We traveled to Amsterdam the only whole weekend my parents would be in town. It seemed like a great idea when we were planning it, but executing it might have changed my mind. We had originally planned to drive the 5 hours there, but due to car issues and stress involved with LOML having to do all the driving and we’d already done 3 other 4-5 hour weekend drives since we’ve moved here we decided to use the train. We figured with 2 extra adults it would be cake to navigate the trains. With a toddler, a baby, a giant double stroller, luggage for all, toys for said children, and winter coats.
The first train left a town about 20 minutes from us at 6:30 in the morning. We are not all usually up at 6:30. And it was COLD. I think the thermometer in the car said it was in the single digits or teens (F) that morning. The kids were toasty warm in their 4 layers of fleece blankets in the stroller but we were getting cold waiting the 8 minutes for the train outside. Got on that 40 minute train on problems. Big Ive was awake and walking around the entire time.
In the 15 minutes at the train station between trains I had to find the bathroom and take Big Ive to change her. It was located in the basement. The stairways seemed to get worse looking each one we went down. And when we got there we had to pay 1 euro to use it. It was bright, clean, shining, new. Such a contrast to the basement and pee-smelling stairwell we just walked down.
The next train was uneventful and kind of fun. We sat by a young man who seemed pleased to have 2 cute children sitting near him. He engaged Big Ive and even tried to get Little E to smile at him (she slept most of the time). Big Ive got a Kinderfarhkarte from the conductor as he checked our tickets during the trip. She liked the idea of giving the conductor a ticket. It was cute.
This train went up the Rhein river. [SIDE TANGENT: I never know if I should spell the names of places the way that country does or the way we do in English. I guess I don’t understand why we don’t just call them and spell them the way they are. Why do we need to change it, other than if we don’t have those characters in the English alphabet?] It was really nice views of this region that has lots of castles, villages dotting the river banks and wine grape vineyards.
The next train we got on was supposed to take us all the way to Amsterdam. We found a Kleinekinder room (small children) that was available. Naturally, we snatched it up. There was a large table, room for the stroller and seating for about 6 or 8. It was nice and would have been perfect for the rest of the trip.
There was a big snow storm in the Netherlands that knocked out most of their train systems. They got around 14cm of snow in a place that rarely gets snow so they were not prepared for it. We rode our 4th train to the German border where we then got on a bus that would take us to Utrect, about 25 miles from Amsterdam. The bus ride was 2.5 hours. Thankfully Big Ive slept a good portion sitting on Grandpa’s lap. He had a good nap, too. So did I.
Our 5th train was a short, slow commuter train into Amsterdam. We all stood in the entrance alcove of the train for this ride as it was packed to the gills of everyone who missed other trains. There was a young man sitting with his bike near us. Big Ive offered him a pretzel and he ate it. She tried offering another one — that had been in her mouth — and he smartly turned that one down. : )
By this time I was pulling out all of my mommy-of-toddler bag-of-tricks. I was reciting her favorite books for her. I was trying to remember all of those silly little kid songs that you learn. I was feeding her everything and anything we had left in our bags. I pretended the pompom on her knit winter cap was a microphone and sang into it. She thought that was funny and has since done that a few times. We were rapidly approaching our Big Ive limit just as the train stopped.
All in all, the train (and bus) trip wasn’t terrible. LOML and I think there are pros and cons to both driving with 2 kids and taking trains with 2 kids. I’m not sure we would attempt another big train trip with the kids alone, though.
On the walk to the hotel an accordion player and alto saxophone player were playing Indian/Middle Eastern style music. I mention this because it was the first time I’ve heard quarter tone music played with a sax. It was interesting and good and neat to hear. It was far too cold, and we had been. Traveling far too long with too many delays to stay a while to hear more. I can’t imagine how cold the sax players fingers were, though. That’s dedication for a few euro coins from passersby.
We went on a canal cruise on Sunday. [My timeline is off for this post. Sorry about that. Can’t remember straight anymore…] Big Ive had a great time. She colored for a while. Whenever we would go under a bridge she would say, “Whoah.” it was funny. I got a short video clip. If I can get it to upload here I’ll include it in this post. She is such an out going kid. She wanted to brush the hair of the lady sitting in front of us, and the guy sitting at the table with us. She tried to get him to color with her and kept saying hi to him. At one point she managed to stand all of her crayons on end. When she tried to fix one she got her sleeve and most of them were knocked over. That was the end of that.
She was flirting with the guy sitting across the table from her. She kept trying to get him to color and play and talk with her.
Little E was good, too. She slept part of the time in her car seat (no surprise there) and was happy after I fed her when she woke up. She protested when I put her back in the car seat to leave, but quickly fell asleep on the walk to the cafe for lunch.
Big Ive fell asleep in the stroller on the cold noisy street of Amsterdam, like she did on the subway in Paris.
We walked to a small convenience store to get drinks on the way back to the hotel. She stayed asleep when we got back to our room. I don’t know if we’re considered smart or bad parents for leaving her to sleep in the stroller and not moving her to a bed when we got to our room. We didn’t even remove her mittens. My justification was that she needed a good nap and I didn’t want to risk waking her by moving her. So, here I sit in our room typing on the iPad over 1.5 hours later and she’s still sleeping. [She ended up getting a good 2+ hour nap in.] In her stroller. At least I reclined the seat for her. She still has her little mittens on, too. Little E was up for a few minutes to eat and play when we got to our room but quickly put herself back to sleep.
LOML and I are enjoying the quiet by surfing the web nets on our iPads. [Another side tangent: I didn’t see why everyone thought iPads were so cool when they came out. I didn’t get why people would spend so much money on an over-sized iPod touch or a small laptop. But, having used one for the past 6 months on a daily basis, I like it. It’s convenient to do a quick check of email, FB, or the web. Also, the speakers make a great music player for Big Ive to go to sleep with. And since LOML was in Germany away from us for 3 months I used it in the middle of the night when Little E would get up to eat to chat with him. The flashlight aspect was really nice. No light to turn on and brighten the whole room (or wake my sister when I lived at my parents for a month). No big whole computer to heft around while holding a newborn for feeding. Easy 1-handed (either hand) use. We still use it every night for Big Ive’s music and middle of the night illumination for feedings (which Little E seems to keep doing with the same frequency as before…I fear she’ll never grow out that right now). I downloaded a few toddler apps for Big Ive, too. She LOVES them and keeps asking to “play!?” “Play!?”
My parents went off by themselves to walk around and explore the city of Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon.
That night (Saturday) my parents offered to watch the kids for us so we could go out to eat. LOML and I had planned on going to a cool restaurant somewhere in the city, but I was so tired from not enough sleep, lots of travel and 2 small children that I barely was able to stay awake to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was, though. Who knows if I was just really really tired or if it was good food. : ) If I remember right I had some sort of tuna appetizer (raw with some greens and vegetable chips) and mushroom risotto for the main course.
Sunday we did the canal cruise. Sorry, again, that this is all out of order. Then we had lunch in a little organic cafe called Carla’s. It was good food. That’s when Big Ive fell asleep in the stroller on the way back to the hotel. My parents went off on their own for a while again. I think they felt bad that Chris and I couldn’t explore or visit any museums because of the kids. Since we’ve done these weekend trips a few times already in the 2 months we’ve been here we’ve learned to not have very many expectations on what we can do and see in a city. And that is fine. There will be a time in our life when we’ll be able to visit numerous museums a day and eat nice dinners without worrying about who is watching our children.
Sunday evening we all went out to dinner to a nice Italian place the hotel recommended. We only got a little bit lost looking for the street and the restaurant. We actually walked right by it and had to turn back around. It was good food. I ended up ordering the exact thing LOML wanted and they only had 1 plate of it left so I stole it from him. I offered to let him have it, but he ordered something else and said it was good, too. This place has a giant wheel of cheese where they prepare a special table-side spaghetti dish. They pour flaming liquid into the hollowed cheese wheel, dump the pasta and stir and scrape the cheese into the pasta. It looked really good–2 other tables nearby ordered it.
On Monday my mom and I went out for about an hour alone. No husbands and no children. It was a nice little break from them. She was looking for a fabric store that she had passed on Saturday when they went to the Anne Frank House. We didn’t see it going down the street, so we went to the grocery store and picked up snacks for the train ride home. Walking back up that street we found it, only for it to be closed on Mondays. Oh, well. There was some really cool looking fabric there. She might just have to come back. : )
Walking back to the hotel we came across what we thought was a very small Dutch cheese shop. We walked in because they had the cheese making machine working in the first room. It was neat to see. As we kept walking, the shop kept going and going and going. It was little room after little room. We sampled one of the fresh Dutch cheese wheels and I had to buy one. I also had to buy another package of stroopwaffles–fantastic little Dutch cookies.
We collected children and husbands, checked out of the hotel, and headed down to the bloemenmarkt. It was sunny and seemed a little bit warmer, which was nice. There was no cold wind to sap the warmth out of the sunlight. We walked all along the bloemenmarkt. LOML bought me a package of 100 tulip bulbs so I can plant them here at our house. I asked my landlady if I could plant them out front and she said it was happy and I was welcome to plant them where I wanted.
After that it was lunch time. We found this food place that was huge and overwhelming and full of delicious fresh food. It had 2 levels of food stations (salads, build your own stir fry, meat, sandwiches, pizza, customize your own smoothie, etc) you picked from. It was really good food.
Then it was time for the train ride home. This leg of the trip was supposed to take 2 trains. Because of the issues with the Dutch rain system our high-speed train wasn’t able to get up to high speeds. When it got to the Dutch boarder we stopped for an hour and waited for another train coming from Frankfurt to meet us. We disembarked, walked to the other side of the track and got on the new train. Those people got on our train. This new train got up to about 260km per hour. My dad thought they were trying to make up for the delays by going so fast. We ended up taking 3 trains and got in 1.5 hours later than scheduled.
It was quite the feat to get Big Ive to stay content while we were stopped for over an hour. We walked up and down the cars of the train again and again and again and again. She would say hi to random people sitting on the train. Some people she would just stare at. Others she would completely avoid. Strange child.
I did get her to go to sleep around her usual bedtime. She slept on the train, stayed asleep as we put her jacket on and placed her into the stroller and stayed asleep as we transferred trains twice. I didn’t think she would stay asleep but she was out. She tired herself out by running the train so many times.
And then Tuesday morning I ended up with a stomach bug. LOML got it Tuesday evening. And my mom got it Tuesday night / Wednesday morning. We think Little E might have gotten it Friday night when I was at band practice because she was all out of sorts and had a gurgly tummy. We’re all better now, though, and it was a short illness whatever it was.