Day 67: Connecting to the Past

Today we spent the day with Dorine and Nadja in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.  Nadja made us a delicious Moroccan pumpkin soup for lunch. There home is so gezzelig – filled with artifacts from their many worldly travels, and travel books and maps. Every nook has something to see and touch and explore and to be curious about.  We love going to their house.  Christian was curious by all the travel books and didn’t want to stop reading. I see Africa in our future.


Christian peeking through the book shelves at Dorine and Nadja’s.

Charlie loved playing with all the musical instruments, especially the drums from India.


Little drummer boy

The kitchen was my favorite room of the house. I loved the smells, the lighting and the pots and pans and spices and coffee makers and glass jars and such that filled the space. I especially loved looking at the framed pictures of our family that were sitting in the kitchen.


The little girl in the picture is my mama at Dorine’s parents wedding. My Uncle Bill is the little boy.


This picture is of my namesake, my Great-Oma, Adriana Van Elderen. The little girl is Dorine, and the baby is Rob – my mom’s cousin who I met for the first time last week.

After lunch, we went to explore more history by visiting a castle called Slot Loevestein that was built in 1361. Can you even imagine how long ago that was? This castle is most famous as a state prison. Hugo de Groot was a famous scholar and lawyer who fought for freedom of thought (like Martin Luther King) who was imprisoned there. He used to receive scholarly books in the prison and one day escaped in a large, book box in a plan devised by his smart wife.  You can read more about the castle here:

slot loevestein castle

My 3 Knights!

The infamous book box that Hugo De Groot escaped inside.

I find it fascinating to imagine life before we were around. When I walk through old castles and churches, I try to imagine the people that lived and worked here before, and to imagine their daily lives. Do you ever do that?

After the visit to the castle, we went back to Dorine and Nadja’s for an unexpected Moroccan chicken stew dinner. It was so sweet and savory and delicious and something we haven’t had since we were in France at Marco and Kathy’s years ago. I forgot about how much I love the flavors and want to try cooking something new very soon.  Thank you for the yummy dinner!

One last thought before I end this long post — I love how Dorine and Nadja had planned to have us stay for dinner, even though we came over around lunch time. This is something new to me… when we went to visit for the afternoon, I never expected them to also have dinner for us. This is supposedly the way things are done here. The same thing happened at Rob and Wendy’s last week. We went to visit in the early afternoon, and the stay turned into dinner.  I guess this is typical here. So now I know and I like this tradition very much. When we move back to the States, I’m taking this idea with me. Heck, I’m starting it this week! If you plan to come for a visit, I’ll have lunch and coffee and dessert ready for you when you arrive, and wine and cheese in the late afternoon, as well as dinner and dessert and coffee ready to make your stay as comfortable and as long as you wish.

Thank you for this great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening and teaching me more about Dutch hospitality. I love it!

Life is good!



Day 66: Family History

Jeff’s grandfather wrote a “blog” back in 1993.  He wrote it on a word processing machine as a memorandum to his children and their spouses and grandchildren and anyone else who would like to read it someday.  It is 52 pages long and we are reading it as a family, a bit each night, to better understand our family history and our connection to World War 2, especially while we’re living in Europe.

Jeff used Google Maps the other night to map out all the locations his Grandfather traveled from England to Northern France and into Germany and Austria. We are hoping to trace some of his steps as we plan our travels, and learn more about history in a more tangible way.

Route of Jeff’s grandfather in World War II as an artillery battery commander in XX (20th) Corps Artillery, in General Patton’s U.S. Third Army

Tonight we learned about how his Grandfather proposed to his Grandmother after only 3 days knowing her. She was 16 and accepted his proposal. They’ve been married for almost 70 years and are such wonderful people and role models for us. I love how they love each other and have supported one another and survived the struggle of miles apart, a major war, and raising 4 children.  I remember his Grandmother telling me how she traveled across the United States in a station wagon with the 4 kids all by herself, without air conditioning. Can you imagine her journey? And can you imagine having your first child and raising it on your own with your spouse away at war? And being the spouse away from your wife and newborn child and not able to meet your offspring for 2 years? We have nothing to complain about!!

Our lives are so much easier today than theirs were years ago. Even though we may complain about the inefficiencies we experience while living abroad and hearing that things aren’t possible, we know how fortunate we are. We accept the challenges and just flow through the frustrations.

Here’s a silly example: today we were trying to get our cell phone plans reactivated and we ran into a software glitch that didn’t make any sense. The sales guy apologized and offered to help but there was nothing he could do until Monday. We looked at each other and just smiled and accepted that things aren’t always as easy as they should be. Whatever… it’s not the end of the world, and we’re learning a little patience!  We don’t expect things to be as efficient as we’re used to in the States and we realize we are outliers in the Netherlands. It makes me appreciate and empathize with all the immigrants that settle in the United States. I’m sure their journey is filled with struggles that are much more challenging  than what we’ve faced and I admire their tenacity and willingness to work past the hurdles. You know who you are!!

Hope you’re all enjoying your weekend, and spending it with those you love.

xo Adriana

Day 65: A message from Juliana

Finally!! It’s my turn to write, the suspense has been killing me! But anyway, it’s finally Friday. On Friday’s we have a late start day that starts at 9:20 instead of 8:30 so I get to sleep in a litte bit. I mean seriously doesn’t this school know that you need your beauty sleep?:) At school, I really like my teachers, some of the best I have experienced in my entire student career! I have adapted to this school just as much as my previous school and have made many friends. I made it onto the travel volleyball team and so far have gone to The Hague and also have done an overnighter with a host family in Bonn, Germany. We have many other games coming up in Belgium and Luxembourg to name two. So volleyball has been really fun. I am also involved in the school with student council which is a lot more responsibility than being a normal student. I was elected homeroom representative and meetings are every Monday for the rest of the year. You have to plan the middle school assemblies,  after school activities, events, dances, represent your homeroom and also have to be extremely involved in the school. I do enjoy being a leader in school.The weather has been getting colder, darker, and rainier each day so there’s been lots of rainbows and double rainbows!

Amsterdam Park after the rain with a rainbow. We got soaked!!

I am taking Dutch and Mandarin as my languages and currently one of my favorite classes is Dutch. I would love to be able to have conversations and become nearly fluent in Dutch by the time we make our way back to California. We have been to London, Belgium, Germany, and all over Holland, we have trips planned for Italy and hopefully France and Israel! I think it was yesterday that our car arrived and our house is feeling homie so with that, we are settling in fairly quickly and nicely. I would love to hear from you all! Miss you all and the Warm California Sun!

Yours from Amsterdam!


Day 64: Our Honda in Holland


Ssshhh! Don’t laugh…but our really fancy, clean, and shiny minivan is finally in our possession again! I never thought I’d be so excited to see it, but after having all three kids sitting in the cramped back seat of the rental car for the past 2 months, it really made me want to sing! I love that they can spread out and that there are sliding doors and room for all our stuff and extra seats for Oma and Opa when they arrive. It’s the little things that make me happy!

I’m sure I’ll be quite the sight with my sexy racks on top and Santa Cruz stickers… Ya, right! Just remember not to laugh!

It took 3 months from the time we shipped it until it’s journey through customs and adaptations until we could have it back today, and I am thrilled, even if it is a minivan!!

Day 63: A Message from Charlie

Good afternoon. This is Charlie speaking. I hope you are having fun wherever you are, but I think I’m having more fun because I’m on a big, gigantic vacation.

And my house, I think is more fun to play in. I feel really good in Holland. But, the school day is longer here but we have a 45 minute recess. The soccer field is like a real one and it’s made of fake grass and has two goals built in.  I met a new friend that is from Los Altos! I hope you’re having a fun time and I think you’ll like it here. You should come and see me or do what I’m doing right now! You should come to Holland. It’s a nice place. The weather is nice and cold. But it’s fun and warm for me. I only feel the breeze when it’s sunny and sometimes cold. But I’m still wearing my shorts and my soccer suits and shoes.

I like that there are lots of parks with very big playgrounds. Right near my house, there is a place called Adventure Island. Right near Adventure Island, there is a place that kids can drive boats. And there is a ropes course that’s called Fun Forest.

At my school, they have a forest, way in the back. It has a zipline. Our lunch room is brand new. My teacher is super nice! I wish all of my friends in America were here too! That’s what I miss the most!! My friends!

I hope the day was good for you. That is the end of your day when you read this good afternoon message. Good afternoon!! This is Charlie speaking. Oh, sorry. I was thinking something else. Well, back to what I was saying…I hope you enjoyed the good afternoon message. Done.


Day 62: A Message from Christian

Hello, this is Christian

I wanted to tell everybody about how my experience has gone here. It has been 2 months today, and we have all our stuff, school and soon, our car! School has been the big thing for me. One month so far into it I am doing great. The school teaches you how to think deeply into everything, even PE. Homework is so much cooler and easier because all the home work is due either 2 days after it is given or one week later. My schedule is different than a California schedule.  In California, you have the same classes each day, but here you have five classes on a block schedule each day and then you switch and have five different classes the next day and then it rotates again. I take 2 electives: painting, design technology (not architectural) and 2 languages: Mandarin and Dutch. I am training for the basketball team with my friends. Speaking of friends, I have 7 new, great friends who are basically like an extra large package who consist of 5 Dutch boys, one French and one British. The Dutch friends have taught me some Dutch, and the French and British buds teach me great soccer. Today I shared a little bit of American culture, an American football!! My friends, Luca, Matt, Max, Xander, Henk, Wybe and I all played but eventually the other team made up of 3 inexperienced Dutch kids beat my team, 14 to 7. They were all happy and wanted to play again. I am probably most happy here now because I have friends, family, and a place where I belong. I love this country, the people places and how easy it is to travel around. 1 thing I do dislike is the rain, but overall I’m good. Hope whoever is reading from Sunnyvale, or from my family will comment, or subscribe to this blog and keep in touch!

Best wishes, Christian


I saw a double rainbow today!

Day 61: Getting Ready for Visitors


Testing out the new “guest bed”

I bought a folding cot today. We have a guest room with a double bed, BUT I felt that we needed one more bed – just in case. The couch in the guest room is from IKEA and turns into a double bed, which feels pretty comfy when you’re laying on it for 10 minutes. I just don’t know how comfortable it will be for two people for two months when my parents arrive. So I thought having the cot with an extra mattress and a thermarest pad to put on top, should give my mom and dad a little more space in case the togetherness is too much, if you know what I mean.

It will also come in good use when we plan to host two girls from the Luxembourg International School volleyball team next month. We’d like for them to each have their own bed, and not to have to sleep on the floor. It’s the little things that make me happy!  

And when April and Steve and their girls come for a visit, we’ll have enough bed space for everyone!

So if you want to come for a visit, we should now have enough beds! And if you have guests coming to Holland to visit and need an extra cot, we’ll have one to share.


Day 60: Family Day

Guess what? He likes me… he invited me to go running with him again!!  Whoohoo…  what a great way to start the day.  Charlie even came with us on his bike while we ran along the canals. The sun was shining too, and it’s the first official day of fall. We definitely noticed the change in weather though… even though it was sunny, it was very cold out. And by the end of the day, it was raining and 9 degrees celsius out. Time for scarves and boots and to put away the flip flops. 

We spent the rest of our Sunday with family. Gerard and Anita came over first and dropped off an outside table they weren’t using anymore. Thanks, guys!  We had a quick cup of coffee together, and then drove over to Rob and Wendy’s house for the afternoon, that soon lead into dinner together. I love days like today. 

We enjoyed time together, with coffee and cake, and then we took the dogs and kids out for a walk.


happy dogs!

It was fun to watch the dogs chasing each other and playing catch with the same stick. And we also loved watching the kids run around with a football and playing on the good ol’ fashioned merry go rounds that make you so dizzy! When we came back, Rob lit a fire and we had dinner together. Afterwards, we watched his movie/photo show from their trip to Morocco.  I loved seeing all the colors and sand dunes and art! Make me want to go there too.


Walking around Hoofddorp with my baby girl!


Good, ol’ fashioned fun – kids and dogs and parks!





Life is good in the Netherlands!  Thanks for inviting us to spend the day with you, Rob and Wendy!  We had a blast.  xo


Rob and Wendy

Day 58: Cultural Exchange

When I was 11, I traveled from Los Angeles to Tahiti and Australia with my soccer team, as part of a cultural exchange program.

Today my 11 year old traveled from Holland to Germany with her volleyball team and is staying overnight with a host family, just like I did. I’m so proud of her.

Bonn, Germany is a 3 hour drive from our new home, so the boys and I drove up tonight and are staying at a hotel so we can see her morning game tomorrow.

The highlights for the boys tonight was trying out the German McDonald’s and the McRib sandwich.
Somehow both Christian and Jeff knew that you could ask for beer there, that wasn’t on the menu. Surprisingly, they came out from behind with two beers and poured them into cups for the adults! That was a fun difference!
The McD’s was more like a warm, cafe, and was quite popular.
After we hung out, we drove to find the location for the game tomorrow, and then to Cologne to find this magnificent church.
Oh my goodness!! How did they ever build something so grand?
I was in awe and am so glad we decided to stay up late to see it lit up at night. Both Jeff and Christian had done research before we traveled and both had excellent tips to share. They are both so curious and wicked smart!

I love my adventurous and crazy family!20120921-231819.jpg