Day 37: Tennis Love

Today I got to play tennis again, with a great group of new women.  Tennis is very different here than it is in the states. And the organization and process to find a court and to play is quite complicated, as I learned today. After I found out how complicated it was, I was especially thankful that Claire and Karin extended the invitation to me to join their Friday lesson.

You see, we played indoors since it was raining outside. There are limited amounts of indoor courts in Amstelveen and to reserve a court or to become a member of an indoor club takes some work too. And once you figure it out, all the forms and instructions are in Dutch – so add another layer of complexity. So that they would share their court with me was priceless.  And that they sat and had a coffee with me afterwards to share and explain and to introduce me to more tennis players just made my day.  I have to now find a partner to signup for tournament play that supposedly starts next month. Once you’re in the tournament, then you can play every other Friday. I sure hope I can find a partner this week. Wish me luck.  I think tournaments are more like league play, and I’m not sure yet how the tournaments are judged, if they are judged at all. We’ll see… just have to get a court and partner!!

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Tonight Dorine and Nadja came over for dinner. I made my Thai Yellow Curry with chicken and vegetables, Jasmine rice, cucumber salad, kroeproek, and chicken satay with peanut sauce and brownies and petit little cream puffs for dessert. Yum! It’s really nice to have family come to visit and to spend time together. Seeing my kids give them big hugs before bed, just cemented that feeling.  I keep hearing stories about how hard it is for expats after the honeymoon stage passes and that I should expect a dip in my positive feelings. I can believe this to be true, yet I’m hoping this doesn’t happen.

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I think one of the keys to success might be to find what makes you happy and do it!  Do what you love, love what you do. And that’s what I’m trying to do. And I know what makes me happy. Working out. Hanging out with girlfriends. Time spent with family. Playing on Facebook. Exploring new adventures. Writing my blog. Playing Words with Friends. Chatting with friends and family back home. Eating Dutch licorice. Cooking and entertaining. Having friends over and going over to their houses. Drinking coffee and wine. Helping Others. Eating Chocolate and cheese.  Pretty simple, right? So IF and when the time comes, and you notice a dip in my positivity  – please poke me and remind me that life is good, no matter where you are and even if it’s cold and wet, and to re-read and do the list above.  Right? I sure hope it’s that simple.  Bring on Day 38… and 68… and 98… Namaste.

Day 36: Sunshine

Had a much better today, today. Thank you for all your well wishes, email, comments, and support. Yesterday was a struggle, but today we’re moving on, Sunshine.

And today I moved my butt over to the gym again!! Whoohoo! I’ve been off the workout wagon now for at least a few months! But now,  I’m making working out and eating better a priority again. Time to shed these pounds/kilos!  At this gym I’m testing out with Jen, they made us sign up for an intake interview, which we started today. They weighed us and measured our body fat and height, and put together a workout plan for us that is all stored on a key. We take the key with us when we are ready to workout and all our information is stored there and refreshed when we log in from exercise machine to exercise machine. At the end of the workout, you check out and it provides you with a summary of how well you did. It also gives you a workout plan and tells you where to go, how many sets to do and at what level. Right now, I really appreciated someone knowing what to do and how to do it and spelling it out for me in plain English!  Comforting, although my muscles are wide awake now!!

After the workout, I showered and made a couple calls and then drove over to P’s house for a blogging lunch!  P and Jen and C were interested in learning how to blog. We had as much fun at lunch as we did playing with setting up the new blogs.  P’s house is beautiful and inviting and lunch was so yummy. She made a quiche, salad, fresh fruit and bread. Thank you so much! Aren’t you hungry now?

And one of the cool things about hanging out with new friends, is you gather new ideas. They were talking about how good Sushi King is and someone else had mentioned that this other place by our house was even better. So this got me craving sushi tonight and I just waited for Jeff to get home to go there. We got there a little after 7, to find it closed!! Can you believe that? Who closes a restaurant at 7 pm on a Thursday night? And Thursday night is the night that stores stay open late! What the heck? We went to the Dixie Cafe instead – it was ok, but I probably won’t go back there again.

Hope yo have a good day too!

Day 35: Dirt and Sunshine

You know how Facebook and Blogs usually share the highlights of life?  I like to think of my writing and sharing as the Sunshine. But we all know there’s Dirt too. And we don’t really like to describe and share the Dirt, because that ain’t pretty. It’s brown and smelly. And everyone has their own Dirt, and sometimes there is more than plenty of it. Who wants to focus on that?

We all know we need the Dirt and Sunshine (and a few tears too) to make Flowers grow. So I’ll accept the dirty Dirt today for what it is.

Sh*t.

And I’ll pray for the unknown person that created the mess and wait for the Sunshine to come back tomorrow. I’m once again thankful for my wonderful friends and family – the Sunshine – for all their love and support. Every day. Life is good, despite the sh*t. Don’t forget. And most of all, don’t get stuck in it. That’s a really smelly place, and who wants to be there?

Namaste.

 

Day 34: Finding the Fun

I’m all about having fun and making connections and today couldn’t have been any better.  Now that we’re “settled,” there was time to get out and enjoy this wonderful city.

I got up at 6:15 am and went for a run!! Can you believe it? And yes, it was fun!  I made coffee for Jeff and lunches for the kids and then put on my shoes and out the door I went for a little jog. I ran to the downtown and around and back home, along the canal, passing some ducks and dog walkers along the way. it was a perfect way to start the day.

After dropping the kids off at school, I came back to shower and to get ready for a day shopping with the girls in Amsterdam. We walked around the 9 little streets – stopping into quaint little shops, watching out for bikers, and getting more comfortable with the city. This was a lot of fun!

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Colorful bike

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Pretty blue flowers

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Licorice by the cash register

The kids had some entertainment too after school. Christian went to hang out with his new friend for the first time. They rode bikes together to the McDonalds and shopping center. Let’s just say I’m stretching outside of my comfort zone. All went well and I think he enjoyed his taste of independence here.

Jen and I promised to take our boys to the Amsterdamse Bos to check out the little boats. We finally made it over there and they had so much fun. I actually loved being on the water and enjoying the sunshine.  I really didn’t want to go, because we had a girls’ night out planned and wanted more than five minutes to get ready, but we didn’t want another day to pass and it worked out just fine.

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Rushing home, I scrambled to warm up dinner that I made in the morning and to listen and to share all of our fun stories before heading out again. Oma and Opa called and we were skyping with them too, as I got ready.  Good news! They bought their tickets and will be here to visit for 2 months, in about 2 months!  

Girls’ Night Out was such a blast. I needed that time with the girls to just be girls and hang out and chat and share stories as girls do.  We had so much fun, that we didn’t leave until after midnight! In Holland, you have to ask for the check and they don’t just come and offer it. Ah, how we forget! No wonder they never came around until the restaurant was clean and the workers REALLY wanted to go home. I’d say, it was more than a good night and we’re planning another one next month, if not sooner!

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I love full days like today… now I better get to bed before the sunrises again.  Tot siens. xo

Day 33: First Full Week of School

I like new beginnings. I like starting over and I like change. I like keeping things fresh and exciting. How about you? What do you think of change? Does it make you smile? Give you anxiety? A little of both? Hmm…

Today the kids started their first full week of school, and my new, long-legged super model friend, and I hit the gym! We decided we are going to check out all the local gyms, try out the free trials and then decide which one is best. It only took us 1.36285 hours to go through the formal process to register.  We had to schedule intake interviews, and evaluation interviews and have a hand scan and pay a deposit and sign our life away and photocopy our id and walk through the building and ponder the thought of co-ed mandatory naked saunas, all before we could jump on an elliptical machine for 38 minutes. Thank God, we had a nice glow and a little glistening action to make it worth our while. And you’d be surprised how much you can learn and share while working out side by side – laughing at the craziness of it all and trying to get our machines to function in Dutch. 

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After working out, I went shopping and exploring at a new grocery center. It took my 8.5 minutes to figure out how to pay for parking and whether it was free or not.  Finally paid my 1 Euro and shopped at the Lidl and C1000, rushing to get back to the car before I received a ticket. I think the Lidl is a discount chain as the displays were in boxes/pallets and I didn’t recognize the brands. Hopefully the food I picked up is tasty!  I learned the hard way that I should have deposited 50 cents to get a shopping cart from outside the store before filling my arms full with stuff! They didn’t have carts or carriers inside the store. And of course, I didn’t pack enough reusable bags so had to buy more! You’d think I’d learn by now, but no! I was just going in for a couple things plus 37!

I had a few more chores to do, like calling for a family doctor, checking into soccer leagues for Char, and finding some tennis friends for me. I called the recommended doctor, listened to the message in Dutch and had no idea whether I should press 1,2 or 3 as all the prompts were in Dutch. A man answered, was probably the doctor, as I asked if he spoke English. Yes, sure, no problem. I introduced myself and explained we needed to register with a town doctor as required by residence, and he said, sure – call back tomorrow as I had called the emergency line!!! Oops! Oh well, at least he was kind and seemed to understand this stupid American!  

I had better luck with the soccer league and was able to have Char go over to the field after school to practice with the local team. I learned that the team only speaks Dutch, which I loved and he hated. I’m hoping that he warms up to the Dutch and makes a friend or two before giving up. We met Kelly from Atlanta and her kids and had a very nice conversation. It’s kinda fun to compare stories how we got here, how we picked our homes, what the move has been like, etc., etc. 

I’d say we’re getting somewhere and I see a structure starting to form. Just finished doing homework with the little one and trying to get the kids off to bed at a decent hour!  We’re still staying up way too late and morning comes way too soon.

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Cloudscape out back at 8:45 pm

Hope you’re all enjoying your new routines too, whatever they may be – and hey, if you haven’t shaken it up in a bit – go ahead, shake it, shake it! You might like it!

 

 

Day 32: Road Trip + Rain = Crazy Kids, Crazy Parents

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All I can say, is I can’t wait for our mini van to be delivered to us. Who would have thought I’d ever, ever say that?  I don’t even like minivans and used to pretend mine wasn’t one!  And having a car at all is a HUGE treat, but having a rental sedan with 3 big kids sitting side by side and touching each other and crossing legs over one another and being confined in such a small space with so much noise and interaction on a normal day, not to mention a multiple  hour road trip is enough to drive someone crazy!  Yes, I’m feeling a bit crazed today. Whatever. This too, shall pass and tomorrow they go back to school. I love Mondays!  😉

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We drove to Oosterbrook today to the Airborne Museum near the Rhine River. Jeff used to be in the 1st Airborne Division (now I hope I get all these facts right, since my knowledge of military history and history in general is lets say, maybe not my strongest or favorite subject.) CORRECTION: I made a big mistake – Jeff is a graduate of the US Army Airborne school, but served in Armored Calvalry – NOT the 1st Airborne Division!!  Doah— insert foot, stop writing about history?? Nahh…

But I am thankful for his love of history and that he chooses to share this with our family, especially since we are here where so much happened. We celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day in the states by visiting memorial sites or museums, so this is quite normal for us. And to hear the kids making connections to the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall we saw in Cupertino and Pearl Harbor that we visited a couple months ago, and what we saw today, made me very happy and reminds me that all the arguing and bickering and noise in the car was all worth it. I’m thankful that my kids are appreciating a bit of history and are understanding how others didn’t get to live with the same freedoms that we do. We liked the art work outside the museum, the diorama in the basement of the museum that made us feel like we were part of the war time experience, the peaceful nature that surrounded the museum, seeing the pictures of the local families being evacuated from their homes and protected by the joint allied troops and the red poppy memorials that we also saw in Cupertino. All of these things connected us to the past and we could relate a bit more today. I’m starting to like history… who knew?

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After we spent some time at the Airborne Museum, we drove over the John Frost Bridge crossing the Rhine River, through Nijmegin, and then into Germany.  We drove through the towns of Kleve and Emmerich, but we didn’t get out of the car as there was storm after storm, both outside and inside the car!  I did manage to snap a few photos of the beautiful scenery. Also, lots of places were closed since it was Sunday. The towns roll up on Sundays and not even (most) of the grocery stores are open!

We drove back home, and really – it sounds like we went for hours and hours – but everything is very close by car and we were probably home within an hour and a half from our furthest destination in Germany. The kids loved when Jeff drove 150 km/hour on the German autobahn and was still passed by a Swedish car on our left!  Coming back into Holland, the speed limit was drastically reduced to 80 km/hour and you have to obey the speed limit, otherwise they will take a photo of your car and send you a gift in the mail – it’s already happened to one of my new friends!  No tickets please.

The day ended at home with a nice, traditional Dutch dinner – meat, potatoes and a vegetable. I had prepared food before we left and when we got home, we were able to warm things up and sit down for a more relaxing, more enjoyable shared family time.   Ahhh… hope you have a great, family Sunday and relax and get ready for the new week ahead.

Namaste.

Day 31: What Defines Home

It’s been a month ago today that we arrived in Holland.  The best part of being here is the friends we’ve already made and the family with whom we’ve reconnected.  I think that is what makes us feel at home. Of course, we miss our friends and family back at our first home, but we’re creating new bonds and making new friendships that make the days fun and memorable. Before we left, a couple friends that moved to our neighborhood had wished for me that I would meet someone in our new home town to make us feel welcome and a part of the community, as they had when they moved from France and Michigan to Sunnyvale. When you have someone that welcomes you, and shares tips and best practices,  and invites you to coffee or dinner or a beer, you no longer feel like a stranger in a strange land.  Well, those wishes came true. Thank you, Anouk and Megan for your well wishes. And thank you, Pauline for introducing me to Birgitta.

We were invited to Birgitta and Frank’s house for a BBQ tonight. They are local residents here where we live and invited my entire family over for dinner. Their kids are in college and so I felt even more honored that they included all of us, and made the little ones feel welcome too.  The kids brought their bathing suits and went in the hot tub, in the rain.  The dinner was fabulous and tasty and everyone enjoyed every bite. We all had such a good time, enjoying conversation, dessert, wine and coffee, that we didn’t leave until after 11 pm!  I was so happy that the kids were good and behaved and that we could enjoy some adult time with new friends.  Thank you Birgitta and Frank for your hospitality and making us feel so welcome, not only to your home but also to Holland.

Today I also joined Holland Homies – a Facebook Group for local Amstelveen/Amsterdam friends that are there to share ideas and resources. Inga told me about the group while we were at lunch on Friday. I posted a question about how to see American TV and heard back from several people. I have some places to look now without having to reinvent the wheel. Thanks, girlfriends! And I found a couple friends there that I had seen at school, but didn’t have their contact information. Now I do, and we’re going to get together next week. I love these type of connections.

For me, what defines home is my family and friends. That’s what I miss about home in Sunnyvale, home in Thousand Oaks, and that’s what I love about Holland. Here’s to home! 

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Rainy day today

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Rainy day art made out of packing materials at home today!