Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dutch Turns Seven

For Dutch's seventh birthday, he told me he wanted a sleepover. So, we let him invite a few of his closest friends over for pizza and video games. First up, though, he got to see his happy birthday message on the electronic sign in front of the school.

I ordered him a Mario Kart cake and they spelled his name wrong. They left out the 'C' so I had to carefully move the 'H' over and make my own out of white frosting and red food coloring I luckily had on hand. Crisis averted.

The boys had a ridiculously good time and provided us some laughs with their antics. Our favorite moment of the night was probably this:

I know Dutch enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'd do it again as it was pretty exhausting to manage this many boys, especially around bedtime!

As I've done in prior years, here are some of my favorite quotes from Dutch over the past year:

- "I'm gonna be honest with me. I'm not doing very good."
- "I have a hard life every day."
- "Can't we just buy it from amazon?"
- "Dad, do you think one country like Africa or Florida has run out of gasoline yet because they used all the gas from the dinosaurs?"
- "Have fun doing your mom things."
- "That was one mom with four kids. How does she even handle that?"
- "Is it gonna get more hype than this?"
- "At least he knows how to use a blinker."
- "Can I use the Tesla to see if I can drive?"
- "What does it feel like to not exist?"
- "This is how a noob does it."

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 6

Alas, our vacation in Europe was coming to an end. We had to fit in as much time with Kim and Fabian as we could, so we headed to Koln and spent the last day with them. We started at the Koln cathedral and even though I've been there before, it was still worth another visit.

We also checked out the famous 4711 eau de cologne store (with perfume fountain) and the schokoladenmusem (chocolate museum). You can guess which one Dutch liked better! They handed out free samples of chocolate and I'm pretty sure Kim grabbed a couple extra.

We finished the night with dinner and Dutch Blitz back at Kim & Fabi's apartment and tried to delay the inevitable!

We snapped a few more pics so we'd never forget the fun adventure we had with some of our best friends!

We drove back to Frankfurt and then departed for the USA the next morning. I feel really lucky to have been able to experience this with my son, sister, and niece. I hope to get back to Europe again later this year or next. If you get the chance to travel, especially internationally, do it!

My little jet setter

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 5

Before we departed the Netherlands to head back to Germany, we made a stop at the beach in The Hague. It was quite cold, but it's never a bad day when you can collect seashells on the beach.

The next activity we went to was truly breathtaking for me. It was like giddy schoolgirl pee your pants caliber excitement. I've seen a professional soccer game between 2 countries before, but to actually watch the Netherlands versus Germany, in Germany, was beyond. The fans are so dedicated and there's just an energy in the air that is addictive. Dutch has really started liking soccer over the past year, so to be able to take him to this as his first professional game was really neat! Also, Kim is half Dutch/half German, so she found a way to support both teams! The game was intense and Holland made a crazy comeback in the end. What a night!

Still one fun day left before we had to head back to the US!

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 4

Day 4 started with a drive from Heerlen to Rotterdam. We did a little shopping and eating, and of course had to try some yummy treats.

We continued on to The Hague and checked out Madurodam, which we discovered was an amazing place for photo ops! We were especially lucky to be there around sunset. Madurodam is a miniature park with scale model replicas of Dutch landmarks. It's truly a fascinating attraction and I think we all enjoyed the visit. These are definitely some of my favorite photos from the whole trip!

We finished the day with dinner near the beach in The Hague. Since it was vacation, Dutch got another yummy treat!

Day 4 was pretty great, but Day 5 was what I had been especially looking forward to for months!!

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 3

It's literally taking me months to write all these posts because life is insane lately! But, I definitely want to get all the details recorded so we always have these memories to look back on.

We started Day 3 by visiting Hoensbroek Castle, which is one of the largest castles in the Netherlands. We climbed down into the tiny, windowless dungeon and then ascended some questionably sturdy steps to get to a lookout tower. It's always interesting to set foot in buildings that are hundreds and hundreds of years old, because we just don't find those in my neck of the woods!

After the castle, we drove to Geleen, where Kim's aunt Renee lives. Renee has completely welcomed us into her family and she feels like my own Dutch aunt! She prepared a wonderful lunch for us and we enjoyed spending time with her and her husband Huub. I hope they'll come visit us in Texas soon!

The last activity for the day was a trip to Clip 'n Climb in Sittard. The kids had a blast there! There were so many different awesome climbing walls and obstacles. I should've paid to participate too!

We finished up the day with dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Sittard and then retired to our hotel in Heerlen. More cities in the Netherlands on tap for Day 4, so we had to get some rest!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 2

Our second day in Europe started with breakfast at our hotel, which Dutch was a big fan of because he could "make" his own pancakes. He promptly informed me that we needed to buy one of these machines for our house.

After breakfast, we met up with Kim and Fabian and departed for the Netherlands, planning to make a couple stops along the way. First up was Tagebau Hambach, which is the deepest open-pit mine. It's a controversial endeavor, because the site where the coal mining is happening is on the ancient Hambach Forest. Protesters have erected their own communities inside what's left of the forest, to try and prevent further expansion by the mining company. Quite an impressive sight, but since it's a depressing topic and a little heavy to discuss with the kids, we decided to lighten the mood by playing on the nearby playground instead!

Next up was a visit to the Lindt Factory Store in Aachen, Germany. I wouldn't call myself a huge chocolate lover, but you still have to go, just to take it all in! It's crazy to see so much chocolate in one place. The prices are really good too, so this was definitely a chance for us to stock up on some gifts for loved ones.

After the Lindt store, we stopped for dinner and Dutch and Kim got to do some more bonding!

Our final stop for the night was Hotel Heerlen in Heerlen, Netherlands. It's a beautiful hotel on a large estate. We knew there was lots of really fun stuff in store for us the following day, so we called it a night!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 1

I had the incredible opportunity to take Dutch to Europe for a week in November 2018. I was signed up to get cheap flight alerts from Scott's Cheap Flights and one popped up for a non-stop round trip flight to Frankfurt, Germany for under $500. That's a heck of a deal, and we have friends in Germany, so I asked Meezy if he wanted to go to Europe. After looking at the dates and contemplating childcare, he decided he didn't want to, but he suggested I take Dutch. The chance to bring my little Dutch boy to see his favorite Germans, and the ability to show him the "homeland" of Holland, was too good to pass up. I quickly texted my sisters to see if either of them wanted to tag along with one of their children, and my sister Jo was able to commit with her daughter Olivia. You have to move fast on these flight deals, so we secured our dates and knew we could work out all the other logistics at a later time.

We spent the next couple months deciding which cities we'd visit, what attractions we wanted to see, where we'd stay, and how we'd get from place to place. My former exchange student Kim (practically a real family member as far as I'm concerned) and her boyfriend Fabian live in Koln, Germany, so we made as many plans with them as we could.

We departed from Dallas on a Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Frankfurt early the next morning. Dutch slept for a couple hours on the plane, but I was not so lucky! First order of business was picking up our rental car at the airport. Even though we booked a 4-door Mercedes C-Class, it was still a tight fit with all our luggage. Nevertheless, we got on the road and headed toward Koln, stopping in Bonn along the way. You can't miss the Haribo store! 

When we got to Koln, we checked into Ibis Styles Koln City. It's actually kind of difficult to find hotels that can accommodate 4 guests in the same room in Europe, so we had to resort to searching for hotels that had "family" rooms. This one did and even though it was quite small, we made it work! They had a cute area for kids in the lobby. 

We got settled in and excitedly waited for our German friends to meet us at the hotel. They brought us to their apartment so we could eat dinner and visit. They had made some special requests for American items that are hard to find in Germany, so you can imagine how excited they were when we showed them all the loot we brought!

That first night was spent relaxing and catching up and discussing all the wonderful plans we had in store! More to come.