Tuesday, March 24, 2015


This past week was Simon's voorjaarsvakantie (spring break) and it was a staycation, baby! And not just a staycation. A Pappa's-abroad-and-we-have-wheels kind of staycation!

I was admittedly not thrilled when I learned that Martin would be gone for Simon's week off of school. It meant I would be on my own and we definitely would not be going on holiday. A week with the kids sounded like a lot of work! (And it didn't help that when Martin left Simon was sick, waking up a lot, Ebba waking up, and I was hardly sleeping at all. But whatever.)

And now it's nearly done and I am here to report that Ebba, Simon and I make an amazing staycation team!

It started off with a sick birthday boy. I was heartbroken. Not only because he was sick but because he was sick on the 2 days that Ebba was in creche and I was looking forward to spending 2 days with just Simon, something I have not done enough of since Ebba was born. But it was nice to also just be home with him, play games, and cuddle.

But on Wednesday we started making up for it. We headed to the Eye Film Institute for Het Fantastich Kinderfilmfestival. Public transport to get there included a ferry across the IJ, which is just cool! Simon went to an Emil movie with our neighbor (and his best bud), Ans, while Ebba and I walked around the institute. Ok. Toddled would be more like it. She's toddling now. It's so precious.
How could I have forgotten how ridiculously amazingly cute it is when your child learns to walk. The first few weeks are amazing. I was just mesmerized watching her toddle around, plomp! on her little bottom, and get right back up to toddle some more. Others seemed to enjoy her toddling as well.
Simon and Ans
Our handyman
They had tons of activities for kids all over the institute, and Simon used some power tools to build himself a small car (with some help). Pretty cool!

Thursday we had to make up a swim lesson that he had missed when he was sick over the weekend. It was in Noordwijk, about 40 minutes from Amsterdam so I decided to make an afternoon of it and head off and see something. Along with Simon's buddy Julius we headed off to Boerderij Geertje (a petting zoo), where there were at least 100 baby lambs that you could cuddle with. It was just oozing cuteness! Swim lessons were followed by pancakes in a typical cozy restaurant where the kids could play until pancakes were served. Goat cheese, arugula, pine nuts and honey - yum!

On Friday, there was SUN in the forecast AND everyone slept through the night until 7:15!! With boundless energy we decided to head toward the beach* with some friends who are way more in the know than us. We headed to a park along the dunes with beautiful walking paths, plenty of room for kids to run and play (including playgrounds), and another pancake restaurant with typically slow Dutch service. It was cold, but sunny, and nice to see some nature outside of the city. The kids' boundless energy was all used up and they didn't make it 5 minutes on the drive home, which meant a lovely quiet drive for mama as well. A nice treat. (Also, sorry Ebba. As second born and because I mostly carry you on my back, there are no pics of you. But you were there! Yay!)

Hunting for treasure among the dunes.
And the other bit that has made this staycation extra nice, is that I have also given myself a little vakantie. The house isn't too clean, I'm behind on laundry, and I have hardly cooked at all this week. This has made for a more laid back, easy-going week for all of us.

I guess I hadn't realized how much the daily grind is just that, a grind. That pressure of getting out of the house in the morning, and that short time after school when we have to make dinner, eat, bathe, and rush to bed just wears on you. It has made me realize how my attention isn't always focused where it should be. This week I have refocused and hope I can make some changes to keep things light and fun going forward. I am so happy to have had this amazing week with my kids and fall more and more in love with them. What a lucky mama I am!

*Simon was a little frustrated when I told him that we would taking the car again to the beach. "Why can't we just take the bike?" He likes the car fine, but it's just not how we get places most of the time. I like that getting places by car is strange for him.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where the World is Quiet

We headed to Spain once again, this time to explore the area around Seville in the Andalucia region in the south of Spain. Our first stop was Ronda, known as the birthplace of modern bullfighting and the home of the world's oldest and largest bullring. It is a popular tourist destination, which means it was filled with hordes of tourists on tour buses, which always detracts from the charm. This city was founded in the 9th Century BC, and had a lot more interesting things going on than the bullring, but with 2 kids that was our main highlight!

Safe from the bulls

Our main destination for this holiday was Finca el Moro. On its website it says, Finca el Moro...where the world is quiet. Perfect! Just what we were looking for. The property is located in the Sierra de Aracena National Park, and well off the beaten path down a long dirt road. They sell many farm products for their guests including pork, lamb, and organic vegetables. There is a yoga shala, built on the site of the original thrushing floor. Best of all, there is Violetta.
Meet Violetta.
She's a donkey that lives on the farm, and often accompanies Nick, one of the owners on hiking tours in the region. But sometimes, she just hangs out with boys like Simon for a whole week and takes him pretty much wherever he wants to go. Thanks to Violetta, we were able to take a long hike through the cork groves around the farm AND....Simon's legs did not get tired. He was thrilled, we were thrilled. There's no telling how Violetta felt about it, but she seemed pretty content.

Every morning we would walk down to the pasture where Violetta was hanging with the horses, and we would put on her donkey gear and bring her back to our house for the day and use her for our various excursions are around the farm. To go to the tree house, for example. Or to hang out in the Yoga shala, which we found an excellent place to spend some time when you have a crawling one year old and are staying on, well, a farm. We checked out their bee hives and walked through the remains of this year's vegetable garden. A deep love was formed. We now send postcards to a donkey. And wonder if she will ever visit Amsterdam. True. (We just got a response from Violetta - she had a foal named Pepe! Simon is over the moon, carries the picture around everywhere, and keeps asking when we can go back.)
A photo opp.
Simon demonstrating how a pig sniffs....to a pig.
Our week in Aracena was picture perfect. While it had been cold and rainy the 3 weeks prior to our arrival, we managed to score a week of clear blue skies and temps near 80F (25-26C). We visited some of the small villages during the day and enjoyed some excellent food, or had a cervesa on one of the plazas. (I recommend Arrieros in Linares de la Sierra and Maricastaña in Castaño del Robledo.) When the kids crashed at 7 we read books and enjoyed the stillness and profound blackness of night in the countryside. We didn't hurry. We didn't have wifi. The world was indeed quiet.
Where are the pigs??
Our last few days were spent in the charming city of Sevilla, where I was lucky enough to have a friend who had just moved there at the beginning of the month. Gina and her husband showed us around the city and helped to keep Simon distracted from the monotony of walking around a city with his parents. We watched Barcelona play Real Madrid in a packed outdoor patio. But the highlight was our visit to the Parque de España which included a fun bike ride through the wide avenues. Thanks to my friend Gina, Martin and I even got a date night in Sevilla!
Me and Gina reunited in Sevilla.
Ever the cool customer drinking his milk at the counter.
And just like that, she's 1!
We flew home on Ebba's birthday. She had lunch in Paris. (Ok. At the airport in Paris.) She's one!!