Friday, August 29, 2008

The Dingledodies Hit the Road

"They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn..."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 1, Ch. 1

One of the big theoretical appeals of moving to Europe for a coupla years was the possibility of getting to travel around with the kids. After a year of struggles with all things Dutch (immigration, schools, transportation), we've managed a brief trip to Germany and the supercool cruise that gave us one day in Barcelona and one in Madeira. But along came a conference in Prague at which Jeff got a paper accepted, and lo, it was only a roadtrip away. Finally, an opportunity to "burn, burn, burn," albeit in slightly attenuated, family-friendly fashion.

First hurdle: school. There's a €50/day fine levied on parents bold enough to dare take their children out of school for purposes as ominous as travel to European capitals. The indoctrination must be continuous, you see, lest the children miss any wee snippet of Dutch acculturation... Miraculously, our 2-page petition to the bureaucrats-that-be was approved so we got to reallocate the €250 we'd set aside for the inevitable fine -- not that we'd ever disregard authority -- to our travel budget. Score one for the Dingledodies.

Next hurdle: functioning automobile. Our long-suffering, 1991 VW Golf finally blew its head gasket. We'd know for a long time, like since the day we bought it from our neighbor, that the writing was on the wall. The car shook magnificently when idling, sometimes to the point that it stalled itself out, and had less acceleration power than your average lawnmower: in Jeff's words, it purred like a lion and roared like a kitten. Truer words... At any rate, we managed to get it to limp to a crappy used car lot and cool off enough for them to give us €350 toward a new... crappy used car. That's how we ended up with a 1995 Space Wagon, codename: "The Race Van." This came about after Dylan caught sight of us reflected in a window the first day we drove it to school (his little, reverent voice from the backseat: "Oh look, Mom... we have a RACE van...").

I just want to point out here that it's not really a van. Because, see, I do plan to adhere to my vow never to own a minivan. It is a European Compact MPV, multi-purpose vehicle. Worlds of difference. Even Wikipedia says so.

So now, freshly downloaded copy of Lonely Planet in hand, the Dingledodies are sortakinda prepared for a trip to Prague. I studied there thirteen (yikes) years ago for a couple of months, but methinks this trip will be slightly different with two children and the whole being-eight-months-pregnant thing. What's the use of travel without challenges? Na zdravi.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to the circus, O hapless infant...

Last night, Aislin was discussing with her sister-in-utero what to expect of her family:

"Well, your brother is about as boy as boy gets. He plays with cars and dinosaurs. Then there's me; I'll babysit you when you get bigger."

[Momentary pause for thought...]

"And your mommy snort-laughs, and your daddy sleeps a lot."