Saturday, July 17, 2010

White Nights

Spring here in Holland has been cool and breezy. The evenings have slowly grown longer, until now the evening and the morning almost, but not quite, meet around 2 am. At 10 pm it is still bright and sunny, at midnight, you could describe it as dusk.

My kids are sleep deprived. It is so hard to convince them they need to go to bed when the sun is still out. Jack is crushed that I won’t let him back out to play after 8 pm. I would, but I know I wouldn’t see him again until ten. Our house came with these beautiful room darkening curtains in the bedrooms. I don’t think my children would sleep at all except for them.

Today is the last day of school. Jordan has a small graduation ceremony. Jack gets his report card. They are both free at noon. We are off to the beach with friends for the afternoon and then to a Pancake House for dinner. The kids have loved the school. We all will miss it this summer, no matter what Jack claims.

We’ve been biking everywhere. The bakfiets has been such a gift. Shopping for the groceries, or a new rake, or a ton of beach toys is all possible. Last night the kids were rammy after dinner. I piled them all in the bike (with Jack up front for balance) and rode all the way to the Leiden town limit. The bike path leads through these wonderful farm fields, fields without fences, only canals penning the animals. We saw cows, of course, as well as goats and little black sheep. They were close enough to talk to, and we did. Today, my legs are TIRED, but the bike was easy to ride the whole way. People keep asking me if I’m going to join the local gym. Ha!

I’ve continued to marvel at the Dutch on their bikes. I believe if they are not born with a bike, they get one before they can crawl. The Dutch girl down the block is four years old. She rides more confidently than I do! Last night I saw a man reading the NEWSPAPER while riding his bike home. Last week I saw a woman riding a bakfiets like mine on a cell phone towing a kyack! I, of course, am unable to let go of either handlebar without ending up in a canal. I went for a bike ride with a lonely and forlorn Dutch nanny a few days ago. She rode beside me on the bike path. In true Dutch style, she rode 2 centimeters from my left side the whole way. I’m just not that steady on that big beast of a bike. She was taking her life in her hands.

The kids continue to make friends in the neighborhood. At one point during the weekend we had eight different kids in the house in addition to mine. There is a young Dutch family down the street with a five year old boy named Peter and a four year old girl named Laura. They speak no English. We speak no Dutch. Still, they wait in their yard until we come home. They bike to our driveway hoping to entice my children to ride around the block with them. Peter has become quite enamored with Jack and describes him to friends at school as, “my new English friend”. One evening I saw Peter and his mother, Peter on his bike and wearing an American bike helmet. His mother pointed this out to me. She said he wanted to wear a helmet “just like Jack”.

All the good things aside, there are days here that are very frustrating. T-mobile has turned off my cell phone each month on the 7th. This month they were unable to turn it back on for a week. Our bank placed a block on any automatic withdrawls from utilities. They were not sure why. My creditors were not amused. There was the night we returned from a restaurant to find that the parking garage where we parked the car had closed and locked our car in. There are still days when the TOM TOM, our GPS, takes us to an open field instead of the birthday party. Baking and cooking are an everyday challenge. I’ve confused buttermilk for 2%, yuck. All the meats are a mystery. Sometimes when Jack asks me what’s for dinner, I honestly don’t know the answer.

I am tired. The white nights have left me going to bed much too late. The enthusiasm of coming to a new country has faded into the exhaustion of still not knowing how to get simple things done. We are looking forward to coming back to Philadelphia as if it were a month at a spa. I think I might break down and weep when I finally get to a Target.

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