Monday, April 7, 2014

A Long Weekend Away

I know it's de rigeur to feign some kind of terror about the impossibility of going away for a weekend with a 16-month-old kidlet, but honestly, my biggest challenge was figuring out which swimsuit to bring, since swimsuits are neither common in the stores nor very affordable.  But even though kidlet stuff wasn't very hard to pack, it was still a lot.  We brought with us some of his "on the road" toys (pompom balls and pipe cleaners), a few of his favorites (stacking cups, Bosley), and some books.  He needed his sippy cup, underlayment sheets for his diaper changes, diapers, swim diapers, swimming butterflies (a requirement that I was able to evade).  A spare outfit, because kidlets; socks, his latest shoes, the Pack 'n Play, the umbrella stroller...and with the exception of his spare outfit and an extra paif of socks, we ended up using everything.  And of course, there was food, and food, and food (two crates), the electronics stuff (iPad, cell phone charger, camera charger), the clothes, the twoels fro swimming, etc. etc.

Privacy concerns prohibit me from explaining why we went to Center Parcs this weekend, but that was where we were.  Center Parcs, in case you've somehow managed to miss the commercials for it, is a sort of vacation park, where everything is available in one neat and tidy little package:  you rent a little cabin and are free to take advantage of many of the amenities on the campus.  The place where we stayed featured a "tropical swim paradise", a climbing gym,  a marina where you can rent boats, and of course, a bike rental place.  I'm not sure if you have to pay for things separately; tickets to the water park (Aqua Mundo) were included in the price of our cabin, but I believe you have to pay for the other amenities separately.

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a snark about the Dutch and their coffee, but all joking aside, the place was very well-designed, cultivating gezelligheid like an expert gardener coaxing roses into bloom.  The houses were spaced just far enough apart to give you the illusion of privacy, but the view from any one set of windows would invariably include a look into another cabin.  Being a party of 10, two adjoining cabins were rented, one with a miniature pier sitting on the lake, the other with a concrete hut designed for barbecuing.  Each family had their own cabin, but somehow, in that Dutch-hive-mind-fashion (in which nothing is discussed but everything happens as if it were) it was decreed that we would spend the morning in one cabin and the evenings in the other.  Each cabin contains a remarkably complete-yet-not set of supplies that Dutch culture determines to be "required for living":  housekeeping essentials, including a vaccuum, drying rack, feather duster, a broom for sweeping outside, and a dustbin for sweeping inside; in the kitchen, as mentioned above, the coffee machine, but also the electric kettle and of course the obligate kaasschaaf.  Alas, a flessenlikker was nowhere to be seen, compounding my suspicions that this bit of inburgering wisdom is either completely outdated, or an urban myth.  The cabin we stayed in thoughtfully provided a high chair and a reiswieg, but the mattress for the reiswieg was about as soft as a brick, so we stuck with ours.

As for the Aqua Mundo, the only attraction we had tickets for (i.e., the only attraction that was of any interest to our nieces) and hence the only one I availed myself of--having a 16-month-old kidlet in tow doesn't make for easy climbing or safe sailing, anyway--it was nice, and quite surprising how many water slides can be crammed into one building.  The chlorine was present but not overwhelming, with lots of plants and rocks hiding the entrances to the slides, making it seem a lot smaller but much prettier.  You might think that, with a wavepool full of babies in "flotation devices" that the water might be foul, but it wasn't any dirtier than any other public pool--certainly there was no poop in it, though there were relatively large quantities of sand carried in by kids and their parents from the sandboxes.  But by far the most surprising thing was the fact that there zero attendings standing at the tops of the slides, okaying you to push off.  There was only a light--red (stay put) or yellow (proceed with caution)--and yet everybody, from the most rambunctious kid to the curious old guy, had the patience to wait their turn and not get ahead of themselves.   My only quibble with the entire place is that the changing room--like all Dutch swimming areas, there is no men/women divide, but lots of little private changing rooms--is a pain in the ass to get into and out of if there are a lot of people, because you have to go through a changing room in order to traverse between the walkway to the water park and the walkway to the entrance/exit.  I lost kidlet's shoe in there the second day; finding it took less than a minute, but it was 10 minutes before a changing room freed up so I could get back out.

Kidlet proved himself to be surprisingly adaptable, accepting the strange mealtimes and strange activities and strange people and completely fucked-up routine with an equanimity that surprised me.  And barring one screaming session at midnight on Saturday, he was a perfect little angel for the entire time.  Karel might be inclined to disagree--after all, the little bugger was awake at 6:30 almost every morning, prattling and pontificating about the end of the world or whatever it is babies talk about--but he wasn't screechy, and pleasant enough once I got him dressed and fed and out and about.  Plenty of exercise, attention, and naptime makes for a very happy kidlet, even if none of it goes according to the playbook.  

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