Monday, October 6, 2014

Amsterdam: Family Life

I decided to dedicate a separate post to questions about our family life here in Amsterdam. Here goes!

What is your favorite aspect of family life there?
Biking. Biking. Biking.

They have the most amazing ways of transporting entire families on bikes. It's truly fascinating. I need to collect some pics and do an entire post on just that. And I will.

Biking is easily one of my favorite things about living here. The bike culture is truly unbelievable and unlike any other city in the world. It was hard not riding a bike for the first 9 months after Ebba was born, but we are back on 2 wheels and it feels amazing! Using public transport - so inconvenient. Ha! Amsterdam really is a small city, and from where we live in the center it hardly ever takes more than 20 minutes to get anywhere. I biked to IKEA once and that took 40 minutes (and I was 6 months pregnant!).

How do you feel about your children having a different childhood than your own?
This is how I think about it. My childhood happened in the past. It's done. I would love to take my children to Trout Lake every weekend in the summer, but Ed's Bait Box isn't there. It never could be the same, even if we spent it in all the same places. Like most parents, I am figuring out what childhood I want for my children. 

I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything. Not for a passport full of stamps or spring breaks in Florida (via airplane, nontheless). My childhood was truly magical.
My perfect day, age 11
So maybe their childhood won't be so different from mine afterall. There will be road trips, camping, and lots of swimming. But most importantly, there will be magic. How do I know? Because they are children and they have parents that love them. That's where the magic happens, as far as I can tell.

How baby/children friendly is it? Are there changing tables everywhere you go? Do you see lots of strollers? 
Hmmmm....well it is not as baby friendly as I had expected. We live in the Center, so it's quite busy and I do not think it's convenient with a large stroller. You might have trouble fitting into shops and will most likely have problems bringing a big stroller into a lot of restaurants in the center. I am also now discovering that many of the restaurants in the center do not have high chairs...a subtle way to keep the kids out. 

What's worse is that traveling by tram with a stroller can be a real problem. There is an often enforced quota of 2 strollers per tram! I have heard of moms who have had multiple trams pass and refuse to let them on because there were already other strollers on board. And they were probably just trying to get their baby to a doctor's appointment! Extremely frustrating!

Which is why everyone rides a bike...

There are also lots of great playgrounds all over the city. We mostly go to the big one by our house (across from the Heineken brewery), but before I had Ebba we had explored the city a bit more. 

Built-in trampoline!
We also found that there are a number of petting zoos in the city, a great way to spend an afternoon with a toddler.

Are there adult/kids friendly activities? 
Yes! So many! There are some great museums here that are great for kids, especially in the winter months or on a soggy day (there are many). NEMO (science museum), Het Scheepvaarmusuem (ship museum), and Naturalis (natural history) to name a few. And for just €25 you can get a one year pass to these museums (and about 40 more). An amazing value!

Can't go wrong with bubbles at NEMO
We recently discovered the mini disco!
In the spring and summer months, hopefully when the sun is shining, there is LOTS to do in Amsterdam that is fun for the whole family. Picnicking in one of the many large parks is always a popular option. I like going to some of the weekend markets that pop up around the city, offering local foods, arts and crafts. (Pure markt, NeighborFood Market, Sunday Market) Sometimes there's music and rides for the kids. Maybe face painting. I find that this city always has a lot to offer families, and I love it. Just hop on your bike and you're sure to find something fun to do

Are you happy with their education system for your kids? Daycare?
I really don't have a lot of experience with either yet. Simon just started school in March, and he was only in daycare 2 days/week for 6 months. Daycare is quite expensive, and government subsidies were greatly reduced in recent years. The Dutch, who have an extremely high number of part-time workers, are likely to share childcare responsibilities between spouses, grandparents, and daycare. That makes it more affordable. 

As for school, from everything I have heard about the Dutch education system I think it's great. I guess I will have to keep you posted on that one....

Also do pregnant/ nursing moms smoke weed? Or drink?

I do not think pregnant moms smoke weed here. Or at least I didn't when I was pregnant.

As for drinking, my midwife told me that the recommendation is to completely abstain from alcohol. That said, I do think that there is a more liberal view of drinking later in pregnancy than in the US. When I was in Belgium at the start of my 3rd trimester, we had dinner at the B&B where we were staying. The host could not stop offering me wine, and eying me very suspiciously when I kept declining. He did not seem to think that being pregnant was a valid reason to decline a glass of red wine with a delicious duck dinner.
I'd like to read about what you eat- what snacks kids love (ie goldfish, fruit snacks here)? Are the terms "organic/local"meaningful? 
One of the things I love about not raising my kids in the US is that there are no goldfish. Or fruit snacks. Kids eat a lot more real, whole food here than what I am used to in the US. (Gross generalization....moan. Get over it.) For example, at Simon's school you have to bring your own lunch and snack (there's not even a cafeteria!). No sugar or treats are allowed. Like most kids, Simon brings a fruit for snack and a sandwich and fruit or veggie and milk for lunch. If you pack something that's unacceptable (such as raisins!?!), it will simply be sent home.

Monster sandwich! Scary! 
But, I should probably mention chocolate sprinkles. I wrote about them here before. They use chocolate sprinkles as a sandwich topping. Incidentally, this sandwich topping is accepted at schools, too. It's very integrated into the Dutch culture. 

To be perfectly honest, a Dutch mom would probably have a totally different answer. Because I didn't grow up here, and they don't have goldfish and fruit snacks, I don't know what to turn to for "typical" kids snacks. As a result, snacks around our house are mostly fruits and veggies and home baked goods. When we're out and about, we love fresh stroopwafels (syrupy waffle cookies) and the gelato place around the corner.    

Bio (organic) and local is definitely "in" here. As I discussed in my previous post about finding food, there are quality local and organic products out there. But it has been quite challenging to navigate the food system here and find those special products. It's a work in progress.