Amsterdam – Without the Sex and Drugs

We could certainly paint the Amsterdam trip with starry eyes and rose colored glasses, complete with endless canals and picturesque skies, but the reality is, some trips don’t go as intended.  And traveling with little ones is not always easy.  We visited Holland to spend some much needed and greatly anticipated time with family.  We had envisioned relaxing evenings of chatter, laughter and a glass or two of wine.  Reality though had other plans for this journey.

It started off with an overly ambitious morning flight, so early the sun had yet to rise, the streets were still filled with echoes of quiet and the birds were immobile in their nests.  The 3:30 a.m. wake up call for the little ones was rough to say the least.  Once in Holland all went well despite poor planning over where to meet our family (my apologies for P to the 6th on this one).

That evening, as we cozily sat around a dinner table anxious to bridge the gap that the years had imposed, our daughter choked on a piece of apple and proceeded to vomit.  This made for a non-appetizing meal, followed by a prompt shower, the straining of clothes, immediately followed by laundry. During all of this, I thought of the café’s that make up most of Amsterdam and dreamed of myself sitting down, vomit free, relaxed and calm.

Oh, yeah, back to reality… the little gal was then exhausted, so I made my way to our room (the house my sister – in law rented was fabulous to say the least thanks to VRBO) to put our littlest family member to bed.  It sounds easy enough: a story, some milk, then quietly place baby into the crib and down once more I go to finally enjoy my dinner and some lively conversation.  Not so fast Mama!  See, the truth is, our daughter is much like our son was at this age – A.K.A.  doesn’t sleep well while we are away from home unless coddled in the crux of her mother’s arms, all night, every night, which is certainly endearing, however, it doesn’t allow much time for things such as: eating, conversing, sleeping, oh, you know, the fundamentals of the evening routine.

All of that aside, I hunkered down for the night, cuddling my daughter in one arm, all the while trying to shush our three year old into a peaceful slumber.  The Euro Cup game continued downstairs over beers and chatter and I tried to sink into the arms of my children, realizing this is a fleeting moment, one I will greatly miss when my children grow independent and no longer desire the comforts of their mother.

Day Two went a little something like this:

We woke to a blissful sunshine, boats in the water, cruise ships departing for distant lands and not a single cloud in the sky…it was 5:00 a.m.  It was the perfect day to do what the Dutch do best – rent bikes and explore.  While Robert and Ryan went to look for the bike rentals, my sister- in law and I stayed at home getting ourselves and the kiddos ready for a day of riding and adventure.  All was going well until the most terrible thud, followed by the pitter – patter of a three year old body falling down an entire flight of stairs, meticulously hitting each step on his way down before a prompt and painful landing.  I am not sure which words flew from this month, but with my daughter strapped to my chest in the Ergo, I flew down those steps like a bird in flight afraid of what I might find.  Thankfully our son was fine despite bruises, and a bloody mouth.  His Mama, well this lady must have aged a few years over that fall.

Despite the early morning drama, we made our way to the bikes and headed out of the city.  At this point our daughter was not a happy child, not seeing the joy in the fresh air in her face and preceded to create a new canal out of her tears.  For all of the Mama’s out there, hearing your child cry is like a knife to the heart, it literally hurts.  So, we pulled the bikes over and thought about what we had to do.

Choice 1 – take the rental bikes back and enjoy a day in the city, or try Choice 2 – which in normal circumstance, I would never do, but the Dutch seem to bike with children strapped everywhere, helmet free and do it with such poise and grace, so we gave it a try.  Our daughter fell right into place on my husband’s chest in the Ergo, like a kangaroo in her pouch, she was comfortable and cozy, nestled in and fell asleep for hours as he rode and we peddled through the countryside.  It was the perfect solution at least in that situation.

This is the kind of days holidays are made of.  Fresh skies, nice stop over’s at local café’s (sipping only coffee of course), birds chirping, steeples in the distance, water on either side of you, perfectly smooth bike paths, oh, if only we could freeze such idyllic moments.

Overall, our trip didn’t even scratch the surface of disastrous, but it certainly didn’t go as planned and that is the true nature of traveling with children.  When traveling with little people, one must set the bar relatively low, take each moment with stride (I am desperately trying to do this with grace) and find humor in such chaos (I am also working on laughing more) but believe me, when you are entrenched in absolute uncertainty and mayhem, you simply want to seek refuge in the familiar, and for us, the familiar was home.

Amsterdam is a lovely city, the Dutch are wonderfully friendly people and our family is truly kind for taking all of our drama in grand ease and kindness.  To those who read this, family is a beautiful gift; they accept you at your worst and help you put the pieces together. Thank you Suzanne and Ryan, as our road was a bit bumpy, but you helped keep us on track.  We love you all and the city we left behind.

Time of Year: June
Duration:  Long Weekend Trip
Where We Stayed:  Rented Apartment (VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner.com)
Eats and Treats:  Indonesian Food!
Child Friendly?  Yes, and fun to rent a Bakfiets (Bucket Bike for the kids)!
Likes:  Biking out of the city for a day.
Dislikes:  The kids didn’t seem to sleep on this trip…
Would we return?  Yes, it’s a nice city, lots to see and do, even in the surrounding area.

Amsterdam Slideshow

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