Amsterdam Part II.

Amsterdam at night is known for its seedier side. Americans immediately conjure up images of ladies of the night hawking their bodies in the windows of the red light district as tourists gape open mouthed at their gestures and nakedness. The smell of pot smoke fills the air as drunken stag parties stumble about from pub to pub. While some of this might be true, much of it is the stuff of imagination as this “darker” side of Amsterdam wasn’t really visible to us during our sojourn to the city. Yes, we toured the red light district and came upon coffeeshops from time to time, but none of it seemed illicit. All of it seemed totally normal and even “respectable” (also we attempted to get to bed by 9:30PM so we probably missed all the fun anyway). On the other hand, our nights in Amsterdam were consumed by another nefarious agent.

Did you hear that sound? Oh no? You are lucky then because each night if we attempted to put Henry to bed in his travel crib an exorcism of the most horrific order unfolded! That first night was the stuff of parenting nightmares and I was convinced that Henry’s screams could be heard back in beantown. For hours, he was completely inconsolable and wanted nothing to do with David. I was left pacing the floor of our tiny Amsterdam apartment with Henry strapped to me in the Ergobaby. If my paced changed, he shrieked. In those early morning hours, I broke down and begged David to get us back home to the States. I had had enough 24 hours in to our week long vacation. I threw in the towel. David however filled my cup with coffee and assured me that despite my zombie state and utter fear of a nightly repeat that it would get better. And it did. Well it did because we just gave in to the little tyrant. Instead of trying to get him to sleep in his crib (which he does beautifully every night at home), we let him sleep in bed with us. We also just went with his flow. Instead of bedtime at 7PM, he went to bed at 9:30PM. Instead of sleeping through the night, he woke up from 1-3AM for a play time session everyday. It was a crazy schedule, but we made it work. In the end, we all got enough sleep to make it through each day feeling rested and excited to explore. But, I will not lie, I am really happy to be back home if only for the return of our sleep schedule!

On top of our random and at times horrifying nights, we jotted down some funny or random items from our trip that either made us smile, laugh, or scratch our heads:

  • Selfie sticks: everywhere we turned photos were taken using selfie sticks. From teens to geriatrics, the selfie stick was by far the device of choice among the tourist circle. We saw them so often that we even thought to ourselves, “hmm maybe we should get one?”
  • Grandparents: when you take a bus tour you will inevitably be among the grandparent tourist circle. And there is nothing wrong with this. It is just a fact. The convenience of these types of tours make it incredibly welcoming to this demographic and it was also ideal for our little family. As such, we learned so much about all of the grandchildren of these delightful tourists. Each Oma and Opa would pet Henry’s hand or head and tell us how sweet he was and how cute he was and how much they missed their own little grand-babies.
  • Dutch Girlfriend: Everywhere Henry went, he was a flirt. He would cast his “come hither” eyes to the crowd hoping to catch a young lady. Henry melted many a hearts in Amsterdam but no one fell harder than this little girl we met while eating dinner at the Golden Temple. She could not stop coming over to our table, holding Henry’s hand, and staring at him. It was an instant connection and I cannot wait for their paths to cross again.
  • Day of Details: One morning David declared it the “day of details.” While I sort of laughed at this idea, it was actually really fun. David went about the city with a keen eye hoping to capture the smaller points of Amsterdam. He ended up taking some great shots!
  • Love Boat: When we got aboard the ferry to Marken the theme to the Love Boat played on repeat for the 30 minute trip. Ha, it was amazing!
  • Bjorns & Bikes: Did you know that you can just strap your newborn to you in a Bjorn and bike around the city? Every country is different and we should not jump to immediate judgements but this was one practice that surprised me every time I saw it. Dads glided by with their little fresh babies in Bjorns as they biked here and there. Amsterdam bike culture is VERY different from Boston. In Boston, a cyclist runs the risk of losing life or limb to a disgruntled driver which is not at all what it is like biking in the very, very cyclist friendly city of Amsterdam. Nonetheless, this practice was super curious, but I am sure those little babies napped really well while their parents biked them about strapped to their chests!
  • Robin & Heather: It is sometimes hard to realize how much you miss someone until you see them again and are directly reminded of how awesome they are! I miss Robin and Heather terribly. They are truly good friends, good people, and good souls. Their visit to Amsterdam for the weekend of our stay was by far my trip highlight.

Amsterdam Part I.

We did it!  We survived our first family international vacation. Over the last seven days, we toured around Amsterdam and the surrounding cities and just had a blast soaking up the sites and especially the foods of the Netherlands. To recap our little adventure, I am going to write about our trip in two parts. This first part will look over the wonderful sights and foods we enjoyed along with our daily routine abroad. Post two will cover the wild and crazy nights and other oddities that come with traveling with a jet-lagged baby! During the daylight hours, our trip could not have been better. We traveled direct from Boston to Amsterdam and Henry did not really sleep during the flight. It was clearly too exciting to sit in the bulkhead which meant tons of noises and sights from the flight attendant galley. Once we landed the excitement continued as we made our way via taxi to our apartment which we rented through airbnb on Frederiksplein. It was a great location. We were about a 10 minute walk to the major Museums and a 15 minute walk to the city center. And did we walk!  We decided to not take the trams even though they were super easy to navigate because we really wanted to see everything. From 8AM through 8PM each day, we packed up the baby and our gear and walked all about the city. During these days out, Henry would nap in his stroller around 10AM-12PM and then again from 3PM-4:30PM. This schedule worked perfectly. We were able to enjoy meal times together and when Henry napped, it felt like David and I were traveling just the two of us. It was quite the perfect balance of family time and couple time.

We definitely ate our way through the vacation. And since we were walking so much we did not really heed any caution when ordering the second or third helping of frites with garlic mayo. When it comes to food, I am the sweet eater and David the savory.  Thankfully Amsterdam has enough of each to make our marriage a happy one. A few mornings prior to visiting museums, we ate at Cafe Cobra. Here we indulged in dutch apple pie, hot cocoa, pancakes, and egg sandwiches. The pancakes were as fluffy as marshmallows and the apples in the apple pie were perfectly crisp and cool. I ate my weight in stroopwaffle and am SO sad to have eaten all the waffles I brought home as “souvenirs” within the first 8 hours of my return state side. Continuing with our sweet treats, we enjoyed Metropolitan a few times as well for waffles and ice cream. This place was always packed and the chocolate delicacies including “sniffing cacao” made it very clear why people flocked here in droves to satisfy the sweet tooth. One morning we stopped in at Starbucks prior to taking a tour of Volendam and windmills and were surprised to find a chocolate hazelnut donut that was so yummy that I am left saddened that the U.S. stores don’t carry this. I should have bought some to bring home! haha. Then there was this little bakery on one of the 9 streets. We didn’t catch the name of it, but would pass it on a various walks about the city. Here along with our friends, Robin and Heather, we devoured a dark chocolate cookie filled with gooey white chocolate. Yes, this was a little taste of heaven. On the savory side of things, we dined on more frites than is healthy! Seriously, we may have eaten frites two times a day. I know, I know what were we thinking? Well we were thinking that these fried potatoes were so delicious and that the mayo and convenience of the hand carry packaging was to easy not to pass up! We also stumbled upon Mazzo and enjoyed a delicious pizza with butternut squash, bechamel sauce, haricot verts, and prosciutto along with a spicy bruschetta. It was creative and our taste buds loved this combination. When in the Netherlands, it is important to try “traditional dutch cuisine” and for this we walked all the way to Moedars. And, it was totally worth the hike. We dined on delicious meats, beer, and cheese. Henry ate with gusto here as well. All along the trip, he regained his appetite following his awful sickness prior to our departure and ate everything we put in front of him. The waitresses were impressed with him at Moedars and even gave him little gifts of baby socks and booties. They were so sweet with Henry as was everyone we met.  We were SO surprised by how accommodating everyone was in regards to Henry and how truly baby friendly every aspect of the city was from dining out to visiting sites to crossing the streets.  Everyone was so friendly and made visiting the country truly pleasurable for everyone, especially for Henry who was smitten by the people he met and enjoyed smiling, babbling, and being cheeky with everyone!

We did more than just eat though! We saw so much of the city and it is a BEAUTIFUL city. Gosh, the apartments are so unique and beautiful. Wandering the streets for hours you are left constantly in awe of the unique fronts, patterns, details, and canals. David and I kept saying, “wouldn’t it be fun to just live here for a year.” In many ways the city reminded us of Boston. The brownstones of Boston have a similar “feel” to the streets of Amsterdam which made exploring the nooks and crannies even more fun. We tried to soak it all up from museums, to shopping, to long walks, to finding hidden courtyards, to taking canal tours, to getting out of the city and exploring the surrounding cities and towns: Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans.

  • The windmills of Zaanse Schans were idyllic. Coupled with a light fog, the town looked like pastoral perfection.
  • Volendam cheese factory was great. We ate our weight in cheese samples and Henry was adamant about eating every single piece of cheese he could get his hands on including cheese with Italian spices, truffle oil, and peppercorns.
  • Marken was picturesque and seeing a local clog artisan at work was really neat. It was fun trying on clogs and eating freshly made Stroopwaffle.
  • Delft though was definitely my favorite excursion. It was a smaller, quieter version on Amsterdam and the food and town square were just beautiful. I wish we had spent even more time there!
  • Visiting the Begijnof in Amsterdam was one of my favorite sights. It was so peaceful and quiet and calm. A beautiful oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
  • Our favorite museum exhibit was the Late Rembrandt at the Riksmuseum. Henry slept through the whole thing, but it was just great being able to see that many Rembrandts’ in one area.
  • The Van Gogh museum was colorful and the perfect counterpoint to Rembrandt’s darker palette.
  • The Anne Frank house was a somber but important visit and it was crazy that when we entered the little secret annex we bumped into one of my students. Small world!

I would go back in a heartbeat. It was an excellent visit, we felt like we saw and experienced so much, and it was really a fantastic country to tour as a new little family.

and then we went to the hospital

Four days ago we thought we were in the clear, but we were wrong. Poor little Henry is still very much in the throes of this awful sickness which up until last night had no name other than the general term: Stomach Bug. The doctors have now named the beast rotavirus and what a beast it is! After 7 days of nonstop loss of fluids and an ever declining stamina and mood, we returned to the pediatrician’s office for a check-up. Upon seeing Henry’s red-rimmed eyes and pale face, she declared it time to go to the hospital for an IV and blood draw. Henry was clearly dehydrated, sad, and ready to be over this bug. The doctor thought that perhaps an infusion of fluids would be just enough to get him over this hump and onto the path of recovery. A blood draw would also help his medical team get a better sense of what he was dealing with and if he was low on any essential vitamin or nutrient.

When we arrived at the hospital, it felt surreal, dramatic, and scary. Henry was cradled in my arms while we waited to hear our name called. Once in the back, we changed him into the tiniest hospital gown and rocked him side to side until the ER doctor arrived. Similar to our pediatrician, she declared him dehydrated and ordered the work to commence. Everyone has their own “hard” that they are dealing with so comparing “hards” is futile. When you compare hards all that is accomplished is hurt feelings. My purpose in sharing this is not to suggest that our hard in tackling this bug and trying to provide comfort to Henry is more hard than perhaps yours, rather it is a way to process this ongoing challenging time in our family. The nurses were amazing. I cannot imagine what they must see on a daily basis in pediatric emergency. Their professional compassion and care helped David and I to cope with the procedure ahead: placing an IV into Henry’s tiny little arm. They swaddled him with one arm out and said, “Okay, now it is time to distract him as best you can.”  The look of fear was so prominent on his little face. David and I tried our best along with the Child Life Specialist to do this. The Specialist blew bubbles and spun a pinwheel and David and I reached down deep into our courage in order not to cry and rather to sing songs. We started with his favorite Proud Mary and moved on to a variety of classic baby songs while Henry cried and was confused and scared. This literally torn my heart out and as I write it, I am again awash in the feelings of loss, isolation, fear, and worry. Once the line was established, Henry was able to relax a little bit as they attached the fluids and wrapped it up so his curious little baby self didn’t play with it. We started to sing “If you’re happy and you know it” (one of his very favorite songs though quite dark for what was at hand) and the little guy brought his hands together for a clap. Despite being so tiny, he is so strong and tough this kiddo!  We spent the rest of the time in the hospital cradling him while he napped on and off and trying to entertain him when his spirits were up. We left hoping this was the silver bullet. But, it was not and we are on day 10 of this relentless bug which is just beating the heck out of our baby and leaving his parents more and more despondent and worried. Seriously, when will this bug leave. Poor poor poor Henry…

quarantine

Five days and counting. This house is quarantined! A relentless stomach bug is tearing through the family leaving no one behind. Poor Henry kicked off the sick saga on Friday morning while I stepped out to do some work. My poor, panicked mother called to say I needed to be home as quickly as possible and deemed the event emergency status level infinity. By the time I arrived home, Henry was fast asleep sleeping off his first bout with the bug. The rest of the day Henry fought like a prize fighter in a multi round go with the stomach bug leaving him wiped out and cranky. Saturday was a similar experience and the washing machine ran endlessly throughout the day as we tried to keep everything clean and supplies up. We even made our way to the pediatrician since we were so worried about his fluid levels. She assured us that while scary, he was doing fine and these types of ailments must run their course. She suggested Pedialyte, snuggles, a bath from time to time to soothe the little one, and to follow his lead for nursing. She also prescribed anti-vomit medication which has sort of worked but not really. She weighed him and he was down 2lbs! We erroneously thought we were in the clear when by night fall Henry’s tummy seemed to stabilize. Sunday morning though was catastrophic as both Henry and David went down for the count. As the only person in the house not afflicted it was a busy day of cleaning, caring, and worrying. The dogs seemed to know that the house was in chaos and snuggled quietly with David all day in bed.  Sometimes they are the best medicine. Well enough to sit up but not well enough for much else, David took care of Henry on Monday and himself so I could start the new school term.  The first day of the term is exciting and fast-paced and I love meeting my students, but it was hard to maintain the stamina necessary to balance my concerns for the home-front, my to-dos at the work-front, pumping for Henry, and also trying to get in a meal and a bathroom break. When I arrived home, David filled me in on the day’s list of sick for Henry and how he too was still tackling a headache (probably from dehydration). Now here I am on Tuesday, sitting in bed with the baby monitor on while Henry naps in the next room. This has been an epic nap, but he still has been more cranky and weaker than ever today. My level of worry is only increasing and I am so thankful David is here as well to help with the cleaning up that has been necessary multiple times already this morning! Our poor little guy is still in the thick of it. And, this bug is just ruthless! I feel so sad and so bad for our baby. Every time I hold him, he lays his head on my shoulder and moans lightly while we snuggle and snuggle between bouts of illness. I cannot help but cry because I feel so powerless to help him through it. I am hoping today is the last day….please.

Here is the little champion while we ran a quick errand this morning to Target to get probiotics and more Pedialyte, Not even bunny ears could bring a smile to his face today.

Henry Adam: 8 months

How big is Henry? SO Big!  Just as this becomes a favorite game, we tick another month off in this year of firsts. Happy 8 month birthday, little man!! Yet again, I am in awe of how much this little guy has grown and changed these four short weeks. The happiest moments are the ones in which the three of us are together playing, singing, and laughing. This parenting business is really fun. Yes, there are tough moments (especially when we were tackling two colds back to back), but 99.9% of the time, it has been nothing but pure joy being this little man’s momma.

Six snowstorms in one month meant a lot of days snowed in together. I could not have imagined a more fun way to spend the winter than hibernating with my two guys. With each added inch to the ever growing heap, we were granted days away from work to snuggle and play together. It felt like an extended mat leave and I was so thankful. At the same time, the snow storms hit every Monday and Tuesday which meant that the two days Henry was set to attend daycare never happened! Mother Nature must have known how sad and worried I was about this daycare transition that she softened the blow with pillows of snow. Instead of starting on January 16, Henry started his two days on February 16! That first day was so hard. Covered in food and tears, H’s first day was less than ideal as he processed his new environment away from home. He was so distraught at pick-up that first day it broke my heart. But with each successive visit, he has become more comfortable and the latest pick-up he was even on the ground playing with his buddy, Wyatt, and a make-believe salt and pepper shaker set. It was a bumpy start but these two days at daycare are starting to finally look pleasant.

In January, we reached out to a local photographer, Ann Lyle, to take 6 month photos of Henry. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that the price point was a little out of our range. Then two weeks later, Ann contacted us to say she was in need of a six month old baby boy model to update her website. If we agreed to let her use Henry’s photos, then she would give us a mini session. Immediately agreeing, we headed to her studio one snowy morning. Her space was awesome. The props, clothes, and setting were perfect to capture some sweet photos of the little man. Ann was great to work with and so patient with our shy guy. She captured such excellent images that we decided to book a one year session with smash cake for July (stay tuned for maximum cuteness coming your way!).

What has the little guy been up to this month? Oh, a whole lot.  Henry had his first night with a babysitter so that we could go out to dinner with our neighbors. After meeting Abby when she first arrived to the house at 5:45PM, he spent the rest of the night asleep, so that was successful, no? Henry is also crawling for real now. This means that you turn around for a second and H criss-crosses a room and moves across the floor at ludicrous speed. It is amazing and awesome and incredibly intimidating. If he moves this fast on his hands and knees, what will it be like when he is up on two feet? He even dangles little toys from his mouth in order to carry them around the house with him. His favorite to do this with is his little turtle. Bath time is also a blast these days. Instead of reclining in his little tub, he sits upright and just splashes and plays. Standing up and plopping down to make waves, he laughs and laughs. His little playful personality is busting out these days and he has the mischievous grin to prove it. Whenever he makes “that face,” David and I turn to each other and say, “oh we are in for it!” With his little grin and tongue sticking out, Henry makes a beeline for his bookcase in order to drop his books one by one onto the carpet or knock over any block tower, or push his little cart and elephant around. Add to this waving and clapping and we have had a pretty fun month with our little “hell raiser.”

With a second tooth coming through the surface the sky is the limit on this little man’s appetite. This month he has tried more and more food items and eaten them all with gusto. From peanut butter to meatloaf, our little foodie has enjoyed them all. And when we go out he is now big enough to sit in a high chair so meal sharing has become easy. He is so cute sitting at the dinner table chomping on his cuisine. I just love how much he loves to eat and I hope he continues to enjoy this part of the day. Some new foods for Henry included: peanut butter, italian food, brazilian food, chinese food, and puffs. You cannot eat in front of Henry without giving him his share and his little pincer grip gets more and more adept.

This month Henry is really into:

  • Reading books. Henry loves to snuggle up in your lap and read board book after board book. His favorite right now is Otis Loves to Play.
  • Crinkle books are very entertaining these days!
  • A new lovey to snuggle at night. I cannot wait to watch Henry bring this little guy around with him. It is so darn cute.
  • Someone has finally moved up in life! That’s right, we upgraded to the next phase car seat. This means that we can no longer cart Henry around in his infant car seat and wheels. So Henry is now advanced to the regular UppaBaby Cruz stroller too.
  • My new favorite clothing item is hands down these baby moccasins. They are made from such soft leather, they are easy to slip on (and they don’t slip off), and come in the greatest colors. I want every single one of them!
  • Singing songs. This little crooner sings to himself his little babble songs in bed and in the car and at night when he nurses himself to sleep. I love hearing his little voice, it is the sweetest. And I love to sing to him too. Our favorite lullaby these days is Silent Night.
  • Expanding his friend circle. Two more little friends were born this month. Henry got to welcome baby Jack and baby Logan to the world and he cannot wait to play with them.
  • Attending wee reads and taking books out of the Sudbury Library is always a treat!