Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nog een fijn weekend

We've decided that Sunday museumgoing has to be one of the finest pursuits for our little family of five. Free parking, cheap travel, new sights, a modicum of education... it's all there. So this weekend we packed up our picnic bag and headed for the mother of all seaports, Rotterdam. We'd picked out a couple of museums that looked good for the kids, but since the time change sort of crept up on us (ahem) we ended up having time for only one, the Maritime Museum.

It was actually a beautiful day for this time of year, meaning that not only did it stop raining for parts of the day, but the sun actually showed itself for a few minutes as well. Approaching Rotterdam was pretty interesting in itself since the city looks so different from anywhere else we've been in the Netherlands. The fact that it's all new since the war is evident in the architecture long before you're downtown: you can see nothing but skyscrapers and modern-looking bridges towering over the suburban trees. Then as you approach the city center, something else becomes evident. Maybe it's the fact of its relative newness, or maybe they really have more street sweepers per capita, but this has to be the cleanest city in the Netherlands.

We parked along the waterfront (which seemed to comprise most of Rotterdam given all the intersecting canals and inlets) and walked a couple of blocks to the museum. We passed this nifty lichtschip, evidently properly called a "lightvessel," along the way. The museum is, appropriately, situated at the end of a smallish canal and has its own 1864 warship moored just outside for its visitors to wander. The kids, however, most enjoyed Professor Plons' play area where they recreated every step of the harbor shipping process. It was way cool. They used cranes to load and unload large "cargo boxes" onto their little carts, then pedaled them through customs (that's douane in Dutch) where they could use a bar scanner to see what "cargo" they were carrying. Aislin got peanut butter, Dylan got pharmaceuticals. Eek. They spent well over an hour investigating every corner of that play area.

Then they headed inside and spent another hour or more checking out every detail of the indoor exhibit/play area, but taking a special joy in commandeering the ball pit where they could feed balls into a vacuum system that sucked them up to the ceiling through clear tubes and then back into a box with a rope attached. When they pulled on the rope, all the collected balls would tumble over the assembled kids. Talk about a recipe for entertainment. Our kids working in concert are a force to be reckoned with on a playground. They had the whole process down to a science by the second repeat. It was no easy feat dragging them away at closing time so that we could eat our picnic on the waterfront by the floating hotel. We finished off with a drive across the iconic Erasmus Bridge which was fantastic, although I think that Prince Claus Bridge in Utrecht might actually be aesthetically superior. Aesthetics aside, we thought we fared brilliantly for a spontaneous Sunday outing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Aislin helped me tonight to make consummate Dutch treat, oliebollen. Translation: oily balls (eew). We have to say, though, that you just can't go wrong with some sugar-covered fried dough. Mmm, good.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Boy, oh boy, all boy.

We were having one of those great dinners tonight during which the kids are actually not only getting along, but actively engaging each other and me in conversation (Jeff was working). After Aisie regaled us with tales of her gym class exploits, Dylan was telling us about how he'd built a worm kasteel (a worm castle) in the sand and had repopulated all the residents of the sandbox to these new, er, digs. He stopped midsentence and looked thoughtful, then alarmed.

"Mommy, I have something in my pocket that you're going to guess but only if you promise that you won't be mad at me."

I gave him my skeptically amused askance look and asked why I might be mad. He contemplated this and revised himself.

"I'm not going to tell you what it is, okay? So you just close your eyes now and I'll show Aislin."

"Dylan, is it something alive?"

Long pause. "Probably."
At this point Dylan gravely pulled open his pocket so he could peer inside to check on whatever might lurk therein, then raised his eyes to me with concern.

"Okay, Mommy," he began, as if I'd tortured it out of him, "it's a worm." He reached in and pulled out a handful of something. When he opened his hand to me, sand cascaded through his fingers until only a sand-clotted worm remained -- a long one, dangling right over Dylan's plate. Dylan gave me his best, innocent, "aren't-I-so-adorable-that-you'll-forget-what-I-did" smile. Little did he know that Mommy has a soft spot for worms.

Since it still showed some vital signs, I told Dylan to repatriate this one before its family missed it. I suggested that the bush just outside the door might be a superior habitat to the sandbox. As he solemnly released his charge back to the wild, Aisie asked why I was laughing. I told her that Dylan reminded me of the time when preschool-aged Aunt Meg came into the babysitter's house with something even better in her pocket... a dead mouse. We agreed that, sand on the plate aside, the worm was a better dinner guest than the mouse.