Brian’s birthday was 26 June and I knew we’d be flying all day/night, so I had planned to buy some cheesecake (Brian’s favorite dessert) and sing HBD to him on the airplane with the kids, but all three of them passed out as soon as we were seated (thankfully) so the cheesecake went untouched the entire flight over here. I unpacked it and set it on the table of our Airbnb, too exhausted to stand up and throw it away. If I’m honest, also a little too heartbroken to just toss it. This day old slice of cheesecake from the JFK international terminal is what I have to signify his birthday and we didn’t even get the chance to celebrate. It’s easy to get wrapped up in little moments and little reminders such as this, but once I let my mind wander, it’s hard to bring it back. I don’t ever want to make excuses to not celebrate these special days, to remind myself and the kids how amazing Brian was and how much of an impact he made in my life and subsequently theirs. He was the love of my life and has taken a piece of my heart into that ocean with him. This entire trip is about honoring that love we shared, respecting the way we decided together we wanted to raise our children, and making incredible new memories as a family. We have a lot of healing to do and these next two months abroad is where I intend to embrace that. We’ll find more cheesecake at some point on this trip and celebrate his birthday a little late. Between deployments and our rigorous real life travel schedule, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had to celebrate a birthday a little late. You would be 37 this year, it's hard to think about the things we could have/would have done together this past year. How you didn't even make it to 36 and now you'd be 37. I just wish we had one more birthday together. One more celebration, one more day, one more moment. HBD my love. You are missed.
3 backpacks, 3 carseats, 6 weary travelers and 1 day old slice of NY style cheesecake - we've arrived in Amsterdam, with pretty good luck with our traveling so far. My little brother, Benny, drove us to JFK where we met up with Kasey who had flown in from Portland that morning. We had 7 hours before our flight so we took advantage of the USO services offered to us as a Gold Star family (somebody whose spouse/parent/child has died while on active duty military) and spent our time before check-in enjoying the lounge area, eating snacks, playing games and relaxing before we made our way upstairs to check in. We were confronted with pure chaos. I’ve never seen so many people trying to check in for a flight/flights before. It took us nearly two full hours to make our way through the Norwegian Airway line to get to the front and check in our bags. Security would have been just as painful except they saw us with the kids and put us through the special services line. We stopped to use the restroom and made our way to the gate just as our flight was beginning to board. The kids all did amazing on the plane, sleeping nearly the entire 8 hour flight, and soon we landed and made our way through immigration. Kayla and Adeline collected their very first passport stamps (!!!) and we made our way to collect our luggage. Two hours later we were still waiting. First it had been a “mechanical error” and everyone’s luggage was delayed, an hour after this, a handful of us were still waiting and approached the lost luggage counter to finally be told there was one more container still on the plane they had just found and would soon be offloading.. it took another two full hours but we were eventually reunited with our luggage and the kids’ car seats, just in time to realize I had mistakenly booked our Airbnb for the wrong day. I contacted our host and thankfully it was available a day early so we grabbed a taxi and checked in, 18 hours after leaving NYC.
Izzy and Hudson wanted to share a room at our Airbnb - the one with the yellow tonka truck bed- and as soon as we all fell asleep, I was statled awake by Izzy coming into my room saying she couldn’t sleep because Hudson was moving all around in bed, so she wanted to sleep with me. 5 minutes later, Hudson appeared and crawled into bed with me too. So, here we are, 5000 miles from home, and both kids are asleep in my bed. There's no place like home. :)
Adeline is asleep in the living room in the “baby box” our Airbnb host put together- apparently his own from when he was a child- a large wooden box with wooden slats to accentuate her cries of protest for me putting her in such a thing to sleep in. ;) Kayla is sleeping in the single yellow tonka truck shaped bed that the kids abandoned and Kasey is alone in the attic.
Our first night here, Adeline woke up around midnight to eat, I gave her a bottle and put her back in this wooden box, at which time she cried out again in protest. I was exhausted and my body confused with what time it actually is, so my plan was to let her cry it out until she fell back asleep. 8 minutes later, her cries stop and I hear creaking steps outside my door. I look up and there’s Kasey, holding a smiling Adeline. Haha! I told her I had just fed her and she needed to go back to sleep. Kasey put her back in the baby box and Adeline was not happy at her sudden end to freedom. Over our first mugs of morning coffee, Kasey explained she thought we were all so jet-lagged and tired from traveling that we just didn’t hear her crying, so she came downstairs to help.
Our first full day was spent exploring Amsterdam. We walked the 20 minutes to the train station and rode into the city. Hudson LOVES trains so was ecstatic, Izzy and Adeline, not so much. Nevertheless, we made it and were promptly greeted with the realization we were underdressed. We were expecting soaring temperatures but instead were quick to realize it was about 65 degrees and windy! We walked through Amsterdam Centraal past all the weed shops and restaurants until we found a souvenir shop that sold sweatshirts. $65 later, we were ready to begin our day. We strolled down the central area and stopped for lunch (vegetarian toasties for the kids, Kasey and I - and a pulled pork one for Kayla) then continued on past the canals and over the bridges until we came to a little bar with outside seating. Adeline was napping so now was a good time to stop and enjoy a cold drink. Kayla and I had gin&tonics with grapefruit and cinnamon, Kasey had a glass of rosé and the kids had apple juice. We sat here and laughed and enjoyed people watching and the kids being silly for about an hour before it was time to keep moving. We ended up back near the train station at the Lovers canal boat tour company and decided to take in the sights of the city by boat. We raced to get the outside seats and spent the next hour in the sun, floating through the canals of Amsterdam. We took the train back, walked home and got inside before Kasey realized she’d left her purse on the train. Her passport is thankfully secure here at the house, but for now she’s out her wallet, debit card, state issued ID, 3 granola bars and some chapstick. We filed a report with the metro and are hoping for a positive outcome, but the man working at the Asian restaurant last night doesn’t think her chances of being reunited with it are great.
Today we decide whether to head back to the city or to take a train in the opposite direction and go to the coast. My desire to be near the water is ever present so I’m inclined to head in that direction, but I also know Kasey, Kayla and Izzy are on the hunt for fresh stroopwaffel so the coast might need to wait until tomorrow in order to fulfill their sweet tooth craving.
In any case, this has been an eye opening experience these past 8 days and we have two months and six more countries ahead of us. The kids (and adults) are all in good spirits and we will each take something special away from this experience. My hope is to find some peace, to not feel like I need to be distracted every minute of the day in order to not miss Brian, or feel the sadness that overwhelms me when I think of him not being here. I want to find the joy I had in life – or at least a version of it- while he was here, and that travel and new experiences provide for me. I want the kids to see and feel that we can do this as a family, and that we can miss Brian, their dad, but still be adventurous and make incredible memories together. That’s all for now, I’ll update more in the near future. If you have any tips on things to see/do/experience in any of the following places, please let us know!
Also, if you're on instagram and want to follow our journey, you can: @2months7countries