Monday, April 26, 2010

Sharktooth and Mower Boys

Micah is now counting SIX loose teeth, the upper two being the most wiggly. He's loosened them up a lot and I thought we'd get the one on the right out yesterday, but he wasn't ready to have Dad yank them out. He did let Chad try, but after one attempt, Micah'd had enough. I couldn't get it out, either. We call him Sharktooth boy (as we did Colin when he teeth were like this) and laugh. Those top two teeth are so loose, they're beginning to stick straight out, rather than down. And you can see the adult tooth right behind one just pushing it out. Micah likes to show anyone who will look. He'll give a purposeful goofy smile with his tooth sticking out from between his lips.
Yesterday was Colin's first time mowing. Chad worked with him on the front lawn. It's so nice to have a lawn that's not so hilly in both the front and back now. I think he enjoyed having that new responsibility. It'll be a while before we send him off to do it himself.
Chad took the boys to their soccer games in Ogden Saturday. We tried getting them into AYSO down here, but they were full. Since we already had them registered in the fall, they're good to go for Ogden this spring.
Defending the goal!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Field Trip

Ella's preschool had a field trip to the Clark Planetarium. We went around and explored before going into the theatre for a little movie. It was a really cute one about a couple of kids taking off in their imaginary rocket to outer space and learning about the planets.

Since the boys are back on track in school, I just had the two girls. Here they are, letting off some energy (as always!). I love that I caught Ella mid-jump. That never happens when I try to time it that way.
And more Mira doing her shakey-shakey thing.
Ella loved the astronaut suit.
Sitting in the theatre, waiting for the movie to start. Ella's got her new Strawberry Shortcake, which she bought with her own money yesterday. She's been taking it everywhere she goes.
Cute little Mira.
Walking on the moon!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Post-Easter Sunday and Science Fair

Saturday night Ella wanted me to put little braids throughout her hair after her bath so she'd have curly hair for church. It ended up pretty cute. Here, Ella's trying to snuggle Mira for a picture while Mira's doing her characteristic tail-shakin' dance. Micah hopped right in for a picture, too.

The girls...well all the kids, actually, are growing out of their clothes. I kind of missed the boat with Easter clothes and wanted to get something pretty for the girls. Trying to be frugal, we took a trip to the DI and I went digging. I found several really nice dresses for a great price. Micah even got a pair of sandals and Colin a pair of church shoes. With the way we go through clothes and shoes, this seems to be a good way to do it. The only downside is you never know if you'll find what you're looking for.

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As I'd posted earlier, Colin participated in the Science Fair (as did Micah). Colin's teacher picked him to go on to compete in the district-wide fair. (Micah wasn't old enough yet to go to district.) Colin placed and had a lot of fun doing it. He was nervous about facing the judges and being asked questions, but I know he did well (they didn't allow parents around when they did the questioning). Chad used this project as a time to really teach Colin about probability. He learned a lot about it. With Chad supervising, Colin typed up all his own papers for his posterboard. So it truly was Colin's project, thanks to a dad's patience.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Amsterdam: Day 3

Have I told you about the number of bicycles in Amsterdam? This was just one spot where there was an official bicycle parking garage. I went down to take a picture and spoke to the man running it. He said you can come park your bike for free each day. A lot of people use this when they're going to university to keep their bikes from being stolen or vandalized. And many people will pay a fee to park them here while they're traveling.
This was just outside the Mac Bike shop, where we rented our bikes. We got ours for a 24-hour period, but really just used it for the bike tour. We tried using it a couple of other times, but honestly, it was kind of stressful, especially with the huge bike Micah rode in. You just don't want to take any chances and people, cars, trams, and bikes were everywhere. Chad and I preferred the ease of walking with the boys. But I can definitely see the benefit of having a bike. It just takes getting used to getting around the city.
Our last day in Amsterdam we went to the Rijksmuseum. There are many famous Dutch artists. The museum has been under renovation for the past 7 years and will continue like that until 2013. I wonder what the inside will look like when it's completed! So, for us, only the west wing was open. But we were told it's actually a great way to see the museum because you don't have to walk all over. They moved all the masterpieces to the west wing which enables you to go through it in about 45 minutes, which was perfect for us. There were some amazing things in there. I could've spent longer, really. No pictures allowed, though. The boys, especially Micah, noticed the naked people and would point them out in semi-disgust and try to get us all to avoid them.
Okay, one thing about being in Europe are the bathrooms. You must always have coins on you because you will pay for the bathrooms anywhere you go (except if you're a patron in a restaurant...if they have a toilet there). You can expect to pay 50 euro cents (about 65 cents) per use. Kids included. You can imagine how many trips we made to the toilet with the two boys and me being in my third trimester! But the toilets are generally very clean, no graffiti, and many times someone is manning the toilet to wipe it down after each use for the next person. It's just different. Below you'll see something that took us by surprise. We were walking through Amsterdam's city and out in the middle of a square were all these urinals. Convenient for men because it's quick and easy and you don't have to pay. But...strange, right? No privacy. We did see other public urinals, but this was the most out-in-the-open of them all.
We went to the Anne Frank House. We got there before noon and the line was quite long. We probably waited about an hour to get in. It was different than what I expected. The inside was preserved so that you could see what the house looked like when the Jews were hiding there, but the outside wasn't that attractive, in my opinion. It was more modern-looking. The tour was interesting and it gave you an idea of how secluded and dark it was for them in there. They had to stay completely hidden from outside view at all times. No opening up curtains and windows or anything like that. During the day they couldn't move around at all, so as not to arouse suspicion of any workers in the warehouse below. What a sad, sad time for them, especially for the younger ones who longed to go out and run, ride a bike, and just live.
We were starving after the tour and had spotted this doener kebab shop earlier. I'd wanted to be sure to get a doener kebab before we left, so this was our chance. The day before we took the boys out to a pancake house for breakfast and our bill was over $50 for the 4 of us. Chad was not pleased. We had ordered 3 big English breakfasts. The boys and I ordered juices and Chad though he'd get away with ordering just water. I informed him that you pay for everything, including the water. No free refills. Make it last, baby. We're so pampered here in the states. Free toilets, free water, free refills. Once you don't have that luxury, you sure miss it!
Can I tell you what a ham Micah was this whole trip? He cracked me up again and again. I think I encouraged the behavior. But he was so funny! He did these little gyrations and dances just for the fun of it. It was like the life in him was just bubbling over and he couldn't keep it in. This picture doesn't even capture it.
I snapped a few last pictures in the Marriott before we left. Man, it was swanky and we really enjoyed it. Our room was great and the staff was wonderful.
They remodeled in 2007 and you could sure tell. Everything was high-class and sparkling clean. A lot of business people came through. We would not normally splurge for a room like this...ever. But after doing a lot of looking around online, it was our best option. Try finding a room for 4. They are few and far between. And then try to find one that has on-site parking (you'll be hard-pressed to find a parking spot on the street!) and the Marriott was just about the only one left standing.
I just don't get why there are no large rooms to accommodate more than 4 to a room. Mostly, you'll find a max of 3 to a room and would be forced to buy another room if you had more than that. I mean, sure, Europeans have small families, but we're certainly not unique for having more than 2 children. I just found it strange.

So after our last day in Amsterdam, we drove back to Oberkail to stay one last night at Doug and Rachel's. They had left a couple of days earlier with Joan and Mark to head for vacation in Italy (hope they're having a blast!!).

It seemed like our trip back to the states was harder than going to Germany. Maybe we were just worn out from all our travels. We were up for over 24 hours straight. And the lines, lines, lines we had to go through in Chicago for customs, baggage claim, baggage check, security and so forth was just exhausting. Once we got on the plane from Chicago to SLC I was so ready to be home. The boys were beyond exhausted. They crashed. I didn't sleep the whole time and you'd think when we finally arrived at home at 11pm I'd be out well into the next day. Not the case. I probably slept 5-6 hours, which isn't terrible, but I certainly hadn't caught up on my sleep.

We had no fresh food in the house, so we made do Sunday. Monday morning I woke up at 2am and decided I might as well go grocery shopping which, by the way, is a great time to go! No crowds!

I was so glad to have the girls back. Mira seemed like she'd gotten taller, although I don't see how there would be a noticeable difference in under 2 weeks. They'd had a great time with the grandparents, who took such good care of them. We are so thankful for them and how willing they were to take them so we could go on this trip.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Amsterdam: Day 2

This morning we rented bikes. Colin and I got our own bikes. Initially, we wanted to rent tandem bikes so the boys could just kind of pedal behind us but still enjoy the safety and the view. There weren't any left, but Colin did just fine riding on his own. Our tour guide is a Briton who has lived in Amsterdam for 6 years. He's a chef by trade, but likes to keep up on the bike tours to get himself out and about more. He's very chatty and gave good information and entertainment. The company we went with (Mike's Bikes) offers city tours and country tours. The city tour is much shorter in distance (the countryside tour being about 12 miles total). But I really thought we'd enjoy the countryside tour more. That, and I really didn't want a drive-through and detailed description of the red light district with the city tour. I'm glad we went with the countryside. It was perfect!
Here we are getting ready to take off on our tour. Very excited!
Colin's trying to shield himself from the chilly wind.
This is a bike that's great for many things--except perhaps for tourist use. It's huge!
Chad took the awkward bike with the huge basket in front. It was hard to get used to driving. But it wasn't an uncommon thing to see a mom riding around with a kid...or three in the basket along with groceries. But having your child in the front and pushing out into streets is kind of scary! Once we got out into the countryside, it was much less stressful and really very enjoyable.
Getting around the city! Watch out!
We stopped by this old windmill which now has the inner guts removed and has been changed into a home. There is thatching covering the roof and only needs to be replaced about every 50 years. How would you like to live in a windmill?
On our bike tour were people from: San Fransisco, Oregon, Iowa, and Argentina.
Colin and Micah in front of the windmill.
This is a statue of Rembrandt, an Amsterdam native.
We stopped mid-way at a cheese and clog-making factory for demonstrations. Micah loved the cows.
The first demonstration was of cheese making. We brought back with us some smoked cheese, which was really tasty. We shared it the Sunday we got back with the grandparents and Amber. Dad Barnett asked me what kind of cheese it was. I didn't remember at the time, but it was Gouda, a Dutch specialty.
I would've loved to have taken home several wheels!
We then got a demonstration of how they make a wooden shoe. They use poplar wood and more modern machinery to carve the shoe and the inside. They have to let it dry for quite some time before it's ready to varnish/paint.

Micah and me at the farm.

When we started the tour in the city, it was very chilly and windy. By the time we made it out to the countryside, the sun had come out and we no longer needed our jackets. It was perfect!
I think Colin was very glad he got his own bike.
We all agreed this was our favorite activity we did in Amsterdam. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!
Chad tried to steer his massive bike and get a picture of me at the same time. Uh, didn't quite work out.
There. That's better.
We went by sweet little homes along a canal. I wonder how much those cost!
And I tried taking one of myself. What a joke!
Micah had a great ol' time riding in the basket. I still wish we could have had the tandem so he could've helped pedal, but I don't think he minded.
Chad was a trooper. Thankfully, Amsterdam is a very flat city. The only hills to go over were the small bridges. Even those required good effort for him to get his bike over.Look how much fun he's having!
Wish I could be there now!
My drive-by picture of a home along our route.
This was such a pretty little home. I kind of missed all the lovely flowers they had planted at the front of the house. We liked this one.
Micah
We stopped right by the Amsterdam Forest. Of course, this would have been a man-made forest, seeing as how this used to be covered with water.
Getting closer to town we saw a bunch of houseboats.
Taken from the boat down the river you can see many houseboats.
One of the many houseboats along the canal.
After the bike tour we really wanted to do a boat tour. Our first choice, the St. Nickolaas Boat Club, unfortunately was temporarily out of operation. They're a not-for-profit organization run by a few guys who just love to take people around on their little boats. They don't charge admission, just ask for a donation if you can spare it. It got raving reviews on TripAdvisor.com and has been featured on travel shows. I was looking forward to it because it's intimate and you get a great description of the city from a native. But their boats are fairly run-down and sank. So we missed our chance this time. If you go and they're up and running, I hear that's one not to be missed. Instead, we did one of the generic boat tours. It was nice...impersonal, but okay. Below: Me and my boys catching the sights.
Had to get a picture while on the boat tour. (Nevermind my thigh!)
Doesn't he have a sweet smile?
I was taking pictures of Colin and he kept telling me I needed to redo it.
Again.
And again until he was satisfied...sort of.
There are approximately 2,500 houseboats on the canal in Amsterdam. Yes, people live in them.
Chad on the boat.
Hm. Would prefer not to post this one.
What a pretty day for a tour.
Just some random picture of the homes you'll find along the Amstel River. By the way, Amsterdam gets it's name because they dammed the Amstel River, thus making the city arising from it Amsterdam. Voila!
Colin's own shot.

Micah's self-shot. He's in the process of losing his tooth, so we had fun calling him 'crooked-tooth boy' and he thought it was pretty funny.

You'd see these teeny-tiny 'trucks' all over Amsterdam. I guess they're smart because they're easy to maneuver in this city, where bicycles have the right-of-way and they use less gas (it's about $8-9 per gallon).