We’ve left the land of sunshine (no, seriously. It rained maybe a few hours the whole two weeks we were in the Netherlands!) and are ankle deep again in mud and leftover snow. I desperately need Ollie’s Mrs. Thaw to come work her magic around here, because I have to park my Volvo wagon at the end of the road due to a 15 meter long muck pond that my husband’s 4-wheel drive truck can only barely make it through. Today I took a pulaski to the ice path leading to the front door of our cabin, inspiring a rousing rendition of “The Ice Worker’s Song” from Frozen in both kids (‘Beautiful, powerful, dangerous, cold!’).
Anyway, the last week of our trip was pretty great. After the first week of speaking Dutch very tentatively, the second week found my husband (who lived in Amsterdam as a boy) either gaining confidence or familiarity and his Dutch came flooding back to him. We took a train to the little town of Alkmaar, just northwest of Amsterdam, where each Friday morning they hold a public cheese market in the town square (the Waagplein)- and have been for 400 years. We made it to the first one of the season- the Waagplein is completely filled with huge rounds of cheese and they put on a demonstration of how the market used to go (now, to actually buy cheese, the canal is lined with cheese vendors). The traders would bore holes in the cheese to check for quality, negotiate with exaggerated gestures, then two men would hoist platforms with however many rounds had been bought onto their suspendered shoulders and trot them over to the huge scales to determine their cost. All for the viewing pleasure of several hundred people holding up iPhones to capture the whole thing. Like me. Here are some of my pics.
We ended up spending most days the second week riding bikes and kicking the ball around the Vondel Park. We did a little shopping, visited the floating bulb market, and ate a lot: Pannenkoeken, frites and kroket from FEBO, shwarma, and my husband introduced “drop” to the kids- a salted black licorice that I just can not get into. But mostly- bikes.
Now that we’re home, we’re wallowing in the fluctuating winter/spring season that drives me absolutely nuts. It’s beautiful and sunny one day, slowly melting off the ice and revealing the brown muddy grass underneath, and the next it snows again. Unfortunately, along with that yo-yo weather, my husband tends to get a little stir crazy and starts taking “creative” steps toward shaving off his nice, full winter beard. I knew I was in for it when he turned on the generator this morning to charge up his razor. Ugh. I don’t think he’ll let me document the phases on here, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Today I can’t stop laughing at the paths shorn across his cheeks. It almost makes me look forward to the straight up side burns and mustache that I know is coming. It’s a good thing he doesn’t get into town often.
Onto today’s book profile:
Shortly before we left for the Netherlands, my husband (with a beautiful, full bushy face) and I went to Costco and as we were looking through the giant tables of books for activity books for the kids for the flight, he pulled out the Boys’ Doodle Book.
On each page are the edges of a drawing, and a prompt for filling it in, such as a tall bed with a boy flopped on top of it, peering underneath with the question “What’s under the bed?” Now I detest today’s marketing push toward girls vs. boys, and he knows that. I kind of skeptically raised an eye brow and asked what dumbed down pink version they had for girls. I picked up the (surprisingly) blue book for girls and we leafed through the pages at the same time. I reluctantly agreed that the girls’ and the boys’ version were not terribly sexist- both versions suggested designing castles and drawing families of animals, though the girls’ version did have more pages dedicated to hair (albeit Marie Antoinette’s) and flowers. That’s fine, I do like flowers, it’s true. So do both of my kids. I was just glad that it wasn’t all “Design a super fun vacuum sweeper” or something. And I really liked the idea of it not being a straight up coloring book, where the drawing is there, and all the kids are doing is coloring inside the lines. It’s inspiring creativity on top of drawing and coloring. We bought the boys’ version for Toby (6), since I feel like Elsie’s (3) a little young still to connect the lines. Although after watching how much Tobes adored it, I may go back and get the blue version for Elsie’s birthday. Or another of the red version- she likes pirates and dragons, too.
He has been flying through the pages- and has been really excited about and proud of his artwork. My husband found a really beautiful set of large colored pencils at a toy store in Alkmaar, too, which made Toby feel really special as he was at work.
That reminds me- as we made our way through various toy stores and book stores, we came across several Dutch versions of some of our favorite children’s books! I thought maybe you all would appreciate them:
I love seeing these familiar covers, don’t you?