War, action heroes, the balance of family travel in Amsterdam

H, Happy day!

So, after the wedding in Amsterdam we had some days to sightsee and eat more bread and cheese.  They aren’t big on lunches there, you just grab a crusty, cheese thing with a piece of cheese and go.  That diet might mean you never have a bowel movement, but they have great iced coffee drinks.

I’ll eat veggies when I get home.

Mark and I were in complete agreement on where we wanted to go the most:  The Dutch Resistence Museum.  What 6 year old doesn’t want to go to an in depth look at the oral histories of the civilian response to Nazi occupation and deportation?  There is a zoo across the street, so as we dragged her to our WW2 fix I promised that after the exhibit and lunch ( because I love eating at museum cafes) we would go to the zoo.

When I’m in Europe I get fixated on the Holocaust.  In the town of Anne Frank’s hiding place, all the more.  I went to that place years ago  ( now it’s quite a long wait).  The Resistence Museum is across town and less known, but packs a lot of history and emotion for your 8 euros.  It has tons of oral history and goes chronologically.  You can see how The Dutch were hoodwinked initially by the Germans that they might not be that bad.  But, as time went on The Dutch got the picture and held a strike to protest the deportation of the Jews.   They had to stop the strike after a couple of days since the Gestapo was threatening to kill them.  The museum does not try to make it sound like everyone were heros.  There are plenty of stories of collaborators or people who said, “well, I work for the German’s now, so what?”

The first 15 minutes of our visit Vivien was whining, “This is boring mommy.”  I finally said, “Look, daddy and I love this, and we are not leaving.  You can participate or not, but we are not leaving.”  Then she did get into a bit.  I distilled some parts down for her.  “You know how name calling is bad? This is name calling to the inth degree.  Do you know what De humanizing is?”  They had some cool things like drawers you would open and read underground messages, so that kept her busy.  Pushing buttons, stuff like that.

“Vivien, a big take away here for you is that the US and Russia stopped this bad stuff from happening.  Had the US not come in it would not have stopped.”

After two hours my eyes were drying out.  I was thinking, oh, good the war is almost over I can have lunch.  Which, after reading about the 20 thousand Dutch who starved during the last winter of the war I felt a big bad about.  Just when the Allies had arrived Mark and Vivien appeared. Mark said excitedly, “go in there it’s all about the Japanese occupation of Indonesia!”

Oh, great.  I started to, but I felt we had pushed Viv to the brink.  The adjoining cafe was lovely.  I said, “Let’s talk about what we have learned.”

Mark looked like, huh?  I gave him the “trying to engage our daughter intellectually , ok?” look.

Vivien said something like, “There were some people who treated other people really badly, and that’s not okay.”

Yes.  That’s the message.  I didn’t want to go to into the graphic nature.  Gassing children, etc.  It gives me nightmares.

While we were there I bought a book that I loved.  Cannot reccommend it enough.  It’s called “Eva’s Story”.  Written by Anne Frank’s stepsister Eva Schloss.  She had been a neighbor of the Franks and her family also went into hiding and also were captured.  Her father and brother perished, but her mother and she survived. Her mother later married Otto Frank.  It is her memoir and it reads like a thriller.  Except, it’s real people.  Very good, very interesting.  Inspiring what people can live through.  Makes ones own problems seem very tiny.

After lunch we walked across the street.  The weather had been perfect all week.  Until now.  The clouds opened and the rain started.  Not the light rain that can occur there, but cold and heavy.  Great, the kid gets dragged through her parents deal and now this.

“We can wait it out or go back to Aunt Leslie’s.”  She opted for the latter.

Rain stopped after 15 minutes.  After that it was hard to get her to leave the house with us. Hang out with Grandma, who she loves, or risk another “history lesson” with her parents.

Fortunately my daughter loves the Kassvlinders like I do, so she agreed to come along.  I decided we needed to spice up the family travel pics.  “Let’s be action heros!”  After examining the horrors of war I think I need to role play war heros.

BUDDY ACTION ADVENTURE

 

IS she my kid or what?

I want to do action poses in front of a variety of world landmarks.

There was an advertisement that was posted all over Amsterdam.  So, MP and I did our own version.

Finally, Viv got to go to a local park.  She played while I watched for Nazi’s.

A Modern Fairy Tale

This is a romantic story.  A human one, but because of the romance I found my new love.

It’s baked fresh every morning around the corner from my sister in laws house in Amsterdam.  They don’t make cheesy, grainy, flaky yumminess like that in the States. Viv and I were equally in love with it and we would get our own almost every morning we were there.   Ok, to the main story.

Once a upon a time there was a bright little girl.  She had a keen mind and big heart.  She enjoyed her hippie youth yet, was a hard worker.  As she became a lady she met some men, married a couple, but they were not prince charmings.  In fact they cost the lady more treasure than gave.  Although she did get  a wonderful son and step children who she thinks of as her own.  Younger than she should, she also got devoted stepchildren to expand her large heart.

She was scrappy and worked to pay her bills, but still loved to travel when she could.  On one such trip in Italy she bumped into a man.  It was a few years of long distance courtship, but last week she married him and finally, got a man who treats her like a princess.  A princess with an MBA.

This is the thumbnail story of my sister in law Leslie.  She has moved to Amsterdam to be with my new brother in law and we are so thrilled.  Vivien was the flower girl.  It is so like Leslie that as she was planning this special day for herself, she was thinking of how to take care of her large extended family.  Things we would all do together in Amsterdam, paying for travel for those who needed it, a play room for kids at the wedding, chocolates on our arrival.

The night before the wedding ( we would call it a rehearsal dinner, but the Dutch don’t rehearse, those tall people just do)  the happy couple had an open house.  We got to meet “Dutch’s”( my nick name for my new brother in law) large blue eyed, blond haired family and were served traditional Dutch food.

it was lovely, but I was about to pass out

The staff were dressed in their kitschy Dutch best.  Dutch food?  Lots of little fried things.  It was a sweet affair, but sadly our jet lag was hitting me hard as I struggled to speak and eat.  Viv was laid out watching cartoons.

The next day we were recovered, thankfully!  Viv got into her flower girl outfit and she looked like an angel. Her hair was curled and she wore a garland of white roses. She loved that I let her wore “heels”.Leslie had suggested ivory.  Viv saw this dress and said “mommy, I don’t want to see one more dress that’s it.  ( my blow up bed in the background).  The weather was perfect.  Leslie had thought of everything even having sandwiches as we got ready.  So smart or we would have keeled over by the first toast.

She had asked me to keep a secret from Vivien HOW we were getting to the ceremony.  So Viv had no idea what was coming as we stood and waited.

I was so happy for Leslie, and felt so lucky to be part of such a happy day.  Loved Vivien’s excitement which was over the top when she saw what she would be riding in. 

Mark and I rode in the larger carriage behind with other VIP’s.  It was like a dream clopping through the tiny streets of Amsterdam, along the canals.  Tourist were snapping pictures.  A soundtrack in my head of “enjoy this moment, this is special”. The carriages were pristine. I knew Vivien must have been beside herself riding with the bride and groom over cobblestone streets.  A little girls dream come true. Pretty rad for her mom as well.

I loved my dress.  It was a mini with room to eat and soft trumpet sleeves.

My attempt at self portrait

We arrived at the place for the ceremony and reception.  Glad they were in the same building as I would hate to  have bike in these heels!  

The Dutch sit for their weddings.  Sure, they walk in like we do, but then they plunk themselves down.  They had a great officiant who read things the couple had written.  Most moving was what Leslie had written about her children and bonus children.  I got a bit weepy, which I always like in a wedding ceremony.  Also, since this was not a wedding of youths I didn’t have that cynicism I can have at weddings.  Where I’m inwardly rolling my eyes at the pledges for love greatness.  “Yeah, right”.  But, since they had been around the block it felt more meaningful.  They also had a great wedding singer ( I know seems like an oxymoron).  When she sang an acappella version of Van Morrison’s “Someone like you”  I sobbed anew. I was getting my moneys worth out of this show.

Vivien took her job very seriously to attend to her aunt. 

 

We went to the bathroom and Leslie had gone downstairs to the reception Vivien was outraged.  She turned on me, “I told you I needed to go down with Leslie!”

“We will find her now.”  But, when she saw Leslie happily chatting with guests and drinking she became more distraught.

“Mommy, there is nothing for me to do.” I told her about the kid room where there were games, videos, art, young gals in tight shirts with enthusiam, but she wanted none of it.  She had been to the mountain top, she had been somebody, she did not want to go back to being an ordinary kid, to being a pumpkin.

“She wants people to sign the guest book, you could help with that?”  I suggested.  She just glared at me.  She knew that was a crap job.

Nothing was pleasing her and I was worried, because I could see the antique bar in the other room and was imaging a nice bourbon on the rocks just out of reach…  Fortunately, my mother had also come to the wedding and was staying across the street.  She wisely surmized that Vivien was exhausted.

“Would you like to come to my hotel and rest for a while?”  Yes, she did.  I love multi generational travel.  I hunkered down eating and drinking with some lovely Dutch people and she napped for an hour.  Later she returned and had a great time in the kid room with her second cousins.  

I got one humorous toast out.  My first stand up gig in a while.   From start to finish it was a HAPPY DAY.

The next day Leslie had arranged a boat tour through the canals for all of the out of town guests.

me and my Mom

Viv and I had gone shopping earlier in the day.  Since the exchange rate does NOT favor the Yanks, I took to browsing in the many second hand shops.  I picked up this pink blouse and another flower one which was French ,looked very ’60’s.  I felt so clever and chi  until I got back stateside and saw that the label said in French “pre natel”.  No wonder if fit over my belly which had grown larger with Kass vlinders. Well, that is what love will do!

self portrait number 2

I love this picture of Vivien and her buddy, and second cousin JJ trying to touch the tunnel on our cruise.  JJ’s two younger brothers were also on the trip and I when I would see their cute round faces having fun I missed Rex and wished I brought them.  Then I would see their parents dealing with a meltdown or a tantrum and I would think, phew, dodged a bullet.  However, on this cruise I got to talk to Rex after not being able to for a couple of days.  It was starting to get to me.  I didn’t have an international phone, and then a friend of Leslie’s helped me make a call.   When Rex got on the phone he said,  “Momma, it’s me.”

This broke my heart and I started crying.  Could he really think I wouldn’t know my own baby?  He was having a good time. He was fine.  I cried with relief after we hung up.

Next time we come, I’ll bring him.  Fortunately, there is no rush.  We now have a dear and deep family presence in Holland.

A dream come true.

Amsterdam: the comings and goings

In short, what a great trip.  From being blessed with perfect weather to being surrounded by family, ones we knew and new ones to us.

The transitions of travel are always the worst.

Most difficult: leaving Rex.  My beloved sister Cecily showed up at 10am.  We were going to go to the airport at 11am.  I wanted him to feel he was leaving us, not the other way around. We had gotten him ready with lots of “how fun for you, you are going on a sleep over.”  Vivien was very good at helping with this.  As I put him in Cecily’s car he said, “I’m lucky.”  Little crack in my heart.  I started to choke up and Mark said to hold together till he left.  They pulled away and I sobbed a bit as I walked back into the house, but I stopped myself because I felt if I followed that path I would never stop.   Cecily had wisely planned to drive him straight to a fun play space.  Before we got on the plane she sent me this picture of him hamming it up in a ball pit.  Relief.

He was having more fun than we were.  So we sent them this picture.

Sitting around, sitting around.

Later when we were crammed in the plane to begin a ten-hour journey I had my first of many “better Rex is NOT here”. Anytime we were waiting around or in a crowd I thought the same as he would bolt.  I thought KLM would be a tad better than it was. It was fine and the attendants are much friendlier than US ones, but my big beef was their stupid entertainment system and the arm rests that don’t go up beyond a couple of inches.  We were three to a row, so Vivien should have been able to stretch out across her parents laps and get some shut-eye, but no. The arm rests don’t go up, they can’t there is no room for them to tuck into between the seats.  I am taking this to the Hague. Back to the gripes with the in flight entertainment.

1) the control looked like a an old game boy and if you accidentally hit it with your hip (which I did over and over again) you have to start the movie again and then fast forward to your place.  I was watching “The Vow”  a Channing Tatum romantic weeper.  Because of the bump breaks I became fixated on finishing the movie.  Mark would start to talk to me.  “I can’t talk, I have 22 minutes left of this damm film, and by God, I’m going to finish it.”  I also am now a tad obsessed with Channing Tatum.

2) non glare screen.  What a lousy screen.  I love flying Virgin to NYC as I catch up on movie watching.  But, on that flight I can see the movie.  On the flight home I gave up as the  dude behind me would not put his shade down.  I think the international sign of pointing to his window and gesturing downward didn’t work. He smiled, but didn’t do anything.  Maybe he thought I was telling him I was saying goodbye to Holland.

3) Have there been no good movies out in the last few months or does KLM have a lousy list? Going to Europe for my second film I watched, “21 Jump Street”  further cementing my Channing Tatum fixation.  I held the control in front of me for over 90 minutes so I wouldn’t hit the button and end the film.  My right arm muscles got a work out.  Actually, “21 Jump Street” was much more amusing than I had anticipated, but I thought there might be one of the Oscar nominees on the flight.

However the food was fine.  We easily moved to a cab in the Amsterdam airport.  All five of us.  Mark’s oldest son Ben, my Mother in Law, who had been stretched out in Business Class, Mark, Viv and I. We got a large cab and every single cab we had it Holland  I could live in.  They were immaculate.  The drivers were gentleman, often in blazers who spoke perfect English.  NOTHING like cab drivers in NYC or LA that’s for sure.

When we got back to the States at the end of our trip we were wrung out.  Viv and I couldn’t sleep a wink on the plane.  The bags took forever and when we went through customs I was sweating like I was in “Midnight Express”  I had some Gouda buried in my bag and I thought I might end up in the hoosegow.    Maybe I could have shoved it between my butt cheeks like a drug smuggler, but it was a big hunk of cheese.  I have had enough butt problems.   Fortunately once we said we had no tulip bulbs ( we did not) we were fine.  Fine until Mark got us on the wrong shuttle to our long term parking and we were driven to a neighboring city– not kidding.  We got back on while three rather uneducated young people screamed profanities at each other over Vivien’s head.  “hey watch your mouth”  I said, risking being stabbed.

We finally got to the car. The only thing keeping me going was seeing Rex.  I had called the baby sitter when we landed.  She said this was the first day he was getting anxious.   “Where is my mommy?”  We pulled up and he was outside.  Viv and I ran to him.  I swear he had changed in a week.  His hair was blonder, his features more defined.

” I talked to you mommy on Dolly’s phone.”  We had the day before.  “Yes, baby.”  He was happy.  Twice he said, “mommy, I didn’t cry.”

I buried my head in his soft, sweet skin.  Later around 5pm I told the kids eat now or forget it because I’m about to pass out.  Mark had gone into work.

As Viv slept and I tried to Rex was jumping on me like Hulk Hogan.  I called Mark, “Please come home.”  Later when Mark brought a sleeping Rex into our bed.  I held Rex’s foot.

I held his foot all night.

More posts on our great trip to Amsterdam will be forthcoming.