A Haven and H*** in Hamburg

Traveling to Hamburg went well enough. We were upgraded to first class because for some reason those tickets were 10 Euro cheaper by a fluke. The issue was that we were seated in a six seat cabin, we paid for four seats and there were people in the other two. It was very cramped and now two innocent bystanders who wanted to sleep had to endure the chaos of the kids inside their peace bubble. The train ride itself was very nice through the Northern Netherlands country side and then the second train was through Germany country side. It was very beautiful, the weather was fair, we had hope for fun in Hamburg. 

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We got to the Hamburg Train Station and attempted to take a bus to the stop that our hostel was on. I bought bus tickets instead of subway tickets. . .yep. Sure did. I took two semesters of German and can barely speak a word, I’m absolutely horrible at it. Supposedly most Germans speak English because they learn it in school as their second language, but I have yet to find a single soul sitting at any information booth anywhere to actually provide anyone with information. 

We made it to our stop via subway and then got horribly lost trying to find the hostel. I should mention it was freezing cold, we are pulling luggage and backpacks and have been traveling all day long. . .bad, bad, bad. 

Eventually I went into a Best Western and asked the concierge for directions. She was such a huge help. She printed off google map instructions and we were there within minutes. Hidden Helpers indeed.

Luckily, our hostel is amazing! We got here, checked in, enjoyed our room and went to bed early with great hope for the next day.

Our only full day in Hamburg was an absolute bust. I can’t even pretend to sugar coat that crap, it was awful. We were going to take the subway to the Miniature Wonderland that was recommended to us by a gentleman on one of our flights, but of course the line was down due to tunnel repair. So then we were considering taking a bus, but we had to walk half a mile, find the right bus, the only bus available would only take us half way there then we would have to get off and find our way the rest of the way. We were too annoyed with the weather to deal with the bus station’s dysfunction. Therefore, we started walking, with a map towards the water. It was freezing cold, drizzling rain, stupid stupid idea. 

We walked about five miles in the cold and rain. One of my worst parenting moments to date I believe. We looked for taxis but couldn’t find any. We wanted to stop for coffee and warmth, but by the time we found a place we were almost there so we kept on keeping on. We were frozen, I haven’t been that cold in a long time and Atlas decided he couldn’t take it anymore and cried for the last mile, no screamed for the last mile. 

This will darn near make you cry. . . we got there and they were sold out for the day.

Luckily, they had a little play area where you waited your turn to enter the actual venue so we stayed and played and dethawed. I told Grandma that I had 26 Euros in cash and we were taking a taxi back towards the hostel as far as 26 Euros would get us. We were all starving so we crossed the street to eat at a cafe. We were so excited that we found a table, but after looking at the menu we realized that they only take cash, we only had enough Euro for a taxi not for lunch. . .sadness, sadness and starvation everywhere. 

Yes I asked if an atm was close by, there wasn’t one.

We found a taxi and took it as far as 26 Euros would get us, luckily it was a third of a mile from the hostel and 50 yards from a McDonalds that takes credit cards 🙂 yep we did that and now this morning’s frozen nightmare is a distant memory smothered by McFlurries. 

I don’t think that one bad day is enough to judge a city by. There seems to be a thriving theater community here and lots of arts, but from that one day I’ll need a very good reason to return. Our hostel is wonderful though and making up for the cities short comings quickly. Regardless, we are happy to catch a train again tomorrow. Onwards to Denmark.

Truths of Travel Netherlands

With every country we visit, I try to post a Truths of Travel post. Mostly as a country review for those friends that may attempt these trips with small children, also as a raw visual into our daily lives. As a mother traveling with very small children there has to be some awful moments and there are, that’s what this post is really about.

I cannot say enough good things about the Netherlands and Amsterdam specifically. It is an incredible place. As an avid recycling mama, it made my earth lovin’ heart incredibly happy to see a country that separates their recycling so perfectly, who lessens their footprint drastically by cycling or walking EVERYWHERE and who greet foreigners with open arms. No matter how perfect the country there are some differences that make a large difference in our daily lives as westerners. 

  1. I personally require more sunshine. There’s something wonderful about the occasional rainy day indoors to reset, clean, rest, etc. I can’t do that everyday, especially when there’s a country and city to be seen.
  2. The plumbing is odd. Now maybe this was just our airbnb, we were in a much older, yet wonderful house. The pipes vibrate and shake when certain faucets are on. We could hear water running or dripping in the pipes through the walls, etc.
  3. The electrical outlets and wiring. In Europe as a whole, unless built yesterday they are crap, truly just don’t function well.
  4. I slid down the last two stairs in our airbnb and my big toe nail stopped me and tore off entirely. Therefore, I was hobbling and doctoring my toe while walking 5 miles a day.
  5. The coffee there is awful.
  6. everyone wears dark colors, we stuck out like sore thumbs in our red and blue coats.
  7. The canal tour was mediocre at best, I just wasn’t impressed with it at all.

That’s all the negativity I have for the Netherlands. The public transit was WONDERFUL! So Clean, So efficient. The people were down right exceptional. I cannot sing their praises enough. Hidden helpers everywhere and the way they treated my children put me as their mother to shame. They had more patience, more time, more smiles than I could have ever asked for, in regards to their responses to my children and all of their antics.

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In every single museum someone working there would high-five the boys, would ask them questions, would move them to the front, etc. One particular instance in the Van Gogh museum; we had made it through floors 1 and 2 without noticing, but apparently we weren’t allowed to take photos. So on the third floor, Lux is taking photos and a museum guide told him that he couldn’t, that it wasn’t allowed. Lux handed me the camera and I put it away, he didn’t cry or say anything, but the guide felt so bad for discouraging him to take photos; he apologized at least 4 times and then later found us again and came to make sure that Lux was ok. It was so sweet, just pure kindness for people of all ages. 

Some Very Real Parent Moment Fails:

  1. Atlas fell out of bed not once, but TWICE the first night!
  2. I slid down the last two stairs in the airbnb and my big toe nail stopped me, tearing off the whole thing. Not good any time, but especially not good before walking 30k miles sightseeing.
  3. I left a gas stove top on for almost two days because I couldn’t figure out how to get it off.
  4. Lux dropped and broke the gate remote to our airbnb.
  5. I checked the weather up until two days before our flight. Online it said that it would be in the high 40s low 50s for our time in Amsterdam and the temperature being that high I didn’t pack gloves. . .yeah I had to buy gloves for everyone. We call this the stupid tax, as in stupid mistake big pay out.
  6. Rhodes had a melt down in the most people heavy shopping area available. Screaming and crying following me, chewing me out for not letting him pet the horses. . .this was the first time he had mentioned horses. Probably for half an hour, everyone staring, I was mortified, but pressed on. No amount of discussing it was helping. He has done this a few times, always in the most crowded places.
  7. Right after one of these so-called melt downs, we went indoors out of the cold and pulled out our notebooks and had some coffee and hot chocolate. By the time we were ready to leave, Atlas was sitting in the corner chewing on sugar packets. I was fried, I left him be, I couldn’t chase him anymore.

Despite what some of you seem to believe, I am very human, I am full of fault, I struggle to raise these three crazy boys everyday.

Things happen, they happen all the time and they happen everyday with children this small. Some days I feel like I made some weird decision to torture us, but I am confident that the last effects will be wonderful. On we go. 

 

What’s happening in the Classroom Amsterdam Edition

As many of you have seen on facebook, the Bradbury boys have been to their share of museums lately. What you may not see is how it is being tied into lessons. Lessons that sometimes last days. We have also brought our remaining thematic books for the school year with us and in between living lessons, museums and monuments we are still reading and learning from those books as well. 

Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum, I have four favorite painters, two of them are from the Netherlands. Yay! The Van Gogh Museum itself was nothing to write home about, but for a young child to be able to see artwork with vivid brush strokes that give a sense of its creation, it was a good place to start. When we are “unschooling” through tourism we always go back to our in home classroom and revisit it. For my boys that typically looks like this;

“What do you remember from the Van Gogh Museum?”

Lux: “I remember. . .

  1. Self-portraits
  2. Wheat fields
  3. his tombstone
  4. Orange Hair
  5. France
  6. Netherlands
  7. Brush Strokes
  8. Letters (from his brother Theo)
  9. Vincent
  10. Clumbs of paint (texturing)

From Lux’s list he rattled off we now have our vocabulary words for that 48 hours. Both boys then write them. Lux writes them himself, Rhodes sometimes writes them himself and sometimes traces my handwriting just depending on his mood. If a geographical location was mentioned in the list we discuss its proximity with a map. Any questions that arise are answered with research, sometimes videos, articles, etc. After this portion of it we then do a drawing or craft. Because our craft supplies are non-existent at this point, we tried to draw a portrait of Van Gogh. 

This same exact process was followed after the Rembrandt museum as well, except there we got to help make an etching and essentially took a class on how to etch. That in and of itself was an incredible experience and it very much made the lesson richer. The museum also catered to the needs of its youngest visitors very well. Each child had a (FREE) hand held audio tour device and they were able to get so much more from that museum because of it.

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After visiting two art based museums our oldest ‘Lux’ is now very into looking at art books and photography. He has so many questions and is surrounded by people with answers. Such a lovely spot to be. 

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We also do what I refer to as ‘Daily Maintenance’ school work. A page or five of letter recognition for Rhodes. Spelling and writing for Lux. Lux is reading small books now so a book is usually thrown into the mix and we finish with math. Lux typically does a page of long addition and subtraction and Rhodes is working on writing and recognizing his numbers 1-20. On our thematic books; we are almost finished with the Beatrix Potter collection, which I will loudly admit, my boys weren’t even remotely interested in it, so there. Not all things that I would like for them to enjoy and find inspiration in take root. They can barely make it through a Peter Rabbit story, they just do not care for it, but because mom drug it a million miles we are finishing it. Not a single lesson will proceed from this series of books though. I can’t win them all folks!

Being in Amsterdam has triggered many questions about electricity and public transportation, but most recently about how windmills work. We discussed it briefly today as this was our lunch time view;

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But I am working on a little science lesson over the windmills for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will also see many more and different types as we make our way to the Kuekenhof Flower Festival.

Keep learning friends and if this week was rough in your corner of the world please know you are not alone. There will be a truths of traveling post to follow that will reassure you that we are human and have our struggles.

Halo from Holland

The Bradburys +1 (Great Grandma), have been in Amsterdam Holland Netherlands for the last five days. It was a dousy of a ride over, but we made it, slept, ate, regrouped. We flew out of Baltimore and though we had to spend the weekend getting there it was incredibly enjoyable. We were able to spend a lot of quality time with our dear friend Casey and meet our old neighbors for lunch along the way, which brought a ridiculous amount of joy. It also complicated things a bit; Rhodes. . . my Rho Rho. He grabbed the wrong shoes from the play area where we met our friends for lunch. They were the exact same color, shoe, brand and only one size difference in his defense, but of course he would take the shoes of an autistic child that couldn’t live without them. It also happened to be a child that our friend knew so we were trackable with his shoes and arrangements were made to get them back to him, but that meant I had to go find Rhodes’ new shoes because I had no way of getting his back to us. Actually, they didn’t even take them from the restaurant; her child left barefoot. So after trying a few places during daylight hours, I left Grandma in the hotel room and ran into a Dick’s Sporting Goods, 13 minutes before it closed, found a  pair of shoes, asked for a size 13 and ran to the register before they closed. Not moving mountains, it was ok, but definitely an added stress that I wish I could have avoided. 

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Our first flight was from Baltimore to Iceland. It was rough, putting it lightly. We had some seating issues with a very angry woman. The seats and leg room were exceptionally limited. Very very small, no complimentary drinks, snacks, food, etc. Luckily the kids slept 2/3 of that flight or it would have been much worse, but of course I wasn’t able to sleep at all. Holding a baby in an airplane seat for that long is no light matter. 

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Our second flight was much more enjoyable, a much larger plane, more leg room, better seats, better neighbors and my kids didn’t sleep at all so neither did I. I did pay to eat food on that flight because we were starving and didn’t have time during our layover for food. We enjoyed the company of an Icelandic Grandmother on the second flight. She told us all about her farm in Iceland, how rural they were, what the country was like, her grandchildren and of course Rhodes asked her a thousand questions about her farm animals.

Before we left the states we did a brief study about sheep shearing and wool yarn production. She was able to walk us through that process again and tell us about shearing her own sheep and goats for wool, how she learned to use the spinning wheel and then taught herself to knit. She let us feel a head cover that she made. The band was made from the wool of her sheep and the flower additions were made from wool of her goats. The goat wool feels like cashmere. I had no idea that goat wool felt that way, it was incredible. She gave me her email and I gave her ours. She extended an invitation to visit her farm on our travels and I hope someday that we do. It is these types of stranger to friendship interactions that make travel so wonderful. It typically isn’t where you stayed, the tourist things you did, but the conversation you have with the baker, with the woman on the plane, with the school children. If you’re traveling to see “things” then you’re missing most of the experience.  

Grandma was not seated with us on any of the flights so it wasn’t until we landed in Amsterdam that I actually felt the aid of a second set of adult hands, but it was just in time because we were hurting for some sleep.

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My Grandma, the boys’ Great Grandmother, has joined us for the first three weeks of this trip. My bold sense of adventure definitely stems from her line of crazy. We enjoy the same aspects of travel, we are content to chat for hours, or not speak at all. We have perfected the art of people watching, tuning out the volume and book reading. We are both frugal and need to be so. We are upfront about our wants and find humor in the same things. It is going swimmingly well so far as I knew it would. 

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We were shown great kindness again while trying to get a taxi. There was a huge line for a taxi and an airport worker moved us beyond the front of the line and got us a vehicle and put us into it. He said “She’s carrying a baby, let them through.” Surprisingly, despite the ages of our children, I get very little special treatment while traveling, but when we do I try to be gracious and accept. I know, all too soon, that I will be traveling with smelly middle schoolers that don’t trigger as much sympathy. Given the shock of the 0 celcius temperature and frigid North Sea wind we were thrilled to skip the line.

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Our little house here in Holland has been superb though the picture is misleading. The portion that we are living in is actually just that first front window and the owners live in the other half. I imagine it is very spacious by Amsterdam standards, Lux thinks it’s teeny tiny, but it just puts a spotlight on the American want for space. It is big enough, everyone is sleeping off the floor, washer (no dryer), small oven, table and one toilet. Despite my minimal packing efforts, we have filled the space with bodies, luggage and school supplies.

We have gone to a few touristy areas, been to a few “must see museums,” but we are also living here. Slow traveling. Going grocery shopping, taking out the trash, cooking with few utensils, getting to know the newspaper seller on the corner, washing our laundry, learning the rhythm of the local flow. We have many days that lack agenda intentionally. We wake when we want, there’s no rush. We school when the opportunity arises or when it seems like the next logical step in our day.

We are living to learn and learning to live.

 

The Plan

We are in our final days here in North Carolina and lots of last minute preparation is taking place. Some annoying things like returning the internet modem, putting mail on hold, packing the cough syrup and some deep, painful, serious things like saying farewell for now to life long friends, soaking in the giggles of their children because they will be much more grown the next time I see them. Taking all of the last photos because they may not be here when we get back and someday we may need to show our tweens that they were siblings once, military siblings. 

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Before we set off on the first leg of this adventure; I wanted to share with everyone our tentative plan. Below I’ve mapped out our route through August. You will be able to follow us here on the blog, facebook and instagram as well, but here is what exists of “the plan.”

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Current Countries List:

Netherlands

Germany

Denmark

Greece

Croatia?? Maybe??

Italy

I will be working along the way in Greece and Italy. I have just accepted a position as the Archaeologist in Residence at Kalikalos in the Pelion region of Greece for the month of June.

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I will also be working in Tuscany, Italy for a month performing an archaeological survey and organic preservation analysis of the Ristonchi Castle. The castle is the end of my current plan. 

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We hope that you follow along, comment, put in photo requests or any location recommendations that you might have and most of all we hope you feel the urge for adventure from watching ours. Stay tuned. . .things are about to get more interesting.

The Lasts for awhile: Closing up the House and saying goodbyes

We have spent our last two weeks stateside celebrating birthdays, doing last plays with friends and closing up our house. 

Many people have asked if we are keeping our house on base and the answer is ‘yes’ we are this trip for a few reasons;

  1. When we started planning, the trip was supposed to be much shorter (oops).
  2. We had our hearts set on getting pregnant before Greg deployed and then would need our house immediately after the trip for a birth, but we are not pregnant at this time.
  3. Despite the mold and bugs we really love our house.
  4. We are hopeful for summer 2019 orders and don’t want the pain of having to find new housing for 7 months.
  5. Despite our rent being outrageous once we pay to move ourselves, sell vehicles, pay for storage we wouldn’t make enough money for the headache.

So, instead  of moving out of the house we find ourselves preparing it for silence. Lots of cleaning is going on, lots of imaginative recipe making from random things on shelves and deep in freezers and lots of purging of unnecessary crud.

Also on the to-do list, teeth cleanings and hair cuts; neither of these things will be happening abroad.

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Also happening here; turning over the garden and planting pumpkins and gourds for our return, or for our neighbors to enjoy if the plants happen to survive the summer. 

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Unlikely they’ll survive no maintenance at all and a long hot summer, but IF THEY DO Oh what fun the photos will be from our neighbors later this year! 

The next two days will be celebrating our beautiful middle son, Rhodes as he turns four and after that we will be closing up this house. T – one week.

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What’s Happening in the Classroom?

There are a whole slew of things happening right now in our classroom! We are hitting the books hard this month and finishing up many loose ends before our next world classroom adventure. 

One method of schooling that we love and utilize weekly, is the thematic book theory. Every week (sometimes every other week) we start a new book. These books are comprised of all different kinds, genres, authors, publishers and award winners and not. The way it works for us;

On Mondays we start a new book, I introduce it to the boys and we read it aloud. We then make a list of things that we want to learn more about that were mentioned in the book.

On Tuesday evenings I lesson plan for the list that the boys helped me create. 

On Wednesdays we begin introducing lessons inspired by the book and chosen by the boys.

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This week we read ‘Eliza and the Dragonfly and what a wonderful, lesson plan filled book this has been! It’s about a little girl, Eliza, who spends  a lot of time with her Entomologist aunt. They find a dragonfly Nymph that they name Horace and they watch his life cycle unfold.

Because I let the boys dictate what they want to learn sometimes we get stranger ideas for lesson plans than what I would have chosen. For example their list for Eliza and the Dragonfly looks like this;

  • Why Dragonflies are different colors?
  • What is an Entomologist (I’m excited about this one)
  • What is Metamorphosis?
  • Life cycle of the dragonfly (mom’s obvious addition to the list)
  • Making dragonfly crafts
  • Dragon flies eat mosquitoes so do they like human blood? If so then why? What is in blood that they like so much? *blah why couldn’t we just paint dragonflies?*
  • Making an underwater telescope to attempt to view Nymph/Dragonfly Larva in their first habitat. The boys wanted me to buy one they saw in a catalog, but we are going to attempt to make our own with a plastic bottle and plastic wrap first. Little do they know that there were already getting one for Ayyam-i-ha so you will see our experiments with both homemade and purchased.

We walked down to the little beach access in our neighborhood and put our homemade underwater telescopes to work. We used paper towel rolls, plastic wrap and electrical tape. The boys thought that the telescopes worked pretty well, but of course got soggy.

Then I brought out the big Guns

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I confess, the underwater telescope is pretty cool. So cool in fact that it is now packed to head to Europe for the next 8 months, which was definitely not part of the original packing list. We will be using it to explore every beach we can find. This telescope is super light weight and comes with an awesome activity book, a built in thermometer to test water temperature, l.e.d. lights and a ruler to measure specimen. Any little scientists’ dream actually. 

Full disclosure, if you purchase through the telescope photo link above I make a few pennies, but I am only reviewing things we actually love and enjoy. Our unit on Eliza and the Dragonfly turned out just as I had hoped. It would be a wonderful addition to your home library and/or classroom. Even if science is not your child’s forte there are a million indoor science activities and art projects to do with inspiration from this book.

Enjoy! Please tell us how you like it and what you chose to do with it in your classroom!