Wednesday, April 16, 2008

gracie's first overnight adventure

when adam went to the gemeentehuis here in hengelo to register gracie as a resident of the village and to get her dutch birth certificate, the officials there told him that he also needed to take her to the american consulate in amsterdam within 90 days, to get her the appropriate paperwork she needs in order to be an official american citizen. (i heard a story once of an american couple who, like us, lived temporarily in a foreign country. while they were there, they had a baby. since both parents were american, they assumed that their child was american as well. years later, their child was starting kindergarten, and when the school asked for all the appropriate paperwork -- SSN, birth certificate, whatever else -- the parents had no record of any of this. and as it turns out, their child was technically an illegal immigrant! so they had to do the whole naturalization process with him, paying all the fees and filling out all the paperwork, to make their "honorary american" son into an "official american" instead. we can avoid all of that by registering her birth abroad at the consulate, which is inconvenient now but will obviously save us a lot of time and hassle in the near future.) and since we're planning on flying to to greece in june, we also needed a passport for her before then anyway. so, off to amsterdam!

it would take about 2.5 hours door-to-door between our house in the east of the netherlands to the american consulate in amsterdam. and because our appointment was set for 11:00 a.m. on friday, we decided it would probably be much easier on all of us if we went out there the day before and spent the night somewhere in the city. it would also be way more fun, because i haven't gotten to go anywhere fabulous since our trip to ireland in october. and besides, amsterdam is a rad city, and our awesome friend valerie lives there!

so off we went, on our first overnight adventure with a 2-month-old!

we took two trains to get to amsterdam, and when we got to the station there we stashed our bag in a locker and headed out to see the sights. but first thing, we had to get mary grace her first passport picture taken! this was quite an ordeal because these passport pictures have to be PERFECT. she has to be looking straight at the camera, with her face perfectly in alignment, with her eyes open. and since she's only 2 months old she obviously can't sit up on her own yet. so i had to prop her up on my knee and hold her in the front to support her body and in the back to support her neck and head. but i can't have my arms or hands in the picture either -- it has to be all baby, and nothing else. gracie was interested in the flashing lights and all the strange new things to look at, and didn't really want to look at the camera. and i'm trying to hold her steady, with her big head bobbing around and her little body wiggling from side to side, all without trying to get my hands in the picture. i realized that she was wearing a dress, so finally i just put my hand inside her dress and held her that way, nice and steady, but so that you couldn't see my hand. she was crying and fidgeting, of course, but we finally got a good picture. and omg, it looks SO GOOFY! because it's on a white background, so you can see that her dark hair is just standing straight up and going in every direction. and she's got this chubby, resigned look on her face, with her eyes all glazed over cuz she's so tired and confused. but since we were in amsterdam, there were a lot of glazed looks from a lot of different people anyway, so she fit right in. :-)

after the pictures, which "weren't that difficult" according to the photographer, who does this sort of thing a lot, the three of us headed out back in the direction of centraal station. we strolled along the prinsengracht (princes canal), which is one of the prettiest and most famous canals in amsterdam. we took our time, enjoying the beautiful weather and the pretty row houses lining both sides of the street. we admired the westerkerk as we walked, and took several pictures from many different angles along the way. the westerkerk is directly across the street from the anne frank house, and though anne was unable to see the church, she could hear the bells ringing throughout the two years during which she was in hiding:

It’s half past two. As I enter the sitting room, the neighbouring Westerkirk begins to play. (Aug.3, 1943)

along the way, we stopped at a cute little cafe which sits at the intersection of two canals. in fact, it is the same cafe which i brought camille to when she came out to visit last spring. (after you click on that link, scroll down a ways on that page and you will see pictures of us at this same cafe! cool!) they serve really lekker organic food, and you can sit right along the canal on a fairly quiet street. i breastfed gracie in the sunshine while adam ate his lunch, and then afterwards he held her and waved at the passing tour boats while i ate my organic carrot/orange/ginger soup. oh! is there anything finer in the world than sitting at a canalside cafe in holland, breastfeeding my daughter in the sunshine, with the wonderful company of my hot husband? seriously. i am so blessed!

then after our late lunch we continue the rest of the way to centraal station, but this time along the kaizersgracht (emperor's canal). we can see the other side of the westerkerk now and stop to admire how beautiful the building is. we finally arrive at centraal station at about 5:30 pm, about 30 minutes before valerie was arriving back home from her day at work.

since we had some time to spare, we hurriedly caught the next tour boat which was leaving in just a few minutes from the front of the station. at first gracie wasn't sure what to think of it all -- she had never been on a boat, after all, and the first few minutes of the tour were spent crossing underneath bridges. that part was dark and noisy, and her eyes got about as big as saucers and her arms splayed out spread-eagle style, and she got really nervous. but, to her credit, she doesn't really pass judgement on something immediately -- she will patiently try it out for a few moments before she decides if she likes it or not. like on the tram that day: it was her first time on a tram, and if you've ever been on a tram in amsterdam you know that they are crowded, noisy, and make really jerky, fast, and sharp turns along the narrow little streets. well, when she first got on the tram and it took off that day, she got the same sort of nervous look on her face. but she waited, she waited, she waited, and then she was all, "oh, okay, i think i can handle this," and calmed down. instead of instantly SCREAMING which is what a lot of other babies would do, i think. she's just suuuuper chill, way easy going and laid back. a VERY easy travel companion! and so she did the same sort of thing on this boat: it took off, and within a minute we were crossing under these really big bridges, which of course made it dark and made the sound of the boat a lot louder -- and she got this nervous look on her face and waited, and waited, and waited, and then was all, "oh no, i DON'T like this at all!" and started to cry. but she at least THOUGHT about it before she passed judgement! anyway, after the boat got to the other side of the bridges, and the light came out again and she got her bearings, she actually had a good time. she enjoyed sitting on adam's lap and watching the gabled rooftops float by against the bright blue sky. a tourist from japan asked if he could take a picture, and we were both all, "sure! no problem!" well, i started to lean in close to gracie's face and smile at the camera, because that's what i'm used to doing -- but then i stopped partway there because i realized he didn't want to take MY picture -- he wanted to take gracie's picture! no one cares about the mom! only the baby! duh! these are the types of things i have to get used to now that i'm a parent. um, it's not about me anymore, is it? i'm glad i stopped myself before i embarassed myself further. of course, now that i'm telling this story i suppose it's just as embarassing, but i think it's funny looking back on it.

okay after that part was over, it was already 6:45 and we definitely needed to get over to valerie's house for dinner and bedtime! we had a big day planned tomorrow, and we've done so much already! the way to valerie's house is pretty cool: behind centraal station there are a couple of ferry boats that cross this ginormous canal. we got on one of the ferries, along with all the commuters who were getting off of work, and off it went. the commuters were almost all on bikes or scooters, and didn't even bother to get off of them since the trip across the canal was so quick. at first we were standing kind of in the middle of all of this, but when we realized what was going to happen when we crossed to the other side, we started to step back and out of the way. basically, everyone rides onto this big ferry, rides through this enclosed hallway to the other side, and then just waits to dock. when that happens, the front of the boat opens up and everyone rides off. it was pretty cool. adam took way too many pictures of this process because he loves boats AND bikes, but i picked out just a couple to share with you here.

valerie met us at the dock and walked us the 10 minutes back to her beautiful house. i started to get gracie ready for bed, and she went out for pizza! yay! poor gracie had just about had enough at this point -- she had already been travelling since 11:00 a.m. and had been on two trains, a boat, a tram, and a ferry. and she was ready to go home. it was really challenging to get her to relax enough to eat, and she was so wired and confused that she had a really hard time falling asleep. poor girl. we'd already put her through so much that day, and were expecting so much of her in the morning. and, since she was born in our bedroom, this really was quite literally the very first night she ever had away from home. where were her bright yellow walls and nightlight? what was she doing in this big bed with red walls and a blanket that didn't smell like mommy and daddy? it was really strange for her, poor thing. i basically had to sleep on my side all night, holding her close to me so that she could relax into something familiar. but really, considering how much activity she had that day, and the fact that she was sleeping in a totally strange bed, she did awesome. adam and i were so proud of her!

it was now friday morning, the day of our appointment. after a nice breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and decaf soymilk cappuccinos (oh! am i in america again?! oh no wait, i'm at valerie's house...), the three of us head out to the consulate, which is located just off of the museumplein. we get there pretty early and have time to do a little bit of grocery shopping for our picnic later that day, and we also stopped by the museum gift store to pick up a print for gracie's room. finally it's time for our appointment, so we head over to the consulate and go through the super crazy heavy security check. there is an elderly dutch couple lingering outside the consulate gates and we talked to them about gracie and how cute she is. for some reason, that same dutch couple is there when we leave too, and adam and i were wondering if they were like the 'welcome wagon', there to sort of welcome people back to holland after technically leaving it for american soil for a brief moment. :-) anyway, it all went very smoothly as we had all of our paperwork filled out correctly and were able to pay our fees right away. while we were there, gracie had her first american poop, and we both thought that was pretty funny.

anyway, after we left, we met valerie back at the station and decided to head out to the keukenhof, which is the same tulip garden we visited last spring. which is, of course, our next blog post. which i will have to write later because her grace has just awoken and needs a new diaper and some lunch! tot ziens!


Anonymous said...

It is great to see Gracie's pictures with you, Amber and Adam, as if I were there. Long life to the Ameridutch family!
From the Basque Country

jbeigoet said...

Long life to Gracie, Amber, and Adam! It is so great to see pictures of Gracie (and of 'the parents' as well, of course, do not look at me that way!!!). She is the new face I did not know.
From the Basque Country