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

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

Colmar and Castle

Colmar and Castle

We have come a ways from our holiday in Malta two years ago, during which Tony had to negotiate hard with me for a day or two out of a two-week vacation that did not include hard-core sightseeing. These days I am more or less content to have some relaxing days during a holiday, especially if there is somewhere beautiful nearby for me to explore with Lyra while everyone else plays multiplayer games and watches YouTube blooper videos. But I couldn’t visit Alsace even for the lofty purpose of skiing without spending a day immersed in the history and culture of the region.… 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

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

Familia Christmas Letter 2018

Familia Christmas Letter 2018

Dear Loved Ones Far and Near,

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

The Road Taken

The Road Taken

It happens every so often that people contact me for advice on this or that aspect of moving their family abroad. I always try to help if I can, since I have asked for and received help and advice on this topic from so many generous people around the world the least I can do is pay it forward. So when a year or so ago I was asked to share some of our story in a how-to book on moving abroad with a family, I was delighted to oblige. My copy arrived just this week, and it was a lot of fun to page through it and remember some of the crazy and fun stuff we’ve done.… Read more

Thanksgiving Far from Home

Thanksgiving Far from Home

What do I love so much about Thanksgiving? I think it’s that there are no traditions to worry about except hanging out together and cooking and eating with people I care about. There’s something so cosy and nice about being warm together inside while it’s cold outside and the smell of turkey and stuffing and pie and everything else taking its turn in the oven wafts in from the kitchen.

It’s the quintessential family holiday, but it’s also a holiday that I have spent many times away from family. Thanksgiving away from family is a puzzle to be solved. Not celebrating is just sad and unthinkable, but since people, preferably lots of people, are a key ingredient to the holiday, celebrating does involve some planning and inviting, which can be more or less challenging depending on the circumstances.… Read more

Going “Home” to California

Going “Home” to California

When did I stop referring to trips back to California as going “home”? Was it when I realised my son has spent half his life outside his (first) passport country? The day we bought a house across the sea? Little by little on walk after walk over miles and kilometres of foreign roads? I think the first inkling of the feeling must have begun long before all that, when the plane touched down in Istanbul half my life ago, and I realised how much bigger the world was than I had ever imagined.

But whenever and however it happened, the truth is that the centre of my universe has shifted.… Read more