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
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
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 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
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
Yesterday I realised belatedly that I had neglected to buy chocolate eggs to hide for my children. It’s not too late; I’m pretty sure at least one of the five or six grocery stores within walking distance of my house is open today, even though most of them were uncharacteristically closed yesterday evening. There was a sort of palpable holiday feeling around the city last night. It’s the beginning of Easter weekend, and a two-week Meivakantie (May school vacation) for the kids, and King’s Day is next Saturday. Besides which, the weather is gorgeously sunny and warm; the cafés and restaurants had put every spare table outside, and they were all full of happy people.… Read more
So You’ve Never Been to a (Naked) Dutch Spa?
That’s understandable. After all, if you come from a culture where public nudity is not the norm, it can take some screwing of your courage to the sticking place to relinquish your clothing. To say nothing of relaxing to any meaningful degree while wearing only your birthday suit in a room full of similarly (un)attired strangers. But I mean this seriously and un-ironically: if you have never been to a Dutch spa, you are missing out.
There are, of course, the undeniable bragging rights that come out of such an encounter. You become one of the initiated. And forever after whenever you go back to that place where nudity is not the norm, you have a party story everyone wants to hear.… Read more
Dutch Education Controversies
I have in general an excellent opinion of the Dutch education system. In fact, I would cite the education my children are receiving here as one of my top reasons for living in the Netherlands. The variety and quality of the almost exclusively publicly-funded schools is astounding, and the autonomy, respect, and responsibility kids enjoy here render it unsurprising to me that Dutch teenagers consistently score among the happiest in the world.
That said, I’m also fascinated by the various controversies that surround the way secondary education in the Netherlands is organised. During the past four years that we have lived here, and whilst shepherding two children through their transition from primary to secondary school, I have had ample–perhaps excessive–opportunity to discover and discuss these controversies with both Dutch people and foreign parents with children in the Dutch education system.… Read more
A Long-Held Dream
Eighteen years ago I graduated from university. I had been thinking about grad school for years already by then, but looking back I realise I never considered it a real option for me. My parents had been fully supportive of me getting a bachelor’s degree, but as devout, traditional Mormons, their script for their oldest daughter after university continued in a fixed path towards mission, marriage and motherhood. Not all Mormons uniformly believe this way (and some are much more extreme, as Tara Westover recounts in her riveting memoir, Educated), but my parents did, and for them it was core to their faith.… Read more
Choosing a High School in Amsterdam, Postscript
Yes, it’s that time of year again, or that time of life, I should probably say. Because I have two children, I get to enjoy the whole school shopping saga for a second time. There are two years between Axa and Raj, which is enough time that we have to visit all the schools again, but not enough time that I have forgotten all the stress and anxiety of the adventure. Ah, well.
Although it has been an intense month with many evenings gobbled up by school visits, I don’t feel like it has been quite as difficult as last time around.… Read more