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I got a 3 mile walk and talked to my friend K. She was up early! Very nice convo.

My sister butt dialed me several times during the walk, which was a little distracting. But there wasn't an emergency, so that's something.

T. went to Boston with the sitter. They are going to play tourist at home: Duck Tours and Swan Boat are both on the agenda for today. Maybe someone will take pictures.

Now that I have some of my files in my office, I am actually going through them and getting rid of things. Who knew this could even happen (<-- a little humor there). I've been thinking a lot about the decluttering books I read as mind candy, and how disturbing I find it that they are so vituperative about The Container Store. After talking to R. and K. about it, I think they are on to some important aspects. R. noted that when a personal organizer / declutterer walks into a place that has already put in nice shelving and containerized everything, it's a _much_ harder gig than walking into a place where there are piles of things on the floor and no storage beyond a poorly kitted closet (shelf and rod and little else), a bureau, a nightstand, the coffee table, an aging desk from college years, the hall closet, linen closet if present and the kitchen cabinets. If you walk into a place with no filing cabinet and install one, everything is magically Awesome. If you walk into a place with multiple packed filing cabinets, it is going to take some effort to get to Awesome. If you walk into a place with all the walls covered with built in cabinets / book cases / etc., you are going to be there for a long while.

So, attacking the Container Store is code for, I Hate Hard Jobs. Not so clever now, hunh?

K. also had some interesting analogies for another issue I have with decluttering books. They generally promise -- or at least lead one to believe -- that if you "keep up on the maintenance", you won't have to do a whole house declutter again. And I've got news for anyone who believes that! There probably _are_ people who will never have to declutter again. But anyone who goes through career changes, has kids, kids grow up and leave, gets divorced, remarries, moves from one place to another or, goddess help you, owns more than one property, and then downsizes, is going to find themselves doing a fair amount of lather, rinse, repeat, and maintenance just is inadequate to describe what is involved. We talked about bonsai, and pruning and some other plant analogies. We discussed whether the repeat declutter the whole house thing is a result of escalating standards (I don't think it is, personally, at least not usually).

I'm thinking about writing a short piece about waves of books about personal organizing, personal time management, decluttering, etc. I've read through at least three distinct phases of this genre, and the evolution of the field is sort of interesting. I don't know if it is worth a lot of time, tho, and it might spoil my simple enjoyment of this non-fiction genre.

ETA: I got a third walk! My sister called as she was headed out on a walk so I took another loop around the mile long block while we chatted. Very nice! A 5 miles walking (on the road, 9.74 miles right now according to the step counter on Apple Watch) day, first in a while. Just under 20K steps now.
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Subtitled: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day

I've been meaning to review this for a while now, and of course I finally get around to reviewing in while I'm in the middle of Yet Another Decluttering book so I'll probably mix them up.

Aarssen, like oh so many writers in this genre, takes pains to explain how she didn't start out organized, she was such a slob etc. etc. but then she finally figured out a way to make this work and if SHE can do it then ANYONE can. Also, simple organizing solutions means Even Kids Can Put Stuff Away.

I'm not sure I believe it; she ran an in home day care for some years. I'm thinking there may actually be some magic.

In any advice, she has a great tone and wonderful momentum. The book carries you right along and she is enjoyable to listen to. She is relatable, and emphasizes loving what you have and figuring out how to incrementally move it in the direction you want it to go, rather than getting spending hours on Pinterest or wherever looking at super perfect things that you will never have and that wouldn't work well in your life even if you did.

It is interesting reading Aarssen and then Amanda Sullivan's _Organized Enough_. Aarssen is a big believer in incremental laundry morning and night; Sullivan has a do this stuff on one day and other stuff on a different day of the week strategy. Neither is particularly doctrinaire -- they are more about establishing habits than about _what_ habit. But I highlight this one because Aarssen is very much about daily habits and Sullivan is about larger blocks of time.

In case it isn't obvious, this is essentially a non-fiction genre that is a form of brainless mind-candy for me. Altho like almost anything that I consume as brainless mind-candy, over time I become more critical and start to question the underpinnings of the entire genre. Right now, the fact that all these books attack the Container Store (by name, mind you, in some detail) makes me wonder what on earth is going on here.
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R. and T. went to Lowe's and Bed Bath and Beyond in Hudson. They came back with suction cup based shower caddies, which look nice and are pretty good for what they are. I've also ordered more permanent (Nie Wieder Bohren) to install with adhesive. R. also got a curtain and a tension rod, so we can now actually use the shower. Despite having taken a shower earlier in the day, T. was so excited it was all set up and ready to use that he beat R. and I to taking the first shower.

R. got take out from Battle Road Brew Pub in Maynard. O.M.G. truly excellent BBQ. The beans and greens are particularly amazing. The slaw is not safe for me. The ribs, chicken and pulled pork are also excellent. And of course the beer is good, but I didn't have any. Fries were not going to be the sort the kids like and they are salty, but the spices are really nice.

I bought Duck Tour tickets for T. and his sitter to use tomorrow. They have all kinds of fun planned.

No horse today; rain. So basically A. and I never did leave the house.
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R. installed the shower head that the man who did our tile shower couldn't figure out how to install. I have no idea why this was so difficult for the person who was otherwise very organized and capable, but I think he might have a bit of a block on anything gadgety, and this shower head has a hose, a bar and so forth.

Someone will be coming out to measure for a glass shower door next Tuesday.

I got a walk, which was nice, with M., and a later walk by myself doing the 3 mile loop.

No martial arts today, and track for T. starts next week.

T. wanted to make pizza for dinner, so I made crust and we used contadina sauce for him with pre-shredded mozzarella and I used the ground beef, bell pepper and mushroom red sauce on my side of the pizza. Perfectly good dinner, nothing amazing. I think I'll make the crust thinner next time.
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R. went to the dentist today. I got a walk with M. T. went with the sitter. A. and I had a relatively quiet day at home. R., A. and I went to Crossroads for dinner. There was a wait, so A. and I went next door to the dollar tree where we got a ludicrous amount of candy and plastic for $7.09, and A. had fun chatting with an adorable 5 year old who was with her grandmother doing back to school shopping.

ETA: I think this was the day I made the banana bread. I used ginger and cinnamon. It turned out really pretty.

ETAYA: This is definitely the day of the bed shuffle. We took the bunk beds apart in T.'s room. We moved the futon from A.'s room back up to the third floor (undoing a key element of the previous bed shuffle). We moved the _double_ bed to A.'s room (so that's not what was there before; she had the single from the bunk beds before). And we set the single up in T.'s room with his new, black, privacy pop tent. So A.'s has a pink double and T. has a black single privacy pop tent. They make "bunk bed" size different from the regular size. I did not order that and possibly I should have. We had to take the poles out from the bottom of the tent because they don't fit properly into the bunk beds.

The third floor now has its couch back, which is probably a good thing; certainly, if the S. family were to come visit again (hint hint!) we could readily put them up on the third floor again. Had they come in between these two rearrangings, some of them would have been on the third floor and some would have been on the first floor on the sofa bed.
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I had a lovely phone conversation with J. from noon to almost 1:30. Thank you A., for your patience!

I had a walk with M. at 2 p.m.

The sitter came today. T. had play therapy. I think he might do that again next week, altho I'm waiting to hear back definitively from T. later on. In the meantime, A. is off a regular schedule for that, but if we want to have a session, all we have to do is reach out.

Painting the trim continues; the deck now has two coats.

I'm back at work on taking pictures of ephemera from travel binders. I did the one from this trip to the Netherlands AND the one from the 2013 trip to the Netherlands.
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There is just nothing like typing in a book title and realizing that I have recently read another book with the exact same title. Weird.

Okay. This 1994 first entry in the/an Irish trilogy by Nora Roberts is pretty much exactly what I expect from Nora Roberts. It was this month's book club selection in Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). We had light turnout; four of us. I am the only romance reader of the people who appeared. Everyone finished the book. The only other reader of genre books of the four is the librarian, who reads mysteries (she reads _everything_ -- she's so much fun to listen to about books and everything else, really). We have been reading books by / about women this year, and it's been really great. We wanted to do a genre romance, and I pushed hard to get Nora Roberts because I perceived her to have broad appeal and to be really accessible even to non-genre readers. Here was my big chance to find out if that perception was true!

It was. Everyone finished the book and gave it 3 out of 5 stars (except one person gave it 4, amazingly). The two non genre readers said they probably wouldn't read either more by the author or another romance book, but seemed glad to have read it and had the chance to talk about it. I was super excited to get a chance to listen to people encounter a genre romance without _any_ knowledge of the tropes / genre conventions / etc. One person really like some of the more poetic language (which is _not_ any part of any romance novels appeal to me, so interesting to hear that mentioned). Not unexpectedly, my friend A. enjoyed learning a little about glass blowing, as the heroine is a glass artist.

A couple readers felt like there was some plot machinery to get the characters moving through the romance (the first kiss was jarring, for example). However, while they felt that particular scenes were out of character, they felt the characters were believable and well-enough developed. Everyone felt like the novel was easy to stick with and carried them along.

Obviously, the librarian (because she's good at her job) is well aware of the consumption patterns of genre readers. Equally (ha ha ha ha) so am I. But it was complete news to the other two, and I must admit to enjoying the look of shock on their faces when I rattled off the various layers of how-many-books-a-year among genre readers, and explained what the genre reader is expected to bring to reading the book and what is expected of the author.

I was struck by a comment from M. (not the librarian). She wanted to know how genre readers remembered the books. To her, this book was very predictable (and of course it is -- that's the point. It isn't where you are going, it is the details along the way), and she wondered how we could remember characters etc. when reading so much. I have noticed that M. and A. (heck, just about everyone in the group, with a possible exception) often have forgotten plot, character, setting, etc. details only a few weeks after finishing a book. (Look, I'm not imagining things. I do tend to read the book the day of the group, because I want it absolutely crystal clear in my brain, but even if I read it ahead of time, or skip reading it because I read it some years earlier, I frequently find myself locating a passage that the other person can barely describe, or which I want to draw attention to for a particular detail -- and they all struggle with this, even with a lot of post its and so forth). I wonder if genre readers are readers who, through those weird flukes of genetics or whatever, are magpies for detail, and thus have no problems retaining character names and relationships and quirks and so forth. Thus, the plot can be much more complex, or the nuances of the relationship development (in the case of a romance) can be front-and-center because we're not expending much energy on Wait Who Is This Person? And a lot of literary fiction has "quirky" characters in part to help people keep track of who is who as they travel through the book.

I don't know if that's true, but it sure had never even occurred to me as a possibility before this. It would also explain that weird phenomenon where in junior high and high school, english teachers routinely assigned short classics that were wicked slogs, and all the people who never read got through them at roughly the same pace that I got through them. There is _something_ about those books that is resistant to genre-style reading techniques and contains enough to generate discussion in a short number of words. Slow readers are slow and not _further_ slowed down by what bogs a genre reader down to a painful drag. It's a thought, anyway.
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We went to Efteling, and I didn't understand how to get to Symbolica (it is _through_ Octopus! Silly me!) during the half hour before regular hours for people staying on property. Oh well! We did a lot of rides, and I bought the photo pass. We went back to the room to rest, and then later with swimming. A. didn't realize that 1,3 m meant More Than 4 Feet Deep, so she got over her 4 Feet Deep phobia and had a ton of fun.

Then we went _back_ to the park to see what it looked like after dark, when we realized it was open really late. Lots of fun, but exhausting.
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It turns out I bought slightly the wrong stain for the deck -- it will need two coats because I bought the water based rather than the oil based. But it apparently didn't need primer, so at least I can quit worrying about that. It looks nice after the first coat; it'll just take a little longer to get the second coat on.

I asked the painter about doing the painting around the shower renovation; he's game to do it, altho not sure when.

I took A. to a playdate today. So that's three days in a row: birthday party on Sunday, play date at a playground on Monday, play date at a friend's house with a pool today. Tomorrow will be a birthday party that T. will be attending. Fingers crossed it is okay to bring A. also.

We also had an inspection for the work done by Revise as part of the Mass Saves program. The Bee Guy, however, did not put in an appearance; maybe tomorrow.
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I got to the hardware store before half the house was up to buy the gallon of deck stain. So, both gallons acquired before the arrival of the painter. Yay!

I have a haircut later today, and A. has a playdate at Castle in the Trees in the afternoon. I've got book group this evening. T. is off with the sitter, and she was kind enough (and T. patient enough) to let me do the short loop with M. first.

I'm currently reading the book group selection, an unusual one for us, a genre romance by Nora Roberts (_Born in Fire_, so not a new one by any stretch of the imagination!). It will be interesting hearing what the rest of the group makes of it! It is more or less in line with other books by Nora Roberts which I have read.

Bee Guy should be out in the next couple days.

ETA: I got the last item that we took off the wall (a wooden display cabinet with a glass door) back up. I'll have to have R. rearrange the little explanatory cards with the items from his side of the family.
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We went to the Netherlands and spent a few days at Efteling, followed by a few days staying in Diever and visiting Fryslan pretty much all of those days (yeah, not the smartest thing, but we really like Diever, but Fryslan is where family is). I'll try to catch up on blogging over the next few days and backdate the posts.

Today's activities Include:

Cleaned fridge (tossed food that had gone bad and actually cleaned the two main drawers)
Went grocery shopping
Lunch at Julie's Place with T. (I accidentally hockey pucked my burger that I was going to eat at home, when someone came to the door)
Talked to the powerwasher / painter (that's who interrupted the lunch process)
Bought a can of paint
Picked out a color for the deck stain (will be buying that gallon tomorrow)
Wrote checks, one to the person who did the shower (finished!) and one that is complicated to explain
Went to a birthday party after shopping for birthday presents for the two kids whose birthdays were being celebrated
Sent invites for my daughter's upcoming birthday party
Sent documents for my son's physical to someone at the school who needs those
Sent documents to transportation for the kids
Sent a query to someone at my daughter's school about more transportation
Sent a request to The Bee Guy regarding stinging insects that appear to be nesting in the siding (discovered by the power washer / painter)
Visited the bank
Uploaded vacation photos
Caught up on email (mostly)
Made cole slaw and cooked bacon
Vacuumed and roomba'd (mostly construction dust) and swiffered walls in the master bathroom (ditto)
Put some pictures back up on the walls (taken down during construction)

I'm super forgetful from the jetlag, but otherwise seem to be doing okay. Kids seem happy, altho, predictably, got tired early.

ETA: Did a couple loads of laundry. I did get mostly unpacked last night, even tho we got back really late.

ETAYA: Downloaded the ride photos. Efteling is using Picsolve. This seems to be where a lot of parks and other attractions that do group photos are winding up.
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We got up not too early (at least not by that time zone -- by our home time zone, insanely early!) and had breakfast, returned bicycles and said goodbye to our host. We drove to Schiphol, stopping to top up the tank and to squeegee the very bug ridden windshield. We got to Schiphol around 11:30 for a 2:45 departure and returned the rental car. We really like BB&L. No surprises in pricing or anywhere else and they are very pleasant to deal with.

We checked two bags (one more than on the way out, but, souvenirs!). We got through the general security line and stopped at McDonald's for lunch and for a couple minutes at the play area. Then off to all those additional levels of security for returning to the US. I won't miss this passport when I renew -- they printed the bar code misaligned and it always causes problems.

We got to the gate in plenty of time and I carped at family for making me run for no good reasons and complained further because R. hadn't checked which boarding group we were in and missed our call. Oh well! We got our seats. My G-Ro did not fit into the overhead in the desirable direction; it had to go sideways. Fortunately, Delta Comfort or whatever they call economy plus has some dedicated bins so we had plenty of space. And then the fun began.

First, the tug couldn't let go of the plane. Then a gear something or other indicator light wouldn't turn off. We ultimately had to return to the gate while someone went and flipped a breaker (really, the whole world works on the principle of turning it all the way off and then on again, apparently), then fans had to be pointed at the brakes to cool them down (did you know taxiing resulted in overheated brakes in airplanes? I did not). I was terrified we'd run out the clock on the flight crew and we would need a replacement crew. Or the problem would require more maintenance and we'd all have to get off the plane for an unknown delay. But my fears were groundless. They served nuts, pretzels and water while we waited and the captain came out to explain matters and be good natured where all could see it. Customer service done right, Delta! Well done! We were almost 3 hours after our scheduled departure before we finally got in the air.

Delta -- at least on this flight -- has a vegan option which is also low sodium (and low fat because ... vegan?). It was korma and super tasty altho A. hated the smell of it. I farted because beans. We passed bits of meals around among the four of us, and between that and the bag of food I brought (paranoia) we all did okay.

The actual flight was uneventful, however, there was a woman in traditional African (no, I can't specify beyond that, however wait and we'll learn a bit more) dress who was rolled up to the plane in a wheel chair. She didn't look young, and she had that look to her that made you think she probably had looked ageless for decades and the not-young could have been very old indeed. In any event, I can only imagine what she thought of the delay. As we were landing, she got up, presumably to use the facilities? Or perhaps out of some anxiety or misunderstanding. They had announced on the PA earlier, looking for someone who spoke Swahili ("or anything like Swahili"), so I'm not sure communication had been established with her. Of course there was nothing for the attendants to do at that point beyond gesture to sit back down. The passengers seated near her helped her not fall down -- she was standing throughout the actual landing, which I have never, ever seen before. And I had seen her delivered to the plane in a wheel chair. Why I Don't Fly Certain Elderly and/or Anxious Relatives, right there, in person. I hope she makes it to wherever she is going; she'll have a heckuva story to tell her family when she gets there.

ETA: On the drive to Schiphol, I saw signs for "Mysteryland" and a lot of cars. Turns out that is a music festival.
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On Friday, we got up a little earlier than usual. After a quick breakfast and packing up for a long day, we went to Heerenveen to pick up A. Then we drove to Holwerd, to catch the 10:30 ferry, but all the ferries were running late all day. Oops! Had I known, we probably could have caught the late 9:30. Oh well! We met P.-J. there.

We got coffee and snacks on the ferry, including an Oreo Doughnut. Which is super weird, and T. liked it; A., not so much.

We had lunch reservations in Buren at StrAnders, a fish restaurant. We had mussels for an appetizer. Really good! With celery and sea weed. I got cod. R. had a seafood plate. P.-J. and A. had the quiche. The kids had chicken wings. T. liked his. "They have a stick in it." Which is the bone. I think this is the first time he's had bone-in chicken. We're branching out a little. A. (my daughter) just ate frites. Which is fine. And honestly, while in the Netherlands, you should eat frites. They are better than here in the States.

T. and R. rented bikes to ride to Buren with P.-J. The rest of us took a taxi.

We caught the very late 2:30 ferry returning. R. picked up a bottle of Nobeltje at the shop that sold only that; I don't think it was there last time. They couldn't read our cards, or take cash, but the nice man running the shop worked with us to take cash anyway. We really appreciated it, because we haven't had a bottle of Nobeltje since 2004 and wanted one. I'd wanted to have lunch at Hotel Nobel and get one there, but I just couldn't figure out a way to make the menu work for the kids.

We returned A. to Heerenveen, then went home to Diever. T. and I went down to the snack bar and I also ate some food that we had already. R. and T. both went for bike rides (separately) since the ride from the ferry to Buren was so short it barely counted. Then we all packed up for our departure the next day.

ETA: While we were having lunch, A. told a really great story (more than one) about how she and J. (her deceased husband) got together. As children, they met while on vacation (camping, if I understood correctly) but she was quite young (about 12) and he a few years older which makes a big difference at that age. Fast forward to when she was 28 (funny stories about a group at work buying a lottery ticket, winning a bunch of money and going to the south of France or some other beach on the Mediterranean with other young women. Bikinis!) and working for (I've forgotten the name of this organization AGAIN -- I think of it as the Dutch AAA, but it isn't about cars or driving but is about travel and reviews) in Arnhem. They met on the street, recognized each other and got married less than a year later. Fantastic! P.J. had heard the camping (?) part of the story but not how they reconnected.

ETA: Not sure which days we saw this, but I figured I'd put it here. We saw this boat more than once; very cool looking!

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T. and R. went to Aqua Zoo Friesland; we did that with A. four years ago but it really tired her out. They've added to it since then. They had a good time.

A. and I were super tired, so we just hung out at the house all day. By the end of the day, not nearly so tired. Sometimes, we just need a day off.

I took T. down to the snack bar for dinner.

We did not visit A. today because she had the house cleaners in the morning and does her laundry in the afternoon. Also, good to have a bit of a rest before the big trip to the island.
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We had a morning visit with A. She gave me a lovely traditional Frysk bag with a silver closure and a hand made lined bag with needlepoint. The closure would traditionally have been reused -- a new bag made at intervals, so it is unlikely this is the original needlepoint, but it is particularly lovely to have as A.'s mother R. made it for her.

To be clear: the woman who, when my grandfather wrote to his brother asking to visit said, we're not having those people (JW's, that is) in my house, made a bag for her daughter, well: I have that bag now. I will cherish it forever, and the folding back together over time of the wounded family, which I really believe -- and which A. believes -- would have made the two brothers (her father and my grandfather) very happy.

After lunch, we visited Bourtange. R. and I went there in 2004. It is a star shaped fortification that has been restored and they do reenactments part of the year, and there are museums the whole year. The kids were tolerant; we visited all the little museums. The best part was the nerf cannons, where we got to shoot each other. Best museum exhibit ever! Altho the ride-on crane with the view of the wet lands around the fortification was neat, too.
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I went to the coop and bought some snacks. T. was asking A. for some of the cookies he remembered from a previous trip and I felt bad about that, and about not bringing her a gift. So I got some nice chocolate, some cherry pastries that had no milk products, the cookies T. remembered and some other things as well. T. bought his sitter a birthday card and we bought stamps and mailed it in the mail box on the side of the coop.

After our morning visit to A., we came back to Diever and had lunch at the Keer n Punt. There were a lot of bees, which A. did not like, and the kids complained a lot. After this, we mostly ate at McDonald's and at the snack bar at Keer n Punt where we could get to go food.

I _think_ this is the day that T. and R. went to Blue Lake and T. swam.
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Today was switchover day. We checked out of the cottage after breakfast and packing up the rest of things. We moved the car from the Bosrijk parking lot to the main lot for Efteling. We went on Symbolica one last time and a few other rides. I had an upset stomach, but had noodles at Toko Pagode and those helped.

We drove north to Heerenveen and visited A. I had no gift, so I felt bad, and there had been some confusion about when we were arriving in Fryslan, but that's okay, we had a nice chat. We went back to Diever in time for dinner and at at the Nieuws Cafe. We picked up bicycles. We chatted with our host. We wandered part of the Monday Market in Diever. And a woman gave A. a pink rose with a little card attached about how Jesus can help you with stress. A little weird, but she didn't ask for a donation, so I'm not going to complain.
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A. and I rode Symbolica; we went through Octopus during the early half hour and rode it with T. and R. A. and I had waited through an hour plus line the day before, but honestly, this wasn't that much shorter a wait.

She really likes the play space in the back of Octopus. It is pretty cool. We also did the Panda Droom movie (Saturday, maybe?) and the Haunted House (which was kind of boring).
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We were all half asleep when we landed. We retrieved R.'s checked bag without difficulty; I kept me and the kids back a ways so as not to distract him, but he would have let it slide by anyway except I called out to him to grab it. So I drove the rental car.

He navigated using google maps and the car GPS (we had them set the language to English). We arrived at Efteling but could not go into our room until 3 p.m. (this is always so sad, because I want nothing more than a nap when I arrive 6 hours earlier in the day).

We did go on some rides. I took A. on Droomvlucht, and it started pouring down rain when we came out. We tried to wait it out, but we got soaked. We went to Bosrijk and I changed us in the loo, but I took too long changing and she wandered off which scared me half to death. She has never done that before. After that, we just sat in the car until it was time to check in. It was blissfully quiet and no chance of anyone disappearing.

I tried to eat some lunch at Octopus, but I was still half asleep, and couldn't tolerate the smoked salmon sandwich I picked out and I think it had cream cheese on it anyway. Oh well!
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The shower work continues. A man from the water district came by, checked the water pressure at the service (fine) and then determined that the pressure reducing valve was set low. Really low. Like, 40. With my eager permission / encouragement, he turned it up to 65. Wow. The difference. Why didn't we do this years ago? Hmmmm?

When R. got home from work and T. back from the sitter, we were picked up by car service and whisked to the airport, where we had fast food and got on a plane. We ate some more food (vegan option! Pity I wasn't hungrier!) and slept. Yes, we actually slept. Short flight, tho, only 6 hours. Morning came quick!

We continue to approve of Delta Airlines. Of course we love JetBlue, but they don't have transatlantic flights. Yet.

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