Here we are, halfway through this trip to the Netherlands. We’ve had glorious weather, and the kids have proven once again to be versatile little travelers. The eight hour time difference threw us for a loop for the first several days, as is to be expected. We arrived the first morning at 8am after a 10 hour plane ride, and managed to stay up until 2ish, had a midafternoon nap, then tried to go to bed at 9, only to all be wide awake by one am. We all fell back asleep around 6 and slept until 2 in the afternoon the next day. More of this wackiness the next day and the next, particularly, ahem, with the youngest of our crew. The other day I realized that my watch and my phone were an hour off and couldn’t for the life of me figure it out- my son’s (brand new, very first Swatch- yessssss!) watch and my husband’s were off as well. Thank you Google, we’ve been blessed with a second day light savings time in Europe! What’s one more hour when we’re already this screwed up? Meh. On our last trip to New Zealand from Hawaii, the time was 23 hours different- so essentially it was an hour off, just tomorrow. No prob.
Nevertheless, when we are all awake, the kids have remained in good spirits and have been happy to explore, walking through the Vondelpark, shopping a bit (who knew it would be so nice and warm and…spring-y?), and going through the van Gogh Museum. That was my favorite, and fortunately my six year old liked that, as they had a free little treasure hunt for kids- a folder where they could find different paintings on each floor and could answer questions about the subject and colors and stuff- it was actually really informative and fun. And it made him feel like a very big boy. My three year old, not so much. My husband gracefully took her out after half an hour or so and walked her to the playground on the Museumplein.
Playgrounds! I remember realizing how traveling changed with kids when we were in New Zealand- we used to arrive somewhere new, immediately find a pub and sit down with a beer and figure out where we were. Now, the first order of business is always to find a playground and let the kids get their ya-yas out while we sit down and figure out where we are. There are pocket playgrounds everywhere, though there haven’t been too many kids. Obviously. Because they’re in school. In the afternoons, though, they come tearing into the playgrounds in droves, answering the prayers of my six year old. We’ve been struggling, though, with language. My husband can understand a lot of Dutch, but feels very self conscious using it. I know a handful of words. The Dutch mostly speak English and are easygoing about it- children, however, are different.
My son can say hello and introduce himself, and that’s about it. When the children reply back in Dutch, he gets flustered (exactly as I do) and stammers out something in English that the Dutch kids don’t understand. Then the kids walk away. That happened time and again, making my usually very social and unflappable kid feel embarrassed and lonely. He’d shyly step up to a couple of kids kicking a ball, wanting so badly to kick it with them, give a little wave, and say “Dag…” and …nothing. So finally I got the bright idea to buy the kid his own ball. Perhaps kids would come to him, but at the very least, he’d have something to do at the park with his sister. And really, it was a doozy of an idea because it worked.
We took a bus out to my husband’s old neighborhood and rented bikes, then decided it was so much fun that we rented a sort of tandem bike for the boys- our son sits in a small seat in front and pedals, my husband sits on the back and pedals and steers, and a bakfiets for my daughter and me. Fiets is Dutch for bike, and it’s essentially a bike with a large box in the front for kids, groceries, or what have you. Kind of like a wheelbarrow that you ride. Seriously, if we lived where it was flat enough and didn’t snow 9 months of the year, I would invest in one of these. It is amazing- surprisingly easy to ride, and the kids love it. And it’s gas-free. I can imagine riding up or down any sort of hill would kill my fascination with it though.
OK, so onto the book I’m profiling today.
Richard Scarry’s “My First Word” books are the best. We have several different ones in English, and a French one, and when I was a girl and we had a Swedish exchange student, she brought me a Swedish one. They’re all great, depicting different scenes with accompanying words. Great for new speakers in general (i.e. toddlers), and great introductions to different languages as well. For all of us.
Mijn Leuke Kijkboek Met Woordjes, by Richard Scarry. I’m sorry, I don’t even know what to link it to! It’s not on Amazon or Powell’s, I bought it at de Bijenkorf, a department store here. But it’s fun to look at anyway, no?
My husband said that when he first moved here at 12, it was recommended for him to watch Sesame Street. I love that idea- clear, simple words and concepts repeated over and over and usually some catchy songs and animation. Sometimes when people are talking to me here and I clearly have no idea what they’re saying, I just wish they had subtitles. I’m a very visual learner- if I could see what people are saying written out I could understand a lot more of it.
We went to Lisse yesterday to see the Keukenhof, a beautiful flower festival. We rode the bakfiets to the tram stop, took the tram to Centraal Station, then took a train to the airport, then took a bus to Lisse- spent the day walking through the tulip fields and amazing gardens. I’ve never been here in springtime- always in the fall. So the famed Netherlands tulip fields were very new to me. Then we took the bus, train, tram, and bakfiets back home. What a journey! Tomorrow we’re heading to a cheese market in Alkmaar. More on that in the next post.
Tot ziens, my friends!