Holiday Confusion

Holiday Confusion

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

Amsterdam Middelbare Lottery, 2nd Time Around

Amsterdam Middelbare Lottery, 2nd Time Around

Yesterday our family had its second chance to participate in the great Amsterdam Middle/High School Lottery. Raj’s list of schools ended up being fairly similar to Axa’s, with a few tweaks. Here it is, straight off the link they sent us with instructions to check it at exactly 15:30 on April 4 to find out what his lottery number would be, and in which school he would be placed:

I fully expected that when we clicked the link at exactly 15:30 on April 4 along with the parents of 7580 other anxious Amsterdam pre-teens, the server would inevitably be down.… Read more

Playing the Migration Game

Playing the Migration Game

The title of this post probably sounds metaphorical, but it isn’t. I really did spend Monday to Friday last week in Berlin, playing a game that could perhaps best be described as a cross between Capture the Flag, Dungeons and Dragons, and Model United Nations.

How did this come about? A bit randomly, as these things do. I quit my job last summer, and in the intervening months have been doing a combination of work on Hiraeth, web design and marketing for Tony’s new business, freelance projects, taking the Dutch classes I’ve been putting off so long, and brushing up on my reading skills in Latin and Arabic for grad school.… Read more

Brexit and Me

Brexit and Me

Happy Brexit week! Hahahahaha. Just kidding. Don’t throw anything at me. Anyway, I guess we may get a bit of a reprieve, if that march yesterday is any indication. Hurrah for drawing this whole thing out even more. Not. A few weeks ago, Dutch News (local English-language news podcast and website) launched a cosy little series called ‘Brexit and me‘, where people could share their feelings and contingency plans in the run-up to Brexit. British people mostly, of course, since they are the people around here who are in general most directly affected by their country’s imminent retreat from Everyone Else.… Read more

On Settling Down Somewhere

On Settling Down Somewhere

For a long time, I really dreaded settling down. I loved the heady rush of landing somewhere new, and the sudden sensory assault from all directions–new smells, new sights, new sounds, new tastes; even the feel of the wind different on my skin. I have moving down to an art, even if it still stresses me out every time. I’ve rented quite a few houses sight-unseen from the other side of the world. I can look on Google maps street view and figure out all sorts of things, from where the nearest fruit/vegetable stand is to what kind of green space is available for kids to play nearby, as well as necessities like public transport and commute to work and school.… Read more

So You’ve Never Been to a (Naked) Dutch Spa?

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

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

Ski Holiday in Alsace

Ski Holiday in Alsace

The kids have been begging for a ski trip for years; pretty much ever since we moved to Amsterdam and they learned from friends of the existence of ski trips. California girl that I am, skiing has never been much on my radar. I had a brief stint as a snowboarder in college because my roommate was obsessed, but as a highly anxious person, I generally have enough adrenaline in my life without purposely creating more by sliding at breakneck speed down a snowy mountainside.

However, I’ve noticed that parenthood is all about jumping heedlessly into things you’re totally unqualified and madly unprepared for.… Read more

A Long-Held Dream

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

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