On the train I taught the kids the hierarchy of poker hands and the phonetic alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, fox, golf, hotel, India, juliet, kilo, Lima, Michael, Nike, Oscar, papa, quebec, romeo, sierra, tango, uniform, victory, whiskey, x-ray, yankee, zulu). We tooled around Amsterdam and tried to see the Anne Frank house but it had a giant line and we could come back some day in the future. Sadly, it was on the last day of our trip that we discovered vending machine hamburgers.
It was finally time to go home. By the last day the kids could have navigated to the airport by themselves. They could find food, they could buy tickets, they could read subway maps. The learning exhausted all of us, but more than exhaustion I felt great pride. Traveling abroad with my kids was one of my life goals and I accomplished it all by myself. I've ignited the travel bug in my kids. I'm glad that I took them at ages 9, 8, and 7 because they were young enough to be excited about everything we did and we didn't have to stay at any activity for very long. They were gung ho. They were curious. They knew somethings and wanted to know more. I felt they were street smart enough to solve problems somewhat reasonably should I not be able to help them, provided they had their badges with the relevant info.
We only had one near mishap: Jude lagged behind getting on the Amsterdam subway and I had to throw my body into the doors to prevent them closing on him. Halfway in and halfway out I grabbed him by the hood of his jacket and pulled him onto the train. And then I had a heart attack.
There were few things I would have done differently. I liked the backpacks but I think roller suitcases would have been easier. I could also have had everyone wear heelies, that would have been fun. They each brought two pairs of shoes and we had no issues there. I might have bought a cellphone while I was there because I had a few service issues right when I needed my phone. I liked having the city passes in Amsterdam and Paris because they made everything a lot smoother. All day transit passes are worth it. I wished I had melatonin and more benedryl, both of which I'd packed but forgotten so we had a lot of weird waking hours. In the end I was glad I didn't have the babies with me because, though I could have done it because I do five kids all the time, it would have made for a very different trip. I didn't feel sufficiently prepared for an emergency, but I figured these are first world countries. As far as money, someone wisely told me that many places in Amsterdam only take cash so when I got off the plane and had 200 euros on me I was glad. Things got a little touch and go when some funds got tied up in the AirBnB and a double charge for the Paris passes, but everything worked out. Next time I'll try to go in more temperate weather so that we can enjoy more of the city parks but we were fairly comfortable and warm enough in spite of the weather. Buying new hats and Silas a new jacket made me more happy than I expected because I was so sick of looking at our jackets by the time we went home. I want to burn all of our jackets.
And then we were home. There had been horrible snow storms while we were gone and our driveway would have been coated, but for the snow shovel fairy who came and magicked away all the snow. But when we got home our house was absolutely frigid and took two days to heat back up. As I was hustling around doing mom things before I could lay down after being awake for who knows how long I went into the front room to see this:
Mimi and Jude, tired enough to fall asleep in a single chair snuggling by the fire.