a field trip to the world: travelling with children

“A ship in harbor is safe. But is that what it was meant for?” Travelling certainly has its risks, but the scales weigh heavier on the ‘just go’ side because new experiences educate our senses and our understanding of others … Continue reading

redeye to Netherlands

How motivated I am to sleep on a redeye: I’m publicly testing positions on the floor in front of our economy comfort seats. Jim upgraded us, the kids were thrilled.

I’m shushing the girls beside me so I can hear the flight attendant share her announcements. I’ve heard it dozens of times, but I’m trained to listen. “Oh wait, I can’t understand dutch, forget it!

The tasty root beer flavoured gum ready for lift-off was melted to its wrapper, but I was ecstatically crying happy for liftoff anyway.

Toward the end of our time in Ghana, I was having real difficulty eating in House Six…anticipating bugs, smells, all-aged sweaty hot flashes. I cannot tell you how wonderful that warmed roll and butter were in my mouth. This little piece of westernized heaven in my mouth was brought to me by KLM Airlines (advertisement earned). Eating that fish curry, with tears in my eyes, I turned to Jim and said, “This is sooo good”. And he wholeheartedly agreed.

The fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate croissant for our 0430 breakfast at the luxurious Schipol Airport made my mouth want to dance.

As quickly as we walked outside the Amsterdam airport, I heard the remark, “Okay, we need to get back to Africa; it’s too cold!” We’ll have a rude awakening when we return to Canada.

Hello Amsterdam–where mom insists on seatbelts, grocery stores bursting in plentiful options, including fishheads and cheeses, streetside tulip bulbs and pot shops, Van Gogh posters and WiFi.


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Hemp shops (I saw an ad for “magic mushrooms & PCP inside”)…

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Did I tell you the story about tulips? I declared that the first man to buy me tulips would be the man I married. The morning after our third date, my roommate wrote a note: “Congratulations, Mrs. Wiedrick”. And so our story began…

Our first authentically Dutch breakfast was pancakes, of course, and eggs and cheese on toast. We went for breakfast on a maximum of three hours of sleep apiece…mine was in the hour range.

Breakfast eggs and cheese pic…nothing exciting. When I asked what traditional Dutch fare was, I heard: potatoes.

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Madelyn’s food art: Van Gogh toast (get it? he has one ear).

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We did manage to stay awake until the afternoon, settling into our Frederick apartment.

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We should have tried Indonesian food, but I was convinced to try an Indian restaurant instead. 8000 restaurants in all of Amsterdam. We could never get bored. Since both Indonesia and India were colonies of the Dutch, I think either qualified as an ethnic experience. We’re nasty to the kids to take them to an Indian restaurant the first night post Africa hey? Maybe India will be our next volunteer destination.

Not everyone was motivated to fill their roster with Rijksmuseum this morning. I brought my museum companion, Hannah. She’d rather gaze at oil paintings of historical figures than bicycle around Vondelpark. Bicycles are to Amsterdam as motorcycles are to Roma. I comment to the taxi driver that they’re a healthy city, everyone on their bike with their long, lean, blonde headed bods. The driver said they’re not trying to be healthy; it’s simply cheaper than parking fees, and easy to get around on this flat terrain. I asked him what the accident potential is without any helmets. Huh, don’t know. Everyone just watches. And watch they do. These people can zoom through airports and city streets, passing safely while anticipating timing. Later, I would hear that Rachel pounded a man’s car tire with her front bike tire. He didn’t care.

I’d much rather be Lost in Amsterdam than bike through busy city streets with three newby child bicyclers. And so Hannah and I did, got lost that is. One hour to Rijksmuseum. But we found it!

But we can still pose for a picture…

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The first piece I viewed was an oil painting of a stout fellow from the 1600s. He was painted by Cornelius Troost, from a wealthy Mennonite family. He looks like a Friesen, no? Oh bah. He’s actually a Van der Mersch.

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Hannah doing research for her art history research paper, just kidding…

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This cupid has a Latin inscription declaring that whatever your heart loves is where your mind will be.

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Rijksmuseum is home to Rembrandt’s Nightwatch…he’s the focus to the museum, so everyone is crowding around him. Not good for a pic.

In 1975, a museum patron clumsily fell into the painting, with a knife. How does one accidentally fall into a painting, with a knife? But fall into one? I understand. Nearly did it myself today, gees, embarassing.

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Apparently, Van Gogh painted Hollywood. Hannah recognized Tina Fey…

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My favourite painting was new to me, reminded me of Amsterdam, and was created in my first artistic era, Impressionism…

In the Month of July” by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel

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At present, the light is going behind the trees while we are training it to Brussels, then overnighting in Bruges.

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I had just finished telling Jim that I absolutely love European backpack travelling, then we had a half hour to shop before our next train. I’d wandered into the Eurocool station boutiques and accrued a half dozen Christmas gifts.  Where to put them, where to put them? Stuffed in Jim’s backpack, of course. “Okay, so I’ve changed my mind–I absolutely love European luggage travelling”.

Hannah shopping…(we have a LOT of these photos)…

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van gogh museum & jet lag & amsterdam canal tour

A five hour nap post-flight was not a good idea–because later we had a hot chocolate and Benadryl party at 3:30 in the morning. But, really, how is a family of six supposed to pretend that we slept for ten minutes one night and move right into the next day? Mission impossible!

Still, some of us never look jetlagged…

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We were ‘welkomed’ to Amsterdam on a water tour for seventy five minutes. With diminished cognitive sensibilities, we were numbed to the details of the tour. Or is it that we’re not ultimately intending to tour Europe, so we’re not fully engaging in the Netherlands?

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The guided tour informed me that Amsterdam was originally a trading post on the Amstel River and developed in the sixteenth century. There have been floods and plagues and fires—classic European history. The West Church was designed by Rembrandt in the Dutch Renaissance. The canal makes its way to the Rhine River, which usually transports river boats to Germany. To my surprise, Amsterdam is the world’s largest petrol exporter. I thought that was Fort McMurray.

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It wasn’t the water tour that had my attention today, though. Rent a headset at the front counter of the Van Gogh museum and away we went.

Good thing you’re wearing a red jacket, mom. So we can find you”.

I’m in such a jetlagged haze that I wasn’t conscious where my four kiddos were. They’re probably safe in this four floor, jam packed with people, Dutch museum.

Here, our tour guide for the lovely museum.

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This would be the only photograph I could take inside. Naturally, the Dutch are hoping you will come visit instead.

If you like museums, you should visit Europe. Churches, too.

Perhaps I was underwhelmed by museums as a child. Can’t say we made that a regular family excursion. I’ve been making up for lost time these last few years.

The Van Gogh museum really is a sight for impressionist lovers like myself. I missed out on the Musee d’Orsay in Paris two years ago—apparently they’re closed Tuesdays.

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With the cutest tour guide ever, we stood, stared, gaped and studied art pieces until my hubby declared, “So I’m taking anyone interested to the café”.

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I was two floors behind them. I told Jim I love this place and he happily chimed in, “Great. Cuz I can see we’ll be here all day”. Ha, I proved him wrong. Just three hours.

The café was just as pretty as the museum. I missed the croissants, but I enjoyed a European cappuccino just as the doors opened in the morning.

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I’ve got a fine arts degree waiting for me when the kids are growed up…

Since I’m ten minutes away from boarding another plane, I don’t have time to include web addresses for each piece. But I wanted to share with you my favourite pieces…

  1. De Siene, morning—I thought this was an all Van Gogh museum. Apparently not. Charles Angrand…never heard of him. Love his work.
  2. Camille Pissaro’s “The haymaking in Eragny” (did you know there were a couple female impressionists—no Bertha Morrisot at this museum).
  3. Van Gogh attempted pointillism with his “Garden with courting couples”…this pic is everywhere…you’ve seen it.
  4. Self-portrait of Van Gogh in a straw hat…you’ve seen this one. Who knew it was painted on cardboard. Looks like chalk pastels.
  5. My now present favourite of Van Gogh: “Flowerpot of garlic chives” (sunflowers are so overrated)…
  6. Odilon redon bloemen, especially “de witte sering” (the white lilac) was a Madelyn and Jim favourite. Redon’s work is perfectionistic, even in his signature…pastels on paper.
  7. And one of Van Gogh’s favourites: a piece by Ernest Quost, “Garden with hollyhocks”.
  8. I would actually BUY “Avenues of poplars in autumn”. The poplars are golden lining the piece with a nun walking away from a convent? Mental health hospital? (VG was hospitalized numerous times). Of course if it were on the market, I could NOT buy it. But one can dream.
  9. How to be an art critic written by a non-official art critic:

I’m a novice in the art world. But I stared heartily at his brushstrokes, trying to understand how the tiny oil painted strokes could, from a few feet away, create an overall picture.

Move yourself: Up close, then far away. Up close, then far away. Tip head to the right. Tip head to the left. Squint a foot away from piece and stand back.

Now you too can (appear to) be a professional art critic!


post-plane flight & anne frank huis

We didn’t plan our first day here, as we knew we’d be exhausted, but after our five hour post-plane nap, we decided to walk the seven minutes and find ourselves in a half hour line-up for the Anne Frank huis.

Anne Frank huis had an unassuming exterior. I’d easily walk by if it weren’t for the half hour line turning the corner round the back. It was covered in modern black shutters.October 6 2014 196 The lower level appeared to be a modern art gallery.

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Just across the side street is the bell tower that Anne writes of in her diary, and a canal view out front.

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I would have been happy to discover that free WiFi was available for the duration of my wait; however, the sign was only at the entrance, along with the “no photography” sign. Lighting wouldn’t have allowed the place to shine brightly in my personal history books anyway, so I’ll let its world presence shine brightly itself.

If I can describe this apartment with one word, I would say “dank”. You know the word that means dark, dreary, with heavy metal shutters, disallowing light from entering the room. When Anne said she missed the outdoors, she didn’t exaggerate. Though she could enjoy the morning light in the tiny attic above.

There were nine foot ceilings, but touching the marble counter and sink with its wall faucet, I imagined the potatoes and year old kale being prepared for lunch and imagine Mrs. Van Dam complaining about her sore shoulder, again, and I would want to get out of there. Or at least make sounds. I could tiptoe to the rectangular bathroom or waft up the steep staircase to my room on the second floor, maybe make friends with Peter or hope to perfectly conjugate my latin verbs for the latin teacher outside these walls, but I would have no companion, other than my written words.

Anne, strong-minded, confident, sassy, filled with opinions and words, and most certainly, idealistic about the future, reminds me of my thirteen year old daughter. Anne declared, “I know what I want. I have a goal. I have opinions. A religion and love.” Written April 11, 1944

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She aspired to being a journalist, a well-known writer. Only her father, Otto, would see her dream to fruition. She died of Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany just a month before the war was over. The Russians battled against the Germans only 120 miles away.

On our trip to the Venice Jewish Ghetto last autumn, we picked up her unedited book; we voraciously read a teenage diary of a girl–not a diary of a wimpy kid. She was a girl with boys on her mind, with annoyance in her housemates, with plans for her future, and certainly, a way with words.

Hannah and I chose a couple books from the Anne Frank bookshop about her life: “anne frank: the Anne Frank House authorized graphic biography”…cartoon Anne Frank for our littles. And “The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank—the Stories of six women who knew Anne Frank” by Willy Lindwer.

Afterward, we stopped at the Pancake Bakery for dinner…a no-go-zone for gluten haters. Gigantic crepes with ethnic fillings, the Canadian (bacon and eggs, maple syrup and sausage—might be all jammed together, but yup, that’s Canadian), the Indonesian (sounded interesting, but not in a pancake), the French (Nutella with fruit, yum, always), the Norweigan (we adults tried that one: sour cream, cream cheese and fresh salmon, uh yeah!)

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And back to the apartment for a little family reading, and an attempt at finding the heat in this near-wintery cold, Ikea showplace.

When chatting with Zach on his bed at bedtime, he asked, “Why did the Yahtzees want to kill the Jews?” Besides power, greed, and a penchant for evil, I wouldn’t really know. As we return to the Netherlands and venture into Belgium, we’ll do a little more World War study after our Ghana trip.

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It is now 1:31 am. Amsterdam time anyway. I’ve lost track of home time. And am lost in the “I have no idea what time it is but I want to eat all the time, go to sleep for two hour periods, and gees, I sound like I’m living on newborn time”.

I’ll soak this place up. Stare into its damp pre-winter chills. Savour the hourly clock tower chimes. And listen to slices of gouda being cut from the round. Yes, with jetlag my senses are askew, but I’m readily taking in the views.