March 3, 2014
I don’t know why I’m surprised that I fell in love with Bruges. It’s a beautiful small, historic city with lovely architecture, chocolate, beer, waffles, art, chocolate, frites, beer, shopping, chocolate, and, yes, more chocolate.
Bruges was a thriving port until silt built up in the inlet from the North Sea, making trade by ship difficult. A canal was built at the beginning of the 20th century to reignite trade and bring the city back to life. In the 500 years between, poets and artists hung around Bruges to, you know, do their thing. Maybe drink some beer. Their influence remains, giving the old city a sophisticated yet inviting charm.
I had 7 hours and 50 minutes to take it all in. I had no agenda other than to do whatever I pleased. (To exclude checking into a hotel to nap.) So I wandered.
February 28, 2014
I really wanted to post about my trip to Bruges this week. Then life happened, and I spent time marveling at my kids and learning to play Cribbage with my husband instead of blogging. So, it’s all good.
I’ve realized that I want to capture those things, too. The day-to-day stuff that will be so easy to forget in the “not traveling” segments between these trips. So today I forgo the promised travel posts to put a stake in the ground at this point in my motherhood journey.
My kids are growing up so fast (says every mother, ever). The baby is walking! I thought this would immediately equate to outdoor frolicking. Alas, he is not a lamb and needs to keep shoes on his feet to do so. So I took him to get fitted for real (not hand-me-down) shoes today. It was a bit of a lesson in the challenges of parenting two. Walden wanted to push the (very big) stroller around while Bertie got sized; Walden started eating the tissue paper from the shoe box while I was helping Bertie test drive the shoes. It was decidedly one of those days of three-year-old limit tests. We survived.
Really, the kids amaze me each day. Walden finally can pedal his tricycle, mostly because he knows that pedaling is the link between his Strider and a bike with pedals. They make up games to play with each other in the back seat. They SHARE! Sometimes. Bertie quacks when he sees a duck; he’ll hand me a book and say “buh!” to get me to play peek-a-boo. Next thing you know they’ll be saying, “No, mom, stay in bed and we’ll bring you breakfast!”
Have a great weekend!
February 24, 2014
Saturday I went to Bruges, Belgium, by myself. Not ALL by myself. I went with a giant group of American strangers who were also on the double decker Sun Fun buses that left from RAF Lakenheath at 3:00am Saturday. But by myself.
It was a nice entree to solo travel, because all of the logistics of getting there and back were handled. I just had to show up for my ride on time.
Quite frankly, I’ve always found solo travel to be kind of daunting. I’ll fly by myself no problem, but to places where I’ll meet up with someone else. The idea of going some place where I know no one just for the sake of seeing it, alone? Different story. But this opportunity arose and I took it.
I needed a break from the daily grind. And not just moving the grind to a different locale by taking a family trip. I needed a BREAK, with no one else to feed or clean or entertain. NO LAUNDRY. Where all that mattered in the day is what I wanted.
It turns out that solo travel is quite liberating, especially after traveling with kids. How satisfying to spend a day on your whims, free of obligations! But I also found myself missing my family, wishing I could share some of the sights and moments with them, too. I gravitated toward a model train store, like a moth to flame, only to stop at the window and congratulate myself that I didn’t have to go inside.
I want to share more of my trip this week. Stop back for the pros and cons of solo travel and glimpses of Bruges on a sunny day!
February 21, 2014
I want a refund on the third eye I’m supposed to have in the back of my head.
There was the time I turned to test the bath water and the baby’s hand got smashed in the toilet seat. (Bye bye, fingernail!)
Then there was the time that the preschooler climbed the sink to eat a half tube of Crest sparkle toothpaste. (Hello again, french toast!)
Now the baby is climbing on top of toys and play chairs. The preschooler is getting more creative about reaching things up high. They’re everywhere! They’re getting higher and higher, which means there are longer falls to fall. Soon they’ll both be on bikes and running loose around the yard, playing tag and climbing trees…
It’s scary, man.
But I guess that’s the Boy Mom gig. What’s the wildest mischief your littles have made?
February 17, 2014
What a difference it is to raise a second baby. The second time around, you know that the eating-every-two-hours newborn phase is just a blip on the map of time. That your baby will roll and sit and crawl and cruise when he’s ready, probably before you are. That the middle-of-the-night snuggles aren’t forever; that there will come a bed time when he’ll hop off your lap and run from you instead of relaxing in your arms to The Going to Bed Book.
The second time around you know how quickly they grow. Except you don’t, because you’re still busy loving and nurturing his older brother, too, and time goes even faster than you imagined. You blink, then your baby turns one. (Then a few days later you finally write your “He’s One!” tribute post.)
Bertie, I may not be next to you on the floor every second of the day, telling you about all the shapes, colors and sounds around you. I may be slacking on teaching you to point to noses and ears and tummies. But you are always ALWAYS in my heart, lighting me up with your toothy smile. You clap when I walk into a room, you sign “more” when I put you down, you reach up for me knowing I’ll come pick you up. Just imagining your weight on my hip or your head snuggled into my neck brings me comfort. Sometimes when you’re asleep I want to wake you just to rest my cheek on your soft hair (but I don’t, because SLEEPING BABY!).
What a year it has been! Between the big scare you gave us at a week old to getting your finger smashed by your brother last week, we’ve been to Minnesota, Indiana, London, York, Hamburg and Amsterdam; to the beach and countryside; traveling by plane, train, automobile AND ferry, in strollers, arms and carriers. We’ve endured a deployment. You’ve been my light through the winter. You’ve become your brother’s buddy.
Two weeks ago you took your first steps! You’ll take a few to me, sometimes to your dad, and you’re showing a little more courage in letting go of furniture to cruise. You wave hello and bye-bye. You push vehicles around just like your brother, making motor noises as you go. You fly airplanes in the sky. You imitate sounds we make (and say Ah-Bah when we say your name). You even pick up your purple phone and say something like “Hello.”
You amaze me with something new every day.
We gave you cake on your birthday. At first you refused to taste it, just as you do with everything we try to feed you. Then I stuck a finger full of frosting in your mouth and you decided to pick a couple of small pieces from the slice. Then you picked up the whole thing for a bite and wouldn’t stop. You didn’t like it when I took it away so you wouldn’t get sick.
I have to feed you vegetables mixed with fruit. And wouldn’t you know, you only eat meat with seasonings? Chicken with paprika and cumin? Lamb with garahm masala? I can’t understand why you won’t pick up cubes of anything (other than toast) or eat Cheerio’s. But that’s you.
You love splashing in the bath, unloading all of my Tupperware and watching the bamboo wave in the garden below from your bedroom window. You’re sweet and good; you’re our happy chappy. We’re so lucky you’re ours.
February 10, 2014
Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway, was hands down the family’s favorite stop on our recent trip to Hamburg, Germany. This may seem obvious when you consider my husband’s enthusiasm for and my three-year-old’s obsession with trains. (See also: our trip to the world’s largest railway museum and our day out with Thomas.) But, you know, I was there, too. With the baby.
If you, like me, aren’t a model train enthusiast (you aren’t?), there’s likely no way you can imagine what this place is like. It’s 14,000 square feet of model train. That’s about 7-10 houses’ worth of track, roads, (fake) rock, trees and grass, covered with miniature train stations, houses, apartments, office buildings, warehouses, sky scrapers, casinos, hospitals, hotels, castles, restaurants, factories, festivals, carnivals, stadiums. Tunnels, caves, lakes, rivers, mountains, canyons and bridges. With trains (930, to be exact) quietly chugging along and car and truck lights glowing everywhere you look.
There were construction sites. Accident scenes. Concerts. Ski slopes.
Every 15 minutes dusk fell, then night, showcasing the approximately 335,000 lights.
THERE WAS A WORKING AIRPORT.
A water-filled harbor with a WORKING CRUISE SHIP. Even a space shuttle launch!
It all just kept going and going, taking you from Switzerland to Germany to the imaginary Knuffigen then America and Scandinavia. The world itself was marvelous. (And it’s expanding!) Of course my guys were all in awe of the trains and moving parts.
And that was just the setting. I found the penny-height people to be the most fascinating. The 215,000 figurines that populated the miniature world provided fuel for stories. Where are the passengers going? What deal are the office workers in the midst of? The people are what make the world realistic and fantastic. The concert-goers, holiday-makers, emergency responders, workers.
Activation buttons throughout the exhibit allowed you to light up vignettes, like this underground lab at Area 51, or set small features like a bungee jumper or weather balloon in motion.
I was delighted to discover the little winks from the creators throughout the Wunderland. The worker spilling a vat of chocolate in the chocolate factory (that actually dispensed little Lindt chocolate bars!). The couple schtupping on a desk on the top floor of an office building. The strong man lifting a car in a traffic jam. The bank robbers just moments away from being busted. The “lovers” in a sunflower field that made everyone who spotted them blush. The unicorn on the hillside. The scuba-diving cows.
The thought that went into the creation of Minitaur Wunderland is deeply impressive. It did take 580,000 hours to build, after all!
While the baby enjoyed watching the trains, trucks and planes whizz by, nearly as much as his brother, lunch time approached quickly. We could have eaten at the on-site restaurant, but we had our hearts set on a nearby crêperie. There are many details I missed. I would love to return after some expansion is complete. Italy is currently under construction. France, Great Britain and Africa are planned (through 2019). If you have a chance to visit, don’t miss it. It really is astounding!