Why Are You Brown?

Why Are You Brown?

Since the big DNA reveal last week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my Sub-Saharan African DNA. I have a sort of sense that it is rare to find out something so completely new about oneself at this stage of life. One thing that makes it strange is the way it invites me to recall and then rethink hundreds of little moments in my past. For instance, the fact that ever since I was a child, I’ve been asked over and over again some variation of this question:

Why are you brown? People usually didn’t put in precisely those terms, but it was always what they meant.… Read more

DNA Surprises

DNA Surprises

Ever since DNA testing got big a few years ago, I have had a sort of (morbid) fascination with it. I especially gravitated towards stories of mistaken identity, revealed family secrets, and reunions of long-lost relatives. Last year I watched in vicarious delight as Tony’s cousin—who had grown up as an only child—discovered and reconnected with the brother she never knew she had. I was pretty sure nothing like that could happen to me, since my family has been Mormon for generations, and is therefore peppered with more than its share of amateur genealogists.

I retain a healthy scepticism of any genealogical line purporting to go all the way back to 525 A.D.… Read more

Christmas in Normandy

Christmas in Normandy

Our Christmas holiday this year was a sort of revelatory experience. In opposition to our usual packed, busy, sightseeing holidays, we rented a little countryside cottage in Normandy and did nothing but what we liked over Christmas and New Year. Of course, predictably, what I liked was plenty of sightseeing, and you could say I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into a relaxing holiday by saner elements of the family. But we had two weeks, so even with my adventure planning there were a lot of down days too, occupied by a pleasant mixture of reading, playing games, and taking walks on the windswept, empty beaches not far from our house.… Read more

The 2010s in Review

The 2010s in Review

I am still trying to wrap my head around this being the beginning of a new decade, as well as a new year. My approach towards New Year’s resolutions is basically nonexistent, since I am apt to reinvent myself on the spot whenever I feel the need, which tends to be multiple times in a year. However, I do love telling stories. In fact, the only possible way for me to ever make sense of my life is by telling it back to myself. Not once, but a thousand times. Memory is a funny thing. Our brains are constantly arranging and rearranging the past to make meaning out of it; reinforcing the parts that fit our own internal narrative and discarding the other unhelpful bits.… Read more

Christmas Letter 2019

Christmas Letter 2019

Dear Friends and Family Near and Far,

We hope 2019 has treated you kindly. Once again we feel grateful for the many wonderful moments we have shared this year. We are still living in Amsterdam, and feeling more rooted all the time. I write this from Normandy, where we are spending the Christmas holidays curled up in front of the fire eating cheese and drinking apple cider.

In February we drove to Alsace for our first (and very possibly last) ski holiday. The kids were soon flying down the slopes while I teetered along behind them thinking about how much longer it takes to recover from injuries in an almost-forty-year-old body.… Read more

The Book of Mormon (Musical)

The Book of Mormon (Musical)

Tony and I didn’t decide to stop attending the Mormon church until shortly after The Book of Mormon Musical came to Orlando (yes, Orlando; which I didn’t yet know at the time was the perfect destination). So we didn’t go, because–although they do receive ecclesiastically-sanctioned talking points for using it as a conversion tool when it comes to town–good Mormons do not attend the Book of Mormon Musical. That means we’ve been waiting five years for the BoM Musical to follow us to the other side of the world. And this fall, finally it did. We bought tickets the very moment they went on sale, and anxiously awaited the musical we’ve been hearing our fellow ex-Mormons talk about forever.… Read more

DENISE School Review, Secondary School

DENISE School Review, Secondary School

This post is mostly focussed on DENISE secondary school (ages 12-18). For more information on DENISE in general and the primary school (ages 4-11), you can also check out my review of DENISE primary school.

Full disclosure: although my kids spent a combined total of six years at DENISE primary school and we had a positive experience there, we chose not to send them to DENISE secondary school. So this is not strictly a review, but more a compilation of the factors we used to make the decision NOT to continue with DENISE secondary.

My main reason for writing this post is because parents with kids ages 10+ often contact me wanting information on the secondary school.… Read more

denise-school-amsterdam

DENISE School Review, Primary School

This post concerns DENISE primary school (ages 4-11). You can also read my review of DENISE secondary school (ages 12-18). However, since it is the same school administration in the same building, you may find both articles helpful regardless of the age of your kids.

It is hard to believe my baby just graduated from Group 8 this week, and will soon be headed off to a new school. For our entire past four years in Amsterdam, DENISE (De Nieuwe Internationale School Esprit) has played a big part in our family’s experience of the city. The school has gone through many changes during its five years of existence so far, and I’ve had a front-row seat to most of them.… Read more

bellabeat-leaf

My Bellabeat Leaf, One Year On

A year ago we were getting ready to make the long pilgrimage to visit family in California. And when you live abroad, one of the things you tend to do before heading “home” for a visit is make that list of things you can only get there. I am not one of those people who brings home suitcases full of mac & cheese, peanut butter and chocolate chips. We usually only travel with carry-ons anyway, or at most one check-in to share among us. So whatever we bring home has to be small. Last year for me it was my own set of Thinx (which I am still loving every month, but don’t feel like writing a post about my period at the moment) and a Bellabeat Leaf, which I am still loving every single day.… Read more

Places I’ve Planned to Live

Places I’ve Planned to Live

When we were planning family trips as a kid, my mom used to tell me that anticipation is half the fun. It seems I took it to heart. Perhaps a little too much to heart. Tony and I have moved a lot of places since we got married fifteen years ago. But we have planned even more moves than we have executed, in varying levels of depth, up to and including consulting Google Maps street view to check out various prospective neighbourhoods.

Planning to move somewhere is a sort of reflexive impulse for us. We do it when we are feeling frustrated about the weather, the culture, the food, our jobs, or anything else about where we live now.… Read more