Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm Scared

Since Donica and I fly home to Atlanta on Friday (but just for the weekend--more about that in my next post), I'm thinking about the BLB (Big Little Boy) that I miss so much, so I have to tell you a Nicholas story! This is one Amy told me in a chat last week from the night before his last day of school (1st grade).

But first, some history. Santa Donica gave Nicholas his first hand-held device for Christmas last year. It was a BIG deal. It came with a couple games and all the paraphernalia for keeping it charged and safe.
BUT, it also came with some very strict rules and regulations that Amy set down for him. One rule was that he was NEVER under any circumstances to take it with him to school or daycare!

Well, guess what! A couple months ago, Nicholas got caught TWICE with his Nintendo DS, at school AND daycare. Even after a long suspension the first time, he still did it again. Here was our sweet, little, innocent, mommy-pleasing boy--breaking the rules twice. We ALL were upset (including his teacher!), wondering what he was acting out, etc.

So, back to the story. As Amy was putting Nicholas to bed the night before his last day at school last week, he said, "Mommy, I don't know if I'm ready for 2nd grade . . . I'm scared." To which she said that he was definitely ready and that he had done so well and she was so proud of him.

Then he said, "Yeah, but I got in trouble too much!"

She then reminded him that he's learned from his mistakes and, now that he's finished with 1st grade, he's a bigger boy and will learn to make the right choices.

And he said, "Yeah, 'cuz in 2nd grade you don't get any chances!"

OMG! Talk about a heart-melter.

THEN, to add to the story, Amy said that she immediately remembered later that when he was born almost 7 years ago, just before she went off to the delivery room, her dad was the last one to hug her and had tears in his eyes. As she hugged him, she whispered, "I'm scared!"

I still can't think of this whole story without getting totally choked up. Right now I don't have anything that's scaring me, but if/when I do, I'm quite sure I will remember this chat/post!

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Memorial Weekend

While those of you in the States are celebrating Memorial Day, we here in Europe are also celebrating a holiday for Pentecost. So Donica is officially off work in both places for a change.

Because of the long weekend, we made the decision to take a day-trip to nearby Leiden this past Saturday. It was a 40-minute train ride each way, 25 miles (40km) SW of Amsterdam. Leiden is a university town (the first in Holland, from 1575) where the Pilgrims lived before they ventured to Plymouth Rock. It's also where Rembrandt was born and developed his painting skills.

As we came out of the train station and headed towards town, I was struck by how modern the structure is. So unlike the other train stations I've been used to in Europe!

But the rest of the city was NOT modern and did not disappoint us. The town hall (above) is from the 17th century.

We did a two-hour self-guided walking tour in 3+ hours but before that, we took a 40-minute canal ride around the city. We passed by this observatory, which is Europe's second oldest, next to the one in St. Petersburg.

Because this is where Rembrandt was born in 1606, he is everywhere on huge murals/posters wherever a structure can hold him. And I mean everywhere! I'm guessing they really spruced up the city last year for his 400th anniversary!

The Hooglandse Kerk was founded in 1314 as a wooden chapel, dedicated to St. Pancras. In 1366 construction on a gothic church was begun, but never finished.

We saw so many wonderful things in our 5 hours in Leiden, but as you'd imagine, nothing thrilled me more than the 2 windmills in town (and one we saw on the outskirts from the train but which I didn't capture). As I told Donica, this first one near the tourist office was worth the entire trip. I could have died and gone to heaven at that very point!

These are my first windmills in Holland this year...and NOT from Amsterdam. And you're seeing them first here before I show them on my photoblog!

So, that was our holiday treat for this weekend. I wonder if YOU did anything special? And if you remembered anyone who died in miltary service to our country?

My sister, Ruth, reminded me that our paternal grandfather served in the Civil War (1861-65). Pay attention, now, because even I find this hard to believe. He was 70 when Dad was born in 1917 (Dad's mom was 47!) and died 9 years later (so I obviously never met him!). While he did not die in the Civil War, I do "remember" him for his service to our country.

And I'm remembering Barkley Bowman, who died in the Viet Nam War back in the '60s. He was in our InterVarsity group at Michigan and I dated him once. One day I want to go to the Viet Nam Memorial in D.C. and trace his name with my finger.

Let's not forget. And God help us, please, to learn the lessons we need to be learning from all these wars!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Organ Grinder

Since we're entering a nice holiday weekend for most of us (yes, even here in Holland!), here's something for the holiday spirit.

This organ "grinder" was in our Amsterdam neighborhood last Friday towards the end of the day. Our front windows are usually open because we get lots of sun there throughout the day, so when the music started, it filled up our apartment.

We both ran to the windows and this is what we saw:

Remember that our apartment is facing the street on the first floor. So when we went to the windows, we opened them wide (European windows swing open from the side or the top, both opening inward into the room--not up and down like in America). I sat on the window sill and started clicking away.

Everyone loves this guy, I'm quite sure!

Before he hopped back onto his contraption, he even waved to me. I told Donica later that we should have thrown him a coin! Next time we'll throw two.

And then off he went.

These are the small pleasures that fill me up here in Amsterdam. A day in our life. A moment in time. Just had to share it. :)

Now you go and find a happy moment this weekend. Or maybe it will find you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anne Frank's Diary Computer

Okay, folks. Here's my consciousness-raising for the day!

First, we need to start with Amsterdam's Westerkerk church, which is just a handful of blocks away from our apartment. Here it is, smack-dab in the center of stores and canal houses on the Prinsengracht canal (one of our street's bookends, remember?).

Here's a view of the clock tower as seen, I imagine, by Anne Frank from the hide-away during her WWII captivity. She says in her diary that the clock's chiming was a source of comfort for her during that time. When Donica and I visited the Anne Frank House 9 years ago, I remember reading that she could look out of her attic window and see just the tip of the tower.

So, on Monday this week I was passing by the Westerkerk and saw this huge exhibition around it's walls, all about the ecology and the part we play in bringing Mother Nature back to balance.

If you could enlarge this poster enough to read the last paragraph, it says: "By not putting electronic equipment on standby but turning it off completely, or by buying energy-efficient technology, we save not only the climate but also money--sometimes as much as 100 Euros per year."

Right then and there, on the spot, I made a decision to start turning my computer off completely every night, and not leaving it in hibernation mode. That's been two nights in a row now, and it is definitely my commitment. Maybe the rest of you have already been doing this. Good for all of us and the world.

I'm now calling my laptop "Anne Frank's Computer," a constant reminder of doing the right thing for Mother Nature!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Again and Again!

Remember when it rains, it pours? Again and again!

On Saturday we had a lovely lunch nearby the apartment with James and his partner, Matt. I still can't believe that we're within easy walking distance of each other. Since it wasn't my first time to see them, I didn't take any more pics. But yes, we had a lovely time together and I wanted you to know.

Yesterday WAS a new blogger (like Ade), from my photoblog: Petra (pronounced PAY-tra, different from what we both thought, Judy!). And here we are after first meeting each other at the art market at the Spui square near the City Center of Amsterdam. (Here's her pic for today.)

From the art market, we decided to go rent bikes and ride out to North Amsterdam away from the canals, across the bay behind Centraal Station. A 5-minute, free ferry ride took us across the Ij bay to a lovely, non-conjested area north of the city. Because we were riding bikes and yakkity-yakking the whole time (2 Gemini!), I didn't take many pics. I told her and Donica that I will definitely go back again on my own when I can stop any time I want and take as many pics as I want!

What a beautiful lady! Yes, another redhead (by choice, though--ha!). We talked on my phone to Donica, my chance to take pics of her. At the end of the day, Donica met us back at the Spui where we had a coffee, with Donica and Petra meeting each other. At 5p, we said our Good-Byes, just as it started to rain.

You know these are times I cherish! I feel so very lucky...and grateful! I AM!

Friday, May 18, 2007

When it Rains, it Pours!

In the space of 4 days, I am meeting up with THREE (3)--count them--bloggers! Two of them are from my Hart&Soul photoblog, and one is from In Soul, whom I've already met!

Yesterday, I met up with Ade Adeyemi who's Nigerian, living in London, but just finishing a 6-month work contract here in Eindhoven, Holland (1 hr. and 20 min. away by train). I had the chance to meet her by the skin of my teeth, before she heads back to London next week.

We spent a fabulous 4-1/2 hours together near the Central Station area of town, walking around, taking pics, eating Chinese, and getting to know each other.

And yes, we walked through the Red Light district (something Amsterdam is famous for, of course!) because Ade (pronounced ah-DAY) had not seen it before. I'm guessing it doesn't matter how often one sees it, it's still pretty shocking. And of course, the ladies absolutely will not tolerate any photo-taking. In the same area are also a lot of the also-famous Coffee Houses where pot can be legally smoked. In this pic, I loved the irony of the no-smoking icon against the cannabis seeds displayed.

At one point I asked Ade if she had a tattoo (we had just gone by a tattoo store) and she said Yes. There on the side of her stomach are these words: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Doesn't THAT tell you something about this very wise 26-year-old!

I noticed that in almost all the pics I took of Ade, she closed her mouth. When I drew attention to it (because her open smile is beautiful), she pointed to the gap between her top front teeth. I then proceeded to tell her that she needed to embrace her open smile! We had been talking earlier about how Nigerians as a people are just now learning to embrace the arts (like photography and literature) and that this is changing the face of their culture.

These are precious times for me. I felt I met a friend for life. You can click here to see how she documented the day with pics on her site. Click here to see mine.

Tomorrow both Donica and I will meet James and his partner, Matt, whom I met last July in Germany, remember! They have since moved here to Amsterdam and are within easy walking distance from our apartment. We'll be meeting up for brunch tomorrow. It'll be Donica's first time to meet them and vice versa.

Then on Sunday I meet up with another photoblogger, Petra. She is Dutch and lives outside of Amsterdam, not too far away. Donica will join us for lunch.

Isn't it amazing how small this world is! Don't you just love it!!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm Here!

This is just a quickie to let you know I made it over the pond safe-n-sound! Thanks again for all the travel wishes. I feel so very loved and cared for. :)

Some of you know by now that I "collect" these airport control towers. This one is from yesterday's stop at NYC's John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport around 5:30p. I was so glad I saw and captured it. If you click here, you'll see ones from NYC's LaGuardia, Amsterdam, and Atlanta. I also showed you Hannover's awhile back.

As I rolled my suitcase around the corner from the tram stop and started up our Elandsgracht street, I stopped in amazement to see this Welcoming Committee just 4 storefronts away from our apartment door. OMG! Talk about a soulful welcome back to this fabulous city! Don't you just love it!

When Donica was here last week it rained almost the entire time. But today the sun was out in all his glory. And it's pleasantly cool in the mid-upper 60's. My kind of weather.

That's all for now. Time for a walk!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

First and foremost, this is for Amy, my daughter! Since my own mom, her g'ma, is no longer here to celebrate, except in our hearts, Amy is now the mother "du jour" for me. From one generation to the next!

As you know, Amy was gone all last week on a business trip and I got to be "mother/g'ma" to Nicholas for a week. Donica also was gone and this is what they missed:

The Secret Garden, by Nicholas (1st grade), 2007

Remember Monet's Garden last year when Nicholas picked up his work of art? This is his happy, proud smile of accomplishment this year. It almost looks like the same smile!

When Dennis was here a week ago, he helped Nicholas get his bike-riding bearings. This time I had my own chance to watch and take pics. Amy, you can be proud of your boy. He's growing up!

Because Donica flies back to Europe today (after being home 2 days!), we're celebrating Mother's Day with her mom on our way to the airport. (I'll follow suit, flying to Amsterdam tomorrow.)

That meant we celebrated the special day yesterday with Amy and Nicholas, right after his T-ball game.

Mother "du jour" with Proud Son!

BTW, when Amy arrived home Friday night from her week away, Nicholas was already in bed. As I helped her carry her suitcase upstairs, we both stopped dead in our tracks when we saw this note propped up on one of the steps:

Nicholas later told Amy that totally unbenownst to me, he had gotten up very quietly after I kissed him Good Night and wrote this note in the upstairs hallway. "And it wasn't very light. I could hardly see!" He was afraid to let G'ma know he was up.

OMG, Amy! I have told you this before and I will tell you again, you have been a model mother and mentor of my grandson. I marvel at you as a single mom and I learn from you. I can't pay you a higher compliment than to say I wouldn't want anyone else to be his mom!

And now for the rest of us, may we be so dearly loved and respected on this day of celebration. We all came from a mother somewhere. We all have a lot to be thankful for.


I'll talk to you next on the other side of the pond!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Paint Job

Let's leave NYC for a minute or two! Trust me, I'll return.

The 2 main reasons I didn't join Donica in Europe these last two weeks are because this week I'm babysitting Nicholas while Amy is on a business trip and last week our exterior house was being painted.

Talk about an operation!

Four guys started out that first day, each with his own job to do, getting the house prepped.

One guy did all the pressure washing, making sure every nook and cranny was blasted away with a bleach solution to clean out the mildew and cobwebs.

I enjoyed watching him inside and out!

The other 3 guys started caulking the cracks and crevices. On the sides and back of the house we're talking about 3 stories because of the walk-out basement! Each guy swung around his own extension ladder with the greatest of ease.

This particular company does only brush and/or roller painting--no spray painting. As you see below, the 3 guys basically painted together in a pack. Like clock work!

Once everything was done by Thursday ( a 3-day operation), only the front porch floor was left to water-seal, which happened this past Tuesday. Yesterday the owner came by and I paid. I was a totally satisfied customer and couldn't believe how quickly and efficiently everything was done. And so thankful I wasn't the one who had to do it!

It feels so good to watch a successful operation with smooth operators. Know what I mean? Now I can hardly wait for Donica to see it.

Speaking of Donica, she arrives home from Amsterdam tomorrow. Amy arrives home from her business trip. And Nicholas (6-1/2) and I are gonna go see Spider-Man 3 after school. (I've already seen it and HIGHLY recommend it, BTW. A great moral about Choices!)

All that before Mother's Day! But that's another post.

Addendum, for Rachel (my niece), who asked. These pics were taken in the autumn of 2005:

The front, as taken from the long driveway that curves!

The back of the house from the sloping backyard! You can barely see them but there are some windows under that deck that go to the basement, where our office is. To the left of that screen door is the window in front of my desk, where I am typing as we speak. :)

Monday, May 07, 2007

NYC's Two Famous Bridges

As we flew into NYC on that Saturday, April 21st, I had this fabulous view of Manhattan out of my airplane window. If you visit my photoblog, you've already seen it, but this is for the rest of you.

It wasn't until after I took the pic, and had Lesley look the day we arrived, that I found out the bridge on the left is the Brooklyn Bridge and the one on the right is the Manhattan Bridge. They both take you back-n-forth to/from Manhattan and Brooklyn, two of NYC's 5 burroughs. Now, of course, after a week in NYC, I know exactly which bridge is which!
Manhattan is in the center of the pic. The Hudson River is behind it at the top of the pic. The river between Manhattan and Brooklyn in the forground is the East River.

We had three days of double-decker bus tours around the city but were never able to cross this Brooklyn Bridge because the tour buses are over the weight limit. But here I have captured the bridge from Pier 17 in the Seaport area of Manhattan, looking across to Brooklyn. As I said on my photoblog, I converted this to sepia because of the memory this bridge holds for all the people who walked back-n-forth across it after the 9/11 Twin Towers' attacks.

We WERE able to ride over the Manhattan Bridge, however, several times. On our night tour, sitting atop the double-decker bus, I was able to capture the top of one of its arches. Thank God for image stabilization in the camera!

Actually, on that same night tour, I was able to catch some night views of Manhattan while we were in Brooklyn, after crossing the bridge. The building above is the Woolworth Building, one of the oldest and most famous skyscrapers in NYC at 55 stories.

Ironically, this week I will be taking care of Nicholas while Amy is in NY (the state, not the city) for business (and Donica is in Amsterdam and Rome!). I'll pick him up from school/day care each day, spend the night at his house, and then take him to day care/school each morning. In between, I'll come home for a few hours. Either here or there, I'll stay in touch with you on the computer, of course.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Naked Cowboy

Okay. Settle down everybody. This happens to be one of NYC's most famous icons in Times Square and we just happened to see him twice--once while walking and once while on top of a double-decker tour bus.

His name is Robert John Burck, born December 23, 1970, in Cincinnati, Ohio. On a good summer day he can make $1000. On a winter day he can earn $50 in 25 minutes. He ain't dumb.

And he actually sings. His debut album will supposedly be released in 2007.
Half the fun is watching (almost) everyone else watching him!

His boots say TIPS on the side, in case you wonder where to put them.
Now look at the sequence of the next 3 pics with G'ma and G'pa!

Moral of the Story: You're never too old to have fun!

Or too young??

So here's looking at YOU. Are you game??

No. I didn't get any closer to him than what you see here but I sure felt lucky to see and "capture" him. If we can't take a joke, right?! :)