Thursday, December 18, 2014

Puddle Jumper to Saadani

In order to get to our first lodge, Room with a View, in the Saadani National Park, we had to take a little puddle jumper, 15 seat plane.  Now, I’m not a good flyer on any day and this flight had me stressed from the moment I booked it.  But in order to squeeze in 2 ½ days of safari, it was necessary for us to fly instead of drive to Saadani (which takes about 4 – 5 hours from Dar es Salaam). 

On the way to the airport we were struck by the poverty in the area.  Not only tons of people crammed on buses, but many were also just sitting together under trees on the side of the road.  Buildings were run down as was everything around us.  It saddened me to no end to see people having to live this way.  Again, I wish I had taken some pictures but there never seemed to be the right opportunity.  Our driver did tell us that schools there often had 100 kids in a class – this is in the city!  And to do private school is very costly.  I don’t even know how it came up but regardless of how, this statistic is dumbfounding as I don’t know how any student can learn and hope to improve their situation when in that kind of environment.

Not to be dismissive (because I plan to come back to the poverty again later in another entry), but back to the flight.  Years ago, Josh and I went to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.  In order to get there, we had to take a puddle jumper from Miami to Grand Abaco.  In addition to the pizza that the pilot had on his dashboard, there were also crashed planes in the marsh right before the runway when we were landing.  That does not give one a warm and fuzzy feeling about flying in small planes. 

Anyways, I was definitely anxious about this flight.  We got to the domestic airport and just had to laugh.  I mean really, sometimes things can be so outside of your comfort zone that the only thing you can do is laugh.  We walked into the entrance and immediately were faced with a bag xray and the security gate to walk through.  We put our bag thru and no one even acknowledged us as we walked thru the metal detector.  It was like walking into a small government building in a sense though even those have more security than this did.  We walked the only way we could and came to a check in desk, old school style.  They wrote our names on a list and told us to put our luggage in a pile behind us and they would come and get it.  Now, this isn’t a big airport but there were at least 15 other people  and I didn’t need my luggage to go to the other side of the country.  So I made Josh stand by it til they came to tag it. 

The baggage area

Funny enough the waiting room did have AC unlike the international terminal.  And at 8AM, you most definitely needed it!  Talk about your intense heat here!  We waited about an hour for our flight (we were way too early in this case!) and finally walked out to our plane.

The waiting area

The AC unit in the waiting area

Pretty much the whole terminal right here...

It was little!  The kids didn’t seem bothered by it and even Aidan said “Mom, we all have to get over our fears sometime”.  Oh that kid!  But he’s right.  I didn’t think all the people in line would fit on this little plane but they did, seated shoulder to shoulder.  I was dismayed when the pilot told us that this flight would have 2 stops – the first in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, and then to Saadani.  Unfortunately for me, our stop was Saadani.  That meant two take offs and landings!!!  The whole trip would only take 45 minutes to get to make both stops though so at least that was a relief.

Our plane... yikes!

Liam thought the flight was "epic"

I squeezed my eyes shut for the take off and in all honesty, the first 10 minutes of the flight.  I was picturing in my head that we were on a 757 jet which made me feel a little better.  Eventually though, I couldn’t help but be tempted to look out the window, knowing we would be flying at a much lower elevation than the big jets do, and wanting to see the scenery around us.  Unfortunately that scenery was the Indian Ocean (which was incredibly beautiful though) which panicked me a little more because there was some fog and all I could think of was JFK Jr. and his plane going down over the Vineyard because of fog.  Fuck! 


Thankfully the fog cleared up (we did have some more on the way to Saadani) and we were awestruck by the beauty that is Zanzibar and it’s coastline.  We landed in a small local airport and within 5 minutes we were taking off again to Saadani, the four of us being the only passengers on board along with the pilot. 

Up close to the pilot... not much of a stretch given how small the plane was!

Selfie!

View of Zanzibar ahead

Zanzibar closer up... maybe a little too close!


I knew in advance we would be landing on a grass runway but nothing can really prepare you for the sight of it coming up in front of you.  It was less bumpy than I would imagine, but all I could think of was how are the wheel struts holding up to the impact on the uneven ground.  But we made it and it was the only puddle jumper flight we had to take during the trip so I’m calling it a victory. 

As we come over the coast near Saadani - notice no homes, etc - just wide open land

Do you see that clearing straight ahead in light green?  Yup, that's our runway!

Waiting for us was a safari jeep.  There were no buildings, no attendants, nothing.  Just a simple grass runway and a jeep.  Need I say it again… We’re not in Kansas anymore!  I knew it would be a small airstrip but I didn’t expect just a jeep.  We met our guide who told us that we would not be going straight to the lodge but instead would do a full day safari today including our river safari and then a game drive before returning to the lodge in the early evening (our original plan was a 1/2 day safari followed by 2 full days so they reversed it).

The airstrip

Our ride awaits

The "epic" safari jeep

I can’t say we were prepared to jump right into a safari – thankfully we were dressed somewhat appropriately (and to be honest, we never left the jeep so we really could have worn whatever) though had no sunblock or bug spray on and then needed to find our hats, etc.  So it was a little chaotic for a few moments trying to organize ourselves and then we were off to our next adventure!!  River safari here we come!!

Besos,

Julie

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Arrival in Tanzania... We're Not in Kansas Anymore!!

Admittedly I was a little bit nervous about our trip to Africa.  Not just the long flight but what to expect when we arrived.  My biggest concern being safety.  After all, this is a third world country and absolutely out of not just our comfort zone, but also our knowledge base. 

But at the same time, I couldn't hide my excitement about this trip.  Going outside our comfort zone is a good thing.  This is the adventure to top all adventures thus far for us.  And this trip has been organized to a T.  I arranged everything through both of the lodges we would be staying at and felt confident that we were in good hands.

The flight was long but uneventful.  I was a little nervous flying over parts of Africa that I know have had some unrest, especially given what happened with the Malaysia Air flight that was shot down over the Ukraine – it also happened to have departed from Amsterdam, like us.  In fact, it was the first time that Aidan was fearful of flying because he knew what happened to that flight as there were students from his school that were onboard and killed. 

However, we had nothing to worry about and bonus, the kids were excellent.  Josh posted on Facebook right before we took off that it was the kids longest flight.  Not true.  It was the longest flight he has taken with them.  But then, this was only his second long haul flight with them in the 5 years that we have lived abroad.  So I knew what to expect and as always, they were super amazing.  I get grumpy after that long on a plane – I don’t blame them if they do and honestly, they didn’t get grumpy at all.  I’m one proud mama!!

This was our first time flying to the southern hemisphere which I thought was pretty cool in and of itself.   But yet being so close to the equator, we still weren’t prepared for the onslaught of head and humidity when we got off the plane in Dar es Salaam, the capital.  It’s true, the airport in the country’s capital was not only one of the smallest I’ve ever been in, but lacked air conditioning and at 10:30PM, it was about 86 degrees – I kid you not.  We are not in Kansas any more.  Let me repeat that WE.ARE.NOT.IN.KANSAS.ANYMORE!! 

And that was a bit of a slap in the face.  We knew it would be different.  We knew it would be less modern that what we’d had in the US and Europe, but we were not prepared for how different it was.  We made our way down to customs and visas.  We filled out the forms on the plane and were one of the first in line at a row of wooden booths.  For a place with no air conditioning, they had high tech fingerprint scanners.  Interesting what you pick and choose when you have to! 

We made it through the fingerprinting process and the clerk asked for $200.  That’s right US Dollars.  We are in Tanzania and they are asking for USD.  We had euros and hadn’t come across the money exchange yet.  So the guy tells Josh it’s around the corner.  We look around the corner and there is nothing, literally a wall.  In front of  us is the customs booths which of course, you wouldn’t pass by without having your passport and ours were with the visa guy.  So we ask again, where is the money exchange??  He tells Josh to go right thru the customs booth – yes, you read that correctly – and the money exchange is on the other side and just come back when he’s got the money.  By now it’s after 11 and the kids are punchy… literally. 

Josh comes back with Tanzanian money and the clerk says to him… “no, USD”.  Seriously, we are in Tanzania and you won’t take your own currency for the visas?  Back to the money exchange Josh goes.  Eventually he made it back and within minutes we had our visas.

I wish I’d taken pictures inside this airport so you could see how outdated everything was but I was just way too tired.  We walked thru the customs booth without stopping to see the customs guy (we were told since we had visas that we didn’t need to stop there but just walk right by – once again, they said nothing)  and on the other side was one of two baggage claim belts for the ENTIRE airport.  Again, reminding you that this is the country capital.

We made our way out and we had arranged for a driver in advance through our first lodge.  We found him right away and he whisked us off in his very old van (that had power windows in the back unlike my VW Golf but no power locks!) to the Best Western Coliseum (DOUBLE CHECK SPELLING). 

As we drove, it was late at night so you couldn’t really see the poverty levels.  We didn’t go into the heart of the city but were on the outskirts as we had an early morning flight to our first lodge.  But in the area we were in, it was full of strip mall type of places, lots of furniture stores and high walls everywhere.  It was all very very run down.  While there was traffic in both directions, it felt very unorganized in a way yet everyone seemed to just go with the flow.  At one point I saw a minivan with it’s side door missing and many people crammed inside.  It is exactly as you see on tv, including the ramshackle city buses that make the big yellow school bus look downright luxurious.

After about 15 minutes we made it to our hotel.  This hotel was recommended to me because of it’s proximity to the domestic airport which is about 1km from the international one we flew into.  That’s right, they don’t even fly into the same airport and there was only 2 baggage belts.  Not a lot of international flights come here apparently!

Regardless, we arrived at our hotel and a guard, armed with a baton, manually opened the gate to let us in.  I think in our “first world” this hotel would warrant a 2, maybe a 3 star rating.  It was relatively clean but definitely very dated.  We were supposed to have adjoining rooms but the door did not open between the two and actually there was a bed in the way on one side of the door.  So Josh and I divided and conquered as we were not going to leave the kids alone in this place. 

The rooms were 5000 degrees – but thankfully there was an AC.  You just had to put it on.  And it was loud.  Like there were nuts and bolts rattling around inside it.  But it was cold.  Aidan was out like a light but my mind was racing about the next day and what to expect.  The first day, after all, was exactly what we expected and yet, not what we expected at all. 

During the night I thought I heard an alarm but couldn’t be sure – I thought it was just another noise from the AC.  But when I got out of bed at 6AM, I opened the door only to hear that yes, there was an alarm going off.   And I had been hearing it for hours.  My hope was that there was nothing emergent or that the staff would have gone to the doors to evacuate if there was.  Just in case, I called down to the front desk and told them that there was an alarm going off and was everything ok?  Their response?  “There is an alarm going off?  You want a wake up call?”  No… there is an alarm in the hallway!  “An alarm?  Where??”.  Yup, they had NO IDEA there was an alarm going off in their hotel.  Awesome.  We were leaving in 90 minutes anyways and survived the night so I assumed we would make it the next 90 minutes if they hadn’t been aware of it all night anyways.   

Since this hotel was a recommendation of the first lodge we were staying at, all I could hope was that this was not a sign of things to come.  We know to expect run down, rustic and very little infrastructure – but knowing and experiencing are two very different things.  We are in a third world country for the next 8 days – what have we gotten ourselves into?  We’re off to the domestic airport shortly to begin our adventure.  Wish us luck!!!

Besos,

Julie

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" (Destination... Africa!)

If there is anything that I hope our children learn during our time abroad, it is to not only live outside their comfort zone, but to also embrace it.  In everyday life and on vacation, life is about new experiences.  For us, in this moment, never is there a more challenging way to be outside our comfort zone than...Africa. Yes, Africa.

After a failed attempt to go to South Africa last year where the travel agent laughed away our meager budget thinking somehow that we had $50,000 to drop (yes that is what she came back with despite us giving her a budget significantly far below this number), we have become much wiser and have done our due diligence so that this year it's within our (more reasonable) budget and so we have decided to go for it. 

There are a number of reasons to be apprehensive about this trip. The long flight for one - 9 hours, thankfully direct. But for someone who hates to fly, this is a big deal for me as I try to reserve that long flight for our once a year trip home. Malaria for another thing. We had to get vaccinations in advance of the trip and will take malaria pills the entire trip as well as for a week after we return.  Just the idea that we need to get special vaccinations to go on vacation reminds me that we are not in Kansas any more. And of course, it's the great unknown. I know of a small handful of people who have been adventurous enough to vacation in Africa. Though Aidan's best friend just moved there as well, so who knows, perhaps there is more than one trip in our future. 

And that's just one of the many reasons why this is a good, no great, opportunity to seize this adventure. Unblemished terrain. Wild animals (though admittedly a little nervous about the kids on safari which, yes, we will be doing).  Some of the most beautiful, unspoiled beaches in the world.  A chance to see a part of the world where many others are often afraid to venture. Admittedly we aren't hiking into the Congo here and for those concerned, we will be on the other side of the continent from the ebola outbreak. We are heading to much more tourist friendly Tanzania.

How did we end up here?  Well, with Josh's knee injury, a ski vacation is out of the question this holiday season (much to my sadness ... ok, not sad about that as I don't like to ski but Josh and the kids do) and since we are now living in a colder climate we want to get away from the cold.  We thought about a trip home to Boston for Christmas but Josh's parents will be away and my parents don't really do the holidays and with our house rented, it just didn't feel like a good time.  We thought about visiting Josh's parents as they will be somewhere warm - but the flights were costly and it would take us at least 3 flights and more than 16 hours to get there.  I started to look at google maps to see what options were available.  Barcelona was out as the kids friends will all be away and so we're saving that for early next year. And while Barcelona is nice in the winter, it's not a beach / warm weather destination at Christmas.

Greece?  Surprisingly not much warmer than Barcelona according to what I researched.  We could go to the Caribbean.  But if we go to the Caribbean we'd be talking 10 hours or more on a plane and again, the flights were on the expensive side.  I started to look east towards Thailand.  But again a long flight. I started to look south into Africa.  Africa intimidates me (so does Asia for that matter).  It's the great unknown.  It lacks in infrastructure.  There are a million preconceived notions that I have, many of which are probably true and many of which are a result of probably a little too much influence from TV and the news.

I randomly started to plug in flights to different places near the coast into search engines.  Tanzania came up as a very reasonable flight for the dates we wanted to go.  I started to dig more.  And oddly some things started to sound familiar.  When we first contacted the travel agent last year it was because I had received an email that had intrigued me about a place called the Tides and a safari.  Our inquiry to her was to see if we could do the trip they had advertised.  Unfortunately everything had been booked for our dates and so she started to look at South Africa and the ensuing $50,000 trip that never happened.  But when I started to look at Tanzania it all came back to me - this is where we had originally wanted to go last year before it all went array.

And so here we are, getting ready to go to Africa.  So our plan is to stay in Dar es Salaam our first night (we arrive late at night) and then go to the Saadani National Park where we will stay for 2 nights and do our 2 1/2 days of safaris which also includes a river safari (hence the hippo reference).  It's not a Big 5 reserve, but we expect to see a number of animals in their natural habitat including elephants, giraffe, zebra and a few more and since it wasn't the original reason we were taking this trip (it was for the warmth and beach) we figure whatever we get to see will be a super cool experience no matter what. We'll be staying by the water in both locations and it will be our first experience with swimming (and seeing) the Indian Ocean! After 2 nights in our first location where we will also do our safaris, we'll head over to the the next part of our trip for 6 days of swimming, snorkeling and relaxing by the water! We are so excited!

And so we're off to the great unknown (at least to us) for the adventure of a lifetime this weekend.  Stay tuned as there will be many entries coming about the experiences we have on this trip, all of which I have no doubt will be nothing like anything we've ever experienced before!!

Besos,
Julie  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sinterklaas Visits the Marcus House

While there are many benefits to living abroad, one that our children have done their "best" to embrace is as many holiday traditions as possible.  I truly think this is because they think it will garner them more presents over the course of the holiday season!

In Spain, in addition to our traditional American Santa Claus, we also had our caga tio (http://megustatuzapatos.blogspot.nl/2010/12/our-new-catalan-christmas-traditions.html) who would "poop" presents for them on Christmas Eve, and the Three Kings.  We didn't focus much on the Three Kings and didn't really push the kids to either since we already had Christmas and the caga tio.

But now that we are in the Netherlands, we've got Sinterklaas and he's not to be confused with Santa. As I mentioned in a previous post (http://megustatuzapatos.blogspot.nl/2014/11/the-tale-of-sinterklaas.html), he makes his appearance in November and then gives presents on December 5th before leaving on his birthday the next day.  All children celebrate Sinterklaas and so our children were no exception.

We did keep things low key and tried to stick with tradition.  They did not get a gift every night starting on November 16th (in fact, we didn't even tell them that Sinterklaas had arrived in the Netherlands until he arrived in Naarden on November 22nd).  They got a small little something every few nights which focused on chocolate letters, chocolate coins, pepernoten and occasionally a small gifts under 5 euros.


Shoes out by the fireplace and they each received a chocolate letter

A morning where they got a small gift instead of chocolate

Rudolph the red nosed Liam

Finally the night of the 4th arrived and we told them to put out their shoe because it was the last night that Sinterklaas would be making his deliveries before heading back to Spain.  They were both shocked to not only receive more than one gift, but bigger than what they had received over the previous few weeks.  

Gifts waiting to be opened on the 5th

Liam's big gift was a set of Minecraft legos and Aidan's was a talking Bender toy from Futurama

They both got a book

And a small toy under 5 euros


In addition to what they had at home, there was a celebration at school (where it was a half day).  Kids up to Liam's age actually received gifts from Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet who came to the school.  And those that were Aidan's age gave surprises (pronounced sur-preeze) - gifts that were under 5 euros that were kind of like a secret santa only you wrap it in very cool ways and write a poem about the recipient.  Aidan wasn't as into it as I had hoped but he's still not totally embracing this tradition either - perhaps next year!  To see some cool ideas, check them out on pinterest (Pinterest Sinterklaas Surprise)

We still kept it small and honestly took the items out of the already purchased stash of gifts that we bought for Christmas, but they'll never know.  As far as they are concerned, they got more gifts this year by being in the Netherlands...though wait til their caga tio poops them out a trip to Spain... now that will be a moment worth watching!!

Besos,
Julie

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dutch Fall Traditions

While I know that this does not cover everything that happens here in the Netherlands in the fall, I've started to compile a list of things that we've noticed so far - most of which we are thoroughly enjoying. I've no doubt I'll be adding more to the list as we learn about more and more traditions here in the Netherlands.

Sint Maarten
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, Sint Maarten is the patron saint of the poor and of children. Similar to Halloween, kids go door to door singing a song about Sint Maarten and receive candy in return.  A fail in our house for this year but there's always next year.

Liam ready to go out for Sint Maarten only to have no kids come to the door to tag along with

Marzipan
Marzipan in general is very popular here.  Unfortunately the only one in our house that likes it is Aidan. And the marzipan doesn't come in just your typical fruit designs but as Sinterklaas, french fries (with a white chocolate side of "mayo"), eggs and bacon, pigs and I could go on and on.  I first noticed it's popularity when I saw these marzipan pigs at the supermarket one day.

Enough marzipan to feed a family or 3, these things are about 18 inches in length!

The reason for the large pigs is that fall is also slaughtering season for a variety of animals including geese and pigs.

Gebakkraam - Cake stalls
These stalls start to pop up in the colder months and sell the Dutch version of doughnuts... essentially fried dough called olliebollen.  Yes, fried dough goodness on many street corners.  It can become a bad addiction.  In addition to the little fried dough balls, they also have filled ones like apple.  Or with currents inside called krentenbollen.


Pepernoten / Kruidnoten
These delicious gingerbread like cookies are normally saved for the time that Sinterklaas arrives but similar to the US holidays, these little bites of yumminess are making their debut earlier and earlier each year.  We've actually been seeing them here since around September and they come just plain or chocolate covered (white, milk or dark).  Hard to resist!

Sinterklaas
Yes, Sinterklaas makes his appearance not on December 25th but in November!  He actually arrived in Gouda this year (a different city each year marks his appearance from Spain and then each individual town celebrates with it's own Sinterklaas arrival on different dates) on November 15 and he sticks around until his birthday on December 6.  Kids get their gifts on December 5.

If you know of something I've missed, feel free to let me know - we love learning about new traditions!

Besos,
Julie

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Giving Thanks

When I first thought about writing my annual Thanksgiving entry, all I could think about was how thankful I am that 2014 is almost over.  It's been a tough year and there is no sugar coating how hard it was and how happy I am to see 2015 on the horizon.

But when I started to look back, trying to find the light amongst all the dark, I realized that while our lows were incredibly low, our highs were also extreme.

  • Josh changed jobs and while he loved his old job, he is enamored with his new one.  He is excited again about work which is so important!
  • While we were sad to leave Barcelona and all of our friends (and the weather!) there, we have been given the opportunity to expand our horizons and live outside our comfort zone again.  To not only have this for ourselves, but for our children is something we are very thankful for.
  • We went on some amazing trips since last Thanksgiving!  Skiing in Switzerland.  Seeing the aurora borealis, volcanos and glaciers in Iceland.  Visiting our cousins in England as well as getting to see where the Harry Potter movies were filmed!  Taking a cruise along the Baltic Sea which gave us the opportunity to see more places we'd missed over the last 5 years, but also to visit St. Petersburg, Russia!  And we went home to visit with friends and family - something we are thankful to be able to do each and every year!  
  • We also had a lot of visitors over the last year - something that meant the world to us as we know it's not only far, but also expensive to come and visit us.  Thank you to all that came to see us!
  • We have an amazing network of friends and family who have been nothing but the most wonderful support for us during this difficult year - we are so lucky to have people who stand by us thru thick and thin!  
  • We have moved from one of the most beautiful cities in the world to one of the most picturesque villages that I can imagine.  Walking, bike riding or driving around every day, I'm in awe of it's beauty.  And within 30 minutes we are in one of my favorite cities in the world.
  • And of course, I'm thankful for our (overall) health (Josh has not had a banner year with his knee but he's on the mend), having a roof over our heads, clothes to wear and food to eat.  We know there are many less fortunate out there and so we need to remind ourselves just how truly lucky we are and be thankful for the opportunities we have had over this past year.
As it was only the 4 of us celebrating this year for the first time... ever... there were times when it was hard to muster up the excitement over the holiday, but I was bound and determined to make this Thanksgiving just as special as previous ones.  Aidan was less than thrilled because since it was just the 4 of us, he felt it meant that we didn't have anyone to celebrate the holiday with.  In a sense this was true - we have made some friends, but very few are close enough to want to ask to celebrate this holiday with and actually, I debated asking a few people if they wanted to join us because in the end, I felt that being alone might not actually be a bad thing for us.

Of course, when we ordered our 5 kilo (11 lbs) turkey, which was a job in and of itself, we ordered it with the thought that perhaps it will be more than the 4 of us.  After all, you never know.  And in the end, we figured, well, we'll just have more leftovers that we originally planned.  Back to ordering the turkey though - I'm thankful that I've made a connection at school with someone who knows the ins and outs of where to find things here.  I happened to ask if she knew where to find a turkey and she gave me a guy in Almere that could do it.  A few days before this, I was at our local market in Bussum and asked the chicken guy if he could do it - his answer "for Christmas only".  Ok, I see that you have turkey parts here so why can't you just sell me the whole turkey????  But nope, no can do.  The rules are the rules.  So I was very glad to end up with this guy in Almere that could order the turkey for me.

I planned an easy menu for us and tried to keep things in check knowing that there are only 4 of us and a tiny European fridge which doesn't exactly give play to many leftovers.  The kids and I talked about what we should do to make Thanksgiving special this year and Liam couldn't understand why it was that we had to celebrate but none of his friends at school were celebrating.  Why, Liam, because it's an American holiday.  "No, it's not," he said.  "Liam, do you know why we celebrate Thanksgiving?" And he had no idea.  He didn't know anything about Plimouth Rock, Pilgrims, Native Americans... nothing.  My poor ex-pat American child knows nothing about his heritage and I can only blame myself.  He's in an international school where there are very few American children and so I don't even think it came up (in their old school they did talk about it but obviously he doesn't remember).  So we did a little American History 101 as we drove home from school that day.  And I obviously need to work on making sure these guys stay on top of these things - there will be more on that in another entry...

Anyways, since the kids and Josh have school and work on the actual holiday, we once again celebrated on Saturday.  As Liam has a 4 hour swim class on Sundays, I took Aidan to run some much needed errands mid morning on Saturday.  It felt a little anti climatic to be running errands on "Thanksgiving" but what needs to get done, needs to get done.  And he really wasn't into celebrating the holiday for a number of reasons, but the primary one being, he doesn't feel American. Again, going to get into that one soon.

Josh was home grilling up our turkey while we were out and about running errands.  Yup, grilling it. It's become a new Marcus family tradition that we started out of necessity in Barcelona when we had 20 people over and 2 - 5 kilo turkeys to cook and one tiny European oven.  

While things seemed to be on track, apparently things can't ever really go that smoothly for us.  Liam was a disaster and spilled multiple times before we even sat down to eat.  Not the end of the world, but to him it was an with the ensuing tantrums that occurred, it put a bit of a sour note to our celebrations. Sitting down as a family felt like a bit of an effort after that and I can't say that dinner lasted all that long. A bit anti climatic after all that preparation.

A bit of a forced picture after we sat down to eat.  A record of our first "thanksgiving" in the Netherlands...

We attempted to watch the (pre recorded) Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but the kids weren't really into it.  I made them watch it anyways.  Crazy, mean mom that I am.  I was going to make this into a "perfect" Thanksgiving one way or another.  But in reality, there is no perfect Thanksgiving and my family is who they are... and for that... I'm thankful.

Happy Holidays to all!
Besos,
Julie

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another Trip to the ER

It was only a matter of time really.  Just when I thought we wouldn't need to go back to the ER ever again during our time in the Netherlands, we had a small emergency.  Everything is fine and nothing was ever life threatening and actually this happened a few weeks ago, I'm just late on posting.  I just had hoped that with Josh's knee we had already had our fair share of doctor's visits and the emergency room.  But no, I have boys so I can't expect that will ever actually be the case!

A few Fridays ago, at Aidan's request, we went to a skateboard park about 30 minutes away from school.  It's by a friend's house and he had hoped to meet him there.  It was pretty cold out so I walked them over to the park (the skateboard park was situated kind of in a median area between bi-directional roads) and then went to sit in the car where it was nice and warm but I could still see them.

However, since it was cold, I had the windows up and it was a minute before I realized that Aidan was screaming at me.  I immediately realized something was wrong.  I ran across the street and he was fairly close to hysterical (definitely my child).  I thought he might have broken a leg or something... but no, he was upset because he hurt his thumb.

Now I'm not saying that hurting your thumb can't be painful - potentially breaking any part of your body hurts!  I'm just saying for the hysteria, it was a bit much drama.  But regardless, I knew he was hurting and we called it a day for skateboarding (10 minutes after it had begun) and he asked me to take him to the doctor.  I felt horrible for minimizing his pain - bad mom moment there.  Aidan never ever asks to go to the doctor.  He hates going to the doctor. So for him to ask, he must be uncomfortable.

But again, he's dramatic and the entire way to the ER he had to have his window open because he was essentially hyper ventilating.  He kept telling me he was doing to die.  I reminded him that unless his thumb had been cut off and he was bleeding out, he was unlikely going to die from this injury. Regardless, he thought otherwise.

We got to the ER where the nurse blasted me for not going to our GP first since it was before 5PM (it was 4:50 just so you know) because it's more costly to go to the ER.  Yes, I get that.  But given it was another 15 minute drive to the GP from where we were, we weren't going to make it before they closed and odds were, they were going to send us to the ER for xrays (turns out he didn't need an xray - my bad) so I was just avoiding the middle man.

Long story short, Aidan was fairly hysterical (in a quiet way thankfully) in the hospital, even stating to me at one point "I'm sorry things have to end this way," because he truly thought he was going to die. From a possible broken thumb.  The doctor took a look and said that it was likely pulled ligaments and put him in a bandage for the following 48 hours.  A few weeks later, he's still saying it's a little sore here and there, but I think he's going to be just fine.  Now... the hope is no more ER visits for a long, long time!!!

My poor injured baby :(

Besos,
Julie