Friday, December 11, 2009

not too cold

its true! its been about 45F and overcast rainy since we arrived.. aside from getting used to the (sunrise at 8am! sunset at 4!) lack of daylight its been very comfortable, and we're riding our bikes around in all sorts of weather.

but ... everyone warned me about the famous dutch "coldness" .. they all said dont worry, theyre very nice people once you get to know them. but theyre hard to get to know. well, the same could be said of new englanders, so i thought i was ready for it

and our new neighbor has been SO friendly, and SO neighborly.. i thought to myself - "oh.. people and their stereotypes, sheesh!"

but then i took the kids to a neighborhood playgroup. we walked in, smiles a-blazin', and everyone looked up at us, and went right back to their business. no one said 'hi'.. after a few minutes, no one came over to welcome me, so i moved over to the nearest woman, and tried my best dutch: "ik hebbe ten dagen hier wonen" (who knows if its dutch actually? it might be a cross between german & dutch.. but i like to think she understood me :D) she basically told me she didnt speak english, had no curiosity about us, so i backed of and watched my kids play.

i really wasnt prepared for that. where in the world did we land? but as usual, im undeterred. these people are gonna like us , dammit.

later a woman was playing with her obviously-almost-one-year-old on the rug,, so i sat down and asked her if he was one yet.. and we had a nice conversation. turns out she is the group leader, and gave me all the info about the group, etc.. and she able to speak english with me. whew, success! she seemed like a genuinely nice person too.

so as we were filing out, the kids stopped to watch the seniors country and western dancing in the next room (cracking me UP!!! it was cute) i made small talk with a few other of the moms all getting coats and shoes on their kids, and then. like magic, i was 'one of them' and we're all saying "tot siens" (see you soon)

now im seeing these ladies everywhere! and we're getting waves and smiles all over the neighborhood streets now.

the next day we went to lucas new school and i was charmed by it all.. we stepped in his classroom to introduce him, she explained he speaks english & french, and they will be helping him learn dutch. and as we were leaving his class was already outside playing, so we stuck around a few minutes. after about 2 minutes there was a line of about 6 boys staring at him. lucas is feeling a bit nervous about not speaking dutch, so he ran over to me. after a few minutes he went back out to play, and then there were about 5 or 6 girls crowded around him, and he ran back to me. it was so cute.. and the girls kept coming over to listen to me speak with their teacher in english - so curious! so mysterious!!!

i think we'll get along fine here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


we arrived! and are now getting settled in the new time zone, finding out where to shop, meeting the neighbors, etc. one neighbor in particular is very nice and has come around for coffee twice now, has offered to bring me shopping with her car on tuesday mornings.. and generally is very fun to chat with, and she has three teenage boys. she was explaining "sinterklaas" (dec. 5th) to us and how to celebrate it. her youngest son (at 11 years old, and in the oldest grade in primary school) got to dress up as a "zwarte piet" and give "kruidnoten" (totally delicious, tiny crispy gingerbread cookies)to the smaller kids in school.

so today at 3pm our doorbell rang, and we got a special visit from "zwarte piet" himself! the kids loved it, and now we have a small bowlful of kriednoten for the afternoon snack!

we are already feeling so welcome, and having fun... even though our old friends are still very present in our memories. we're off to a great start!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

one more time

i have moved around my whole life.. so when i say "im OVER it!" i really really mean it. moving is interesting (fun?) when youre young & single or even a young married couple.. but moving with kids is a little more complicated. to give them the security & stability they need.

so this is IT! we are moving ONE MORE TIME.. to Utrecht, The Netherlands. and after that we will STAY PUT (god willin'!) until our kids finish school. ph has found himself a permanent position doing exactly what he wants to be doing, and with apparently a great set of people (both professionally & personally) at a national lab.. so, without all the natural change of university life. harvard has been wonderful to us, and we feel so blessed to have lived in such a neat town for this part of our lives.

so, i used to get excited about moving, but now the thrill rushes me when i think in terms of decades in the same place. we think this time since we're moving in the winter, we will get a furnished apartment for the first 6 months or so, just to get to know Utrecht a little, discover what neighborhoods we like and start learning Dutch to be able to read the labels at the grocery store. ive been told my kids will speak almost fluently after a few months in dutch schools.

and thats exciting enough.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

punny ruby

ruby is pretty good at languages, and playing with the sounds, etc.. this has been emerging for a long time, for example she would joke with me by speaking english in a french accent. okay, not terribly complicated humor, unless you're TWO!

but the other day philippe asked her "c'est qui la plus belle?" (who is the most beautiful girl?) and she replied grinning and laughing at herself "moi c'est la poubelle?" (me, i'm the trashcan?). we all fell out laughing.

dont get it?

she made a verbal pun. la plus belle is pronounced "la ploo bell" and sounds alot like la poubelle which is pronounced "la poo bell"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

mad about the madsen giveaway

okay fans.. all 3 of you, listen up.

i posted that madsen bike link on the right, because they just announced they are giving away one bike every week, and the only way im entered in the contest is if my button gets clicked once within that week. come on, lets get ol' bb some big bikey love!

thanks again for humoring me. i know who really loves me

Sunday, August 23, 2009

lu rides his bike!

lucas has been riding his little wooden balance bike everywhere since early spring. recently, he began pretending to pedal it too, while balancing it a fairly high speeds,, and i said to myself: this kid is ready for a real bike!

but ph brought up the real pedal bike this last weekend, and took off the training wheels for him. he needed about 30 minutes and one good push before he was off like a shot! and he hasnt stopped since! ph even said he heard him say "velo" (bike, in french) talking in his sleep last night. :D

and so it is: he's officially a big boy now! let the record show it... 4 years and 3 months old, riding a real bona-fide pedal bike without training wheels. (gulp~ and he goes SO FAST! on it.

i still love love love his little wooden bike, as it makes getting around our town without a car so much easier. i even like that his bike wheels are the exact same size as our stroller tires. it makes going a similar speed easy, its lighter and easier for me to carry if needed, and he is technically still walking it, so his speeds are constrained to a certain extent (on the pedal bike he wants ~and, in fact, needs~ to go faster than me),, that it really is safer. so we will continue using it at least until he outgrows it. We'll let him take the big boy bike out to the playgrounds near our house until he has mastered it fully.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The long and winding road

this year we couldnt afford to go to france (got 4Gs?), so we decided to try taking the kids out tent-camping in the white mountains of new hampshire for a few days, and then on to quebec city canada for another 3 days. A new england road trip! How fun!

Well, first and foremost, ruby is horribly, terribly, incurably carsick. She vomits within 5 minutes of almost any car trip, and i hate putting her through it, my sweet little button.. but we found these “magic bracelets” (pressure points armbands) so we thought we had solved the problem and optimistically set off on our fantastic voyage. and it worked for a while.. but once we got on those gorgeous winding rolling back roads it was all over. The first 2 hours on the freeway was smooth sailing, and nap time.. but once we exited the main freeway, she puked continuously until we reached our campsite 4 miles off the main road. We stopped several times for her, but there was not much we could do but hold her hair & bucket for her.

Whew! That was over... ready to enjoy the beautiful national forests! The campsite was awesome. It had a little babbling creek running along the length of it, a fire pit and a picnic table and (we brought the) hammock. We were a really short hike from Russell Pond that had many little fresh water tributaries running into it (one of which ran past our campsite), and a nice little sandy beach & swimming access..

a little canoe post, and even a big rope swing where the teenagers were having a blast jumping into the water. Ahh the woods! We spent two and a half days in utter bliss and perfect weather. We even had a little chipmunk that lived under a big tree stump on the other side of our creek. He came over and visited us every day, kind of fussing at us. He was so adorable! The kids fell in LOVE with our new little friend, and named him “chippy the chipmunk”.

On the third night we saw rain clouds a-brewing, and were planning on leaving the next morning anyway, so I went ahead and packed up camp, leaving just the tent to sleep in.. but when we returned to the campsite from getting the kids dressed in their pajamas (at the bath house) we were tucking them in for the night when we noticed our tent was taking in water at the seams! All the bedding was getting wet! So we quickly threw it all in the car, and headed off into the sunset ~ for a hotel!

Since the kids were asleep, we decided to drive on up to the canadian border, where we found a place to sleep (where we didnt sleep very well actually..)... got up the next morning had a rather chokable continental breakfast.. and discovered – the indoor POOL. Yes, and being 9am we had it all to ourselves. They even had some big styrofoam swim-noodles and the kids were sort-of dog-paddling around with help. Lucas was particularly pleased he could stand up on his tippy toes in the 3-ft water, and keep his face dry.

And we took off for quebec thinking we'd have most of their naptime to drive. WRONG! They slept for half-an-hour, and when we pulled in to the first canadian visitor information center to get a map ruby woke up and started vomiting again when we got back on the road. All the way to quebec city. Needless to say we were SO GLAD to get there, and park that car out of sight for 3 full days! I tend to dislike cars, and all the attendant hassle and expense of driving in the first place.. but add a puking child into the mix and my hatred for all things “car” becomes intensified!

But once we were in quebec city! Glorious quebec city, oh my! It was sooooo charming. And beautiful. And so FRENCH! We stayed at a little B&B (Couette-et-cafe, “le Jardin de Saint Anne”) inside the walled city. Mercifully, there was a coin-op laundry 2 block from our hotel because EVERY item of rubys clothing was barfed on by now..We loved our location, the room, the friendly staff, and the breakfasts, too. We enjoyed walking around being tourists again, and we even found a little stuffed toy chipmunk for lucas as a souvenir of our vacation.

Being in a city, I love it when theres a palpaple sense of art. You see it everywhere, the fountains, the flowers, the architecture, the wide sidewalks. Theres a real feeling that this place was created over a long period of time with a pleasant human experience in mind. Its built to human proportions, for human enjoyment and use. We even saw a beautiful water fountain with potable water in it, the perfect size and height for you to drop your water bottle under it for a refill.. this city wants me to stay hydrated hand healthy!

We found a nice little sidewalk cafe with excellent espresso, where we were having our mid-morning coffees and picking up a fresh baked baguette (bread) for the picnic lunches - hey, we gotta conserve money wherever we can! And how better than with a baguette and some fresh meats and cheeses from the deli? We added a tomato & a bottle of fizzy water leftover from the camping trip, et voila!

We were eating our suppers at the local restaurants. And there was only one really worth mentioning. It was called “Carthage” on Cote du Palais (off of Rue St-Jean). Delicious Tunisian fare for absurdly inexpensive prices, served at authentic and very ornate short tables and seats with a huge smile (the proprietor was genuinely happy, and you could just tell he loved what he did) [too bad they were out of couscous -ph]

in preparation of our return trip, we bought some real drugs for Ruby's carsickness at the pharmacy and packed up our picnic lunch to eat at the playground on our way out of town.. so the kids could take their nap on the first leg of the trip. But when we got to the playground, first on the list of things to do was to repair a flat tire! Zut-alors! (to my anglo-audience, this is something akin to “ well, shoot!”)

but at least we had our picnic ready, and a picnic table about 15 feet from our parking space, and it wasnt raining YET.. (we had had perfect weather up until the day we were leaving again, when dark clouds were looming large). And the kids were enjoying themselves at the playground. We managed to take the still wet bedding and tent and give them a brief airing-out on top of the cannons all around the park while ph dutifully changed the tire. Of course, this was sunday afternoon, and every tire-fixing place nearby was closed. So we spent the nap time driving around on our donut tire looking for the ONLY place in quebec city open on a sunday who could fix our tire. We found it, and the guy only had to replace the little valve for $24, lucas loved the part where we were waiting, watching our mechanic from the garage doors. Our tire was in otherwise perfect condition.. and thank goodness we were all fixed before for the big drive ahead, because it was rainy and winding little roads most of the way home through Maine.

The kids slept a little bit, and Rubys medicine worked for about 4 hours until she started vomiting again. So as soon as we saw a restaurant, we stopped for dinner and stayed another hour or so.. basically waiting until the kids were ready to sleep for the night so we could drive home.

We had a marvelous time, despite the bumps along the road. I really didnt miss the ordinary grind, computer, TV or news. We only brought pleasure reading, and it was like a fresh breeze running through my ears.