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
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
This year was a milestone for the Family family: we have now lived in Amsterdam longer than anywhere else since we got married. We celebrated three years together with our adopted city in March. To inaugurate our happy state of being true Amsterdammers, we finally had a bike stolen! The advice generally given to newcomers here is to buy a cheap, old bike and a lock that costs more than the bike. Everyone uses two locks. In fact, after my bike was stolen, a helpful friend even told me about the “three lock rule”. I’m hoping my new bike sticks around for longer before becoming part of the thriving stolen bicycle black market in Amsterdam.… Read more
I confess that one of the main reasons I write this Christmas letter is not so much to let you know what we are doing as to find out what you are doing. Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to grow up and live my whole life in the same little village. And then I watch a moody European crime drama awash in small town secrets and decide I don’t so much mind my itinerant city life. But I do miss being able to see all the people who mean something to me and be a part of your in-person lives.… Read more
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.
It’s been just over two years since we moved to the Netherlands.… Read more
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.
It would be difficult for any movie to live up to the hype surrounding Wonder Woman, and this one didn’t for me, but I’m still glad we went.… Read more
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.… Read more
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.… Read more
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.… Read more
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).
And then there are activities which can involve both kids and extreme weather.… Read more