Day 6: A bit stir crazy…

It’s almost been a week since we left Sunnyvale. We’ve been busy trying to get settled into our new place, while the kids are all home with us and you know what that’s like on summer vacation! Today we all feel a little bit stir crazy for different reasons!

We don’t have a car and the bike shop is closed for holiday until August 7th. We can’t buy a train pass that the locals use because we don’t have our residence card and it costs about $50 day for the family to get a train day pass. We could buy a chip card without a photo and pay as you go, but you need Internet access and when we log in with English, it takes us down a few pages and then gives us Dutch. And the temporary Internet access we bought for the iPad is almost used up. We are using free wireless at the local mall right now, me with the kids by an indoor kid playground and Jeff at a coffee shop so he can actually get a few things done!!

I thought I should share some of this because these feelings are real too and part of the process. We’re figuring it out… Things are just a bit more complicated. The good news is that we bought museum cards today and will go to Amsterdam tomorrow. The handyman came by and fixed the leaks and moved a bed for us. The owner dropped by to meet us and agreed to install black out shades in the back of the house where the street lights from the retirement community shine in our rooms all night so it feels like day time. Rome wasn’t built in a day…so cliche yet so true. Patience… That’s all we need and every little thing will be alright…

It’s all good… And thank you for your emails and comments and sharing your stories! I love hearing from you and miss you! xo



Day 5: Thank Goodness for Good Neighbors

I just posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook, as we are at Jeff’s office where we have internet connection. The kids are with us and playing “quietly” so Jeff and I can “work.”

My work consists of “playing” on Facebook and the internet and staying connected with my loved ones and writing my story. I should be shopping for furniture but this is more fun.

My story of the day today is that I am thankful for my new neighbors more than you know as we had a scare today that made me nervous, and they were there to help.

You see, we were all ready to go to town to get me a temporary cell phone and to pick up a few more kitchen items before heading to Amsterdam. We had been busy in the morning unpacking our suitcases (finally) and cleaning up the clutter and we were getting a later start than we had hoped. The kids were out on the porch and we were finally ready to go. Jeff locked the door, and then went to lock the deadbolt and that’s when the trouble started. You see in Holland, they have these locks on the door that once you close the door, the door locks automatically. This scares me because you can’t unlock the door from the inside either without the key. So we thought we’d leave an extra key inside the inside of the door just in case of a fire, right? Good thinking you’d think. But not so. The problem came when he was on the outside of the door, trying to lock the deadbolt and his key wouldn’t go all the way in, because the inside key was still in the lock and prevented him from getting his key in to lock or unlock the door.

And of course, us being the well prepared and scared Americans we locked all the windows and put sticks in the back door so that no one could get in, not even us!

That’s when the neighbors started arriving. And the rain came just to test our patience. And we called our relocation manager who called the real estate agent because the owner is on vacation and a lock smith was being sent at the cost of 95 Euros and would be there in a half hour and we had to pay him cash.

Can you see my anxiety rising? And the shiny smile on my face trying to keep everyone calm? Actually, everyone did quite well, and really, it’s not the end of the world – what’s the worst that could happen right?

The one neighbor who we hadn’t met yet, saw us struggling. I introduced myself and told her our situation and she was very kind and basically was pretty direct as most Dutch people are, telling us that what we did was pretty stupid! Not really, but Duh – obviously we shouldn’t leave a key in the door and that we’d never do that again. Duh. Stupid Americans. That was just me feeling that way – she was as polite and as sweet as possible and went to find a long stick with a hook on it and a hammer and a screw driver to see if any of those would help.

Nothing worked. Then Howard came over and took the kids to his house to get them out of the rain. The police also drove by and stopped seeing us trying to break in, when Margalith walked over to tell them all was all right that it was ok for us to be breaking in.

We were in luck when we noticed the top hinged windows were actually open. They open about a foot, maybe and we thought if we could unscrew the latch that Spiderman, AKA little C, could fit through the space and down to the floor to open the door for us.

Success! Our plan worked and Spiderman was so brave and we were relieved. We laughed at ourselves, thanked our friends and went shopping.

Spiderman picked out a new Holland Playmobil bus at the store – he was planning to spend his birthday money for a little bus he had seen at Blokker and had been bugging us for two days to go and get it. Today seemed like a good day for that. We also picked up a new local phone for me and bought flowers for our new friends.

It’s nice to live in a friendly community and to be loved.

All is well. Namaste. xo

Our little Spiderman

Playing with his new reward and not being bored!

Day 4: Jet Lag and Sundays

Today jet lag really hit us all. I went to sleep after 1 am and was awake by 4:30 am. Jeff and I got up and made coffee and enjoyed the quiet, thinking the kids would get up soon. Jeff ended going back to sleep and soon turned into after 11:30 am when I woke them all up!

We took a walk to explore the city center, even though we knew the stores would be closed. We allowed C to pick McDonald’s for lunch, against our own interests just to get it out of his system and it was one of 3 restaurants open. I tried a McKroket,which is a specialty unique to Holland since 1999. And you have to pay 50 cents for a packet of ketchup! They also serve fried shrimp which is different from the USA. I like to notice the differences between the two countries to compare and contrast,

On the walk back home, we discovered a great neighborhood park, and a walking bridge that crosses a canal with a beautiful view. These are the things you can’t find in a book. And then walking back to our house, another neighbor was out front and she shared with me tips about what stores were open on Sundays and what hours. For example, Dirks is a popular grocery store that was open today from 4-7 pm, but she said not to go at 4 because here would be a line out the door!

We took a nap and when we woke up, the entire family all went for a walk to Dirks around 5 pm. We decided to shop and cook our dinner together. We had fun picking out all the ingredients and filling our reusable bags. We had to walk to the store which is also new for us, but it was pretty enjoyable. We had fun making our first meal together – a cucumber and carrot salad prepared by C, and then pan fried chicken, green beans stir fried with butter, and roasted potatoes with garlic and onions! Yum!! All were satisfied,

As I was taking the vegetable compost out to the front refuse cans, another neighbor caught my eye and we introduced ourselves. She has a boy C’s age and offered some toys for him to play with until our shipment arrives. We walked over to her place to pick out a few things which I think will help C with his tedium.So sweet, right? Her son and daughter will also go to the same school as our children. Although, her children are in Israel with her parents so that she can work during summer break so we’ll have to wait for more friends to play with! So many sweet and generous people around me, it makes me so happy.

And two more connections happened today – I’m all about that! My cousin Anita is coming to help me on Friday to order our furniture for delivery! I am so thankful and can’t wait to see her again, as its been 14 years!! Her children were just babies then and are now grown up! And the second connection is with a PEO who lives in Amsterdam. We will try to meet at her home later in the week. See. This international thing ain’t that bad!! Slowly but surely…

I hope you’re enjoying a day of rest and slowing down a bit too! Life is good. xoxo

Day 3: Family and Friends and Settling In


Oh my gosh, really, only 3 days and you won’t believe all that happened today!!! I still can’t believe it and it’s only the weekend.

Today I feel like we really have a home here, which is great. Dorine and Nadja arrived at 10:45 am and just left at 11:30 pm!! How lucky are we to have family to love and support us? They brought over the famous bosschee bollen from Den ‘Bosche. These are like the best chocolate covered cream puffs you’ve ever had and I guess they can only be found in their home town. Our job was to provide coffee when they arrived, so yesterday we bought a coffee pot and this morning Jeff walked to the market to buy ground coffee, Such a fair deal.

After our coffee and sweet treats, Nadja drove me and Dorine to Ikea where we bought everything we needed to run a household and boy was that work! We bought plates, glasses, cups, silverware, bowls, cooking supplies and utensils, containers and bags, towels and hangers, pots and pans, and more. We had three shopping carts full and I was so surprised when we we’re able to fit it all into Nadja’s little car!!

We unloaded the loot and then they took Jeff to the Makro for his shopping delight!! Makro is like an upscale Costco where you need a business license to shop for discounts. He bought a new tv, vacuum, toaster, trash cans, fans, telephones and more. I think he spent more than me!!

We unloaded everything again and Dorine and Nadja started loading the dishwasher and breaking down all the boxes and helped to make our home feel gezellig!! I can’t even believe it!

In the meantime, the previous renter had shown up and talked to Jeff and he showed him how to use the oven that we couldn’t figure out and how to turn on the outdoor porch light. He also showed us how to turn off the water and just basically gave us his contact information should we have any questions. At the same time, the neighbors joined us and offered us their wireless access and gave us their extra porch table and chairs. They are so helpful and friendly.

When I arrived, the kids were out playing with their new friend. They discovered a petting zoo and miniature golf course behind our house in the retirement community. There is a big open field also on the opposite side of the canal from our house where they can kick around a soccer ball. Today we let them run around a little bit more without our immediate supervision and we felt safe. I think it helped that the neighbors were encouraging about letting their 8 year old daughter run around too. It is very quiet where we live and not much traffic, which is very pleasant.

Having kids outside playing also helped us to meet more neighbors. One family just moved here from Redondo Beach two weeks ago. What a small world. So far our neighbors our mostly Jewish and a couple families are from the International School where our children will attend. I’m so glad that people speak English and are so warm and welcoming. I think I will feel at home pretty quickly!

What really made me feel at home today was having Dorine and Nadja with us all day. We ordered Thai food and had it delivered to our house. We set the table and all ate together as a family. The kids went to bed and we had coffee and stroopwaffels for dessert before they headed home. What a great day! We got more done than I ever expected.

I Am Content.
How was your day?



Day 2: Figuring Out the Details

Our second day in Holland was spent showing the kids the tram system and taking a ride up to their school. They got to walk in the main area but they are remodeling and everything is under construction. I think they are going to like it there though.

After the school visit, we took the train back up to the center of Amstelveen where they have a large shopping center. We learned on Friday’s they have vendors that fill the market center selling fresh fish, cheese, stroopwaffels, nuts, and various other items. We found the ABN-AMRO bank and I was able to get a bank card application filled out, as you have to be present to get one and cannot do this remotely. Next, Jeff bought a SIM card for his iPad so we could have Internet access from our house until the cable company arrives next week. We found a place for lunch and shopped at Blokker for a coffee pot, coffee cups, a hot water pot and other miscellaneous items we could carry back with us. By this time the jet lag started to hit the kids again, so we headed back home. Home? Yep, time to start calling this place home which makes me a bit home-sick. We are away from all our comforts and friends and familiar voices and sounds. We will adjust of course, but this takes time and we don’t expect it to be easy and comfortable right away.

Luckily, as we walked to our house, our new neighbor saw us and had more details to share. We showed her around our place and took a tour of hers to get ideas how to set up the kids small rooms. It’s nice to have someone looking out for us.

I’ll send pictures just as soon as I get my iPhone working again, but for now words will have to do. Tot siens. xoxo

Day 1: Arrival in Amsterdam and Amstelveen

We arrived safely and happily in Amsterdam today. Everything went smoothly. All the luggage was gathered and accounted for and we walked right through customs in less than 2 minutes! We reserved a mini bus to pick us up with all our luggage and the driver was right near the bus stand waiting for us, as expected. I love when things go as planned!!

He drove us to our new home where Lion was already waiting for us, with the doors and windows open and airing out the place. I believe it was 29 degrees celsius which is hot for here. There were flowers on the table from the furniture rental place, a bottle of wine from the home owner and a bottle of champagne from the realtor. We also had our first piece of mail addressed to the Hartley Family from Dorine and Nadja!

Once we got all the bags in the house, Lion took me and the two younger travelers to the Albert Hijn for groceries and assundries and to buy me some fresh flowers. It was wonderful since he drove us and I didn’t have to make several trips, even though it is in walking distance from our home. He helped me to read the labels, use our new bank card with a chip and pin, and use a euro coin to release the shopping cart. The kids were fascinated and C was picking out affordable cereal so I think he was happy too!

We rested shortly and then walked to dinner at an Indonesian restaurant where we enjoyed rending, sayer lodeh, noodles, rice, and mixed veggies. It was delicious, but the kids were fading fast! We hurried them thru and made one more stop at Dirk’s for bathroom soap as I missed that the first time around. I noticed that workers and shoppers don’t seem to greet one another and hardly even smile. It was especially apparent when we were so lucky to drop a set of 6 glasses out of our basket and they crashed all over the floor and no one hardly looked up, offered any help, or yelled at us. Nothing happened and it felt surreal. Nothing happened as we checked out either with glass every where. Nothing happened when the next set of customers kicked the glass pile either!! Why? I have no idea yet as to what to expect. I just wanted to hurry out of there!!

We walked back home with our paid for Dirk’s bag and were greeted by our first set of neighbors. They invited us in for a drink and we visited for a short while as we were waiting for the plumber to arrive. Its nice to have some friendly faces right next door, who invited us I. And shared some small plastic bowls for cereal in the morning.

And so now we are settling in for the night before 9 pm. Little C is sleeping in our room b/c the sun is too hot and shining directly in his room. Slap lekker! xo

Here I Am


Well, we made It through security and just finished a very late lunch at 4 pm! Our flight is delayed and we learned the hard way that we were only allowed one carry on item each and personal item weighing up to 12 kilos total! $800 later and 11 checked bags and 5 rearranged carry on bags with 4 lap tops included, I think I deserved and needed a beer!! I am drained yet ready to board our plane soon for our next adventure.

Leaving our home, our neighborhood and friends and Oma and Opa was so hard for me. The tears kept falling and I tried to stop but I think it also felt good to relieve some stress. Plus going to bed at 1 am and getting up at 6 am pretty much for the last month has left me more emotional than usual and 10 pounds heavier!! Ugh…

So I’m excited for new beginnings and this adventure we chose to take. Thank you for your kind words and support and visits. We won’t forget you!!

Tomorrow I’ll start a new Day 1 – and count the beautiful days in Europe, documenting and sharing with you our journey and my personal scrapbook. I hope you’ll share your stories as well and stay connected – for the friends and family and relationships I have with you make my life meaningful.

Oh, and before I go, did I tell you that my parents are the best people on the planet? They drove my dad’s truck with 11 suitcases and Jeff’s car with us and our carry on items to the airport. They then drove to a local town and waited for us to be sure we got through security and all and didn’t need to send anything back or if our flight got cancelled. Oh and there’s more, they are headed back to our house to change the sheets and clean up after us so that our “guest” house is ready to receive loved ones! I love you mama and pops! Thanks for everything and we’ll see you in October!!

With love,



Day 1: Farewell

I am… Loved
I am… Tired
I am…Content
I am… Sad
I am…Happy
I am… Anxious
I am… Excited
I am… Scared
I am…Curious
I am…Thankful
I am…Done

We are (almost all) packed and ready to go in the morning. I am so thankful for all my friend’s who stopped by and shared well wishes and hugs this week. I am thankful for my family who has helped us pack and clean and feed and spoil us. Come visit us in Holland and keep in touch!! xo

Best Friends

Day 2: Pack and Play

A new meaning to Pack and Play… We worked hard all day packing up suitcases and weighing them and shuffling things around and stacking piles and vacuuming and cleaning. We also had great friends drop by and received phone calls and emails with well wishes. It’s hard to pack for a major transition while daily life is still available for living. That’s where my parents come in…

My mom is the busiest and most industrious person I know. The dishwasher and washing machine and vacuum cleaner were going all day. As I filled suitcases, she was dusting out drawers and picking up Lego pieces, making us lunch and just providing support every step of the way.  As we packed and shuffled, my dad took the kids out for a fun filled day, being spoiled once again. They went out for lunch, swimming at Kona Kai and played miniature golf at Golfland before hurrying back home to see their friends who were waiting for them at our house.



Mom and I ran errands, picking up prescriptions and dry cleaning and pictures from C’s party for his scrapbook. We enjoyed the time together, not rushing and just enjoying the busy-ness of the day.  We came home to throw dinner together, cleaning out fridge and freezer making a delicious meal. The best part was there was no set time and friends kept joining us and sat at the table sharing friendship and conversation. At one point, I looked over at April and just said, “I am so Happy!” and she snapped this picture of me.


The kids were out back playing with water balloons and spy gear, laughing and running around. We enjoyed Michele’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies and left over dessert and no one wanted to leave.


I am going to miss my family and friends and know that the time will go by quickly – so no need for goodbyes – just so long, enjoy your journey and please share your stories with me too… we’ll see you again soon. xo


Day 3: My Lucky Number

I love the number 3 – it’s my favorite number. What is yours?

3 days until we move – yikes!  But today was a day of celebrations and play.  I’ll work hard all day tomorrow and Tuesday to get the rest of the little details done before our flight. I think I’m in partial denial that we’re really leaving in 3 days. I also like to procrastinate and then cram at the end. How do you prepare for big events?


Today we celebrated our little one’s birthday by doing all the things he loved and wished for. The house was decorated with balloons and banners, gifts and cards. He requested Spy Gear and was thrilled with his spy glasses, watch and metal detector. We went to church and ran into our friends who invited the boys to come and play and have lunch before the big party. They were spoiled with a Papa John’s pepperoni pizza decked out with candles. Such a sweet gift for our little pizza lover.  


He wanted to have a Laser Quest party with all his friends and wanted to invite everyone he knows and loves, but we could only have a max of 15 players. The kids had a great time playing games and enjoying a cupcake cake and C’s favorite and requested dessert – cream puffs from Beard Papa’s.  I loved seeing how happy he was. After the party, he played outside with his friend until we went to enjoy a late dinner at Mongolian BBQ at his request. We tried talking him into other options, but there was no budging! I love that our kids are adventurous eaters. I hope they like the food in Holland too.


It was fun to spoil our little miracle baby and to watch him enjoy celebrating his milestone. We asked him if he wanted to celebrate his birthday in the USA or Holland and he picked California. We also let him pick our move date sometime after his birthday and he picked Wednesday. We let him pick because he was the most resistant to our proposal to move overseas. I think by giving him some say and a feel in the choices he is making, that it might help him buy into this entire process. He seems excited now so I think our plan might be working. I’ll let you know.


We don’t always spoil our kids this way, but on their birthdays, we like to let them choose how to spend their day and loosen up the rules and boundaries a bit, within reason.  I’d say it was a good day.  Thank you all for the well wishes. He enjoyed all the cards and phone calls and gifts.  Next year, I wonder where we’ll be celebrating?!  So excited to discover new traditions.  xo