Graduating from Dutch Primary School

Graduating from Dutch Primary School

Dutch education is neatly divided into primary school (ages 4-12) and secondary school (ages 12-18). So there’s no in-between. The kids basically go to high school at age 12.

Now, I’m not usually one of those moms lamenting that they can’t just stay little.


But I admit that this whole school thing sort of threw me for a loop, hitting as it did (not uncoincidentally) squarely simultaneously with puberty. Yesterday she was a little girl. And today she’s a grown up young woman going off to high school in a couple of months.

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Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

A couple of weeks ago when all my Facebook friends were posting about seeing Wonder Woman, I went to book tickets on the spur of the moment for myself and Axa and discovered that, unaccountably, it opened weeks later here in the Netherlands than practically anywhere else in the world. Undaunted, I used the intervening time to get as many friends as possible to join me with their kids after the film finally opened. We ended up with 29 of us and a pre-movie dinner at Wagamama. Some of the kids were even persuaded to pose for a photo doing Wonder Woman arms. 

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Amsterdam Birthday

Amsterdam Birthday

Having a party in the city carries with it some challenges. Most of them have to do with transportation. Neither we nor many of our friends have cars, which can make transporting eight rambunctious boys a bit of an adventure. That’s why as far as I’m concerned, the perfect summer party is what Raj chose last year: pizza in the park a few blocks from our house, with the Minecraft ghast piñata his mother cleverly made out of toilet paper. 


But the kid is growing up, and wanted something a bit more exciting this year. To wit: laser tag! The closest place that offers laser tag is under a bridge in the centre of the city. Which meant that I had to set out from school walking with all the boys. 

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Amsterdam House Tour: The Kitchen

Amsterdam House Tour: The Kitchen

Sad, but true: this is the final post in the Amsterdam House Tour. I’ve run out of house to show you. The final room is perhaps the most important, seeing as how it revolves around food. So here you go: my kitchen!

Is that a fun, bright room, or what? I am a little in love with it. As you can see, turquoise is the name of the game. I still feel a bit assaulted by the brightness of it, but I’m pretty sure I like it. 

For reference, here’s what it looked like when we moved in. So you can see that for better or for worse, we’ve definitely brought it into technicolor.

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Avondvierdaagse: the Redemption

Avondvierdaagse: the Redemption

On Wednesday it was Tony’s turn to walk the Avondvierdaagse with the kids while I went to a writers’ meet up in the city. And of course the weather was perfect for him: sunny until after nine o’clock, as it is here when it isn’t pouring rain. 

Last night I had a second chance myself. I thought about holing up in a café while the kids walked, but in the end I decided to give  it another try. And I’m glad I did. This time the weather was much better; it was even a little too warm at first, which I didn’t mind at all. I rolled up the sleeves of my cotton shirt and set off at a run after the kids, since I’d been left behind because of a last minute bathroom break. 

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The March of Death (aka Avondvierdaagse)

The March of Death (aka Avondvierdaagse)

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). 

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Amsterdam House Tour: The Bathroom

Amsterdam House Tour: The Bathroom

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.

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Amsterdam House Tour: The Dungeon

Amsterdam House Tour: The Dungeon

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.

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The Details that Escape Me

The Details that Escape Me

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.

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Amsterdam House Tour: Kid Room

Amsterdam House Tour: Kid Room

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. 

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