietly- I don't understand it, but I will be paying more attention to the parenting here. (It could also be diet- there were no spaz-inducing American snacks at snack time, mostly breakfast bar type fruit and bread snacks, which are far less sweet than those from the US, and mild juices, and WATER, believe it or not!)

Megan managed to NOT talk to any of the students for the longest time- she shyly reached for colors and walked around the tables for things instead of interacting with the other kids. There is a boy who is bilingual (Dutch and English) who Luz paired up with Megan, and only then did she start to talk a little. After I noticed that she was trying to get me to do the talking for her did I think it was time for me to leave, so I did. She objected at first, but after a minute was ok with the idea when it was time to change activities. I ran into town for things like a hair dryer and coffee. VERY important.

When I came to pick her up at noon, Megan looked exhausted but happy- she really has missed being with other kids, and I guess I didn't realize how important that is to her. When I asked how the rest of her day was she said "Fine" and when prompted for details I got an "I don't remember" which is totally normal. I figured more of her day would come out in conversation the rest of the afternoon.

We ran back into the shopping district for lunch and to grab some clothing items for her- she managed to make it to the Netherlands with only 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of pants, 1 skirt and a pair of overalls. And I think the skirt is wayyy big on her. She has plenty of shirts and sweaters, mind you, just not many things to cover her lower extremeties- nobody's fault but mine, as I didn't pull out the dirty laundry from the hamper before the movers grabbed it and packed it. Aarrgh. If you can help it, NEVER MOVE LIKE I DID. (ie, poorly planned) Anyhow, we picked up several pairs of cotton leggings for Meg, which all the little girls here wear a LOT, and got lunch at a little cafe before we headed home.

When we got home, we did some laundry, I worked some on the computer while Megan played, and then when Kip got home everyone in the house had a total nuclear meltdown. It was UGLY. Don't get me wrong, it is 100% normal- our stress levels are high, what with not speaking the language, not having furniture or anything normal in the house, Megan not eating anything because of xenophobia regarding food, and Kip not getting paid and our expenses starting to stack up. We made it through, a little worse for wear, but we all still love each other, and we managed to get Megan to try some chicken lunchmeat at dinner time, which she ended up actually liking and wanting more of at bedtime, and we all went to bed at a relatively decent hour.

Stress. I think I have had a lifetime of it since May, most of it in the last 2 weeks. It is much harder to handle now that it's just the three of us- we are so used to having more outlets and more of a network to hold us up, and now that it's just us 3 holding each other up, I expect us to fall more often that we have in the past.

But good news- Kip got an email from the shippers Monday night, they have all our stuff packed in a 20-foot container, ready for departure! We should have our junk before the middle of October!!! Nothing like a little good news to brighten a mostly cloudy evening.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Busy Monday

Monday we went first thing with Letty (our relocation agent) to the Town Hall to register and get our Sofi registration numbers (basically like a SSN) so that we can do things like buy a car, open a bank account, GET PAID... you know, the little things. It went quickly, and we should have the paperwork back in about 2 weeks (and yes, I cringed when they said that- it's a reflex at this point).

The next stop was back near the house at Megan's prospective school- the oldest one in the Netherlands. We met with the director of the school and the organizer of what they call the "Special Needs" program (I heard them refer to it as "remedial" at one point and thought what an oddity it was to hear someone speaking of my bright and wonderful kiddo in the same breath as the word "remedial program"). They gave us a brief introduction to the school, the primary school program, and took us over to see the classes in action. To make it short and sweet, Dutch education is very similar to Montessori- the classes are mixed ages (4-6 years for Megan's class) and the big kids help the younger kids along. This seemed perfect for Megan- she would have kids who already knew they were expected to help their classmates, so she wouldn't seem like a burden or "special needs" student in the class. This set me at ease, and the look on Megan's face when she saw the other children and the classrooms had me almost as excited for her first day as she was.

After the tour, they led us back to the office to hand over paperwork and talk about Megan's first day. I left this decision to her, and when asked what day she wanted to start she said, "TOMORROW." I gave no further worry about how she was going to handle her new school.

After wrapping things up at the school, Letty drove us to register at a nice Doctor's office (like an HMO set-up, everything goes through your family physician), and then drove us around town to show us where the important things are located- hospital, police station, athletics center, shopping street, grocery stores... it was nice to see that our little village is well-appointed as well as charming.

Letty then brought us back to the house and helped us muck through a few forms, some paperwork from a few of the service providers (electricity, gas, water, etc.) and then called her daughter-in-law who lives right around the corner. She is in marketing of some kind, and Letty offered to introduce her to me so that I would have another neighborhood contact, which I greatly appreciated.

After Letty left, we all piled in our loaner car and drove out to the airport to pick up our rental. Until we get our Sofi numbers, we are stuck with a rental. Ugh. We grabbed a bite to eat while at the airport, then Kip took the loaner back to work and Megan and I were off on our first adventure in driving in Europe!

Let me say this- having lived and driven in Houston, Europe was no challenge. Sure, the signs are different, but I only was honked at once (for spacing out at a red light, thank you jetlag) and I didn't hit anything or anyone. Megan didn't even seem phased by it.

We drove into Haarlem to go to an Apple store in their big shopping district, and after struggling to find parking, we walked 6 blocks or so, got a power cable for the computer and headed back to the car. Had I done my homework I could have also gotten a charger for my camera- apparently one of the larger camera shops is near the Apple store, but the sales person at Apple said he didn't know of a camera shop when I asked at checkout. Another day- I can't bear dragging Megan around like I had to that day- poor kid looked like she had walked for days once we were finished with our errand.

After getting back to the car (it wasn't towed or booted! yahoo!) we came back to the house and I hopped on the computer while Meg played with the Littlest Pet Shop toys that one of the neighbors loaned us- it is the biggest success, she will play with them for hours at a time. The rest of the evening was just laundry, getting Meg clean and ready for school, oh- and a run to the fry shop for dinner! For having such an unhealthy array of foods available, the Dutch are very slender. I had a hamburger that was pretty good (granted, I'd been here for 4 days, and I do realize it was NO Beck's Prime) and a gob of fries with frite sauce, which I still continue to like a lot, no matter what you all may think of me.

Megan took a while to calm down and finally sleep, but I think first-day-jitters are more to blame for that than jet-lag this time.

PS- I swear photos are coming soon, I burned some battery power last night to upload a few, and am in the process of editing and uploading.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Nosers Have Landed

We are ALL here in the Netherlands now- it's finally, really happened! Megan and I are still reeling with jetlag, but the gang is back together, and Kip has never looked happier. I suppose a week all alone in a big empty house can do that to you.

The house is empty, though, even after the 7 suitcases of stuff Megan and I hauled on the plane with us ($600 expense report there) and a trip to Ikea to get something to sleep on that wasn't flat on the ground. The neighbors are very hospitable- one neighbor loaned us a patio table and chairs so we didn't have to sit on the floor to eat, and they and the neighbor on the other side of us loaned Megan a few toys to tide her over until our shipment arrives. This went over very well with Megan. She pondered later that evening, "I wonder who else is going to bring me some presents?" I sadly had to explain that those were loaner toys, not gifts.

(Shqeq is typing with me right now- thank goodqness for all of us she starts school tomorrow3, r44th ygvvyunynyjyjyfy or I think I might string her up by her thumbs.)

Oh, so many stories, and so many I just don't want to re-live. Moving day is something I may have to seek therapy to get over. I may only post references to that day here- it was excruciating. I have never had a panic attack in my life, and I think I had about 14 that single day. I told Kip late that afternoon that I had only cried 20 times since he left, and 18 had been that day. I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it- moving on!

Friday Megan and I only got about 2 hours of sleep on the plane- we were by the window, which meant we were down a seat, so getting comfortable was impossible. I was traveling with my 3 babies: Megan, my new killer camera, and my iMac. Talk about stress- I had to put on this jerk-face air at every checkpoint to get the computer (in it's product box, which was way above the size limit for cary-on baggage, they reminded me about 50 times) ON the plane. It rode in first class, thank goodness. Wish I could have made the same arrangement for Meg and myself. So, all of you family members that bet against the Mac making it on the plane, pay up. :)

Kip picked us up at the airport in Schipol and whisked us home (after we barely managed to get all 700 suitcases in the car) where we unpacked a few things, changed clothes, and took a stroll around our new town. He had made many walks around town in the week he was here alone, and showed us the essentials- bakery, fry shop, pizza place, etc. We grabbed a bite to eat at a cafe over in the shopping district, then headed home and struggled to stay awake past 7pm.

Saturday Megan and I woke up at 7am and struggled to be quiet while Kip caught up on sleep. We managed to find the bakery after we cleaned up, and then we all piled in the car around 10:30 and drove out to Ikea (pronounced ee-KAY-uh in these parts) in Haarlem. Now, I like Ikea, but this particular location radiated awesome at a level that made me dizzy. We're talking ACRES of Ikea. Uh, square kilometers of Ikea. We grabbed a few kitchen essentials and picked out a futon, then managed to squeeze it all into the loaner Audi from Kip's work and trucked it all home. We grabbed a bite to eat while we were there, too, and I don't know if you remember from earlier posts, but Dutch coffee just blows the doors off of American coffee. Even IKEA coffe is better than any Starbucks I've ever been to. It's insane. I downed 2 cups to take the edge off of my jetlag.

We sped home to get the car unloaded so that we could run up to the grocery store- most shops close at 5pm M-Sat, and are not open Sunday. We nabbed some things to tide us over until Monday or Tuesday and headed home to eat dinner and try to stay awake until bedtime. I think I washed dishes for an hour to stay awake. It really was a struggle that day.

Sunday was AWESOME. We slept in until 11am. Lordy did that feel good. We had cereal with some of the best milk I've ever tasted for breakfast. Then, we went to the beach. I am trying to conserve my camera battery, so I don't have any photos to put in these posts right now (no European charger with my camera) but let me assure you- we did NOT swim. It was beautiful and cold, the beach was clean and freckled with bi-valve seashells. We filled our pockets with little treasures, ate dinner at a little cafe on the beach, and then headed back home to unwind and get some rest- Monday was to be a busy day for us.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Kip is there- he's THERE there! He is living in our Netherland Noser Nest, and Megan and I are still here in Houston, packing, cleaning, freaking out and missing him like crazy. Here's what's been happening over the last 2 weeks and the state of things right now:

The Saturday after we landed, my most wonderful photographer partner in crime, Jayne, and I shot a wedding! It was great fun, very challenging, we learned a lot, and we can't wait for me to move back so we can start doing things like that on a very regular basis. It took me 3 days to recover- 10+ hours of shooting with tons of heavy gear, my shoulder is still a little mad at me!

This last Wednesday night we had a family "Farewell" dinner for Kip at our local Double Dave's Pizza- Karaoke night, which is his favorite. (sarcasm) Megan sang TWICE, once with me and once with Kathryn, and was onstage when Kathryn performed solo. I took photos, but for the love of all things chocolaty, I will not have them up online anytime soon.

Kip flew out Thursday night, after selling one of our 2 cars, he took 2 giant suitcases, his work bag with computer, and just left- Megan's world was completely turned upside-down. Thursday was the hardest day- she cried the entire 25 minute car ride back home from the airport and said things like "My heart is hurting!" and "I can't stop my heart from thumping so fast and hurty" and "The only thing I want in the entire world is for daddy to come back" and "I was so mean to daddy- I am NEVER going to be like that again!" and a million other tear-jerkers. We went home, consoled ourselves with Ben & Jerry, and went to bed way too late.

Kip's flight was mostly uneventful- he said that there was a rowdy drunk they threatened with handcuffs to keep him under control, but other than that it was wonderfully boring and predictable. I'd hoped for nothing more than that!

He went into the office, borrowed the fleet car (we're going to get cars and other stuff once Meg and I are there next week) and dragged his jetlagged self to the house.

Meanwhile, back in the States, Megan and I had a busy Friday- Megan went to the Planetarium with her Auntie Anne, and I cleaned, threw junk away from my bathroom and bedroom, then ran out to the new Houston Outlet center to see if I could find a winter jacket for her, and some new Crocs. (I know- I swear they wear them in the Netherlands, as ugly as they are.) My parents were on their way in to Houston to see us, so they met me there and sprung for some things for me, too- they spoil me, which I totally support and appreciate. I even found a suitcase (with a cool carry-on overnight bag) for $40, so it was a great trip out there. I have been the Queen of Craigslist for the last week, and have been keeping track of and scheduling pick-ups of all sorts of junk we're trying to shed with a small financial recovery. I was up late getting emails sent and things scheduled, but did get to visit with my folks for awhile that night.

Saturday for Kip was a bit frustrating- he drove in to the office for a little while, then headed towards Ikea for some creature comforts, but ended up sitting on the side of the road for TWO HOURS because the car stopped working. (Poor guy- I feel so bad for him, but also a little relieved that it wasn't all 3 of us, I can't imagine that being pretty with a five-year-old: "THIS IS BO-RING! Let's GO, PEOPLE!" I think she may not have survived, what with our combined stress level at the moment.)

After someone came and "rebooted" the car's computer (I still am foggy on the details of that repair technique, but if that's what car repair has come to, I COULD BE A MECHANIC!) he was off to Ikea, which he reported is HUGENORMOUS. He grabbed some things to eat on and with, ice trays, and a few other basics, then headed to our friend Elaine's house for a very international dinner- Elaine and her husband are Irish, and they had their downstairs neighbors (a mixed German and Dutch marriage) up for the evening. He got home around midnight, willing the car to stay alive the entire trip back home.

Over here in the US, I tackled the bags of clothes that plague our garage- my sister is so generous, and every time she cleans out her daughter's closet of outgrown clothes, she sends them our way. We had several bags of hand-me-downs that hadn't been examined in months, some years, and found a couple of jackets (none quite Dutch Winter weight, but will get her by until it gets really cold) and long-sleeved shirts! I got some "don't need now" clothes put in cool vaccuum-shrink bags (these are SO cool) and got 2 giant bags of clothes to the donation box.

We managed to squeak by to my friend Greg's apartment for a pre-screening of a film from the 48 Hour Film Project that I was the photographer for, and had a nice visit with him and a few of the other collaborators from the project, including Kathryn. From there, we all (mom, dad, me, Meg) hit the laundromat to get the pile of linens and comforters cleaned and ready for packing- our washing machine decided to stop spinning clothes the week before we went to the Netherlands for our first visit, so things that I can't personally wring-out before putting in the dryer had piled up considerably. We had a laundromat Subway sandwich dinner, packed my car full with clean linens, and Mom and Dad gave us one last hug and went home. Another hard goodbye- Megan is not taking them well these days. FORTUNATELY, Mom left her pillow and we forgot to give them their souveniers we had picked up on our home finding trip, so we got to steal just a few more minutes with them before they left for home.

We're just not sleeping real hours these days- Megan is up and watching TV, and every time I tell her "Ok, kid- time to brush teeth!" she claims unbearable hunger and gets something more to eat from the kitchen. I can't wait until we are THERE, settled (as much as we can until the rest of our things arrive via slow-boat) and get a normal groove going. No late-night runs to the storage unit, no more strangers in the house looking at furniture, no more tearful goodbyes- just everyday living at it's most boring... maybe then I'll remember to eat and sleep again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Looking Like A Done Deal! Nether-Noser-Land Castle Details.

Now that we're back and waiting until our meeting with the moving company on Thursday, I have a few minutes to panic, clean, curse the "Ikea Index" and field questions about the trip. The most common so far is, "Wait- which house did y'all finally pick?" Without further adieu, here is THE House:

Ground Floor

This is the front of the house- it's a row-style 3-story home with a garden in front and in back.

Yep, that's right- #13. With everything else that has gone on, I figured it is good luck at this point!

The front window is large and open, a Dutch tradition. It is customary to keep this window uncovered (it's a Calvinist thing, I think- shows you're not misbehaving) so that your neighbors can peer in, which they would NEVER do, since it is also Dutch custom to protect others' privacy by not peering.

A horrid shot of the front garden. Roses, boxwood, and gobs of things that die from heat exhaustion here in Texas. Things you have only seen Martha Stewart grow on her luxurious estate in Martha's Vinyard or wherever on earth she is.

This is right off the entry room (which without a fisheye lens was impossible to photograph in any way to show more than the doorway), the stairs to the upstairs. Underneath the most shallow part of the stairs is a small storage area, then past is the guest toilet.

Here's the guest toilet- another characteristic of a traditional Dutch home. It is teeny, has a toilet, brush, small trash can, and a tiny sink. Notice the two-option flush; small button for small flush (#1), big button for big flush (I'm sure you can figure this out).

On the right is the living/dining room, a similar layout to our current house. This living room features a fireplace, and the back of the house opens out to the back garden.


The kitchen is very large by Dutch standards, and includes a nice sized fridge/freezer, a 5-burner gas stove, oven and microwave (hidden in the cabinets). Also there is a dishwasher, disguised with a face to match the rest of the cabinetry.


This is the back view of the house (the kitchen is the wood-sided part of the house on the right) and a view of the little gate that connects to the neighbor's yard- Megan is peeking through to say hello to the boys that live next door.


At the top of the stairs on the 2nd (or 1st, depending on your take of things) floor are the bedrooms and the bathroom. Here's the bath- it has both a tub and a shower, and is small, but laid-out very efficiently.

The very first room to the left of the bathroom will most likely be Megan's room- it has a cute fish motif on the walls. She seems pretty fond of it!


The next room to the left is the master bedroom, which is tiny, but has more closet space than our current house.


The last room to the left is SO tiny that I want to use it as a closet. I think it was a nursery for the previous owners.

Up to the top floor is another set of stairs- they have hardware attachments for gates, they are a bit steep and narrow by American standards, but are some of the least frightening stairs we saw in our house hunting.

The top floor is where the laundry machines are located, and there is a lot of room up there, maybe for some sorters or a hanging rack on wheels.



There is a nice-sized bedroom on the top floor, too, which we hope to fill many times during our stay- it has blackout curtains built right into the windows, folks- this is a 4-star accomodation!


That's it! We're in the process of signing the lease today, so we'll have a timeline on our move over in the next few days!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jiggity Jig. Jetlag Makes For Bad Parenting.

We're home. It feels a little surreal, almost like the last week didn't happen- Megan is watching Sesame Street and I'm catching up on email and my favorite blogs and online reading. I'm yelling at the dog. I am up to my ears in laundry. There is nothing to cook/eat. What on earth? Wasn't I just in another country YESTERDAY!?!?

The flight was totally uneventful (unless you ask Kip or Megan). Ok, so I dumped an entire cup of water in Megan's lap as she was going to sleep. She had it coming, it was payback for the apple juice bath I got on the way over. And so what if there were thunderstorms all around the Houston area as we came in to land? Turbulence doesn't kill people. Jetlagged parents kill people.

We made the mistake of letting Megan sleep for a little over 2 hours on the plane, though, and she had a hard time getting to sleep last night, and woke up BEFORE 5 AM. I think my least favorite phrases between the hours of 10pm and 8 am are "I'm not sleepy" and "I CAN'T GO BACK TO SLEEEEEP!"

I'm dragging her rear-end out to a park or something today and I'm going to force her to play until it starts to Tropical Storm us back to the car.

Oh, and I'm going to pack or something. (Just in case Kip is reading this.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 6 - Wrapping Up

We got up EEEAAAARLLLYYY this morning and had breakfast in the Airport with our great friends Scott and Stacey Hutchison- it was great to see them, even for just a short layover (they were flying back to the US from Germany, business trip for Scott with Lockheed Martin). Megan managed to douse herself in hot chocolate, poor kid, but was good humored about it (it was the only dress I packed for her, and she had lamented wearing jeans any more when she realized she was going to have to change, but changed her tune when I reminded her we had one pair of overalls). We headed back to the hotel and I dragged Megan down to the breakfast buffet where she ate a small piece of bacon and one bite of a pancake- this kid is going to starve to death if we don't figure something out quickly.


We went to one of Kip's co-worker's flats in Leiden this afternoon for her son, Daniel's first birthday party. Elaine and her husband are Irish, and the bulk of the folks at the party were, too, and it just made me realize that Irish people are just darned good looking. Plus that accent- it is so graceful and beautiful; I think it lends more to good looks. There were 2 little one-year-olds, they were so different and both so beautiful- big chunky cheeks and baby fat everywhere. The food and company were just lovely, we are so glad to have friends here in the Netherlands.


Oh, and the best thing of all? Elaine's husband shoots Canon. There was another photographer in attendance, a Nikon shooter, and it was nice to see that the rivalry is an international phenomenon. We tried not to make him feel inferior.

After the party we headed straight back to our favorite cafe here in Alsmeer, and our waiter from Megan's Sleeping Dinner greeted us warmly. We had a nice, leisurely dinner and made our way back to the hotel to pack and get to bed early. I can't believe the week is already over- it feels like it was 100 years ago that we were dealing with Anke, and yet at the same time it feels like we just got off the plane yesterday.

The most wonderful thing that could ever possibly have happened today and did?

Megan said, "I don't want to leave the Netherlands. I want to stay here." Suddenly, every nickel of her plane ticket was well spent.

See you in a few days! Holy tuna- WE HAVE TO START PACKING?!?!?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blah blah blog. Days 3-5-ish.

Kip has been HOGGING the computer the last few days. "It's my work computer. That's kind of why we're here, I work here now." WHATEVER. So, since he's been burning the midnight oil, I have been catching up on sleep and finally getting over jetlag. Of course, because it's only 2 more days until we leave.

Oh, and this is totally void of pictures- I am running out of time, so check my Flickr site for shots from our trip:

Ok, so on to the good stuff! Day 3, or Wednesday, we hauled around the 'burbs around Amsterdam. We looked at 7 properties, none that I loved more than the "Over the Snooker Hall" flat we had seen in Leiden the day prior. Our relocation agent, Letty, said that her son had a friend who was relocated to another town from Heemstede, which was not far from where the final property we looked at (in Uithoorn) was located, and she drove us past. She said that if we were interested after seeing the neighborhood and the front of the house, she'd make sure we had a realtor to help us the next day.

Let's just say that WE FREAKING LOVED IT. Heemstede is a family village, and on the street where the rent house was, there were kid's toys and bikes in almost every front garden. There is a park at the end of the street, and there is a little garden in the back of the house that has a gate that connects to the neighbor's garden, where 2 little boys live. We told Letty that we would want to see the house as soon as they could get us an appointment, hopefully the next day. She called her office to start working some magic.

There were 2 properties that we had seen that day (one in Amstelveen, the other in Badhoevedorp) that we requested more information on, just for grins (and just in case the Heemstede place didn't work out), and we went back to the hotel, totally drained. We hit the cafe that Megan had had the sleeping dinner the night before, and when we returned to the hotel, this time it was ME that fell into a coma sleep- around 6pm I crashed, and woke up long enough to eat a croissant we had snagged at breakfast for emergency rations, find out that we had an appointment with a real estate agent to see the Heemstede house the next morning at 9:30, and brush teeth, then I was right back to sleep. Yeah, we didn't eat dinner. Not that it meant a lot- we had lunch at 4pm, and Megan barely ate all day. She ate emergency rations- a pear and some croissant (gotta love the hotel buffet, next time I'm bringing a huge purse for ration acquisition) and she and I slept while Kip started working on the BMC Treasury End-Of-Month business.

The next day we got up, did a 10-minute run through the buffet (grabbing rations, of course) and made the 15 minute drive out to Heemstede. The house was beyond wonderful, and I fought like a bandit to not let on that I had died and gone to Dutch House Heaven. Megan was in love, too- one of the bedrooms has fish painted on the walls. We struggled to find anything wrong with the property, and finally decided that there wasn't antyhing (besides that it was unfurnished) that would keep us from making an offer to the owners (renting is decided upon by the owner, and we had to bid against a couple that was looking at the house later the same day). We hoped that the fact that we could rent the property for 2 years would be an advantage over the competetion, and gave the go-ahead to start negotiating with the owners.

After the excitement (well, Kip and I were excited) of potentially finding a house, Kip went to work, and Megan and I went to Kid Wonderland. Linneaushof, to be exact. In America, this park would NEVER exist- 99% of the rides were kid (or parent) powered, and were of the likes that litigious parents had removed from school yards and amusement parks ages ago. It was AWESOME. And, of course, I didn't have my camera. So you're gonna just have to take my word for it- AWESOME. They had one of those GIANT slides where you have to climb 4 flights of stairs to get to the top and slide down on a potato sack. They had kid-powered merry-go-rounds, ferris wheels (one kid or parent had to pedal to get the thing to turn), flying swings, zip-line swings... it was fantastic. Megan and I stayed from 10:30 am until 4:30pm, and left with two priceless things: memories, and our first Dutch friends.

We met a woman and her 2 daughters who live in Hoovddorp, maybe 15 minutes away by bike. They have season passes to Linneaushof, which we will SO have when we come back (3 season passes are less than 100 Euros). Megan and the oldest daughter were born one day apart- Megan on Queen's day (April 30) and Rivka on May 1. They had a blast, and you would never have known that there was a language barrier between them- within an hour, Rivka was copying Megan, saying "BIG SLIDE!" and "I LOVE IT!" and "Come on, guys!" Her mom was so pleased, Rivka didn't speak any english before meeting Megan.

Rivka and her family left, after lots of hugs and kisses between all 3 of the girls, and Meg and I departed about an hour later to catch the bus back to the hotel.

Just a word of advice: Never try to navigate a new public transportation system after playing in the hot sun all day and toting an exhausted and starving 5-year-old around. It took us 2 hours to get back to the hotel. It wasn't unpleasant, it was just long- I am certain that I must have gotten on a bus going the wrong direction at least once, and rode the entire route to get one stop the opposite way.

Anyhow, our exodus over, Meg and I hit the showers, ordered room service, and watched a movie in bed. We were just about asleep when Kip finally got back around 11pm, and fell asleep while he finished the month-end hedge-roll.

So that brings us up to today- Friday! We had a leisurely breakfast, as we had no appointments to run to, and gathered maps and books to decide where to run-off and adventure today. We decided on Madurodam, a miniature-city not far from the Hague. When I say miniature-city, I mean a city built to at most 1/25 size. It was a tourist attraction that would send American kids into huffs of boredom, Megan was enchanted. They also had a SesamStraat exhibit- Megan go to dance with Ernie and Bert, and was completely confused that they were speaking Dutch, but then told us that "They're not real, those are people dressed-up like Ernie and Bert) when we said, "Maybe they only speak Dutch when they visit the Netherlands?" Can't fool that kid.

Kip still had some work to do, so we left the mini-world and returned to the hotel, and decided we would head into Amsterdam for dinner. This is no small feat- parking is a nightmare, so public transportation was our goal, specifically the train. We are so lucky that Megan is easy-going and rolls with what we drag her through. We rolled into the Amsterdam Central Station around 7:30pm.

Our hotel recommended a place about 15 minutes from the station. I can see how, if we were to have taken direct roads, it would have taken 15 minutes to walk to the restaurant. Through the Red Light district. On the Friday of Gay Pride Weekend. We didn't feel like answering that many questions, so we detoured, which lead to many wrong turns, and 40 minutes later we arrived. Bedraggled must have been our fashion statement, because with 5 empty tables, "They were COMPLETELY full" that evening. I left before Megan got a lesson in how sharped-tongued her mother could be when faced with a snotty head waiter.

We meandered around the corner and found an Italian restaurant, and Megan ate pizza! After days and days of nagging her to eat, we were overjoyed to watch her scarf pizza like she was at home.

The evening was anxious- Amsterdam is such a big city, with all the negative trappings of a big city (as well as the advantages, of course, but late in the evening with a small child you focus on keeping her sheltered) and Kip had to block us from a pick-pocket, we saw said pick-pocket fail and get caught, and get kicked in the back by his target, and then got to sit through the evader's tongue-lashing he gave to the pick-pocket. Thank GOD it was all in Dutch, and the clearest word was something like "STEALER!" Ahh, city life.

I will post again in the next few days, and will make an entire post about the house, I swear- but before then, we will be back home Sunday!