Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Well, folks...we're back!

For a while there, we were beginning to be ominously reminiscent of X-Pat Files: Adventures in Nigeria (friends who blogged a few times in July and then mysteriously disappeared...). Our lives have taken on such a pace of late that Markus and I have been doing our best to keep our heads above water...and seem to accomplish little else. Amazingly enough, all that hard work seems to be paying off. For the first time in months, we are starting to wind down a bit and catch our breath. There seems to be so much to catch you up on, so I'll just pick someplace to start and go from there.

Our move to The Hague proved its worth right away, as we were able to celebrate Christmas with both sides of the family for the first time ever in our own home! My mom (Stephanie) arrived the day after we unpacked the last box (whew!), and Markus's mom (Rita) and sister (Ulla) arrived the day after my mom and I returned from Mother-Daughter Party Time in London (three days, two nights of whirlwind FUN!). The idea of having everyone here so soon after the move was a bit stressful, but the reality was quite lovely. On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a beautiful, delicious, and surprisingly relaxing dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, peas (Ellie's favorite!), and biscuits--all homemade from scratch by a proud (and somewhat overwrought) Jennifer. That night, we kept up both sides of the family tradition. Rita and Ulla opened all their presents, as is the custom in Germany, and Stephanie joined in. Markus, Jennifer, and Ellie opened one present each, saving the rest for Christmas morning, as is the custom from Jennifer's childhood. Christmas Day found almost everyone still sleeping off the turkey from the day before. We didn't open presents until after 11:30.

After a leisurely lunch, most of us went to Amsterdam to wander the streets and enjoy different sights. On Boxing Day, Stephanie and Ulla departed for home. Rita is still here visiting. We are so happy this move made all of these things possible!

The weather has been persistently grey and cold, but thankfully, it hasn't rained. We've been able to get outside and walk every day, and the fresh air is always welcome. The Dutch are a hardy breed, let me tell you. Yesterday, we went to the beach for a stroll. The traffic was HIDEOUS and the beach lots were completely full. I understand that it was a holiday and everyone wanted to get out of the house, but keep in mind that the weather was thickly foggy, just a few degrees above freezing, and (let's face it) rather unpleasant. You would have thought the sun was shining bright and the air was warm and welcoming. Everyone and their dogs were out! Hardy breed.
We witnessed the same at Madurodam a few days before. Madurodam is a model town with representations of all major features in Holland. The scale and detail is astonishing. Really worth a visit! Just not on the day we went. We picked the coldest day yet. Ooooo....too cold to be outside standing still while admiring models. We didn't last long, which was a shame. Madurodam is rather impressive. I'm sure we'll be back. But again, it was pretty busy. Lots of Dutch people without hats or gloves or scarves. Hardy breed.

My mom and I had an amazing time in London! I have wanted to take her there for years, and we finally got her to make the plan this year! For me, it was special for two big reasons: 1) it was the first time I've had alone to enjoy with my mom in longer than I can remember, and 2) it was my first time away from Ellie overnight. We stayed for three days, two nights, which was perfect. Our days were full of city touring on foot (a great way to see London). We saw (in no particular order) Tower Bridge (my favorite), the Tower of London, Buckingham, St. James' Park, Trafalgar Square, Halls of Parliament, Big Ben, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, Tate Modern, the Millennium footbridge, Harrod's, and on and on. We took a "flight" on the London Eye, a first for both of us and a truly incredible experience.

I took lots of pictures in my fascination, though I did have to sit and read a book as we neared the top (it's 135m high). Those of us who aren't thrilled with great heights should exercise restraint, you know.

The most indulgent part of the trip was catching two plays in two nights. The first night was The Lion King (Mom’s Christmas present from us); the second night was Evita. Both are must-sees!

From the volume of screeching from downstairs, it seems my time has expired on the baby meter, which is just as well. This posting is quite long enough! Comments, please!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Well,'s been a wild two weeks, but the boxes are gone and the house is unpacked! Disarray is still the order of the day, but it's mostly small stuff at this point. Markus and Jennifer burned the midnight oil a few nights in a row to get there, but hooray for being that much closer to home!
Today, Mimi arrived for her Christmas visit! Yippee! We are soooooo excited and happy to see her! We can hardly wait to start showing her all around. Having visitors gives us an EXCELLENT excuse to do all of our favorite things in the area, and it's always fun to introduce newcomers to museums, sights, shops, restaurants, etc. for the first time. We are soooo happy Mimi is here for a visit! And not a day too early...even as it was, we had to uncover sheets for her bed after her arrival (oops).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Whew! Four days into the moving in adventure, and the house is an explosion of consumer debris. Americans and people who have lived in America for extended periods really shouldn't move. Except to discover the truly excessive amounts of STUFF one has come to own. It's quite impressive, really. Not necessarily a good thing, but impressive just the same.
I have (ridiculously) high hopes to get it under control by the end of this weekend (hey, I mastered the kitchen already!), at which point I want to get going on Christmas cards and decorations. Would you believe this will be the first year we will celebrate Christmas in our home? With family coming to us too! Hooray! All thanks to the Ellie Bear. We are really looking forward to it!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Before leaving this post, I have to share our latest Fun-with-Dutch-Bureaucracy story.
Markus went to change his driver's license from Germany to Holland this week. He had been told it would cost 20 Euro, and that he had to appear in person. No big deal. Cash in hand, he made his way to the appropriate office. There, his 20 Euro allowed him to acquire not a driver's license, but a FORM to begin application for a driver's license. Completion of this form plus supplemental paperwork will allow him to apply for a license change. When accepted, he will give up his license for up to 3 weeks during processing.
Good thing we don't actually NEED a car most days.
Markus found this experience most ridiculous and mildly exasperating.
Jennifer, on the other hand, began to laugh hysterically.
I must be having an allergic reaction to all the red tape around here.
Hallo from The Netherlands!
We arrived safe and sound back in Holland about a week ago, and we are oh-so-close to moving into our new home (and oh-so-happy about it!)! The keys were placed in our eager hands yesterday, and the movers are coming on Monday. You read that correctly! Although we had been warned that customs would hold up our items for 4-6 weeks from paperwork completion in mid-November, we have had the most pleasant surprise of a speedy process! With both families wishing to be present at Christmas, we were a bit afraid we'd have nowhere for anyone to sleep with possibly no furniture until January...but fear not! We hope to be fully moved in by the end of next week! Such excitement cannot possibly be communicated in this blog, but we are sooooooo very ready to settle down and STAY in a place for a while! Yippee!
Of course, everything is a process in Holland. We currently lack private internet access (I'm updating from a cafe), but we hope to be online soon. Meanwhile, please keep checking in and letting us know how you are doing. We had over 100 emails built-up from this past email-less week, and it was WONDERFUL to read up on our friends lives. Starting over in a new place can be hard, so keep those messages coming! We'll respond and update when we can, and we hope to get private access again soon.