There are quite a few Dutch customs that would seem, frankly, crazy in the U.S. Some of them involve the impressively wide range of stuff Dutch kids are permitted, nay, encouraged to do (cycle several kilometres to school by themselves, take public transport all over the city, etc.) Others involve acts of defiance against the weather (the impossibly long ice skating race, Elfstedentocht, which happens only when the ice is thick enough on waterways between eleven northern cities, or the wildly popular leap into the frigid North Sea on New Year’s Day).
Tony and I have been wanting to renew our wedding vows for a while. Partly because we’re just kind of romantics that way. Partly because we’ve been married for quite a while now, and been through a lot, and accomplished amazing things together. And partly because we were really uber Mormon when we got married, and now we’re, well, not.
When I found out last year that it’s a Dutch tradition to celebrate anniversary #12.5 (half of 25), I thought that would be perfect. We had it all planned out: we’d send the kids to the US to visit their grandparents, and meanwhile Tony and I would hike the West Highland Way in Scotland, and do a romantic vow renewal in some picturesque corner of the Scottish Highlands. The fact that in Victorian novels Scotland is the place you run away to when you want to elope made it all the more romantic.
Almost ten years ago we moved to Italy specifically for the purpose of claiming Italian citizenship for Tony via a process called jure sanguinis (by right of blood). In fact, that was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place: recording all the wacky and frustrating and occasionally miraculous things that happened along the way.
Several months, dozens of official stamps and seals, and many scoops of stress gelato later, Tony and the kids officially had their Italian citizenship recognised. And I was immediately eligible to apply for Italian citizenship myself as the wife of a bona fide Italian. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards our business failed, and we went through several rough years of financial instability, as well as some health issues, punctuated by various moves domestically and abroad.
Welcome back to the biggest tiny house in Amsterdam. Half baths, 3/4 baths, 1 1/2 baths, I never really got all the bathroom fractions straight, even through all our years of renting various houses with various configurations of bathroom facilities. However, I’m fairly sure that the bits of tile, porcelain, and chrome in our little house add up to somewhere in the vicinity of one whole bathroom.
You already met our tiny little powder room toilet in the Hallway. We are, in fact, lucky there’s a diminutive sink in there; many similar toilets in Amsterdam houses don’t have them.
Last fall Axa participated in an academic competition with kids from schools around Amsterdam to design an invention. Another team ended up winning according to the judges, but the audience prize went to Axa and her classmates from Denise.
Their winning idea was a “Party Boat”. The boat would be made of recycled plastic. On the boat would be a dance floor that collected kinetic energy from the dancers and converted it to power the boat. It would also somehow collect the energy generated when they sang into the microphone. Besides being fun, the boat was meant to raise awareness of the “plastic soup” clogging the world’s oceans and threatening the lives of marine creatures and the health of the planet.
I haven’t written a lot on this blog about leaving the Mormon church. I’m not sure exactly why. I think at the beginning I had so many strong, raw feelings I preferred to discuss them privately. And after a while I guess it felt like there was less to talk about.
However, at the time that I left, it was really huge. It’s hard to overstate the significance of unraveling something that had been tightly woven into every aspect of your life since birth.
There were, of course, many reasons that Tony and I decided to leave the Mormon church, none of which I’ll go into here. The emotional experience of leaving, though, is something for which I was unprepared. It hit me like an unexpected tsunami. Looking back, I guess one of the reasons was probably that I was an absolutely devout and devoted Mormon pretty much right up until I left.
Many of the houses we looked at in Amsterdam had some kind of storage room available. Sometimes it was a detached room on a completely different floor in the building. Once it was an attic room, weirdly accessible through an illegally built ladder right next to the fireplace in the living room.
The house we ended up picking was much more normal (not). A nine square metre (100 square feet) storage room lay just under the living room, accessible (as you’ll remember) literally through a hole in the middle of the floor.
Is there a name for the disorder where stuff is tiny but important, and you always forget it? Whatever it is, I’ve got it.
After a particularly frustrating day this week I Googled “opposite of detail oriented” and got a list of 61 antonyms. Topping the list are absent -minded, inattentive, thoughtless, and neglectful. So of course then I felt even worse. Although incurious also appears, and I feel like that’s not talking about the same thing at all. Because I am curious about hundreds of things. I know a lot. I consider myself to be intelligent. I’m generally articulate; in fact, depending on how angry I am, I approach verbosity. I’m also a sympathetic listener and good at identifying my own feelings and the feelings of others.
The other day I came across this article about the love locks on Paris bridges. You know, the romantic tradition where you and your lover affix a lock to a bridge to symbolise your undying love, and then dramatically toss the keys into the river below.
Except that according to the article this tradition isn’t romantic; it’s vandalism. I suppose they do have a point. It was OK when the first creative and enterprising lover did it. But if each of the hopeless romantics in the world puts a lock on a Paris bridge, all the Paris bridges will sooner or later collapse from the accumulated weight of all those locks. Cutting them off and donating them to charity is a pragmatic solution that I applaud, albeit with a twinge of sentimental regret. Still, perhaps it will have some kind of positive karmic effect on the respective love stories of the romantics involved, so maybe the municipal desecration of the original desecration is a win for everyone.
One of our major hurdles in buying a house in Amsterdam was finding a second bedroom with enough space to accommodate both children (a three bedroom was out given our price range, unless we wanted to live well outside the city). And by that I don’t mean loads of floor space for playing. I just mean fitting in two beds. A lot of the second bedrooms in Amsterdam apartments have enough space for a single bed and maybe a small wardrobe or chest of drawers. We thought about bunk beds, but really felt strongly that since our kids are older and it’s already pushing for them to share a room, they each needed a well-defined space of their own.