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.
This may be my favourite room in a house full of rooms I love. Having moved over twenty times since we were married in 2003 (I wish I were exaggerating), Tony and I have come to realise that although we have many things in common, our decorating tastes, although overlapping, are not identical. So when we moved into our new house, we decided that we would each get a room to decorate exactly how we pleased. The other party could serve in an advisory capacity, but the person to whom the room belonged had total autonomy when it came to layout and decor. This arrangement has worked out beautifully. So go ahead and step through that right hand door in the hallway to enter my room.
We have now lived in our darling Amsterdam flat for a whole year, so I guess it’s high time to invite you in for a tour.
In order to fully appreciate our house, it’s good to know some stats about it. For instance, it’s a grand total of 72 square metres (775 square feet). I think of it as both a small flat and a really big tiny house. When it comes to functionality, I’d say it definitely feels more like the latter. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in IKEA showrooms and cleverly designed little European apartments, marvelling over inventive storage solutions and multi-purpose furniture. Our organisational skills have been tested to their limits in this house, and I think we’ve come through victorious.
We are coming up on two years in Amsterdam, which means almost one year at our new house, in our new neighbourhood. Are we still happy with our choice to pick a little house in the city rather than a bigger one with a garden farther out? It’s still a resounding yes! The longer we live here, the more we love it.
Schinkelbuurt is a delightful little neighborhood of Amsterdam that is also somewhat unknown. Possibly because it’s so little. It’s just that red-highlighted triangle with a tail in the bottom left corner.
One of the best things about the way they do this whole high school thing here is that it’s so kid-focused. Whenever we walk into a school on an open day, it’s Axa who is greeted and handed a flyer, folder, bag of brochures, pen, water bottle, or whatever they’re handing out at this particular school (she promptly hands it all over to me to carry for her, but still). The students and teachers focus on talking to the visiting kids, although they are also polite and willing to answer the parents’ questions. Because let’s be real, the kids are 11-12, and sometimes they are more interested in the bowl of snacks on the table than in asking insightful questions about their future education. Yesterday I shared a rueful smile that transcended culture and language with a Dutch mother whose son had just grabbed a giant handful of potato chips out of a consumer research survey on whether Lays or generic chips tasted better.
We visited a couple more schools with Axa this week. By now we pretty much have the drill down (and she knows to keep her eyes out for where they have the cookies). I am starting to feel more confident about the process, and a bit less shell-shocked. After all, at the end of the day she just writes down all her choices and then we wait for the lottery. And none of my agonising or nit-picking about this or that advantage of this or that school will make much of a difference, if at all. I’ve also spent some more time researching exactly how the lottery works, which has been somewhat reassuring. For the truly nerdy (or desperately anxious) among us, here’s the link to a pdf of the analysis (in Dutch, sorry) of how the lottery went last year.
Maastricht is definitely one of our favourite places we’ve gone in the Netherlands so far. We took my parents there when they visited last October, and had a wonderful time. And since I never blogged about it, I thought I’d share some of our favourite Maastricht sights and activities.
We took the train down from Amsterdam, and it took about two hours and forty-five minutes. That’s a bit longer than by car, but we like riding the train, and it was nice not to have to worry about parking once we got there. Our hotel was just down the street from Maastricht’s lovely main square, a location which I would definitely recommend, since one of the delights of Maastricht is just wandering through its picturesque streets.
It’s no secret that I love having a cuddly little baby to snuggle. This has resulted in me making two of my own little babies, and going attachment parenting all the way. But all good things must come to an end. Axa and Raj are by now far past the breastfeeding and cloth diapering stage. In fact, they are well into the insightful conversations around the dinner table stage, which is a delight in and of itself. However, I still need a little snuggly something to keep in my lap and shower in kisses and carry around with me.
When we decided to make a long-term move to the Netherlands, one of the things we had to think about was what to do for the kids’ education. Our family default has historically been homeschooling, and we’ve had a rocking good time all over the world doing that. I can’t take credit for the thoughtful, well-read, interesting, articulate people my children are; they have largely accomplished that on their own. But I like to think I’ve put the fewest possible barriers in their way. I’ve tried not to dampen any of their natural passion for learning, and they’ve spent many hours at the library, and many more outside, catching frogs, swimming at the beach, climbing trees, and playing in the dirt.
I’ve tried several variations on work-life balance over the years, and found most of them to be fairly out of balance. When the children were small, Tony and I ran a business together, whilst juggling full-time care for a baby and a toddler. We thought a lot about hiring an au pair or a nanny, but moved around too much to ever really manage to do it. So my memories of those days are a bit of a haze of sleepless nights and management meetings, and never having quite enough time to do everything. Still, it was fun and exciting, and I do look back on those days fondly. And I learned some pretty mad organizational skills.