East Coast Meets West Coast: A Guest Post by Carina


I’m away this week on our grand Alaskan vacation.  Five kids.  Ten days.  Infinite excitement!

While I’m gone, I’ve had several people graciously write guest blog posts.  Today, I’m introducing you to my friend, Carina.  Although we’ve never met in person, Carina has become my regular Dutch pen pal, and I hope someday to visit her in Holland (or have her visit me in Oregon!).  You’ll see where the following post gives me hope.

Here’s what I love about Carina.  Carina’s got game.  She’s enthusiastic.  She’s an ain’t-gonna-let-life-get-me-down YAY-sayer.  And, get this!, she doesn’t think I’m CRAZY for having five kids.

Here’s what I don’t like about Carina.  English is not her first language, and yet she’s mastered it better than me.  Geez, Carina.  Can’t you make us native English speakers feel good by mixing up your your and you’re?  Or ending a sentence in a preposition?  Or, oh, not already knowing all of our idioms?  When I first met Carina, I truly believed she was a U.S. or British citizen living in Holland.  Sheesh!  (You’re awesome.)

Carina wrote about her recent trip from Holland to the U.S., with 3 young kids, a husband and her pregnant belly in tow.  I always love my letters from Carina because of her willingness to be silly and her hilarious take on my country of origin.  I forget the enthusiasm with which I can greet my favorite fast food chain when we’ve been apart a while, but Carina helps me remember.  In this case, I’m uber impressed that she pulled off her trip report within 48 hours of returning to Holland.  I told you she has game.

Thanks, Carina.




East Coast Meets West Coast
by Carina

East Coast meets West Coast.

No, this is not a rap star story.  There are no actual thugs in it. (Note that I said ‘actual’ — more on that later). It’s actually about traveling from Europe to the US with our kids and our plans to do it again. Better. Way better! (But not very soon, mind you.  We need time to heal. And save up money. Lots of it.)

So let me tell you some high- and lowlights of this trip for which we booked the plane tickets in November 2010 and about which my husband had been worrying ever since…

You see, we had never flown with our kids (6, 5 and 22 months) before.

We spelled out Beth’s blogs and all the other online ‘tips & tricks for flying with your young kids‘ pages, but did we think we were prepared for the undoubtedly exciting & exhausting experience? Not really. So I did what I had to do. Where my husband (the sensible one in our relationship) kept seeing possible situations in which we might be escorted off the flight due to misbehaving kids, or maybe not even making the flight at all due to similar circumstances, I kept seeing the positive in all of that, drawing a silver lining on every dark cloud. (Yes, sometimes against my better judgement, but hey, what’s a girl to do, right?)

I tried to convince him that everything would be fine (FINE I say!), but it did not always have the desired effect.  Sometimes, it even made him worry more because he started feeling that he had to worry for the both of us.  At one point the night before we left, I even started laughing out loud at him (poor guy, but he had it coming 😉 ) when he was absolutely convinced that our suitcases wouldn’t fit in the Dodge Grand Caravan we’d booked for our two-week stay. I laughed because they fit in our car over here and the US cars are so much bigger than ours, I was convinced it would fit easily.

Also, I thought the laughing would make him see the sillyness of his newest worry. I failed.

For those of you who wonder who was right about this: well, I’m happy to announce that not only was I right, it was actually declared out loud by said husband. Yay! 🙂 (On a different note: I’ll never forget the look on the face of the car rental-guy when asked whether we could take some of the seats out of the car so we’d have more space. Priceless!)

You’re probably wondering whether we were chased off our plane, boo-ed, shunned or even avoided on our 8,5 hour flight from Dusseldorf (Germany) to New York. Good news: we weren’t! Though our 5-year old daughter at times had trouble being quiet-ish and keep her hands to herself (in regards to her older brother, whom she just can’t help but touching every once in a while), the flight was fine! Which might be a small step for mankind, but a HUGE step for us. Might this mean that the rest of the worries be a bit premature as well? Might it? Ha, of course!

Though my body would not agree, my mind was ready for the rest of this trip, which obviously would be a breeze. A breeze I tell ya! 🙂

Little did I know that the US customs really didn’t want the Te Witt family to visit the US. And we thought we’d had the worst of customs experiences when taken apart by the Germans.  Who knew that a lock we keep in our stroller is actually a weapon?  It had never looked like a weapon to us… until the officer picked it up and held it over his head like he was going to smash somebody’s brains in with it.  Did I mention thugs?

Anyway, we were finally allowed into the US with a toddler sleeping on daddy’s shoulder, two fighting siblings and an extremely tired and hot pregnant lady who tried not to cry with relief. We tried not to smile, being unsure of the effect that would have on the dutiful customs officers. Who knows? They might think they did not break our spirits in quite enough places.  (If anyone reading this has a special fondness for customs officers, or is maybe even related to one, I apologize, but could you ask them to be a bit more gentle on us next time? I swear we mean no harm.  We’re just European, that’s all!)

After getting up at 5 am the next morning (hooray for jetlag!) we got an early start on the day and found out that some of the stores in Virginia open at 8 am! EIGHT in the morning!!!

Most of you are now probably shaking your head about this much ignorance, but honestly, this shook our world. It sure did.

Most shops don’t open until 10 am over here, and then all of them are closed on Sunday (the whole day) and Monday mornings (making up for having been opened on Saturday), so I guess you could see where this marvelled us. It was just magic, pure magic.

After hitting the Dollar Tree, we packed up and drove further down to North Carolina. There we reconnected with our friends & family whom we had not seen in ten years.

Notice how I just skipped over the two-day drive there? Did you? I guess the main reason for that is the fact that it’s too early for me to relive it. Way too early. Let’s just say that the judgement call we made at JFK airport on where to put the kids in the car (resulting in the two eldest kids sitting way in the back — what a mistake to make!) was not our best work.  And after having packed all of the suitcases, bags, baby bed, stroller etcetera in the car, there was just no way of changing it. So we sucked it up and hoped for the best. It wasn’t good. Or best. But we all lived through it (and daddy only gained three more gray hairs).

As we had not had more than two decent summer days in our country this summer, we were delighted about the weather in NC. It was warm, sunny and humid and we thoroughly enjoyed all of it thanks to the airconditioning unit all over the place. Bliss! Of course, like it is with all good things, we soon started experiencing the discomforts that go with 95+ degrees weather in combination with over 85% humidity, but now that we’re back home (where it’s still cold and rainy) we’re trying to think back and feel those rays of sunshine as much as we can.

For our next US trip, we’d like to drive from east to west and experience how the summer in the (mid)west differs from the east. Doesn’t that sound like the roadtrip of a lifetime? (I know, you guys are probably shaking your heads in disbelief again, wondering what those silly Europeans are exactly thinking, wondering why on earth we wouldn’t catch a plane to travel from east to west… I guess we’re quirky like that!)

What we enjoyed most during our stay in the South besides the weather? First of all, the friendly people (which made it much harder to adjust to the NY folk at the end of our trip).  Besides spending time with the sweetest North Carolinians we know, I’ve never had so much fun talking to strangers than during our visits to the NC Zoo and Kure Beach!

Second place for “most enjoyed” goes definitely, most definitely, to our Chick-Fil-A visits.  We had just two, I’m afraid, as my husband made it very clear that it was not an option to go there twice a day. 🙁  I’m still not over the shock that they close on Sunday. I know. I adjusted quickly to your lifestyle, I guess.

I should stop talking about food, because not only is it making me hungry, it’s also making me want to have some of those nuggets with polynesian sauce and a cup of coleslaw… Okay, I’ll stop now.

And then of course there was our first encounter with Bojangles, their sweet tea and biscuits, yum!

I guess you could say that for a great part of our trip, it was all about the food and I’m not embarassed about that at all! (Which doesn’t even really convince me, so I’m just going to play the European card again, hahaha!)

It was so great to be able to visit Walmart, pick myself up a copy of People (which I so need to subscribe to if only I could figure out how to do that) and Mountain Dew. Okay, I feel like I’m ready to fly back already!

Now let me tell you about how we think we’re going to improve our next trip, a.k.a. ‘The Mother Of All Roadtrips’.

First of all we’re planning on NOT being pregnant next time we do this. I should have known this, as I’m always telling everyone how every pregnancy can be totally different from the former one(s), but it still crept up on me: the exhaustion combined with a whopper of a jetlag, the three other kids running around at 5 a.m. and in the meanwhile trying to get in touch with my inner hormones, trying my darndest to calm them down… I tell you what, that was quite the interesting experience! Fortunately, behind every great woman (I feel I’m allowed to call myself that for at least a week after surviving this trip!) stands and even greater man (are you reading this, dear?), so we pulled it off. Barely, but still, we did it!

Second of all, we plan on renting an even bigger car so as to be able to leave even more space between kids, also since there will be one more by then. We’ll probably put some more thought into who to place where and next to whom.  And I’m hoping my husband will be on the ‘let them watch some dvd’s while we’re driving’-train by then. There’s always hoping, right?

Third of all, we’re going to put some serious thought into a route, maybe even letting the kids choosing one or two they’d really like to see (like we did this time, when we went to see the Statue of Liberty, which our eldest really wanted to see). Theoretically that sounds like a really good plan, doesn’t it? Let’s just hope it’s not going to turn around and bite us in the behinds….

And finally I’m hoping to receive many tips&tricks from all of Beth’s faithful readers (I know you’re out there!) about what to do, what not to do, what to see and which places to definitely avoid. Don’t let me down, people! (I wonder if it would help if I made this into a contest, which always seems to work really well if Beth does it. Maybe you could tell me whether you think I should?)

Much love to all of you, Carina (a.k.a. ‘The Dutch One’)

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20 responses to “East Coast Meets West Coast: A Guest Post by Carina”

  1. Carina:

    1. I have actually apologized to foreign travelers for the behavior of US ICE officers – in front of the offending officer. They need to be diligent, but they also need to be courteous and professional; sadly they are ofttimes an embarrassment. Then again, you can’t be too careful when it comes to those Mary Jane-loving, long-haired bead-bedecked Dutch hippies.

    2. Are there *larger* touring vehicles? Yes… yes there are. They are called “Class C Motorhomes.” http://www.cruiseamerica.com/ Rent one of these beauties and you’ll have all the luggage space you need AND you travel with your own hotel room!

    3. Route planning: here’s the link you’ll want to get started on the next trip http://www.roadsideamerica.com/ I would *never* contradict another reader, but how can anyone say there is a lot of “nothing” in fly-over-country when you can plan stops at the Kool-aide Museum in Hastings, Nebraska (hometown of Beth’s great grandmother), the Dental Health Theater in St. Louis, Missouri (former home of Beth’s cousin), or the Fire Hydrant Garden in Topeka, Kansas (where Beth’s dog Chip would love to visit)?

    4. US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement notwithstanding, all us Americans are dedicated to making your next USA travel adventure a smashing success.

    The Old Marine

    PS: I checked out http://www.ice.gov/#most-wanted and no one named “Te Witt” is on the list. You’re free to come back whenever you want.

  2. Fun times! But Carina, why would you want to drive from East to West??? There are a few lovely places in between, but I have made that trip. There is a whole lot of NOTHING out there in the middle! You would be better off taking a 3 or 4 legged plane trip and stopping at a few places rather than spending days (and I do mean many days) in the car.
    On the other hand, maybe you’d rather take a trip the whole length of the west coast? It’s much prettier with lots more things (and people!) to do!

    • Now that does sound like a good idea, Krista, but won’t it cost us a fortune on car rental? (you know, since the companies charge you loads extra on one-way rental, at least the ones I have already taken the liberty to check out…) Hope guys will keep the tips comin’, because there’s still loads to consider, decide and ponder over before we actually get goin’! 🙂

  3. I’m starting to worry about our trip through the UK with just two kids :/. You two going for five kids too ;-). Loved the blog, Carina, shared it with my friends! Hope you don’t mind.

    • Of course I don’t mind! Also: you shouldn’t worry, because a) it spoils all the ‘pre-fun’ and b) it gives you wrinkles and c) it’s gonna be fine, in the end… (sometimes not until you look back and go through the pictures and reminisce etc, but still!)

      ps: our roadtrip through the UK&Ireland was actually still our favorite OF ALL TIMES!!! (until we embark on our ‘Mother of All Roadtrips’ in let’s say 3 years of course, then all the other vacations will seem bland and boring 🙂 )
      pps: don’t tell Mark I’m on a 3-year plan, he’s on a 5-year plan (I think), so there’s still some negotiation to be done on that issue… (are you reading this, Beth? I need your help. Help.)

  4. I like the stories written by Beth better… just kidding!

    By the way, we booked a ‘regular’ Dodge Caravan, but were upgraded to a Grand (and grant) one… so maybe my worries were not completely misplaced (proven by the two oldest kids nagging eachother constantly ;-)).

    • Absolutely not misplaced – the “regular” Caravan has little to no storage behind the rear seat. You really would have had trouble with one of those. Although then you may have been forced to pile a full wall of luggage between your two kids in the back seat – we have a saying about neighbors and fences…

      • Aw, Greg, you just made Mark cry a little… He’s asking whether he could possibly persuade you to form a support group, something along the lines of ‘4 or 5 kids are not the biggest challenge in our lives, it’s the wives that test our patience’. Well, you certainly have my blessing, just as long as I get to tag along when you guys meet up in the US (don’t worry, I won’t stay for the actual meeting, I’ll just ask Beth to take me to the nearest fast food restaurant and have myself a little blast over there 😉 )

        • I’m just now realizing that the above (about the support group and all) would possibly only truly make sense (have I dazzled you with this little piece of English grammar yet, Beth? 😉 ) if this is (or ‘was posted by’) Beth’s Greg… Hmmm, if not, well, I’m just gonna go ahead and blame it on them hormones! (love being able to do that 🙂 )
          ps: wondering if I could possibly use any more parentheses in my comments? well, I’m guessing I could! (yes!)

        • Carina, I’m not sure if you’ll see this, since it’s an older post, but fast food suggestion for when you make it to the Northwest: Burgerville, in Vancouver Washington. A friend took me there when I visited Portland. It was very good – and get the rosemary shoestring potatoes….. of course, I haven’t had the opportunity to compare it to other places in the area, so if the natives suggest something else, trust them over me.

  5. Before I forget: you’re very very very welcome dear Beth! Now for me it’s just a matter of getting over the fact that I forgot to mention and/or write about a gazillion things about our trip that were totally ‘blog-worthy’… 🙁 Oh well, better luck next time, right? (Yes, I did it again, I said ‘next time’, yay! 😉 )

    ps: I think you’re awesome too 🙂

    • Thanks Kristen! I still marvel at how the jetlag initially gave me wings and then made me collaps for three days straight… (I know, don’t you feel for my husband? 😉 )
      Glad you enjoyed it, can’t wait until I can write about our next US trip 🙂

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