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Summer went by so fast
Rating: (4.3) (6 votes)

Amsterdam, Netherlands
October 09, 2004

Pros : A wonderful summer
Cons : None

It has been quite a while since I found time to actually sit down and put our newest entry together. For most of the weekends we have been either traveling or recovering from traveling. My apologies.

Summer in Amsterdam is officially over. It's pretty easy to tell, actually, because the hippies in the Vondelpark have migrated south somewhere, Faith's wading pools are drained, it's freezing, raining all the time, and it's black as night when we wake up in the morning. I was told by a friend that the sunrise/sunset changes by almost 5 minutes per day now, which has made it extremely hard to wake up in the morning and stay up in the evening much later than Faith's 7:30 bedtime. I have to say that I really enjoyed the summer while it lasted. Yes, maybe it rained and was cold for 10 of the 14 weeks, but it really made us appreciate the 4 weeks in July and August when it was warm and only rained for 2 hours per day rather than 20--and sometimes it also got up to 75 degrees.

August and September went by in a blur. Much to my surprise, I was sent to Chicago in August to work on an "emergency" project for 2 weeks. I found it especially ironic that there are 13 people in my department at work, and the only 2 non-Dutch people were the ones sent. I hope this is not an indication of their feeling about my performance so far. Rosy and Faith came with me, although for the most part they stayed with Rosy's parents (and "our" dog Pepe) in Mundelein while I stayed downtown in a hotel. Much to my disappointment, we were not able to spend our 8-hour flights together because my company puts me in business class on KLM and we have to find the cheapest tickets available for Rosy & Faith. But I am looking forward to Christmas when I can accompany my girls home for an exciting return trip from the U.S. We had a very nice visit, although it is very strange to live out of suitcases rather than actually having a home. Also, we were able to see several friends in Chicago, but given the intensity of my project as well as location (the building was out by O'Hare), it was not easy to see everyone that we would have liked or to make a trip to Michigan.

After returning from Chicago, my mother came for a week to visit. This was great because between each Grandmother Faith had almost 1 full month of Grandma time when we didn't foresee her seeing either of them until November (when my mother will visit again) and Christmas (when she'll see both). Being our first visitor, we were nervous about her reaction to the stairs and mode of transportation for the week. But I have to say that my Mom handled the stairs with ease and had no problem trucking around the city on my fiets (bike) regardless of the traffic conditions.

I saved an afternoon for my Mom & I to go touring and museum visiting in Amsterdam. Since I expect we will have the occasional visitors, I have waited to visit many of the tourist attractions. Even though art museums are my favorite because I find them so moving, we decided instead to go to the Amsterdam Historical Museum, a nice cathedral, and even walk through the red-light district. I'm sure that not many sons have a chance to go window browsing for hookers with their mother. It was a special moment for both of us. I think that maybe my Mom had a "ready-for-anything" attitude after Rosy had taken her to the Vondelpark earlier that week to play with Faith. It took that ~15 minutes to realize they had set up their operations not more than 10 feet from a guy who was sunbathing...stark naked...on his back.

This summer we have struggled a bit with how to relieve Rosy from some of stress of being with Faith all-day every-day. And this problem will not get better as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder. Rosy's solution was to join a gym with a creche (child care) that is open each morning , which is brilliant because it allows Rosy to work out and get a break for up to 2 hours each day. She was also able to convince all of her friends to join the gym as well, so the ladies hang out together for working out and cappuccino while the kids are together in the creche. I joke with Rosy that the gym, call David Lloyd's, should be renamed the American Women's Gym of Amsterdam because the only people in it on weekday mornings are the expatriate wives Rosy met through the American Women's Club of Amsterdam. I'm very happy that Rosy found this, though, because it gives Faith a chance to play with little friends each day. The same is true for Rosy.

As you may have noticed from our Paris photos, one of our biggest challenges so far has been learning how to travel with Faith. And after spending a week in Florence/Venice/Tuscany in late-September, I have to say that Paris was a cinch. Due to poor planning on my part, we booked our flight to Venice long before we booked our lodgings. So this required us to do a lot of driving between areas because the majority of time was spent in Tuscany--which is a long way from Venice. Our adventures started in Venice, where we had the pleasure of spending two quiet days chasing Faith through the canals and trying to keep her quiet so she didn't wake up the entire hotel. Venice made me realize that three of us in a small hotel room is a crowd, especially when one of the three is ready to part at 3, 5, and 6 a.m. when she is in a new place. I also realized on the trip that Faith may have a career with the circus ahead of her with the way she can contort herself in the stroller and make awful noises after being confined for 3-4 minutes. So needless to say, we did not really have a chance to absorb the beauty of the city. That said, we did have one "success" with Faith, which the Italians call Gelato. It was amazing how much Rosy and I enjoyed the 10 minutes it took Faith to finish an ice cream cone. It didn't matter that she was a sticky mess with a sugar high afterward. Just for 10 minutes the whole family was happy and at peace.

The one highlight of the Venice portion of our trip was that Rosy noticed a beach on one of the islands surrounding Venice. This gave us a chance to relax for one afternoon because any beach is one thing Faith can do with no problems or complaining. This left the complaining to Dad, actually, because whoever designed the public beach house did not think that anyone would ever need to use a bathroom while sunbathing. But luckily Italy is pretty liberal with their thoughts on watering the bushes, so everything turned out OK--I'm actually kidding...we found a WC (Water Closet) by the boat stop that brought us over.

Our second trip took us to Florence for one day, which is one of my favorite cities in Europe after visiting it with my father in 1997. But one thing I never had to do was drive in Florence, which is no picnic. I've always felt that after living in Chicago I can pretty much handle any type of traffic. But the additional obstacles you have in Florence that were not in Chicago were mopeds everywhere that ignore the lane markings, extremely narrow lanes, and a much greater percentage of lunatics behind the wheel. I survived by continuing in the same direction and at the same speed as I drove, but it's amazing to me that I didn't get in an accident.

If you want to have an idea of how our Florence trip went, you can refer to the writings about Venice--except that there was no beach.

By day 4 we were ready to spend the remainder of our trip at the Villa Del Monte in Tuscany, which is located in-between Florence and Siena and overlooks the town of San Gimignano. This was definitely an improvement over being in the cities because there was a nice garden and swimming pool area for Faith to run around in. The week consisted of day trips to Pisa, San Gimignano, Volterra, Monteriggioni, and Certaldo. We also almost went to Siena, but after a frustrating day in San Gimignano battling tour buses (let's just say that finding a 4-some for golf in Arizona would have been extremely difficult in September because we think the whole state was in Tuscany) and looking for parking, we made it to the city wall of Siena and turned around after foreseeing frustration on an even larger scale. So instead, we went to Monteriggioni, a small village surrounded by a wall, which Faith literally covered twice in 15 minutes. Like Florence, one of my frustrations in Tuscany was driving, but this was in a completely different way. Driving through Tuscany consists of winding through the hillsides. There are many sharp turns, and in my opinion it's not safe to drive as fast as possible through there because in addition to the curves there are also tractors and miniature farming pick-up trucks. But the Italians disagree with me. I actually feel like some were sitting in my car with me at times because even though I was going as fast as I thought was appropriate even for someone at Daytona, they were still right on my bumper. I wouldn't have been too bothered if this only happened occasionally, but it literally happened 9 out of every 10 trips.

So although it was nice to see new places, we are taking a breather to scratch our heads on how to travel with our toddler who is wonderful but EXTREMELY active. Netherlands in October has been canceled as we reassess our gameplan. We are also looking forward to traveling when Faith is closer to being potty trained. Rosy noticed that Faith is going in the corner these days to "Po-po" (as it is called because it is much cuter than using the word poop). I have not yet gotten the hang of Faith's Po-po habits because she left me a treat right on the floor last night before her bath. But she did know what it was when she smiled at me, pointed at it, and said Po-po. I'm very proud. And this may seem unbelievable, but tonight we had a repeat Po-po performance during the 5 minutes per day that she isn't wearing a diaper. A special treat for Daddy, as I like to call it.

We miss everyone and look forward to Christmas. Rosy will be home for almost the entire month of December (12/2-28), and I will be home from 12/16-28. In the meantime, we are looking forward to my mother and father visiting in early November and my sister visiting...someday...when she has time to make plans...and flights are under $300...and the weather's nice...etc.