“I can’t even imagine. . .” my friend says to me as we weave our six children across the road – dodging bikes, buses, and cars. The De Valk windmill – the symbol of Leiden – towers above our chaos with indifference. My friend has just returned to the Netherlands after a five year stay in America. We met years ago when we both lived in the Netherlands and had only four kids between us. When she messaged me a few months ago announcing her family’s plans to return I did a little happy dance. I’ve found that American Moms
The minutes tick by on the dash. “Where are we going? Where are we going?” our children chant from the back seats. “Nowhere, yet,” my husband mumbles. “And don’t say anything, in case we don’t make it on time,” the GPS estimated arrival time edges closer to our destination’s closing time. “You think I don’t know that?” I roll my eyes but release an anxious breath. The sun is blinding as it descends during rush hour traffic. “Don’t worry,” I whisper. “We’ll make it,” and I pat my husband’s hand. “And if we don’t, well. It just wasn’t meant to
My phone alarm sounds at 11:25 a.m. – ding ding ding ding ding. I throw on my coat, adorn my earphones, and head into the cold – popping a King Mint into my mouth as I haul the empty stroller down our front steps. The sun is shining – that bright globe I’ve missed so much. My boots click on the cobbled road as I cross the street, passing by a lane of Antwerp city bicycles ready to transport anyone from here to there. I walk at a clip place – I have a habit of always cutting it close.
The metal gate glides open and the guard waves me through. I hand him my passport and he smiles. Asks me to pull my car off to the side. I turn the engine off and step into the cold, walk the short distance to the guard’s booth. Another mom traverses the second barrier, hands the French-speaking guard her ID. The two frozen men in the tiny booth joke they want chocolate in return for the favor. I offer Girl Scout cookies instead. There’s document signing, ID checking, photo-taking, etc. etc. etc. After giving them a blood sample and a promise
“NO!!! NO!!! NO, MAMA!!!! I DON’T WANT TO GO OUTSIDE!!!” I shove one arm into my winter coat while grabbing a tiny leg with the other. There’s a loud thud and the half liters of German beer shake on the thick wooden table as I bonk my head – trying to escape from the dark cave with my treasure, my love, my third child. I emerge from its underbelly – squirming into the other half of my coat, wrestling my three year old, and dying of embarrassment. The low roar of the restaurant is no match for my precious angel’s
The day, thick and heavy with grey drizzle irritates like a soaked wool blanket. My restless children cling to my sides, whiny and needy from being inside all day. I shiver – trying to shake off the damp creeping from under the gap in my patio door. I shake – trying to free myself from the children. My task of the week – toilet training my 2-year-old – was a failure, cleaning up messes off the floor, dragging rugs out to the porch to be hosed off, and washing his hands after playing in his own pee. A true holiday
“Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Queen of Hearts, Alice in Wonderland. Droplets of wax pool at the base of an antique candlestick holder. An orange flame breathes and extends towards the painted ceiling. Rows of teapots smile from the shelves – winking and whispering to the suiker and sucre jars across the dining room. Glistening chandeliers cast a glow over tea-sippers and bounce rays of warmth off walls the color of a rain-kissed rose. This is Alice. I’ve found my new favorite tearoom in Belgium. We’ve come to Gent for the GentseFeesten,
Every real Texan knows about Barton Springs – the natural pool in Austin filled entirely from a natural spring – and the truest of Texans have dipped their body into the chilly, but refreshing waters on a scorching hot summer day. It’s a rite of passage for natives, like floating the Guadalupe, sipping a Big O at Georges, or riding the Texas Giant at Six Flags. Natural pools are few and far between – no matter what country you reside in, so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Belgium’s version of Barton Springs in a nearby neighborhood of Antwerp.
“Hum, how about Portuguese? It has five stars. . . and it’s just around the corner from the museum,” I raise an eyebrow to my husband. He grips the steering wheel and leans forward. Parking in Europe, the anticipation of the unknown, stresses him out. “Like I said, it’s just around the corner from the museum,” I eye my phone, the Citadel park in Gent is coming up on our left. “Sounds great,” he exclaims and smiles when he comes upon a parallel parking spot the size of a moving truck outside the STAM museum. We unload the
A concrete slab. Construction lining the concrete slab. An ornate pavilion overlooking the concrete slab. That’s what I knew of the Kouter Square. We’d been to Gent a handful of times when we lived in the Netherlands, and had always parked in the garage below. We took the elevator with the stroller and wandered into the city from this central location. We lived in Gent for a month before settling in Antwerp. We packed up the kids one Sunday morning and headed into town via tram to explore the many markets the Gent guidebooks and websites listed. We stepped off