Thursday, July 31, 2014

Van Gogh and A pop-up market: Amsterdam Life

One of the biggest benefits of staying in a place for a full month and essentially "living" there is enjoying small spontaneous things that happen. On one of our last days in the city we had one of those perfect alignment kind of days which was so nice.

We made reservations and took all 3 kids to the Van Gogh Museum. The middle one, nugget, lasted only about an hour inside, which is understandable because it is hard as a little kid. I enjoyed what I got to see and once she was done, I took her and the baby outside to run around until everyone else was done.

So I didn't see all of the Van Gogh museum but I saw a far bit of it and would have rather gone outside with the kids than suffer through a whiny, clingy little girl in a museum. As always, you just have to remember to adjust your expectations when you travel with kids. It's how it goes.

We had a bit to run around outside, in the big green grassy area. We figured we were kind of finished with our day so the parents headed home to get dinner started. I was going to walk with the big girls to Iamsterdam. The girls now how to make themselves at home there.

 When we got there, there was a massive foodtruck, market thing going on. It was pretty awesome and completely made our day. The parents turned back, we ate delicious pancakes, and the girls got face paint. So basically it was the biggest hit ever.

Nights like this, sitting out in the grass, enjoying this city, made me never want to live. It's always the simple things that are the best.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More of me and kids in Amsterdam

Some random moments of things I did with the kids while in Amsterdam:

Dutch Cheese shops with free samples are the kiddos favorite thing. They had more than their fair share of samples. And we brought some delicious cheese home.

We checked out the houseboat museum. That was a pretty big hit- although it was very small.

More shopping. This girl loves to shop.

This baby is uber cool. Fashion baby in the park. We went to the park almost daily. It was 3 blocks away!!

Dutch children's bookstore. Fun to look, not fun to read if you don't speak dutch like us.

We went to the Nemo which is the most epic children's museum I have ever seen. None of the girls wanted to leave.

The Nemo was incredible. Monkey and I stayed and explored all through the little girls nap time.

All of these were great children based activities to switch it up between museums.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Amsterdam Bos: Visiting the forest with kids

We were not all museums, but planned some days that were 100% kids based to get us outside into the nice weather and exploring all of the green space that Holland has to offer. One of our more "day trip" style adventure was to Amsterdam's Bos, or the Amsterdam Forest. This was such a fun place to visit and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there.

It is MASSIVE. We had to bring 2 strollers to get the kids through the park but we had such a good time.

We started out at the goat farm. This was just absolutely adorable. You could walk around and pet all the goats. But the best part was paying for the little bottles of milk to feed the baby goats. The girls were scared at first but they warmed up to the idea eventually. And we ended up having so much fun.

They also had a playground to run off some steam. And a little market where you could buy products made from their goats milk- even goat milk icecream which was incredibly delicious.


After the goat farm we walked over to the little mini-port which was about a 25 minute walk through beautiful forest area. It truly was nice to get out of the city for awhile. When we got there we decided to rent a boat for 30 minutes and all cruise down the river to see more of the area.

This was amazing and ridiculously relaxing. The little ones pretended to paddle, and we enjoyed the sun and the serenity of it all. We were the only ones out on the water and I think it was one of the first times the girls had gone out in a boat as well.

I loved it and the kids loved it. This place was such a hit and we could have stayed much longer except for impending nap needs of everyone involved.

For more of what I have done with the kiddos look at some awesome museums we went to, and some updates about our adventures

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Recent Museums: Rembrandt house and Royal Palace

I still have a lot to recap from my time in Amsterdam nannying so I will keep the posts coming even though I left about 4 days ago.

Despite having 3 young kids in tow, we were able to hit up most of the major museums and cultural experiences in Amsterdam, and more!  The trick when you are traveling with kids is just to adjust your expectations. You cannot go into things expecting that you will see as much as you would see as a solo adult. As long as you expect only to last a little bit and see some- sightseeing with young kids is a blast. And then when they last longer than expected you are happily surprised.

A couple of sights we hit up that we didn't expect to be big hits turned out to be some of the kids favorites. One of those was the royal palace. We figured we would just walk through a bit and maybe see some of it. Boy, were we wrong. We spent about 1.5 hours in there (ages with kids!).

They had an incredible kids scavenger hunt were you listened to information on a kids audio guide and then answered questions. The 7-year old was all over it, while the four year old had fun doing it at first and then was just happen to explore the palace rooms with us.

 Not a lot of crowds, lots of space to move around, no need to be really quiet, and plenty to see that is physically interesting to a kid made this a massive win. With an art museum it's harder to engage the kids in what you are seeing.

One of our favorite days for sure.

Another big hit was the rembrandt house. It was popular for most of the same reasons that we loved the palace. Again we spent a lot longer there than we thought we would. It was fun to take a look back in time and see how and what he painted. You toured the kitchen, bedrooms, parlors, and his painting studio. There were a ton of his works on the wall which was a good way for the girls to see his work without spending too much time in a proper museum.

We even got to watch a painting demonstration at the end where they showed us how they made the old fashioned paints. At this point the 4-year-old was done, but I just held her while we all listened. Actually, this was so great that I would recommend it to anyone coming to Amsterdam. It was really neat.

So that is some museum hopping with little kids in the dam. Just remember- adjust your expectations, and always bring snacks.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Saying goodbye to my kiddos

 Seeing the world through the eyes of children is always incredible but that gets tripled when you go to a new country with kids. They were so enamored and floored by everything we saw, and I noticed and appreciated things I would never have noticed before. It was one of my most interesting, unique, and in depth travel experiences to date.

A detail, like watching the kids listen to someone speak a language they have never heard of, or gawk at canals, small houses, and busy streets of bikes was incredible. Things that we might see, and accept as part of life here, they will stew over, stare at, and spend hours trying to understand life different than their own.

Why does everyone ride trams? What are these strange cars on tracks? The kids learned a lot just from discovering how to ride from one side of town to the other on a tram.

A big field outside the rijksmuseum is fun to walk through. But with kids that field becomes an incredible imaginative playground. Hours were spent there.

They watched the street performers who preform an adequate at best show outside the rijksmuseum 6 different times. I couldn't stop talking about how first of all they were preforming outside for everyone for free. And second, of course how funny they were. I usually watch a little of those street shows and move on, maybe stay until the end. But I wouldn't watch it multiple times. When they wanted to watch every time they saw the performers setting up I saw the talent in the show, the uniqueness of it, and how hard these guys worked to be able to make a living doing this 3 times a day. Something I would have never cared about before.

They ask questions about every person we pass, and want to understand everything about the people and place we are visiting. Even seeing the inside of a European McDonald's is shocking and an amazing experience.

There are hard moments for them as well. When they don't understand why the can't order the food they are used to in the states, or why we had to walk, tram, and train so much to get around.  They missed their English speaking playground buddies, and their favorite toys.

But they also showed me how to accept culture and new experiences in ways I never have before. Suddenly running around playing with Dutch kids on a playground despite the fact that they cannot speak a word of the same language.  Laughing their heads of in glee while taking a simple bike ride around the park (and also screaming for joy which is what the kiddos on my bike did....)

When I asked my girls on our last night what they would miss about this place, they had interesting answers. I would have said things like the beautiful canal lined streets, the atmosphere in vondelpark, the incredible museums, the friendly Dutch people, walking down kalverstraat, enjoying coffee at the cafe near our house, reading a book out on the museumplein.

Monkey said that she would miss all of her climbing trees in Vondelpark, climbing on the Iamsterdam letters, and walking with me to the grocery store every morning. Nugget said she would miss riding on the tram, and playing pony-unicorn in the museumplein (which was essentially our backyard). I know the baby will miss riding a bike daily since she was just about obsessed with it.

They will miss the little things. Just the small lifestyle changes that they got to experience from living in a place pretty drastically different than their own. They won't miss the massive things that I will miss, the big cultural differences, and the large experiences of the city. They will just miss the new normal that they were able to experience in this city. The small changes that they adjusted too as a natural part of their Amsterdam life.

But what I will miss most of all, is of course those sweet little faces.

I have never been good at goodbyes. As a traveler that tends to be unpleasant but traveler friends are adults, and they are who they are when you meet them. But these little people will change so very much when I am gone. And the way they looked at me when I was leaving- it was like their world was shattering.

Well girls, mine was shattering too.

I cried real, big, tears watching these faces disappear out of the tram window.


Little diva over here was my adventure partner, always asking me when we could go out and do something new. She took Amsterdam by storm!! and climbed what seemed like every tree in Vondelpark. I see travel in this little lady's future. Nothing phases her! 

I told her while I was gone she need to be the "smartest girl she can be". And she promised to write me e-mails detailing every bit of her life. I guarantee she is not kidding. And the life of a 7-year-old is full of exciting details. She promised me she would watch out for her sisters, and was adamant that if I didn't come home to her soon she was going to write me a very angry e-mail 


This sweet lil nugget soaked up every minute of life in Amsterdam- amazed by the world around here. She still gives the best snuggles, and I have never played "pony-unicorn-magical-fox-horse-rainbow-fairy" games so often. Although she was ready to get back to an normal schedule by the end, watching her little brain work to understand what was happening in this city was incredible.

My last night putting her to bed she told me that she would draw a picture of us and draw a heart on it, because she loved me so much and didn't want me to leave. And then when I left she stood at the door, in just her underwear, trying to block me from leaving with her tiny little body. (that's the first time I started crying) 

"Nugget, don't grow up too much while I'm gone"- me
"But lexie- that's the thing about being little, you have to get bigger. I'm sorry but I'm going to have to be a big girl when you get back" - nugget   **Cue Tears** 


 This babe learned to clap while we were away, fell in love with riding on a bike, and grew about an inch of adorable curly fuzzy hair! I spent most of my free time trying to get her to laugh and smile. And took every chance I could to walk around with her, on bike or on my bike, and let her soak in the hustle and excitement of the city. She broke the ice for us with many a stranger, smiling and waving, hoping to get their attention.

Babies grow up alarmingly face. I know she will be drastically different by the time I get home. I cuddling this one before I put her to bed last night. She let me snuggle her extra long, and I sang her a favorite song of ours. I took a sniff of that sweet baby smell and new that seeing her again I would see an amazing little toddler, even if I had to miss the 6 months that got her there. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Snapshot of Life: today in Amsterdam

I spy with my little eye a girl out there.... she really is a monkey. And we have officially found the best climbing tree in Vondelpark. It was a successful morning walk as we waited for the rain to come in.

It's that all too good? gosh I love this park. And my girlies.

The night cap was a date night with this one watching the jungle book for the first time! 

Life is good. 

De Efteling: Oldest theme park in Europe

Half-way through my time here in Amsterdam the family I work for and I went on a 2-day trip to De Efteling. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there from Amsterdam but was well worth the journey.

It is the oldest theme park in Europe and easily one of the coolest places I have ever been! I have never been to disney but the parents were exclaiming how they loved this place even more than disney. It was clean, not too crowded at all, and very naturally charming.  It was just SO stinking adorable I cannot even explain it.

We got there on Wednesday afternoon and decided to spend two nights in the Efteling Village which was an adorable little town with small cottages. This was a great choice for us with the kids and nap times.

 We had 4 bed rooms, living room, kitchen, and more. It was great. Our village had a little lake and some areas to run around and play. There was also a restaurant with pretty good food and the kids favorite- an indoor pool! On Wednesday when we arrived we went straight for the pool.

Then we had dinner and went to bed early so we could get up and tackle the park in the morning.

On Thursday we got up and made our way into the park.  There were so many fabulous rides in four different realms. The first one we went we visited some epic rides. First up was Dream Flight which was a small world style ride where you rode the car through the carry kingdom. It went from fairies playing in the day, to riding through the castle in the evening, to seeing the goblins out playing in the dark forest in the dead of night. This ride blew me away and was probably one of my favorites of the park. We went 3 times - there was NO wait!

This realm also included a cute little monorail ride, the swings, and tons of carousels.

 The other highlight was the fairy tale forest which is an area you walk through that makes all of the fairytales of olden days come to life with little houses you can go through and animatronics. They even had live puppet shows (in Dutch!)

After some down time and rest for the afternoon we hit up the other area of the park that had all the big coasters. We rode the bobbin first, which had about a 20 minute wait.  But both big girls loved it, and we did baby swap for the baby. The coaster didn't go up very much, just quick around some corners. After that monkey ventured with her parents to do some of the bigger coasters, which the 4 year old couldn't ride. So I took her to try some of the smaller rides including these very tame ships that went up and down and around in a circle, and the cars that you can drive yourself on a track. Both were a lot of run and took us about an hour. They were great options for younger kids and had virtually no waits.

We had an awesome app that would tell us the wait times for the big rides, and pretty darn accurately too! The family then went and did the water river ride while I hung with the baby. They said it was okay but nothing special. We ended the night with an epic water show in the fountain. It was about 20 minutes and went to music. Just incredible!

Then we headed home to completely crash out.

Our second day was just as fun. We hit up all the big coasters first thing in the morning and I got to ride the fire and water one that had a massive stomach drop and the upside down one that had some great loops.

We finished off in the last realm. There was a great maze for the kids to solve, a teacups style ride, and another ride that was similar to small world but went through a lot of different countries around the world. The baby was obsessed with that ride.

By then it was pushing one, so we hit up one last ride in the arabian realm that was a boat ride taking through an animated look at middle-eastern culture. It was cool and colorful but honestly a little spooky for the girls.\

The whole experience was 100% worth it. People were floored when they learned that we were from the states. They never had American guests there. So far this has been the highlight of my trip to Holland and the most incredible thing to see. And it was such a pleasure to do it with the little ladies. Everyone should check it out.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Traveling reality: Sleeping in the airport

I love traveling. Obviously.

All of us do. We love the thrill and the adventure The people. The attitude. The exploring, and getting lost. The culture and the food. The whole experience.

But this also means being pushed outside our comfort zone right to our limits.

So yes, occasionally there are things about traveling that just completely suck. I am uncomfortable, unhappy, tired, dirty, worried, stressed, etc.

Don't take this to mean that I take this lifestyle for granted. I most certainly do.not. I love living a life of travel and these struggles are just part of that. So I decided to write a small series titled "Traveling Reality" because I don't want to come off as the girl who is full of sunshine and rainbows as she travels.

Traveling Reality: Sleeping in the airport.

Budget flights are always scheduled at horrible times. That is just the way it is. That is why they are so inexpensive. So that means that to be a budget traveler you have to sometimes sleep in the airport, or huddled outside the airport, or any combination of these possibilites. And it is extremely unpleasant. "Sleeping" is not really what is happening but more semi-resting our eyes for awhile.

When I was traveling from Turkey back to Budapest I had a horrible night of traveling hell. It took be 22, TWENTY TWO hours to get from south of turkey to budapest. I could have gotten to Australia, or to the states and back in that time. Since where I was working was a bus ride away from the airport I had to head to the airport the night before I was leaving so that I would catch my early morning flight.

It was bright and loud and the seats sucked and there were children running around. They came and sat in the seats As I am clearly attempting to sleep. I had to get up and turn on a movie they were so loud and annoying (this was 12:45 at night).

I didn't sleep at all. But I did eat some delicious chocolate. So I guess that was a highlight?

It was one of those times where I cursed traveling and I hated being a budget traveler. I just wanted to be in a nice hotel, or back home . Not disgusting and tired running around an airport. 

But I got over it, got some proper sleep, and thought about how things when you travel are sometimes complete shit, but that allows you to do things that will blow your mind because they are SO awesome.

Anyone else have some terrible traveling realities. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Amsterdam: What i've been up to with the kiddos

The short answer is just about everything. We have been on so many amazing adventures here in this city. 

I took both girls to the Waterlooplein flea market which turned out to be a HUGE hit for everyone involved. We shopped and looked around. The girls even got to pick out a few fun things. They were troopers even in the rain. The baby stayed home with mom and dad on this particular day. 

We also went to a great indoor play place. 

Another rainy day we went to an American bookstore and restocked on books, although monkey has already finished hers so we will be up for another visit all too soon. (updated, we already went back and still loved it!) 

These girls have become expert tram riders and even have their own tram cards to swipe now. 

Of course there have been a few nights and afternoon in where we ordered food, and did each others hair. 

Not all the days were rainy so we did enjoy some sun. We went to Amstel park which turned out to be awesome. It had train rides, mini golf, petting zoo and rides. It was a long commute with a tram and bus ride but such a good find.

We went to the kinderkookkafe to make our own cookies one afternoon while the little girls were napping. This was a great find. It's tucked right behind Vondlepark and monkey loved having the freedom to create the food herself.  This was a perfect nap time activity. 

There have been bubbles, balloons, and sunshine.  And all way too many happy times. :)